Fruit Bats to play at Otto’s


By Jerene-Elise Nall

DeKALB | The Fruit Bats, a folk-rock group currently based out of Chicago, will play at Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway., this Saturday evening.

Just who are the Fruit Bats?

“The band is comprised of members of critically acclaimed bands The Shins and Califone,” said John Ugolini of Kickstand Productions. “Simply, they are an amazing band boasting an indie-rock pedigree that would make any hipster blush.”

The band, which now consists of Eric D. Johnson (vocals) and Ron Lewis (various instruments), as well as Sam Wagster (guitar), Graeme Gibson (drums), and Christopher Sherman (bass), is a lineup that has held steady since their last album, 2009’s “The Ruminant Band” on Sub Pop Records. Although the Fruit Bats’ has changed members a few times since their first album in 2001, Johnson said that, of late, “this is the most solid lineup we’ve ever had.”

The lineup seems to be working out well for everyone — the kinks seem to have been worked out, and any additions or subtractions to the band are out of the question for now.

Besides this history of a shifting lineup, the Fruit Bats have a history of working and touring with bands including The Shins, Modest Mouse, and Iron and Wine. Although parallels can be drawn between these bands’ music and the Fruit Bats’, “we’re more of a classic sound,”Johnson said, who says his band draws more influence from the rock and country of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “We’re sort of a groovier band.”

But Johnson said although the band has their own unique vibe, they don’t set out in search of any one sound.

“It’s very subconscious to me,” Johnson said. “It’s sort of a weird, big, jumbled list.”

While the Fruit Bats may be setting out with no particular plan in mind, their sound has nonetheless evolved over time.

“We were very much a recording band,” Johnson said about their 2001 release “Echolocation.” The Fruit Bats focused their energy on making their music headphone-ready and speaker-friendly during that time, but now, Johnson said the band is going in a more performance-oriented direction. He is looking to put on shows that get people up, dancing, and singing along.

Johnson is receptive, though not overly concerned what the critics, including the online indie publication Pitchfork, had to say about “The Ruminant Band”, to which they gave a 7.2.

“They gave us a good review, but a not-so-good rating,” Johnson said. “So it’s a small victory.”

Johnson is happy with the path the Fruit Bats are taking, however.

“I don’t necessarily think [that rating] applies to changing what I do,” he said, understanding that those who choose to listen for themselves will form their own opinion of his music. “I’m not really too worried.”

According to Johnson, the best is yet to come.

“Your favorite album is always the next one,” Johnson said. “My favorite [album] isn’t out yet.”

But that next album is due to drop sometime at the beginning of next year.

“It’s just going to sound like what it’s going to sound like,” Johnson said.

Besides working on the new album, the Fruit Bats are planning another tour in October with Blitzen Trapper. Although the October tour won’t have many Midwest dates, Johnson mentioned DeKalb wasn’t out of the question for future tours.

“We played DeKalb once with Wilco about seven years ago,” he said. “We’d always be happy to stop back.”

“I love the band and jumped at the chance to bring The Fruit Bats back to Otto’s,” Ugolini said. “It has been too long since their last visit.”

The Fruit Bats seem to agree.

“We’re really excited to be back there,” Johnson said.