By Joshua Balicki
The Brooklyn-based indie band Animal Years offers a new take on Americana. The threesome will make their Iowa City début at Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., at 7 p.m. today.
Vocalist and guitarist Mike McFadden had some success songwriting for Pennzoil and Coca-Cola commercials. As a Baltimore native, McFadden released three solo albums before relocating to New York. With longtime friend and bass player Anthony Saladino, he formed Animal Years, and drummer Anthony Spinnato rounded out the trio shortly afterward.
The band name is inspired by the Josh Ritter album The Animal Years.
“I wanted to name the band after something that I was reminded of constantly — something that I continue to be inspired by,” McFadden said. “We put a new meaning to the band name by going full-force ahead all the time.”
McFadden said he puts emphasis on writing honest and relatable songs. McFadden writes the lyrics and the music for Animal Years. Afterward, the band gets together in rural New York to arrange the songs collectively. The members incorporate various styles that transcend the conventions of genre.
“Sometimes, lyrics can be open to interpretation, but for the most part, I want people to know exactly what I’m talking about,” said McFadden in a press release. “All of these songs were written on the road, so a lot of the themes are about being away from home, and missing people, and not taking people for granted.”
McFaddden said the band’s sophomore EP, Far From Home, will be a departure from their 2013 début album, Sun Will Rise. The début was recorded over a three-year span in Baltimore. It garnered heavy praise in the industry and marked the start of their grass-roots fan base.
The producer, Ryan Hadlock, used his previous production experience with Vance Joy and The Lumineers to help transform the group’s highly anticipated sophomore EP. Hadlock joined Animal Years at Applehead Recording Studios in rural New York for production.
“We would sit in a barn that was converted into a studio for 12 hours a day and record,” McFadden said. “What we thought the album was going to sound like going into the recording sessions was not what came out. What came out was better because Ryan [Hadlock] put his brand on it.”
Forty-five minutes after the completion of the EP, Hadlock had the record label eOne in the studio. The five-song EP features multilayered Americana music, big hooks, and introspective lyrics. The single “Caroline” has received heavy praise in the industry.
“We had not put anything out in three years, so we wanted it to be done right,” McFadden said.
The band will head on an East Coast to West Coast tour to promote Far From Home in March 2018. Some of the members’ best touring memories include opening for Martin Sexton and Robert Randolph and the Family Band as well as selling out Manhattan Gramercy Theater.
“We love to get on the road as much as possible,” McFadden said. “We also love to play colleges, because we can pretend like we are still in college.”