Airpark @ Pisgah Brewing Co. 11-18-2017
Airpark makes deconstructed pop music.
Inspired by minimalism, melody and groove-heavy percussion, bandmates Michael Ford, Jr. and Ben Ford launched the group in 2016, one year after their previous project, The Apache Relay, quietly called it quits. The Apache Relay had been a large band, staffed with six members and armed with a thick, wall-of-sound approach. With Airpark, the Ford brothers sharpen their focus and scale back their arrangements, focusing on songs that pack a punch with bold, basic ingredients.
Raised in New Orleans, the Fords grew up surrounded by music, from the Crescent City’s jazz to the soul of Irma Thomas and Allen Touissant. Later while living in Nashville, the two rekindled the music connection they’d kick-started back home, finding popularity — first in Tennessee, then across the country – as The Apache Relay performed alongside the likes of Jenny Lewis, Mumford & Sons and more. It was a whirlwind period that found the brothers constantly touring, forever moving and steadily swelling their sound to new heights. Michael and Ben move at a deliberately different speed with Airpark, thus finding new musical territory to explore.
Taking their cues from a wide set of influences — the rhythmic world music of Tinariwen and Lijadu Sisters; the production of Air, Damon Albarn, and Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel; the tenor vocal range of Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, with the occasional pop crooner delivery of Harry Nilsson — the two unveil their new direction with Airpark’s debut EP, Early Works, Volume 1. On opening track “All The Time,” Michael spins the autobiographical story of a musician who’s starting over and swinging for the fences, finally coming to terms with his own ambition. “Now I know I need it to be ocean-sized,” he sings, backed by propulsive percussion, syncopated electric guitar and his brother’s harmonies. Elsewhere, the two ride an abstract, atmospheric groove on “Even If,” get nostalgic with “Black Light Blue,” and reset the clock during the New Year’s Eve breakup anthem “Plenty to Pine For.”
It’s a sound that targets the feet and the head. It’s pop music for thinkers. It’s dance music for wallflowers. And with the brothers pulling triple-duty as songwriters, multi-instrumentalists and co-producers, Early Works, Volume 1 — whose March 3, 2017 release arrives courtesy of the Fords’ own label, Eugenia Hall Records — is their most forward-thinking project to date, pairing the band’s growing ambition with musical chops to match.