By John Benson
Donivan Berube loathes Bon Iver and loves America.
But we’ll get to that later.
Instead, the opinionated Blessed Feathers singer-guitarist explains why his relatively new band’s recently released self-titled debut EP is a dreamlike affair that acts as a perfect sleep-inducing soundtrack. The latter comment isn’t a dig as much as fact, and Berube knows this.
“I guess we’ve gotten that before,” said Berube, calling from his Wisconsin home. “We have a few albums like that which we listen to, like Mountain Man, Sharon Van Etten. But actually, the last song on the EP has like 30 drum tracks on it. It’s pretty rocking in some spots.”
That’s true — the EP starts as a dream in “By Song Through The Americas” and ends in the cacophonic percussive-heavy onslaught of “Winter Sister,” which brings up the question: how many drums tracks are too many?
Apparently Berube and his musical partner Jacquelyn Beaupre (singer, multi-instrumentalist) weren’t to be trusted moving from recording songs into their old laptop in their living room to working with producer Kevin McMahon (Real Estate, Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen) at his studio in upstate New York.
Basically, they were like kids in a candy store. Only the store was located in the woods and instead of candy, all they had were raw carrots and peanut-butter bread to eat.
“That’s why Kevin was picked to do the album because the way he operates is sort of synonymous with the way we write music,” Berube said.
“The studio was essentially a renovated barn. He would run Jacqui on vocals through a speaker that was in the barn silo outside and he had a separate microphone set up to record that natural echo. You can really hear that, an all-natural reverb from Jacqui’s voice coming through that barn silo. You can actually hear the birds through the headphones while we were recording. It took us a while to figure out what that was,” he said.
Looking like a younger Manning brother (more Eli than Peyton), Berube, 20, acknowledges Blessed Feathers is still in its infancy, having formed only three years ago.
However, the duo is already getting some buzz as a rising indie band. That’s where the “Skinny Love” Bon Iver talk comes into play.
“Because we’re from Wisconsin, everyone [compares us to] Bon Iver, which I kind of despise,” Berube said. “Not that I despise Bon Iver, but there are a lot of bands that are coming out of his publicity circle lately. I feel a lot of bands are using the ‘I was in a band with Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver)’ route just to get publicity, which is totally understandable but it’s really easy for people to say that about us because we live a couple of hours from his hometown.”
Finally, when musical influences come up, Berube drops the decidedly not hipster cool ’70s folk band America as his favorite.
It’s pointed out that not many kids these days are paying attention to the work of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell.
More so, such a shout-out could hurt Blessed Feathers’ image.
“We love a lot of America,” Berube said. “You know, I don’t care. ‘A Horse With No Name’ is like the greatest song ever written. I know a lot of people who think music didn’t exist until ‘Skinny Love’ came out. So I’m fine with loving America.”