Though all things look familiar in the river and on the shore,
it must’ve been we’ve wandered; we’ve never been here before.
The members of Goodnight Blue Moon might as well be singing about themselves in that lyric from the band’s forthcoming EP, A Girl I Never Met. We recognize them, but they’ve changed.
Since March 2012, when Goodnight’s last record, the celebrated full-length How Long, came out, the indie-folk group’s membership has grown to seven, and the sound’s been turned up to eleven. Vocal harmonies on Girl soar higher than ever on the back of complex, layered instrumentation that registers bigger in the mix, including drums and cymbals that bite and ring and rumble with acoustic depth.
Not bad for an album that was partially recorded in the living room of two of the bandmates. Girl was also conceived in that living room, and on Friday, it’ll be performed in “The Musician’s Living Room,” a.k.a. Cafe Nine at State and Crown, during the record’s release party.
Spanning a tidy twenty-three minutes, the six-song EP’s breezy opener “Hollow” flows into the stomping sea shanty “Captain’s Church.” There’s an easy, country shuffle to “Baby,” an ode to a lost love. And then there’s “Darlin’,” a rowdy sing-along invoking the band’s exuberant, engaging live show.
The septet pulls from a variety of influences—indie rock, bluegrass, soul, even Motown and Simon & Garfunkel—but Goodnight’s biggest influence at the moment seems to be New Haven itself, specifically the Fair Haven neighborhood where the majority of the group resides.
“This album in particular is Fair Haven through and through,” says cellist Nancy Matlack Elligers about the neighborhood she and her husband, lead singer/guitarist Erik Elligers, moved into last year. (The band’s Twitter bio simply reads: “fair haven folk music.”) Shout-outs vary from the historical (“Captain’s Church” came out of an anonymous poem written about the First Church of Fair Haven, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1869) to the incidental (“The Ballad of Jeanne Christine” is named after a boat that’s often visible from the couple’s home). Oysters decorate the new album’s cover in reference to the neighborhood’s once-vibrant oystering trade. “It’s a very time-and-place record,” says Matlack Elligers.
She and Erik started Goodnight Blue Moon—the name is a mashup of the popular children’s book Goodnight Moon and Blue Moon, the brewery—in 2009 with singer/mandolinist Matthew Crowley. The three were neighbors living above East Rock’s Christopher Martins restaurant, discovering their shared interest in bluegrass and folk music not through Craigslist or “musicians wanted” adverts but through thin apartment walls.
In the past few years, the band added Sean Elligers on trumpet/vocals, Carl Testa on upright bass, Nick D’Errico on drums and Vicki Wepler on violin. Crowley and Erik Elligers are Goodnight Blue Moon’s primary songwriters, but Matlack Elligers says every member contributed to Girl. “We all came in with sketches of what we wanted for these songs, and the songs really grew around those sketches,” she says.
Additional recording and mixing for the record was done at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, which has produced music for indie-rock heavyweights The National and Frightened Rabbit, among others. (It’s also where Not Long was mixed.) Copies of A Girl I Never Met will naturally be available when the band performs it at Cafe Nine—“our favorite place,” Crowley says.
After that, the group will attend to its next full-length album, but not before filling up its spring and summer calendars with more local shows and festivals, stomping and belting and making many of us in the region feel like we’re at the hipster country wedding of our dreams.
Goodnight Blue Moon – EP Release w. Oh, Cassius! and Milksop:Unsung
Cafe Nine – 250 State St (map)
Friday, January 17 @ 9pm
$8, $6 in advance. Available here.
Written by Max Bakke. Photographed by Lisa Curtiss.