Album Review: Skeleton Friend

Not too far from campus is a sign that reads, “Appleton: I hear singing when I turn down our road.” I think that all students can agree that music is never too far away on the Lawrence University campus. Whether it’s jazz bands playing on Main Hall green, people jamming to music outside on their Bluetooth speakers, recitals in Somerset or even solo dance parties in dorm rooms, music is something that unites us all.  

The university’s conservatory is a huge part of the Lawrence music scene. It’s a place for classes, lessons and bringing people together to form a band. Brock and the Pescatarians are a campus band made up of Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, Brock Daumler, Gabe Lewis and Lucian Baxter. According to their album description on Bandcamp, “Loren’s Introduction to Improvisation class gathered us out of the aether in January 2021, whereupon we spent a delightful 10 weeks creating music virtually-together, responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with our creativity and the Internet; nearly every track on this album was recorded in real time from four different geographical locations.”  

On Apr. 2, 2021, Brock and the Pescatarians released their album Skeleton Friend. The album features fifteen songs with titles such as “Future’s Remains,” “Sinister on a Sunday Afternoon,” “Ha Ha Je Noie (Ha Ha I’m Drowning)” and “Something Went Wrong With the Spaceship.” The tracks all range in length with the shortest two songs being one minute and four seconds and the longest being six and a half minutes. Though the tracks are all different lengths, they drift wonderfully into each other, almost creating an ebbing and flowing wave of relaxation.  

Clicking on the names of each song on the album takes you to more information about how the track was created and what it was inspired by. Tracks such as “Waterfall of Lost Souls,” “Coyotes” and “Stygian Tides” were improvised using different phrases as inspiration. Some of the phrases include: “Yeah nice meeting you too! Here’s my business card,” “This is a Wendy’s coupon,” and “Mild salsa, searching for brock, playing Candy crush alone in a McDonalds, at Two in the Morning.” Getting the insight into the phrases and words that inspired the songs adds an element of entertainment and also mystery to each track.  

The song “Converting Pescatarians” features an instrument that’s not heard often in many songs — a conch shell. The conch gives the track a haunting, yet beautiful sound. How the track was produced may seem a bit unusual, as it was started as a seed track and passed to the next member who added their own track. It was passed around to all members until it was a final track created in a half-hour time frame. “Future’s Remains,” “Sinister on a Sunday Afternoon” and “Tolerable Life” were all created in a similar way.  

The COVID-19 Pandemic has halted many things in our lives, but with a bit of creativity and some technology, great things can come together and find their form. This album is one amazing example of that. Brock and the Pescatarian’s Skeleton Friend is a wonderful album for all moments of life. Maybe let it be your soundtrack as you study, dance or walk along the banks of the Fox River.   

To hear Skeleton Friend, go to Brock and the Pescatarians Bandcamp page. More information about each track can be found by selecting the name of each song.