The first time I heard Animalingo was in a backyard overlooking the McKenzie River at a local DIY festival called Jamfest. It was a hot mid-summer day, and the property was filled with dozens of local music lovers. The band’s psych rock, funk and alternative fusion blended into one unique sound that permeated the July air.
Now, Animalingo is gearing up for the May 15 release of their first album, Babble On.
Jamfest is put on by Nathan Chesnut, Animalingo’s drummer. “The first show we ever played was the first official Jamfest, three years ago,” he says. “Animalingo has played every year. It’s kind of like our home turf.”
But like most events this year, it’s looking like there likely won’t be a Jamfest this summer due to social distancing orders. This isn’t the only thing that’s gone awry recently for Animalingo — in fact, they had an entire schedule of shows mapped out in support of their upcoming album release that are now canceled.
Animalingo, like many artists, has been negatively affected by COVID-19 by not being able to play live. However, the band sees some silver linings through it all. “Although we’ve had some losses, it’s cool to see friends can still work together to make stuff happen,” says guitarist and vocalist Zev Kamrat. “It’s pretty inspiring.”
The band has seen a lot of support from their network in the last few months. Garrett Davis of Gart Studios recorded and mixed the album, even letting them record two tracks for free. Their friend Joe Hughes contributed to making a visual accompaniment of the album with Chesnut, which the band says is an accurate visual representation of their sound.
They’ve been playing most of the songs you’ll hear on Babble On since their inception in 2017. Kamrat and Alex Weston, the band’s other guitarist and vocalist, lived together for a year, writing songs for fun but not doing much with them.
Eventually, they started to collaborate, and their music became more serious. They moved in with Chesnut and started jamming together in the garage.
“The first time we got together it felt great, everything fell right into place,” Weston says. “Our other roommate [Sean Bethem] was a fantastic bassist and heard us jamming. He asked, ‘What’s this?’ So we asked him if he wanted to join in.”
The first time the band all played together they worked on the song “Bones,” a seven-minute track which ended up being a single on the album. Bethem describes the album as transcending different styles throughout its length.
“We started out with bluesy songs the first few, and then it maneuvers into other genres and fusions,” he says. “It’s really upbeat, fun music to play. People really enjoy it.”
Keeping that live, raw energy was something Animalingo says they prioritized when going in to record Babble On. They practice in a garage, and that’s exactly the atmosphere their sound gives off.
The album goes in a lot of different directions, but gradually gets more abstract with each song. After the intro, it jumps into “Apple, Apple,” taking inspiration from ’90s grunge aesthetics.
As with Jamfest, Animalingo stays true to their jamming roots. Improvisation and experimentation is something they value when playing live, and they intentionally kept that energy on the album.
“We all have a lot of fun engaging with the audience,” Kamrat says. “Fostering that sense of community and being a part of creating a moment.”
While it may be awhile until fans and friends can catch an Animalingo show, Babble On should provide some sense of that raw, live energy you may be seeking during this time. ν
Babble On is available on streaming services May 15. For more information on Animalingo, you can visit Animalingo.Bandcamp.com.