Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
Hunter and the Dog Star

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians found the name of their fifth studio album, Hunter and the Dog Star (Feb. 19), in an unexpected place: the sprawling night sky. Though she knew Orion’s Belt and Sirius, the furiously burning “Dog Star,” Brickell recently learned of the movement that connects the constellation in a single phrase. She immediately recognized herself, her bandmates, and their musical journey together in the stars.

“Sirius follows Orion, the hunter, through the night sky, and then Sirius is the brightest star just before dawn,” she explains. “That just got me. [This album] is a new day for the band.”

Since their earliest gigs in Dallas in 1985, Brickell and Kenny Withrow (guitar), Brad Houser (bass), Brandon Aly (drums) and John Bush (percussion) have always found their way back to one another, even when their respective pursuits pulled them in different directions. After “What I Am,” the smash single off 1988’s debut album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, vaulted the band onto the national stage, New Bohemians recorded their sophomore album, 1990’s Ghost of a Dog, before Brickell launched a solo career and started a family. They would continue to sporadically write and record together throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, but it would be another 16 years before they would release 2006’s Stranger Things, and 12 more until 2018’s Rocket, which brought them back to Texas and each other.

Recorded in Austin at Arlyn Studios, Rocket is a joyful reunion that brims with the varied influences each New Bohemian encountered on their own, from Brickell’s folk storytelling to Withrow’s exploratory riffs and Houser, Aly and Bush’s percussion that form a slow-and-steady heartbeat to explosive rhythms throughout. Keyboardist/ background vocalist Matt Hubbard rounded out the band and made it complete, and Brickell considers his addition one that “greatly enhanced” their new direction. New Bohemians were eager to keep writing and indulging these impulses, and so they did: they returned to Arlyn to work with producer Kyle Crusham, who encouraged their experimental urges on Hunter and the Dog Star, which blends anthemic pop-rock (“My Power”), languid lounge (“Miracles”), funk (“Don’t Get In the Bed Dirty”), folk (“Rough Beginnings”) and more while bringing new creative breakthroughs to the table. . The album is also greatly enhanced by the addition of Matt Hubbard’s talent and expression on keys and vocals.

“This is the quickest turnaround we’ve ever done in between records,” says Withrow. “That’s mainly because we were feeling the momentum and wanted to strike while the iron was hot… we have a lot of catch-up work, and we still feel there’s a ton of that to do for all this time apart.”

Hunter and the Dog Star is both a new beginning and a homecoming in many ways: it’s a tribute to their three decades and counting of collaboration and camaraderie, and an eclectic blend of the sounds, textures and experiments that shaped each member on their musical journeys along the way.

In what way has Hunter and the Dog Star been a re-introduction to each other, both as bandmates and friends?

Edie Brickell: Playing with old friends is unique. It’s precious. It’s welcoming to a greater sense of authenticity in spontaneous expression. We can flow together and be ourselves together, having a sense of security about the love that we feel for each other, so that we can get mad, get aggravated, be honest about what we like and what we don’t like, and compromise, [or] not compromise, and know that we’re going to make something that is better than all of the individuals would make outside of the band.

Kenny Withrow: Amen to that.

Even with that quiet decade, New Bohemians has been a part of your lives for over 30 years, and that history enriches the art: you’ve gotten to know each other at different levels in your development as musicians. Were there any moments on Hunter and the Dog Star that brought you back to your early days?

EB: For me, Kenny’s solo in “I Found You” is classic Kenny. His touch and feel and sense of melody, it’s so specific, so special to Kenny. He did that way back on Ghost of the Dog on a song called “Stwisted.”

KW: It’s funny you said that -- that’s the song I’d say, as well, that hearkens to an earlier vibe. We’ve done a lot of improvising, and some of it can be a little tribal-sounding. There are two drummers in the band, and we’d kind of get into a trance sort of thing, and that really comes across in that song. It has a recording of these frogs that were chiming every night in the creek outside of this house in Austin we were staying in while recording. These frogs were a chorus every night, and Edie went outside and recorded them. Kyle added it to the vibe and atmosphere of this song. Brandon started with this trance beat, and Edie was just walking around the studio as things came to her. It was very much an improvised style that we always used to do live on stage, but we did it in the studio. What came to her was just really beautiful. That hearkens back to our earliest way we’d improvise, the way she’d interpret things that were happening.

What lyric sums up your relationship with this album, or reflects your mindset while you were creating it?

EB: “Miracles aren’t just for believers.” [“Miracles”] was the first song recorded for the record. Kenny started playing that and it just flowed right out. Kyle, our producer, got very excited and ran in there and turned everything on. He was in the vocal booth with us when Kenny played that. I just started singing that immediately. That’s the fun of it: what he plays and who he is inspires me to sing something.

KW: That’s typical of the way things come together. Every once in a while, there’ll be a mood, just a feeling in the back of my head, that this mood needs to come out. My job in the band is ambiance technician. (laughs) I bring the mood. I bring the atmosphere. That’s what I’m constantly looking for, a musical, tonal atmosphere, or an absolute mood and how that can be expressed in music. In those first few chords, and the atmosphere it immediately creates, we were all like, “This is an area the band should go to but hasn’t gone to yet.”

EB: I’ve always noticed that. Even when I played with the Gaddabouts, I had Kenny come and jam with us. He was always coming back and forth to New York, or if I was coming back to Texas we would play. We have a lot of goofball recordings that one day we may, I don’t know, figure out a way to share and release. They’re funny. There are so many, you wouldn’t believe it.

KW: That’s how we hang out. Through the years, that’s how we catch up. I was the musical director of a musical -- Neil Young’s Greendale -- and we came through New York, and we got to hang out. When we hang out, we write songs! That’s how we catch up. We don’t go, “What do you got going on, idea-wise?” But we do end up doing that. In the back of my head, I want to play her whatever thing I got going on. That has never, ever changed.

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