In the summer of 2016, venerable Fort Worth dream-poppers The Cush made their way across the Atlantic for a decidedly influential, if brief, European tour. With the exception of a dalliance to the president’s preferred immigrant country of origin, Norway, the handful of dates were concentrated throughout the United Kingdom and planned around the Supernormal Music Festival in Oxfordshire. One of the dates was on the Isle of Man, the scenic atoll off the coast of Ireland, and the foursome managed to carve out some studio time while there. A year and a half later, the product of those sessions is now finally being released as a three-song EP, which culls its title from that picturesque locale.
If the annular Irish Sea were an eye, the Isle of Man would be the pupil.
Rising from the frigid waters roughly halfway between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, the historic haven of ancient Celts and Vikings is a majestic landscape of emerald and lavender meadows blanketing the tops of slate gray bluffs spotted with hoary castles.
The husband-and-wife team of Burette and Gabby Douglas, who co-front the quartet, said their frequent sightseeing tours stimulated their artistic vision. They would spend half the day in the studio and then go visit one of the islet’s pristinely preserved castles or some other wonder.
“It was pretty much the perfect trip,” Gabby said. And after seeing the island’s beauty, she said, “it was pretty easy to go back to the studio and be inspired to create music and to write lyrics.”
Along with guitarist/visual artist Parker Donaldson (The Longshots), who has since relocated to South Africa, and usual guitarist/fill-in drummer Ben Hance (Earthchild Imperius, Siberian Traps), the couple, who have been married and making music together for more than 24 years, spent three days taking in the sites and bringing the stunning imagery back with them to work in Ballagroove Studios, located in Ballasalla near the southwest tip of the island. Studio owner and music producer Gypo Buggane, who also helped promote the show The Cush played while there, engineered and mixed the record.
Accustomed to writing and recording at their own pace in home studios, working with someone else and in a different studio environment was a new experience for the band.
“It was really an interesting position to be in,” Burette said. “To have to do it kind of quick and stripped down and without all your usual toys and stuff, we’d never really done that before.”
After principal tracking and returning home, the band had to work long distance with Buggane to finish the songs, which was a unique challenge but one the Douglases found fascinating in its own right.
“Having to try to explain delay sounds and different things we were hearing was really kind of cool,” Burette said. “When you can develop the same language with somebody, especially in the short amount of time we had together, that was pretty cool, too.”
Buggane’s influence on the Isle of Man EP is immediately evident. There’s a discernibly new crispness and added presence to the instrumentation, which adds even more space to The Cush’s already commodious sound. Though the tracks aren’t lacking the band’s signature psychedelic wash, the Douglases’ voices cut through sharper, and each of the musicians occupy his or her own frequency ranges in a way that allows them to more properly shine.
“We’d never really met Gyp before,” Gabby said about the surprisingly smooth recording process. “But for all of us just to come together and go into the studio, it worked out really easily, actually. It felt like it was meant to be, in a way.”
The EP, which will be released on cassette and digital formats through Dreamy Life Records, opens with the wistful, dreamy lullaby “November,” which rides nostalgia for ’90s slow-core artists like Low and Denton legends Bedhead. The other two tracks are classic Cush psych-pop in the vein of Yo La Tengo or the Ravonettes, with plenty of delay bouncing around Donaldson’s slinky guitar lines and the Douglases’ spacey harmonies.
The Cush, with drummer Austin Green and Hance resuming his normal position on guitar, will support the release of Isle of Man with a show on Friday.
The Cush EP release show
7pm Fri w/Wire Nest and The Deluxe. Dreamy Life Records and Music, 1310 W Allen Av, FW. Free. 817-733-5463.