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In nearly all of their interviews, Durham, North Carolina indie combo Bombadil claimed that their conceptual starting point was the folk music of Bolivia, last heard on the U.S. pop charts approximately never. (Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa [If I Could]" was based on a folk song from Peru, one country over, but that's as close as it gets.) But before one gets nightmarish visions of a South American version of Vampire Weekend's wholesale rip-off of various African musical styles, the band's playful, childlike take on twee indie pop had only the slightest connection to South American folk tunes, sharing much more in common with the more cutesy side of the Elephant 6 stable (early Of Montreal, etc.) and the late, lamented indie label Kindercore Records. However, bassist and keyboardist Daniel Michalak and guitarist Bryan Rahija really did hatch the initial idea of the band and began writing songs together while spending a semester abroad in Bolivia, and the band's on-stage costumes included (among various outlandish looks) an approximation of the look of itinerant Bolivian folk musicians. Students at Duke University, Michalak and Rahija returned to North Carolina and added a mutual friend, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Robinson (who specialized in various keyboards and trumpet), and Michalak's younger brother, John Michalak, on drums.
After a live demo recorded at a campus concert got the fledgling band (named for the J.R.R. Tolkien character Tom Bombadil) signed to local indie Ramseur Records, a self-titled EP was released in 2006. A heavy touring schedule combined with academic requirements caused John Michalak to leave the band prior to the recording of its full-length debut; he was replaced by James Phillips. Bombadil's debut album, A Buzz, A Buzz, was released in the spring of 2008. Tarpits & Canyonlands followed in 2009. The band was on hiatus for parts of 2009 and 2010 due to Daniel Michalak suffering from a recurring nerve condition in his hands that left him unable to play for periods of time. With Michalak's health improving, All That the Rain Promises came out in 2011, with the witty, whimsical, and less ethnic folk-influenced Metrics of Affection arriving in the summer of 2013.
Rahija left the band soon thereafter, and a fifth LP was written as a trio and recorded with guests including Rahija on guitar and ukulele and Michael Stipe, who also appeared on one track of Metrics of Affection, on trumpet. Shortly before the still jolly but more heartache-focused Hold On was released in March 2015, the band announced that Stuart Robinson was leaving to pursue other interests and would not be joining the promotional tour. Michalak and Phillips regrouped with guitarist Stacy Harden and, still with Ramseur, released Fences in 2017. It featured production by John Vanderslice, who claimed to take a light hand to songs and acoustic performances that stood on their own. ~ Stewart Mason & Marcy Donelson
- Durham, NC
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