Balancing grand ambition with delicate art in the face of adversity is a fine line to walk, but The Anatomy Of Frank learned to thrive while enduring. With a goal to record an album on each of the seven continents, the Charlottesville, VA band moves one step closer with South America. Recorded in Ecuador, the album is an exploration of nostalgia, relationships and mortality through introspection and assured indie-rock.
Following 2015's North America, the band found themselves in a state of disarray with the departure of two members. Condensing into a three-piece after half a decade, the change forced Kyle Woolard (guitar, vocals), Jimmy Bullis (keyboards) and Max Bollinger (drums) to re-orchestrate their sound and evolve into something new. During this time, morale sank deeply, but the transformation also proved advantageous—this unexpected change breathed new life into the band’s identity, allowing a fresh sound to persevere.
Armed with this newfound motivation and a tight sound for what would become South America, The Anatomy Of Frank were set to begin recording in Ecuador. But more challenges unfolded when the band experienced the loss of a loved one, which would affect each member personally, and inevitably, their work. How do you process pain without succumbing to it? The tendency toward escapism is a programmed reaction, but one that the band would avoid by doing the exact opposite: they dove right in and began exploring their emotional turmoil through their art.
South America was recorded with Stephen Cope in a private farmhouse in the Ecuadorian mountains in 5 short weeks, as the band tackled anxieties of fear and loss head on. With a drip-feed of family and friends providing a source of inspiration during the recording sessions, the trio would take trips to the Amazon or spend time in the mountains to rejuvenate their spirit.
Frequently throughout the process, they found themselves balancing on that well-known fine line—a mixture of fairytale experiences, personal growth, and the battle of coping were in constant rotation. Still wading through the aftermath of death and loss, they stripped away all layers and were left with the most important revelation for the record: the depths and power of their love, and the essence of being a full blooded human in the digital age, where emotions are often removed from the equation. Immersed by the beauty of their surroundings, the main themes of South America began to naturally revolve around matters close to the heart, with parental relationships, self-reflection, and looming insecurities taking the front seat. Living in the thick of recent tragedy, they found salvation in their own artistic expression as they would ride a wave of catharsis, consequently producing their most honest album to date in record time.
The first single “La Llorona” serves as a gateway into the sprawling soundscape of South America. Kyle Woolard’s storytelling focuses on the minutiae through a magnifying glass, with the intricacies of emotions being detailed to mesmerizing effect. Dissecting the complexity of relationships where desire shifts into a self-destructive craving, Woolard resigns: ‘You know what I like, don’t make me beg. Come at me, bite me, choke me out. I’m hanging on your every word from the rafters by a belt,’ over the most delicate and haunting of melodies, climaxing in a great burst of vocal harmonies and horn sections.
South America is a triumph of powerful and captivating human experience that brings forth questions which plague all of our seemingly unique experiences. Do past mistakes define who we are today? Are we worthy of love when we are told we’re covered in sin? Why is it easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves? Can we do away with regrets and live with love? As the band cracks open their subconscious, they find the answers they long for.
With a quiet hush that packs an emotional punch, the album provides profoundly descriptive stories and melodies that are immersive and entrancing in their tenderness. By exposing their own vulnerabilities, The Anatomy Of Frank allow their listeners a look behind the curtain into their most personal thought processes, reassuring the listener of the endurance of spirit and the courage that lies within.