Known for its vast range in prog rock and frequently filled-to-the-brim songs, the five-year-old Denton group Ella Minnow has finally found restraint. And it’s a good look on them.
The group’s recently released fifth album, Honey Sweet Devils, showcases Ella Minnow’s growth from a band using every trick in its (very large) book into a seven-piece force that creates more focused, solid songs.
“We’ve calmed down a bit,” guitarist Corbin Childs said. “I guess that happens when you get older. Our earlier stuff is a lot more rowdy, I guess. We weren’t very good at leaving space.”
With Honey Sweet Devils, Ella Minnow has stayed true to its busy, creative songwriting style rather than undergo a total overhaul, opting instead to refine the method to members’ madness.
“Initially, it was all about cramming every sound into the limited space of a recording,” keyboardist Trey Price said, “and we’ve come from there to understanding how delicate we can place a melody across a verse or chorus and try not to crowd it out with too much irrelevant noise.”
After recording each track separately failed to yield the energetic sound they wanted, band members got together and live-tracked most of the rhythm and guitars in Childs’ living room — in true Denton fashion.
“Every release has been a marker along the way to show what we were working on and what we had in mind at the time,” Price said.
Cohesion and women were two such things on their mind in Honey Sweet Devils. After adding two female vocalists to the group a couple of years ago, Price said, the group’s sound evolved and fans took notice.
“People responded to the girls, so we became full-time members of the band,” vocalist Tiffany Graber said. “I think that the success of Ella Minnow grows with every album and every year.”
Graber said the first things that struck her about the band were its standout vocals, incorporation of many instruments and wide-ranging sound.
The same principles apply to the group’s newest album, as it weaves in and out of musical styles — from psychedelic surf to progressive rock to country music — in an ever-changing fashion that’s become Ella Minnow’s credo.
RACHEL WATTS enjoys participating in the local music scene and co-owns a small independent record label called I Love Math Records. She lives in Denton.
TRACK FOR TRACK: Honey Sweet Devils
As the song’s low tones and sex-clad keys slowly ease you into busier guitar riffs and a growing tempo change, lead vocals prompt trouble with argumentative lyrics. “Push, Push” is the epitome of the push and pull present in a battle of the sexes, as exemplified through the instigating male vocals and provocative retort by the challenging all-female harmony.
The momentum of this somewhat sedating, psychedelic surfer-rock song steadily grows from ambivalent vocals into angst-filled cries, accented by decrescendos into what can only be described as the dusty, desertscape sounds of a good Tarantino flick.
A complete surprise to the album’s repertoire of songs, “Lover’s Thread” shocks your senses with a feel-good country love song upbeat enough to two-step to. The twangle-dangle of guitar, overlain by brass horns, makes this ballad-esque country tune a horse of a different color.