By Gabby Redding | February 18, 2023
Part of the magic of Arlie’s music is their ability to pair incredibly vulnerable songwriting with catchy melodies, creating songs that reveal themselves in layers. This follows into their live performances, where the crowd gets lost in lyrics from some of their most popular tracks, like “Big Fat Mouth.”
“Oh, what if Jesus left without us
And we just didn’t notice
When he took up all our friends?
What if the Lord came back and left without us
And we just didn’t notice
So we’re stuck here ’til the end of the world?”
During their latest New York City show at the Bowery Ballroom, Arlie’s members took the stage in all white–playing up the tour’s theme, ‘Arlie’s Angels.’ The barricade was lined with fans donning fuzzy halos and screaming their song requests. The highlight of the show, however, was when Arlie treated the crowd to an intimate performance of two unreleased acoustic tracks. The first song, “Findaway” (which was released on February 17th, after the show) has pieces reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland–but with modern vocals that feel ethereal. For the second song, Arlie declined to even use a microphone, instead asking the crowd to fall silent. The result was an emotional performance that made the venue feel like a living room.
Their latest release, Break the Curse is the Nashville band’s first full length album, with Arlie metacognitively exploring generational hurt and his own growth, with songs tied together through a sound that is both modern and reminiscent of classic rock ‘n’ roll. The album’s singles, including “Landline” and “Karma,” set the tone for a record that is instantly recognizable, with choruses you can sing along to after the first listen. However, the title track exposes Arlie’s overarching theme, with lyrics like:
“Don’t doubt, everything could change
Right now, but there’s only one
Way out, honest with ourselves
Somehow managed to go wrong”
A week before their NYC show, we sat down with Arlie to learn about the band’s influences, reminisce on fan interaction, and he answered a few questions for the groovement:
For those of our readers who are new to Arlie, how would you describe your music either by genre or general vibe?
I’ve never liked to be put in a box, so I always have trouble with the question. Arlie is melody driven, influenced by guitar based rock music lineage, and leaning towards a 1960s type of color palette, sonically. And if you want to call it indie, I won’t be angry.
It might be easier to place Arlie if we look at your musical influences, are there any artists that you try to embody or emanate in your style?
When it comes to overall approach, I’ve always looked up to a couple different pillars. I’ve been influenced by Vampire Weekend. It always felt like I could listen to the music and enjoy it as a pure experience, not really think about it. But, if you want to, you can go deep and find so many layers of meaning. The lyrics are full of references and symbolism, and connectedness. You can discover all of these layers in what’s going on, musically, when all these subtle things come together. You don’t have to know about all that complexity to enjoy it. That is what I always strive for–trying to be sophisticated but you don’t have to know about sophistication to like it.
When it comes to creating a sonic experience, I love Tame Impala. He’s always been my hero in terms of creating an immersive experience, there are songs you can sing along to and get totally lost in. You don’t have to be on anything to have a psychedelic moment with that kind of music.
For the live shows we take rock ‘n’ roll influences more than we do for the recorded art form. That has me paying more attention to different types of artists than I do when we’re writing and recording.
A lot of your music takes on a bit of a different vibe or sound when you perform it live, does that change show to show?
I like to keep things fresh, so the more the show has evolved, the more that’s the case. We’ve stopped using backing tracks, and that allows things to be a little more live and reactive to the room. and to each other. We’re at a new level of being able to react nightly based on how we’re feeling and how the crowd is feeling. There are patterns I fall into, singing in a forward resonance works better in live settings, like clubs. I’ll do a softer, more intimate delivery on a recording, where I can dial all my effects exactly how I want them and be in control of every single element. When we’re live we’re looking to create excitement.
Do you anticipate which songs will be crowd favorites, “Barcelona Boots” seems to be a hugely requested live song.
For the most part, my favorite songs tend to be fan favorites. It’s funny, Barcelona Boots was one of the songs that people in the industry thought was a single from the EP, but it was never as popular on the internet as some of the others. I don’t put songs out if I don’t like them, so there’s so many things that I don’t put out. If it makes it, I really like it, and then I go with what most people are going to react to. It’s all a little bit unpredictable, but ultimately I’m going to do what I want. That’s just being an artist, and people respond best when I’m authentically expressing myself. But, I do like to know what people are into.
It becomes really evident in the live shows that you and the rest of the band have a strong relationship with the audience, and engage in a ton of interaction with them, as Arlie gets bigger how is it for you all to see familiar faces mixed in with all these new fans?
It’s cool to see a mix of new fans and fans that have been around for a while, I like when people are like in on sort of like some inside jokes and references from past shows. I love that. They’ll make signs that make me laugh, that’s always so great to me, we’ll call it out and reference and that’s really fun. I’d love to see that sort of dynamic continue to grow.
This one kid made a sign that said, ‘Ideal Arlie Set List’ and it was “Water Damage” 12 times like–I just cracked up, you know? So we played the song and we started to play it again, it was his birthday too.
I love singing happy birthday to people too. Whenever there’s someone that’s like, hey, it’s my friend’s birthday we’ll make up some new silly version of happy birthday, one time we did it in a minor key. It’s fun to have a relationship with the fans and build our own little culture centered around the music, with the live group and with the energy of the shows.
The coolest thing is to meet people who all became friends from the shows.
Do you have a favorite city to tour? We won’t be too upset if you don’t say New York.
You will be upset! But New York shows have always been great, so I think you guys are up there in the top three. I have a hard time picking favorites of anything, but Bowery Ballroom, according to Wikipedia, has been awarded the number one best club in America. So I think that might be the best show that we ever played coming up.
📸: shot by Sarah Schneider