Bridges and Powerlines revisits late '90s on new album, 'Eve'; plays CMJ shows

If 9/11 was a watershed for the country — the world — at large, it has a particular resonance for the tail end of generation X and the leading edge of the millennial generation: it cut short the flush boom years of the ’90s just as they were coming of age, and ushered in a decade of political and economic upheaval that shows few signs of abating.

Bridges and Powerlines got to thinking about the late ’90s after finishing “Ghost Types,” the New York foursome’s 2007 debut, and those years became the theme around which they built the follow-up, “Eve.” Due Jan. 18 on Stunning Models on Display Records, it’s a collection of smart, wistful indie-pop songs that perch hazy vocals atop layers of synthesizers, bright guitars and punchy rhythms.

“The late ’90s were really important for all of us,” bassist and primary lyricist Keith Sigel tells Listen, Dammit. “There was this amazing American optimism, the economy was booming, it was sort of like the last happy American time. The last decade has been a real mess, I think. So I wanted to focus on that.”

With a pair of CMJ shows this week, Sigel told us three facts about “Eve.”

1. Bridges and Powerlines spent a solid year writing the album. “The guy who produced our last record,Chris Zane, he told us, ‘Look, I think the key to success is, the second you finish recording a record, you start writing the next record,'” Sigel says. “So right after we finished our last record, we started writing again, and we always like to have a theme or a central focus.”

2. In a way, the focus is nostalgia. In another way, it’s hindsight. “Things were booming, and it was completely unsustainable and I don’t think we realized it at the time,” says Sigel, who describes himself as “painfully nostalgic.” “I think we all thought we were going to be rich and start our own dot.com and all that stuff. There certainly was a lesson in all of that. Historically, there doesn’t get to be any more perfect of a lesson. We were blinded by success and totally got the rug pulled out from under us.”

3. The band loved making “Eve.” The foursome worked with producer Kieran Kelley at his studio in Queens, where Sufjan Stevens recorded “Illinois.” “This is the cool thing about his space: it’s dirt cheap, and he produces everything, he engineers it,” Sigel says. “We pretty much camped out there for a couple of months, but we did do some of it at home, too, for time and efficiency purposes. There are lots and lots of backing vocals and things like that, and we did a lot of that at home. And then there was so much editing — it’s amazing what you can do these days.”

Part of the reason Bridges and Powerlines enjoyed making the new record, Sigel says, stemmed from increased comfort with the recording process. “The whole process was incredible, and making records hasn’t always been incredible for us,” he says. “It always amazes me when a band comes right out of the gate and does something really amazing in the studio. Usually it’s because someone in the band has been doing it for years at home, or they have a producer who’s willing to take chances.”

Bridges and Powerlines performs Friday at 3 p.m. at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan and at 11 p.m. at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn.

— Eric R. Danton

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