[SINGER-SONGWRITER] "My buddies used to call me a sensitive singer-songwriter," former Bella Fayes frontman Lael Alderman says, laughing. "And I didn't wanna do that at all." He's referring to Of Birds, Devils and the Heart, his new release—and his first solo album in a decade. "I was just taking what I'd learned in a rock band and bringing that intensity to a stripped-down song," he explains. "I didn't want sad bastard music."
A glistening collection of songcraft, Of Birds saunters through a number of genres—New Wave, indie-pop, British-invasion balladry—all of which are led by Alderman's confident, malleable vocals (equally capable of Britt Daniel falsetto, Pete Yorn warble or Julian Casablancas' hesitant agression). The album's fairly eclectic," the 33-year-old Alaska native continues. "When you're making your own record, you can be totally diverse. You can think, 'Man, I really want to make this more like a '60s soul tune,' and [you don't] have to worry. I really enjoyed the Bella Fayes, but...it was a rock band. No matter what I wrote on my acoustic guitar, it [came] out as a rock song. I had a [solo] career before that, a deal with Geffen in the late '90s, and I wanted to go back to that and see what I'd learned."
Despite the variety of styles and lushness of sound, Alderman also played all of the instruments on Of Birds—save a few drum tracks by producer Greg Williams—and recorded the album entirely in his basement studio. "I'd make myself a cocktail and go down there just as something to do. I wasn't sure I'd ever put out another record. There was no thought about how I was going to play it live," he adds. "There were arrangements with strings and horns, but I was lucky enough to find a band that can pull most of that off."
While national "destination" tours will still be solo and acoustic, Alderman's formed a backing band for regional gigs, and they'll appear on his soon-to-be-recorded follow-up—also likely to be self-released, which is relatively new territory for Alderman. "I spent all of my 20s trying to hunt down a deal," he says. "I always enjoyed making the music, but that whole other side [ate] up all of my energy. This time, I just wanted to get it out there. I have friends that've been holding onto records for six, nine, 12 months. I don't see the point. I'm not so precious anymore."
Alderman celebrates the release of Of Birds, Devils and the Heart Friday, Nov. 30, with Fernando and the Regulars at Dante's. 9:30 pm. $8. 21+. Photo: by Kyle Oddson.