Today New York-based Americana outfit, The Booklights, release their debut EP, Into a Ball, a release that likely wouldn’t have happened, if it wasn’t for the pandemic. “It’s so wild to be releasing an EP right now. We recorded almost everything last summer and, for the most part, it was my pandemic project… The Booklights were together for two years from 2013 to 2015, but we never did a recording,” says singer and songwriter Rob Morrison, also of The Hollows. Rob is talking to me from his hotel in Denver, where he’s performing as part of Wild Fire, a musical about Colorado wild fires. Like Rob, the other three-fourths of The Booklights – Lauren Molina (cello), Benny Elledge (percussion), and Rachel Green (fiddle) – are also actors, and Lauren and Rob are a couple, who’ve been together for 12 years now, pre-dating this particular project.
The Booklights originally came to a halt in 2015, when Rob injured himself and couldn’t play temporarily, which wound up turning into a hiatus: “We put a light pin in it, and things fell by the wayside unintentionally. But I was thinking about it recently and I was like, ‘We never got to record as The Booklights and that kinda sucks.’” Rob tells me that when the idea first came about, it was just to do something small and lo-fi, but that the project quickly gained enthusiasm: “I was like, ‘I wanna do this right!’ I didn’t wanna produce it, and we had been in talks with James Frazee – who I’d known from The Hollows, my bigger band – to do an EP in 2015, so we got him to agree to produce it.”
Last month The Booklights released Into a Ball’s lead single and accompanying music video, “My Woman, the Almanac,” which has already gained a lot of attention amongst the Americana community. Rob describes the EP – which was actually recorded remotely, but manages to exude a warm, studio sound — as, “A wonderful re-visitation of what The Booklights was.” However, he tells me that those who used to come see the band live should expect something a little different of their first official recording: “This won’t necessarily sound like our live show. It has a more studio, more fleshed-out sound. It took on its own world and I think it’s a magical one.” He describes the sounds as, “Folksy, but also kinda psychedelic,” but goes on to say that the sound is really indebted to a wide variety of influences amongst the entire band, and that he feels as though this five-song collection actually manages to capture quite a few of their different musical moods.
“As the primary songwriter, my biggest influence is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. That’s that Americana I wanna be transported by. I often find myself thinking, ‘How would Gillian do this?’ But then there’s also John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Hartford, and even Hank Williams… Our sounds have a range to them. Some are quirky and almost funny, and some are really dark. Like ‘Waywiser,’ I kind of wonder if that’s what Radiohead would sound like, if they were an Americana band.”