Bloomington, Indiana brother duo Busman’s Holiday ply a brand of pop music that’s wholly at odds with most of what’s classified as “pop” nowadays, as the brothers play predominantly on acoustic instruments, employ a minimum of technology even in the studio, and draw inspiration from a range of not-what’s-trending genres including bluegrass, ragtime, old-time jazz and swing, obscure folk and even British Invasion-era rock.
According to singer-guitarist Lewis Rogers, the Busman vision of pop is that of a modern classicist; it’s a vision that seeks for the heart of what makes music memorable, and communal, in the first place. “One thing that’s really important to us is melody,” Rogers says. “A lot of popular music today doesn’t seem to revolve around melody so much. For us, it’s really important to get melodies right.
“If I can hum along with a tune and remember it in my head afterwards, then the song is probably going in the right direction. If I can leave a show and remember some of the band’s songs, I’m inspired by that. But a lot of music in the pop world now is more rhythm-oriented. And in the indie rock world, there’s a shift toward externalness, music as ambiance or background music. And that’s okay sometimes, but it can lead to passiveness. And passiveness in music can be a curse.”
Lew and brother Addison (drums and vox) began playing music together at an early age, and began taking the project seriously roundabout 2005. Their earliest gigs consisted of the brothers busking in the streets of Bloomington, with later live efforts moving into the realm of local house parties.
Rogers says he and Addison cycled through a number of additional band members through the years, though they’ve ultimately hewed to the duo format, at times employing additional musicians for some of their gigs according to need and inspiration.
The experience of busking and playing innumerable house parties has nurtured in the Rogers brothers a warm, genially extroverted stage manner, a personal and unpretentious way of performing that comes off on record and in video as well as in a live setting. “We like to banter a lot,” Rogers says. “It’s a carryover from all of those house shows. For us, it’s like we’re hanging out with the audience. It’s all about directness.
“When we started playing more in clubs with sound systems, it actually took time for us to realize we could use microphones,” Rogers laughs. “Because we played so much at house shows, we were used to projecting with our voices. Now, we’ve learned to use the sound system a little more.”
With the last Busman’s Holiday record, “Popular Cycles,” having dropped in October of 2016, Rogers says he and his sibling are hard at work on a new platter for 2018, though he’s uncertain as to how, or even whether, it will differ from previous BH efforts. “We’ve always been very planned in the studio, but we’re moving toward being more in-the-moment with this one,” he says. “We always have lots of ideas about where things are going to go when we’re planning for a new studio album. And then it never turns out quite the way it seems in our heads.”
Busman’s Holiday will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Feb. 22 at 10 p.m.