Well as it is almost August, it seems apt that I should feature an artist that I have been hearing about for a long time but have not actually investigated. Today is the day I change all that with this post on August Wells.
The band are made up of chief songwriter Ken Griffin and pianist John Rauchenberger. Both have had extensve experience in the music industry before coming together as August Wells. Griffin was a member of Irish indie outfit in the 1990’s; Rollerskate Skinny. He was also a member of New York based Favourite Sons. Rauchenberger meanwhile has a background in composing for film. Ken had been based in New York for the past twenty years and started making music with John by chance:
“I met him through a circle of friends.We were all walking home and he wanted us to show us his house. There was a piano there – I’d known him for two years and didn’t even know he could play”
Forming the band around 2012, they got to work in producing some new music. I tried to remember why I associated them with Cork for some reason being that Griffin is a Dublin man based in New York and John is a native New Yorker. In my research it was then that I discovered that August Wells music has been released in Ireland through Cork based Fifa Records.
The band’s debut: A Living and a Dying Game was released in the U.S. in 2014 and in Ireland in 2015 through Fifa. The album opener “Mister Son” sets out the bands sound from the start. Singing in his natural tone, Ken’s voice carries a mature reflective timbre that is soothing and reassuring to listen to. It is gently and mellow indie music that occasionally crosses over into folk and some jazz. I enjoyed the Burt Bacharach sounding “Paper Gardens” and gentle melody of “Rest of my life”.
Given John’s background as a composer, it is no surprise that the melodies are so perfectly arranged and the songs are so full of life.
In late 2015, the band released a single that would form part of their second album “Madness is the Mercy”. The statement of “Come In out of That Night” suggests a band building on solid foundations. It has a lovely warm melody and the word’s feel life re-affirming. It might be raining outside and you might get wet but it is all only temporary.
The band’s sophomore release came out in 2016. The songs are arranged with Ken’s baritone voice and guitar forming the base and is delicately finished with strings, piano and wind instruments. “The Man Cries” feels like an old American civil era dirge. With it’s bouncy rhythm and fiddle and horn interspersion, it is beautiful composed piece.
August Wells draw many comparisons. The vocal style of Ken will remind you of other gentle vocalists like Nick Cave and Tom Waits in some ways. I am reminded of the sound of the likes of Mark Mulcahy. With lyrics simply composed based on what feels like life experiences and melodies that cross between folk and indie, the sound of August Wells might not be groundbreaking (I’m sure they would say the same themselves) but what they do, they do very well.