The Dry Spells

The Dry Spells, Photo by Jai Carillo

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The Dry Spells, a San Francisco-based, female-led ensemble, create a unique sound drawing from traditional folk ballads of lost loves, unimaginable sorrows, and nostalgia for a forgotten past, charged with an array of electric and acoustic instrumentation and intricate vocal harmonies. Tahlia Harbour (vocals and guitar), April Hayley (vocals and violin), Adria Otte (guitar), and Caitlin Pearce (drums) – all musicians since childhood, made their debut in a basement rock-box at Bard College known as the Red Room. Initially inspired to write their first song about a local tragedy of a 9 year old girl accidentally killed by a hunter while she was out collecting leaves, The Dry Spells gradually assembled a collection of gothic melodies made up of rapturous harmonies, mournful violin, and driving, intense guitar riffs.

In 2004, following graduation, it was time to head west to San Francisco. There they rejoined fellow Bard alumnus Ezra Feinberg, who was in the process of assembling the critically lauded, Retro-Prog-Psych transcendentalist outfit Citay. Before long, Tahlia, Adria, and April were a part of the live lineup, also appearing on Citay’s Little Kingdom album, released on Dead Oceans. It was at this time that the Dry Spells began their important collaboration with bass player Diego Gonzalez, formerly of the psychedelic rock band SubArachnoid Space and also a member of Citay.

Meanwhile, the ocean view from their new sunroom practice space and the neighboring urban forest of Golden Gate Park inspired a musical re-invigoration for the Dry Spells. Like Citay, the band found their place balancing an acoustic, multi-instrumentalist approach with some of the elements of harder-edged classic rock. However, for the Dry Spells, it was the intersection of folk traditionals with electric instrumentation, much like the work of Bob Dylan and early Fairport Convention, that provided their inspiration. The combination of Adria’s innovative guitar playing, April and Tahlia’s sororal gift for creating lush, haunting harmonies, Caitlin’s tom-heavy drumbeats, and Diego’s driving bass riffs were a welcome addition to the diverse yet close-knit San Francisco music scene.

The Dry Spells brought their songs to Bay Area venues sharing bills with friends like Vetiver, Entrance, Papercuts, Thao Nguyen, The Botticellis, Bart Davenport, and Black Fiction, and began recording songs for a self-released EP. Soon after its release, drummer Caitlin departed the band for grad school, with Citay-bandmate Ezra Feinberg and old friend Raphi Gottessman filling in on drums as needed. Branching out, Tahlia joined SF Mission mainstay Sonny Smith in his new outfit, Sonny and the Sunsets. Meanwhile, the limited run EP took on a life of its own, making the rounds, passed from fan to fan, until a copy ended up with Antenna Farm Records. Soon the band was back in the studio to record their debut album, Too Soon For Flowers.

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