Over the course of more than a decade, Fruit Bats have looked for ways to file down the cynical edges of modern life. Using bright melodies, defiant major-key chord structures, and natural imagery mixed with the occasional blazing insight or tender observation, Fruit Bats have never shied away from darkness, but have also resolutely refused to shy away from light. The band was formed in Chicago in 1997. An early entrant into the folk-rock boom of the new millennium, the group has been through several personnel changes over the years, but revolves around singer/songwriter Eric D. Johnson. At the time, Johnson was an instructor at The Old Town School of Folk Music, led his own space-rock band called I Rowboat, was a sideman in various groups, most notably Califone, and had a solo project called Fruit Bats.
Fruit Bats began to evolve into a group with the addition of a rotating cast of band members. In 2001, the debut record, "Echolocation," was released on Califone's imprint, Perishable Records. Tours with Modest Mouse and The Shins followed, and Johnson briefly became a touring member of The Shins. In the summer of 2002, Fruit Bats signed with Sub Pop and have since released four albums on the label: 2003's "Mouthfuls," 2005's "Spelled In Bones," 2009's "The Ruminant Band" and 2011's "Tripper." The song "When U Love Somebody," from the album "Mouthfuls," was used in the 2010 movie "Youth in Revolt." Johnson scored the 2011 movie "Ceremony," the feature debut of writer/director Max Winkler, which starred Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano. He also scored the 2011 movie "My Idiot Brother," alongside Nathan Larson. The film, directed by Jesse Peretz, featured Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer.
On the latest Fruit Bats release, 2011's "Tripper," the band continues in characteristically rich and involving fashion. "Tripper" was recorded at WACS Studio in Los Angeles with Thom Monahan, best known as producer for the last four Vetiver albums and Devendra Banhart's "Cripple Crow." For the first week, Johnson brought in a band. However, after working alone on soundtracks for an extended period, Johnson knew that he wanted "Tripper" to be more of a solitary pursuit than his previous albums. For the remaining four weeks, he worked with Monahan to deepen and refine the sound. Fruit Bats' lineup has now expanded to five, in turn expanding the sonic scope of Johnson's songs. The touring lineup consists of Johnson on vocals and guitar, Graeme Gibson on drums, Ron Lewis on bass, Dave Depper on keyboards and guitar, and Nathan Junior on lead guitar.
In 2010, Johnson founded the Huichica Music Festival in Sonoma, CA in partnership with Jeff Bundschu of Gundlach Bundschu Winery. The festival recently concluded its second successful year with a lineup that included J Mascis, Richard Swift and These United States.