Strange & sweet

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

At their core - or, more appropriately, their warm, gooey center - Super Desserts are a pop band, just like any other. But besides those pleasing combinations of chords and melodies, there's nothing conventional about this band.

Instruments? They've traded drums and amplification for banjo, sitar and bass clarinet. Packaging? Their CDs come in 7-inch vinyl sleeves stuffed with elaborate handmade liner notes. Performance? They're known to play at living rooms, libraries and sidewalks across Columbus. Song titles? One of them is "The Sorcerer's Wife Admits That the Magic Is Gone from Their Marriage and Files for Divorce."

Although the group recalls Georgia's Elephant 6 bands and the cutesy pop that once emerged from the Pacific Northwest, there's nothing quite like Super Desserts in Columbus. The band relishes that uniqueness, but they aren't trying to be different for difference's sake so much as aiming to amuse each other.

"I think we're genuine weirdos," said Eve Searls, whose ukulele strumming and coy vocals play a big part in the sound of Super Desserts' latest album, Barefoot in the Disenchanted Forest.

Searls' singing introduces the album, but she's not the focal point - there is none. Besides the various guest stars, six musicians played on the record. Five of them contributed songs. Four of them sang.

Yet every member bought into a unified vision, so the music didn't emerge from the creative cauldron a jumbled mess. The result is an expansive indie-folk fairy tale, a dense series of stories set to twee pop straight from a dream sequence.

Super Desserts are nearly as immersive in person. The band is big enough to take over a living room without microphones and talented enough to keep people's attention as members trade instruments and share "ba ba bas."

It's the kind of collaborative art project Justin Riley and Bobby Miller envisioned when they cooked up this concept last year after years playing pop music with bands such as Terribly Empty Pockets and Beard of Stars in a punk-dominated bar scene.

"We just started throwing a bunch of names around," Riley said. "One thought was that we should try to get people that weren't necessarily already playing in the Columbus scene."

First they approached Searls, who had recently begun performing solo under the name Bird and Flower. Soon afterward they added Fran Litterski and Tyler Evans on various instruments. But Super Desserts' sound bloomed when they brought in Dave Winstead on bass clarinet and simultaneously went unplugged.

"It just seemed like there were a ton of logistical problems with all the electric stuff we were doing," Evans said, "and when we went acoustic it was just kind of a breath of fresh air."

His bandmates enthusiastically agreed, and for good reason: Super Desserts' shift made them one of the most fascinating and singular entries among Columbus' rising swarm of precious pop bands. See them cast their spell tonight at The Treehouse, where they'll play at 10 p.m. sharp.