Bands to Watch: Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Andrew Graham has never been short on ideas.

As the dominant voice behind RTFO Bandwagon's rambunctious blend of folk and punk, Graham let his creative juices overflow into everything from raucous hall-of-mirrors skuzz to laid-back, old-timey parlor music. His lyrical concepts - explained in thorough, thoughtful liner notes on last year's Dums Will Survive - were just as expansive and painstakingly conceived.

So when RTFO disbanded last summer after two members moved away, Graham didn't hesitate to accept an offer from Mexican Summer, a burgeoning underground label that has released records by acclaimed up-and-comers like Real Estate, Kurt Vile and Washed Out.

Undaunted by the breakup, Graham simply started a new project, Swarming Branch, named for the buzzing-bees effect of his latest brainstorm: Every player on the new Andrew Graham's Good Word would be restricted to playing one note at a time - no chords allowed.

"Not only will every note on the album be intentional," Graham explained, "but everyone will start to realize where they're overlapping each other."

He rounded up a handful of his favorite Columbus players, including pianist Dane Terry, percussionist Ryan Jewell and The Sun's Chris Burney, and brought them one by one to his Victorian Village apartment to record their parts.

The result was an idiosyncratic recording that sometimes sounds like the insect hootenanny Graham envisioned but also dips into somber territory, as on the gorgeous saloon ballad "Seasonal Delicacies." The spindly compositions soundtrack a mysterious running storyline about some lass named Kathy.

"It's the third record in a row where I was allowed to write all the songs, record them and send them in without the label hearing any demos," Graham said. "And that's really awesome because if you worry too much about making a record for a certain label or for a certain person, it's going to totally change it."

Good Word is just the first of four releases Graham hopes to unveil this year. A second Swarming Branch album is in the works for late summer release, as are two 7-inch singles. One of the singles will feature a pair of "solid acoustic songs"; for the other, he plans to write "irreverent country songs" that bring the potentially offensive subtext of Toby Keith, et al, to the forefront. The ideas keep coming.

In the meantime, he's planning to promote Good Word by playing out with a rotating cast of players: "I'm really excited to take this to a live setting and have everything happening at once."