Local music: Alwood Sisters

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Alwood Sisters like to emphasize the subdued nature of their music - more plaintive drama than action blockbuster.

But there were plenty of plot twists and even a little violence in the making of "Black Falcon & the Forest Spirit," the debut album they'll release Saturday at Rumba Cafe in conjunction with a new single from fellow whispery mystics Moon High.

In the decade after their youthful buzz band The Velveteens went defunct, Amy and Meagan Alwood took several stabs at rekindling their music. The sisters shuffled from one collaborator to the next, but nothing seemed to click.

"We both had an idea of what we wanted, and it kept not happening," Amy said.

That all changed when the Karcic brothers, Jovan and Milan, entered the picture.

Amy had always been the songwriter of the pair, but when Meagan moved to New York to pursue a visual arts career, music started to pour out of the elder Alwood for the first time. She collaborated with Amy long-distance and returned home to begin recording in August 2007.

Amy had already began dating Jovan Karcic (Gaunt, Haynes Boys) when the Alwoods invited Jovan and his brother Milan (Salt Horse, Pretty Mighty Mighty) to help with the recording. Soon a romance sprung up between Milan and Meagan too. They're now married.

"We didn't do it on purpose," Meagan said of the double sibling love connection. "It just happened."

Many more collaborators contributed to the sessions, including Chris Forbes, Josh Housh, Mike Shoaf and the late Noel Sayre, whose violin parts were spliced in by producer Joe Viers.

The result was an album that captured the spirit the Alwoods aimed for, recalling the '60s and '70s rock and folk records they so adored and not pandering to other people's expectations.

"It took us a really long time to mature, to stop listening to what other people wanted and do what we wanted," Meagan said.

The process wasn't without setbacks. A month after recording began, Meagan fell off the third-story staircase outside her Manhattan apartment, breaking her back and pelvis on the concrete below. She spent two weeks on her back in the hospital, then endured crutches, a cane and physical therapy.

Friends in New York got big names like Spike Jonze and Marc Jacobs to contribute art and merchandise to a benefit that raised almost $20,000 for her medical expenses and inspired a New York magazine item titled "Broken Hipster."

Three years later, Meagan can walk fine - "My back hurts sometimes, but whose doesn't?" - and her album is finally ready after an exhaustive, "anal" mixing and mastering process by Jovan.

The recordings were first unveiled at a listening party last month at Wild Goose Creative, offering a distinct contrast from the bustling bars that often obscure the Alwoods' meek strums and delicate harmonies. They're hoping for a similarly serene vibe at Rumba Saturday.

"I like rock," Amy said. "I just can't do it."

10 p.m. Saturday, July 17

Rumba Cafe, North Campus