Campus band fowlmouth releases its debut EP

Image courtesy of Bank Street Books.

Vassar’s own campus band fowlmouth released its debut EP “Safety Last!” on Sunday, Feb. 26. The group, consisting of members Julia Maisel-Berick ’24, Rachel Ostrowski ’24 and Lauren Pacheco ’24, hosted an intimate release listening party on the day, complete with cake and handmade merch. The record itself is a fantastic slice of indie folk, with incredible production and beautiful songwriting to boot. The band adeptly combines singable melodies with hard-hitting lyrics and skilled instrumentation, which are especially clear on songs like the title track and closer “Ghosts on a Line.” All three members contribute their instrumental and vocal skills to the record, and their harmonies create a fantastic cohesion on the EP.  

I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with the band members about their songwriting and production process, and what is next for them. This first EP was many years in the making—the bandmates said the first recording was in Maisel-Berick’s Raymond single during the 2020-2021 school year, when Pacheco and Maisel-Berick were podmates as the pandemic was in full swing. “We recorded with probably the worst mic money can buy, and a sock over the microphone,” Maisel-Berick said. 

Image courtesy of Julia Maisel-Berick ’24.

“We didn’t re-record any of the vocals,” Ostrowski, fowlmouth’s main producer, stated, “Which meant that we did some gymnastics to make it all fit.” Ostrowski’s production, then, is wizardry—the music cuts clear and firm sometimes, and echoes and swirls others, all of which is done with remarkable capability. The original harmonies for the title track are also incredible for being sung on a dorm room floor, at once intimate and open. During the Summer of 2021, the band members recorded over email and Zoom, then moved to the recording studio in the basement of Chicago Hall for their sophomore year. “It took way too long,” Pacheco states. As for the production, it took place in three dorm rooms, two countries (the US and Hungary) and 12 states, with Ostrowski mixing while studying abroad and while on a roadtrip across the country.

The band also spoke about its songwriting process. “For most of the songs on this EP in particular, Julia has come in with lyrics, and we’ve built the instrumentals around that,” Pacheco said. “Julia’s been our main creative force.” 

Pacheco shed some light on the meanings behind the songs, as well—“I feel like the first three songs [on the EP: “Safety Last!,” “Fairgrounds” and “Good Girl”] are about navigating uncertainty, and the last song [“Ghosts on a Line”] is a fantasy of complete certainty or contentment in someone,” they said. That theme of uncertainty seemed to echo for the other bandmates, as well; as Maisel-Berick elaborated, the title track deals with the inherent mystery of the end of a film you haven’t seen (and never knowing how you stand in the eyes of a lover); “Fairgrounds” navigates the emotional space of being certain a relationship is going to end poorly but still wanting to see it through; and “Good Girl,” while technically about Pacheco’s aggressive childhood dog who bit the mailman, could be about anyone who doesn’t see all the harm they’re doing to you or others. “Ghosts on a Line,” according to Maisel-Berick, was inspired by “Dawson’s Creek,” but also the folk music featured in the 1976 documentary “Harlan County, USA,” about a protest in a mining town. 

Image courtesy of Audrey Weaver ’24.

Over spring break, the band went on a mini-tour around the Northeast. The band played in a variety of venues: “It was a range of shows—house shows, street busking, open mics, one college basement and a tavern for middle-to-late-aged farmers,” Ostrowski remarked. The tour was not only great for their friendship, but also for their music-making: “It’s so hard to schedule an hour a day to practice, so being able to wake up in the morning and play some songs if we wanted to was great,” Ostrowski said. 

As for what’s next for fowlmouth, the band has a single coming out before the end of the semester called “Postcards.” They will be playing at The Loeb formal gala on April 21, Noise on Noyes and the Misc Music Fest. “Safety Last!” is now available on all streaming platforms as well as iTunes, and fowlmouth lyrics and merch can be found on bandcamp. I was so lucky to be able to chat with this band about its process and music-making, and I am sure you will enjoy this debut EP as much as I do.

Image courtesy of Rachel Ostrowski ’24.

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