Department Of Eagles - Biography
NYU roommates Daniel Rossen and Fred Nicolaus got their creative act together in the year 2000, forming what was then called Whitey on the Moon UK. Recording in their spare time in a college dorm room, they assembled their unique compositions by piecing together samples and experimenting with software. The result was a collection of playful and wildly original songs in an inventive blend of indie pop, triphop and folky electronica. With help from their friend Chris Taylor, the duo recorded under the assumption that they would never officially distribute their music, but in 2002, a San Francisco label, Isota Records, released the single, Mo Tussin, and The Noam Chomsky Spring Break EP in 2003. Subsequently, the material was compiled and released as The Whitey on the Moon UK LP (2003 Isota). Because another band in San Francisco shared the name, Rossen and Nicolaus renamed themselves as Department of Eagles, and the album was re-titled and re-released as The Cold Nose in the UK and US (2005 Melodic and 2007 American Dust). In the meantime, both Rossen and Chris Taylor wound up in the indie psych-folk band Grizzly Bear, along with Chris Bear, who in turn became an unofficial member of Department of Eagles.
The debut album that eventually became The Cold Nose is an inspired, atmospheric patchwork of haunting samples, loops, catchy grooves and moody vocals. From the trippy, freak-folky opener, “Noam Chomsky Spring Break” to the gorgeous Beatle-esque ballad, “Family Romance,” it’s an entertaining and somewhat mind-bending listen. It closes with a mish-mash of faraway horns, reverby percussion and scratchy old time piano in “Ghost in Summer Clothes,’ approximating the sound of a bunch of old 78 LPs playing on top of one another. It’s a wonderfully creative effort, and a testament to the merits of home recording. In a compilation of outtakes, oddities and alternate versions, the band released Johnny Glaze Christmas: Classical Snatches and Samples a Go-Go 2003-2005 (2006 Isota).
What followed was the truly inspired In Ear Park (2008 4AD). An intensely personal work, the album is Rossen’s tribute to his father and to his childhood. And it’s another delightful box of curios -- a whimsical, evocative time warp, evoking both personal history and bygone musical eras. The opening track is a sonic ode to childhood summers with its organic mix of shimmery acoustic guitar and watery vocals. The meticulously crafted “Teenagers” is a sprightly composition of catchy samples and sounds that create a surprisingly natural effect. In Ear Park is an artful sonic cohesion of folktronica loops, demented Motown beats, spooky cabaret and echoes of scratchy honky-tonk. Department of Eagles serve as a relevant indicator of both the passage of time and the ever evolving flux the recording industry. Their homespun recordings and their imaginative approach take us to other places, both personally and sonically, evoking deep-rooted psychological stirrings of nostalgia and the ghosts past musical eras. Their unique vision is not only a triumphant acknowledgement of changing times but also a tribute to inventiveness, pan-genre playfulness, the allure of memory and the transmogrifying power of music.