Adding a gritty edge to the sunny tones of folk rock, CIVIC’s latest single, “Didn’t Know Then,” dives deep into uncharted territory.
A meandering melody kicks off what was anticipated to be just another airy acoustic ballad capped off by Dana Osterling’s husky vocals. But then the refrain suddenly throws churning drums and thick, modular melodic shifts at you. A chunky bass line weighs down the floating vocals, creating the air of uncertainty that inhabits the song. “All the people in this town/ Do they still live here when we’re not around and never change?” sings Osterling.
Under the guise of reminiscing on a trip to Cape Cod, “Didn’t Know Then” reconciles the uneasiness of the transition from adolescence into adulthood. Of course, if any of us knew better back then, we’d all want to remain young, stuffing our faces with candy by the beach. “I’ve been chewing on wax bottles and sticking things together now for years,” Osterling sings, including details of those little flattened pennies and a saccharine “Main Street” to add to the charm of the song.
The band came together after Osterling’s solo career melded with those of her friends. After totaling her car while struggling to name their newly formed band, Osterling united the two in dubbing the band after her newly purchased car. CIVIC cites “birds, certain types of dinosaurs, [and] pillows” as some of their favorite things with feathers.
“Didn’t Know Then” comes from CIVIC’s EP, Things With Feathers, which looks to Emily Dickinson for titular inspiration. Citing her work as a music therapist at a hospital, Osterling told us, “People are hopeful in joy and hopeful in grief. Music is correlated to and intertwined with hope, and that was my thought in naming the album.”
“Sometimes a sad song brings a person hope because they’re reminded that someone else has felt loneliness before,” she added.
The EP was mixed by Jason Kingsland, who has worked with Band Of Horses, Iron & Wine, and Youth Lagoon in the past. The band feels very lucky to have worked with Kingsland, and described how they fortuitously got involved with him.
“I just emailed the rough mixes to him on a whim, because he had worked on so many records I love the sound of, and asked if he’d be interested in taking on the project. It was a shot in the dark, but the next day we were on the phone talking it over,” Osterland said. “Turns out people who have won Grammys are normal too, and usually just want to help make music happen.”
In addition to “atmospheric, melody-driven, thoughtful, and moody,” Osterling described CIVIC’s sound as similar to a “close-talker who doesn’t understand boundaries, but smells like a calming essential oil blend. They occasionally get worked up about politics or existentialism, but for the most part make for a supportive companion.”
“Didn’t Know Then” is a solid promise of a hopeful EP to come. You can catch CIVIC at The Loft on March 5th, and pick up Things With Feathers on April 8th.