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Breaking: Bishop Allen

February 4, 2009 4:41 PM ET

Who: A Brooklyn-based indie pop band fronted by two Harvard alums — singer-keyboardist Justin Rice and multi-instrumentalist Christian Rudder. The pair met in a mandatory English class in the mid-Nineties and formed a punk band called the Pissed Officers before starting up Bishop Allen, which they named after a Cambridge street. In 2006, the group put out an EP per month, and their third full-length, Grrr ... is due in March.

Sounds Like: A blend of Los Campesinos! and Yo La Tengo with a twee-folk vibe. The band's literary influences, like Jorge Luis Borges and G.K. Chesterton, is evident on songs like Grrr ...'s "The Ancient Common Sense of Things." "There's something cool about writing songs. You think, 'Yesterday, this song didn't exist but now it does,' " Rice says of the songwriting process. "But there's something gratifying about playing shows because that you think 'That thing I made in my room, these people appreciate it and they'll give me a high-five.' "

Vital Stats:

• Moviegoers might recognize Bishop Allen from their appearance in last autumn's hipstertastic Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist, where they performed their song "Middle Management." Rice and Rudder are no strangers to the silver screen: Rice recently starred in the indie film Let Them Chirp Away, while Rudder appeared in 2005's Funny Ha Ha.

• The band has been married to the road in recent years. Rice admits, "We make enough money if we play every night to just keep going, but if we ever stop we'll be broke." The band stopped touring long enough to record their new album, using obscure studio equipment like a 1950s Magnerecorder while recording with Bryce Goggin, who has worked with Apples in Stereo, Pavement and Luna.

• Bishop Allen have had their share of awkward concerts. "We've had a show where the band that played before us unplugged all the power in the club because they wanted to beat us up or something," Rice says. "They got evicted forcibly by the bouncers. Then we played a Christmas party in a guy's living room in Ohio that was for 55 year olds and their 12-year-old kids, and they were wearing holiday sweaters and eating pigs-in-blankets." While it took Bishop Allen 10 hours to drive to that ill-fated living room show, it was their highest-paying gig at the time.

Hear It Now: Grrr ... is due March 10th, but you can pre-order the album now over at the band's official site. In the meantime, check out our exclusive Breaking video with Bishop Allen playing their new cut "The Ancient Common Sense of Things" acoustic for the first time.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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