When Bad Books' "Forest Whitaker" first starts playing, it's easy to forget that the band isn't a rap group. The song starts right up with a beat-heavy, disc-scratching funk – vaguesly reminiscent of Prince's "Raspberry Beret" – and then melts into the light-hearted pop tune that's more in line with an indie collaboration like this one, whistled melody and all. But what seems like a sort melodic-schizophrenia is actually what Bad Books is all about: experimentation and playing with melody.
"Bad Books is my therapeutic outlet," says Andy Hull, who is also the lead vocalist of inde-rock band Manchester Orchestra. "[It's] a place I can go and do whatever I want in the moment. Somehow, amazingly, it works out."
Bad Books began as a collaboration between folk singer-songwriter Kevin Devine and Hull in 2007, when Devine was signed to Favorite Gentlemen, then expanded to feature other members of Manchester Orchestra on Bad Books' self-titled 2010 debut. Now, with Bad Books II, their second full-length, due October 9th, the band maintains a unique sound, but the musicians have become more willing to stray from their comfort zones. "Forest Whitaker" is no exception.
"'Forest Whitaker' was the last song written for the album," Devine says. "Andy came up with the bones and basic structure and fattened it up in instrumentally with Robert while I was finishing up my spring tour with Say Anything. I came in and we dug into those harmonies and Strokes-y synth/video game guitars, which was super fun and expansive, different for us texturally. I love the lyric and melody-ear candy with a twist of darkness to keep it off-balance, save it from being saccharine. Feels like the missing piece to the record."