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Where Noodlebird came from and where they're going

A band in transition

Scott Anderson and Noodlebird knows their way around scene-skirting weirdos. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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Noodlebird might just be a first for one of my articles: by the time the show I'm writing up comes around, they may no longer be called Noodlebird. As I spoke with frontman Scott Anderson, he expressed that Noodlebird has just become sort of an all-encompassing moniker that he slaps onto whatever musical project he's working on. While I won't reveal what name they're thinking of going with, I did tell Anderson that it contained an unusual word that I've only ever heard in the title of a Ween song, which seemed to give him pause, and that the rest of the name was an allusion to Frank Zappa.

There are moments that come to people in the artistic world when transition is imminent. This moment seems to have arrived for Anderson and Noodlebird. After getting started in 2012 making music under the Noodlebird moniker, bandmates came in and out, with a permanent lineup only recently established. Listening to that first EP, in 2012, and then hearing their 2014 output, it's hard to believe that the same person was behind both sounds. In fact, Anderson seemed embarrassed that I had actually found and listened to that early work, Noodlebird Vol. 1.

"Oh man, you found that?" laughs Anderson. "I thought I had gotten rid of that forever ago! Oh no. That is so long ago. We really haven't released anything otherwise. That was with the original group of people. Maybe three years ago, almost. We don't really sound like that anymore."

While I can understand Anderson's hesitation about listening to his early output, there's very clearly a vision at work with early Noodlebird, even if the music is utterly different. Noodlebird Vol. 1 is a quirky bit of whimsical singer-songwriter folk-rock, with odes to robots and rope swings. Still, it doesn't prepare you for what they've transformed into, which is a ramshackle indie rock outfit with sprightly percussion, clean guitars, and an almost tropical skip in its step.

Still, Anderson tells me, the transition for Noodlebird doesn't only consist of the possible name-change, but of the further steps forward in sound, even compared to what I've heard of their 2014 material.

"A year or so ago, my brother Keith started playing drums with me," says Anderson. "A little while later, Kyle Baker started playing bass, and since then Caleb Peinado has joined on guitar. He's really good. Now, we're taking it in a new direction, where it's no longer just about my stuff, and more about our potential as a group. We're going in less of a songwriter-y direction, and going in a more funk and jazz direction."

With their professed admiration for Frank Zappa, a more jazz and funk-oriented direction certainly seems like a good fit for Noodlebird. But, even without that inside knowledge, it could be easy to spot a band in transition when listening to Noodlebird. What began as acoustic ruminations on offbeat subjects transformed into an unusually loose, yelpy indie rock band that seemed to favor getting the feel of the song out, with the clearly talented musicianship hiding beneath a layer of charming aloofness. Elements of Vampire Weekend and Eastern European drinking songs found their way into the mix, and the Noodlebird of old struck a balance with what Noodlebird was steadily approaching.

Regardless of what Anderson and company end up doing about the name, he and his band remain full of quiet potential in Olympia, which knows its way around scene-skirting weirdos. Transition is necessary for artists, at least at one point or another. What happens when you emerge anew is just another step along the process.

NOODLEBIRD, w/ Sunset Flip, Tom Nook, 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17, all ages, Le Voyeur, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, cover tba, 360.943.5710

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