Pittsburgh band Colonizing the Cosmos popped up in 2010 with a sound that combined the folk flavor of Paul Simon, chamber-pop elements of Sufjan Stevens and -- living up to the name -- a dash of Flaming Lips space-rock.
The debut album, "The First Frontier," found the Cosmos core -- singer-guitarist Josh Moyer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Savisky -- exploring the concept of space exploration, without getting into sci-fi cliches.
It was a big hit, locally, and WYEP even declared Colonizing the Cosmos its local artist of the year.
The band now returns with a second concept album, "The House of War is a House of Peace," overflowing with even more musical whimsy. This time, the album is accompanied by a co-written novel "House of War." It will be released with a show on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Library of Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Avenue.
Savisky was kind of enough to explain in an email exchange:
This is another concept record. What is this one about?
This is really exciting for us. We started writing a story about a British heart surgeon named Simon Oxley, soon after we finished recording "The First Frontier." Simon is world renowned for his practice, but he hides an embarrassing secret: his only child, Abigail, is terminally ill with a heart condition he cannot cure.
At the beginning of the book, Simon is approached by a mysterious man who offers Simon a magical elixir to heal Abigail in exchange for helping him take down a society of evil magicians who operate (unbeknownst to everyone) in the basement levels below he very hospital.
We intended to create this story as sort of a backdrop to the music, but it just kept growing. It's now a 300- page novel, that we're releasing along with the album on Saturday.
How do they tie in together?
The book and album can stand alone and be enjoyed alone, but the songs are all about the story and characters. Sometimes a song would inform the plot of the novel, sometimes a plot twist would inspire us to write a new song. So they're very intertwined in that sense. Certain songs just take on the mood of a scene from the book, or the emotional journey of a character.
How did you adapt your sound to suit the concept?
The story is very wild. There are talking elephants, storks, monarch butterflies. There are train rides across Europe and underground caverns. Often, we thought about what these things would become if they were entirely musical. What does elephant music sound like? What music would play in a dank, dark cavern? We selected our instrumentation carefully and wrote songs to fit these constraints. It's artful for sure, but we always made sure to make songs accessible to the casual listener.
Did you record this as a duo? If so, what kind of band will you have for live performances?
Like our last album, Josh and I recorded, mixed and mastered everything in my little home studio. Just the two of us. I play most of the instruments on the album, and Josh does most of the singing. We added some friends to the mix this time, however. So we have our friend Maggie Dahl on vocals, Joe Liu on strings, and Brian Powers on brass.
We were also really excited to have some girls from the Oakland Girls Choir add a chorus to the song about Abigail, Simon's daughter. The clear, choral, feminine voices were really haunting and perfect for capturing the character of the sick little girl.
Live performances will be more compact. Fewer of us doing more individually. We're challenging ourselves to be more mobile and versatile as a unit.
You guys live (with your wives) in apartments in the same house? How does that work out on a daily basis? Are you constantly running back and forth - and how do your wives feel about that?
Yes, we live in the same house! Josh owns the place. My wife Ashley and I live on the first floor. It's lots of fun! Ashley and I ask for cumin when we've run out and need to finish our green apple chili. Josh and Elisabeth grow kale and tomatoes and the backyard. They have a big Great Dane named Gandalf the Gray. We share dinners on the porch in the summer. Josh can stop down for a few minutes and record the chorus to a song if I need it. It's nice. We call them our friendlords. And our wives just so happen to be the best wives in the universe, so they totally support us and encourage us to create and be musical, even when things get busy.
For more on the band, check out the Cosmos Facebook page.