The first time they ever made music together, Fruition’s three lead singer-songwriters discovered that their voices naturally blended into beautiful three-part harmonies. In the eight years since that impromptu busking session, the Portland, Oregon-based quintet has grown from a rootsy, string-centric outfit to a full-fledged rock band with an easy but powerful grasp of soul, blues, and British Invasion era pop.
On their new album Labor of Love, Fruition shows the complete force of their newly expanded sound, matching their more daring musicality with sophisticated, melody-minded song craft. The album subtly imparts the sense of being swept along on a journey, one reflecting an open-hearted spirit that sets in from the first notes of the dobro, mandolin and electric guitar driven title track, carries on to the sleepy soul of “Santa Fe,” and unfolds into the epic balladry of “The Meaning.”
“A common theme for all three songwriters is trying to embrace being out on the road all the time, but also feeling like you’re missing out on the everyday lifestyle that most people get to have,” says Leonard. Embedded within that tension is a wistful romanticism that imbues many of the album’s songs. “Most of the love songs are very much about those rare moments of getting to be with the people you love,” says Anderson. “And then other songs are about coming back to the people you love, and trying to deal with the strange ways things change because of being apart.”
After releasing their debut EP Hawthorne Hoedown in 2008, Fruition moved from busking on the street, to scraping their way onto the lower levels of festival lineups, to opening tours for bands like ALO and Greensky Bluegrass and onward, to being invited to play bigger festivals with ever bigger billing on those lineups.
Last year saw them appear at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit and Telluride Bluegrass where Rolling Stone cited their artful choice of covers and “raucous originals filled with heartfelt lyrics and stadium-worthy energy.” This year will see them share a Red Rocks bill with JJ Grey and Mofro and The Infamous Stringdusters, along with a full headline tour of the United States.
That breadth of touring experience has steadily reshaped the band and ultimately allowed them to achieve a sound they’ve long aspired toward. “We all tend to write on acoustic guitar and let things start in the same stripped-down, folky sort of way that we always did,” says Naja. “So where the songs come from hasn’t really changed much at all. What’s different is where we let them go from there.”