San Francisco acoustic duo Avi Vinocur (formerly of the Stone Foxes), and Patrick Wolf, or “PWolf and Avi,” are in the midst of proving that long distance relationships do work. Just after the release of their first album, Coattails, Patrick moved to North Carolina while Avi stayed behind in San Francisco. But distance hasn’t stopped them from making big plans for the future: Avi flies to North Carolina Tuesday to kick off a summer tour that will bring them back to San Francisco by August.
Coattails is the kind of album that is unmarked by time. It could have been made thirty years ago and it will be just as good in thirty more. Refreshingly spacious, the album is a collection of beautiful and isolated acoustic songs that are the product of two genius musicians with a knack for songwriting. Featuring beautiful guitar picking and quirky lyrics, Coattails is as impossibly likeable as the two modest, talented young musicians that created it.
The album’s simplicity is what makes it so good; the duo only put in what they really needed to. “When you have a full band, you feel like everyone needs to play on every song. We only played what we needed to,” says Patrick.
In fact, PWolf and Avi originally recorded 14 songs for the album, but picked the nine simplest tracks to use on the final product. The result is an organic collection of music that comes across as effortless, raw, and honest.
In fact, it’s hard to believe that the album is all a product of just two minds. It helps that both Patrick and Avi play a variety of instruments. Though Patrick doesn’t even own a banjo, he played what Avi calls the “sickest banjo shit I’ve ever heard” on I Killed Robert Johnson, a haunting confession from the bartender that supposedly poisoned the enigmatic blues singer Robert Johnson in the 20s.
Why write about Robert Johnson? “He was the last guy to pull off complete anonymity. You just can’t do that anymore in today’s world. The era of the lonesome wandering cowboy is over.”
Patrick and Avi’s meeting was quite circumstantial; you could say that fate brought the two soulmate musicians together. Patrick heard Avi playing at the Bazaar Café, was deeply impressed, and asked Avi if perhaps they could play together sometime.
Avi was hesitant, but when he later heard Patrick’s music, he was “floored” and couldn’t believe that someone like Patrick “actually existed.” Inspired by the talent and potential they saw in each other, they started the musical project PWolf and Avi, adding new depth to each other’s songs while maintaining a good deal of individuality.
On Coattails, the even-numbered songs are Avi’s compositions and the odd-numbered songs are Patrick’s, but each song features contributions from the other musician. Patrick added the banjo part to Avi’s “I Killed Robert Johnson” and Avi added a kazoo solo to Patrick’s “Lazy Bones.” The two are in constant musical conversation, bouncing ideas off each other and finding inspiration in each other.
“It’s like we speak the same language, but say different things in that language,” says Patrick of his relationship with Avi.
Their deep musical connection is even more obvious in their live shows. At Bottom of the Hill last March, the pair took turns singing lead vocals, harmonizing, and playing guitar or banjo. The performance was raw and real yet close to flawless. Both musicians’ voices rang out clearly over the buzz of the crowd, who was deeply impressed by the poetic lyrics and chilling harmonies.
So what’s next for the duo? Another album is in the works, this time with drums and more layers of instrumentation.
“It’s just a twinkle in our eyes so far,” says Patrick. “But I love the songs Avi has been coming up with lately. They’ve just been pouring out of him.”
Their upcoming tour will bring sweep the Midwest, East Coast, and West Coast. As for the years to come, the pair of singer-songwriters have endless possibilities.
“I’m intrigued to see where it goes. I feel very connected to it, I feel very free being able to do this music. It feels like the right fit for me,” says Avi. I, too, am intrigued to see where the talented pair find themselves in the coming years.