From his teenage years until around his 30th birthday, Ryan J. Eilbeck fronted the Ohio punk trio Delay alongside his brother Austin and future All Dogs drummer Jesse Wither. Through incessant touring, their annual Berea Fest in their suburban Cleveland hometown, and countless bar and basement shows in Columbus, the band played a significant role in cultivating the national DIY community, in particular the Ohio scene that gave birth to the Sidekicks, All Dogs, and Saintseneca among many other greats. When not on the road, Eilbeck was a constant presence at Columbus shows for well over a decade, but last year he moved 90 minutes southeast to Athens, the rural college town that’s home to Ohio University.
Since decamping to Athens, Eilbeck has formed a “4 track demo turned full band” called Natural Sway with drummer Michael O’Shaughnessy (also of Connections), bassist Sarah Yetter (who used to play in the great El Jesus De Magico), and vocalist Jenna Beasley. Their debut album Sweet Life is streaming online now, with a vinyl release to follow next month.
Sweet Life paints Natural Sway as a looser, more relaxed extension of Eilbeck’s work with Delay. Whereas that band ran the gamut from frenetic pop-punk to slapdash indie rock, this album largely scales back the distortion and intensity, settling into easygoing grooves that could almost pass for roots rock but ultimately remains unclassifiable. There are power-pop chargers, indie-rock lopes out of the Pavement or Built To Spill playbook, deconstructed ballads, and all sorts of other minimal rock band excursions. Closer “Wild Stranger” is especially recommended, but really the whole album is worth exploring. Do that below.