Locals: The Wet Darlings take time needed to craft Beautiful Things

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

The Wet Darlings' debut full-length Beautiful Things, like a home renovation or a highway expansion project, experienced numerous construction delays en route to its eventual completion.

"We thought it was all going to be done early 2014," said guitarist Bill Patterson, who joined singer Jenny Lute, drummer Aaron Bishara and bassist/keyboardist Joe Patterson for a late June interview at an Old North diner.

In actuality, however, this early, self-imposed deadline merely marked the midpoint of recording, which took place off and on over the course of two years and eventually found the bandmates entirely redefining their sound.

"We stripped the songs all down to the basics … and then rebuilt them however we thought it would be best," said Joe, who saw his role shift from bass player to a sort of musical Jack of All Trades as the group started to incorporate additional synthesizers and programmed elements.

Part of this reinvention was inspired by the success of "Used to Be Better," a surging, synth-driven number Bill initially hesitated to bring to the band, believing it a poor musical fit.

"When Bill first brought it to the table, he didn't think it was a song we would ever do," said Lute, who joins her bandmates for a record release show at Skully's Music-Diner on Friday, July 10. "It was so different from the three-piece that would generally play behind me, and we didn't know how we were going to execute it live. Once we figured it out it was like, 'Ahh!' And that changed the direction of the record."

Working with producer Jeff Ciampa, the pop-rock quartet holed up and deliberately constructed a lush, gleaming musical world colored in rich synthesizer, sleek guitar, machinelike drums and, on songs like "Plenty of Space," tasteful string arrangements. Throughout, Lute anchors the proceedings with her force-of-nature voice, which carries room-leveling power even in those moments it barely registers at a whisper.

On the surface, the songs populating Beautiful Things generally sparkle like a just-waxed sports car. The lyrics, in contrast, tend to zero in on the invisible cracks developing just beneath the surface, Lute giving voice to characters grappling with long-held nightmares ("Good Morning, Bad Dream"), self-destructive tendencies ("Lions for Us All") and crumbling personal relationships ("Feel Like a Friend"). "It's colder than it looks outside," she sings on the title track, a line that nicely sums up the divide.

A similar dynamic has even crept into the band's live show, where a newfound reliance on computer technology has occasionally left the musicians feeling unsteady even when things appear to be working flawlessly.

"We did a show at Spacebar not too long ago where my computer was getting errors … so we had to do all the songs without it," Joe said.

"Our friends in [prog-synth duo] the Receiver have been doing this stuff for years, and we're also friends with Nathan Photos [of electro-pop duo Damn the Witch Siren]," Bill said, pointing to other locals whose live shows incorporate computerized elements. "So we've asked questions like, 'How do you do this? And does it always mess up or is that just us?'"

Skully's Music-Diner

9 p.m. Friday, July 10

1151 N. High St., Short North


ALSO PLAYING: The Receiver, Earwig