Ben Lubberts and Kyle Penny describe their songwriting style as a “postal service relationship” where Penny composes the songs and then sends them to Lubberts to add lyrics and produce. (Courtesy of Kyle Penny)

Ben Lubberts and Kyle Penny describe their songwriting style as a “postal service relationship” where Penny composes the songs and then sends them to Lubberts to add lyrics and produce. (Courtesy of Kyle Penny)

New Greater Victoria music group has unique songwriting process

For the Birds members almost never work in the same room

A new Greater Victoria music group is creating their material in an unconventional way.

Ben Lubberts, 36, and Kyle Penny, 31, of For the Birds have been developing songs together for the last five years, but they’ve almost never worked together in person.

Instead, they have what they call a “postal service relationship” where Penny composes songs on his iPad and then sends them off to Lubberts to write the lyrics and produce them.

“I put it in my earbuds and just let it move me,” Lubberts said.

The idea is modeled after early-2000s American indie pop band The Postal Service, whose members lived too far apart and had too conflicting of schedules to ever write together. So, producer Jimmy Tamborello would lay down instrumental tracks and physically mail the digital audio tapes to singer Ben Gibbard – best known as the lead vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie.

Lubberts and Penny both live in Saanich, but they still find working separately to be best.

“We’re both really different personalities,” Lubberts said. He’s outgoing and confident in groups, while Penny is respectful, quiet and less comfortable in social settings.

“His music and instrumentation have so much feeling and emotion ingrained within it – music is truly his way of speaking. My lyrics and melody simply give the music some meaning for people to grab on to. Together we think that makes a pretty tasty creative package,” Lubberts said.

Singer/producer Ben Lubberts and instrumentalist/composer Kyle Penny make up For the Birds. (Courtesy of Kyle Penny)

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The two have 20 to 30 complete songs in their arsenal, but they only started releasing them in May. They both work full-time – Lubberts as a municipal engineering tech and Penny as a grocery store general manager – and are treating their musical project as something they can take their time on.

They also only recently settled on their name. For the Birds was Penny’s idea, taken from the lyrics of The Birds by English rock band, Elbow. But its true origins are from an old idiom that describes something as trivial or not worth concerning oneself with.

The name first resonated with Lubberts because his dad breeds exotic finches and growing up he was always surrounded by birds. But, on a deeper level, he feels it speaks to their creative process.

For Lubberts and Penny, making music is about the experience of creating it and not the finished product. Whether their songs garner great success is trivial compared to what they have already gotten out of it.

Lubberts compares it to Burning Man, where each year a temporary city of art, performance and creativity is erected for one week in a Nevada desert before disappearing without a trace.

“The whole reason is just to experience the art and make it and then move on,” Lubberts said.

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He describes their music as “alternative pop jazz” or “sophisticated art rock” and said they’re inspired by bands like Elbow, Radiohead, Coldplay and Mutemath.

“My favourite songs nowadays are ones where the singer really gives you something to grab onto and then draws you along this story or vision,” Lubberts said.

Both songs For the Birds have released so far – Heavenly Sigh and Quiet Dancers – succeed in this. Heavenly Sigh follows the story of a young girl – modeled after Lubberts seven year old – whose security blanket is swept into the sky before unwinding into thread and falling back to the earth. There, the young girl’s teacher knits the thread into a sweater and returns it to her.

Quiet Dancers features local choreographer Michelle Mitschrich as she becomes more in tune with herself and lets her creative spirit loose.

“It talks about the confidence that every single one of us has innately within us, but yet we rarely kind of move on it,” Lubberts explained.

He and Penny plan to release another two songs later this summer. Heavenly Sigh and Quiet Dancers can be found on YouTube and Spotify.

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