Home for harmonious Good Old War

Indie group Good Old War takes its name from its members: (from right) Keith GOODwin, Tim ArnOLD, and Dan SchWARtz.
Indie group Good Old War takes its name from its members: (from right) Keith GOODwin, Tim ArnOLD, and Dan SchWARtz.

It's a happy return with a No.1-debuting album.

Posted: April 27, 2012

Dan Schwartz and his bandmates in Good Old War, Keith Goodwin and Tim Arnold, have been on the road almost constantly since November, both on their own and as the backing band for fellow Philly artist Anthony Green.

Their homecoming show on Friday at Union Transfer is one of the last dates before a monthlong vacation. They're eager to be home.

"It's going to be like Oz. Not that we don't like what we're doing, but we're ready to be home," Schwartz says from, of course, the road; in this case in Vermont.

Much of the trio's third album, Come Back as Rain, reflects the longing for home that comes from constant touring. Recorded in Omaha, Neb., with producer Jason Cupp, it's the band's most cohesive, immediate, and vivid album - Schwartz calls it "the most definitive version of our sound yet" - and when it came out last month, it debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.

Good Old War - the name is an amalgamation of GOODwin, ArnOLD, and SchWARtz - formed in 2008 after the dissolution of local bands Days Away and Unlikely Cowboy. They got their start covering songs by Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Everly Brothers, and other classic harmony groups.

"That definitely defined our sound. We were singing Everly Brothers songs, and Tim came in with a third harmony, and we heard that sound and we were like, 'Oh my God, we can do something cool.' All of us had always sung two-part harmonies in bands because it always just sort of happens in rock-and-roll, but none of us had ever felt that sort of magic that happens when you add that third one in there."

Those close harmonies provide the core of Good Old War's stripped-down arrangements, which build on acoustic guitars, drums, and occasional keyboards. It's a joyous, upbeat sound, prone to major keys and sing-along-inducing choruses, and on Come Back as Rain, it seems particularly effortless.

In the early days of the band, they worked out all the harmony parts carefully, meticulously rehearsing them in the backyard of Schwartz's Fishtown apartment. But after four years, the harmony singing is instinctive.

"At this point, we can work on autopilot: We know how each guy's voice sounds and what sits best in the mix, and we know how to work together. But I guess we're always listening to old harmonies, '50s doo-wop and things. We're always looking for different ways to sing 'ooh' and 'ahh,' basically," Schwartz says, laughing.


Good Old War with the Belle Brigade and Family of the Year play at 9 p.m. Friday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. Tickets: $16-$18. Information: 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com.

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