Formed in Philadelphia in 2019, Fellwalker is a collaboration between musical performance artist Cynthia Hopkins and composer James Lavino. Drawing on influences from indie, jazz, and film music, Fellwalker creates piano-anchored songs that combine the smoky vocal treatments of Portishead, the brooding theatricality of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and the propulsive melancholy of Radiohead.
Although Hopkins and Lavino had both spent the formative years of their careers in the indie/experimental music scene in New York City, it wasn’t until they had both moved to Philadelphia that they finally crossed paths. Meeting at a mutual friend’s birthday party, they were intrigued by each other’s talents, and by the seemingly wide differences in their respective outputs, despite the fact that they shared many of the same influences. By the end of the next day, they had written their first song together.
Fellwalker spent much of 2019 and the early part of 2020 writing and recording an album. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the band into lockdown, Hopkins and Lavino decided to write and record a new batch of songs from their homes. The resulting five-song EP, Shelter (to be released in November, 2020), is a meditation on the isolation and uncertainty of life during the pandemic. At times hushed and spare, at times expansive and energetic (thanks in part to the thrilling drumming of guest artist Dave King (The Bad Plus)), the songs explore a common theme of how we relate to time: the bittersweet pull of memory, the eternal elusiveness of the future, and the exhilaration of being able to embrace the present.
Fellwalker’s full-length debut, Love Is the Means, featuring drumming by Charlie Hall (The War on Drugs), will be released in 2021.
Cynthia Hopkins’s solo career (under her own name and as Gloria Deluxe) has included opening for David Byrne, touring with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and being featured on the Netflix special John Hodgman: Ragnarok. James Lavino’s music for film includes the Showtime series Murder in the Bayou, Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, and two collaborations with Colin Greenwood (Radiohead).