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Fruitful Return 

Songwriter Eric D. Johnson's Fruit Bats fly again

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Fruit Bats began as songwriter Eric D. Johnson's four-track tape solo project in 1997, evolved into a full band in 2001, spawned five well-received indie folk-rock albums over the course of 10 years and then went silent in 2011 when Johnson suffered a family tragedy.

Grief-stricken over his wife's miscarriage, Johnson abandoned the laidback, summery sounds of Fruit Bats for a 2014 solo album, simply titled EDJ. Still, the Fruit Bats moniker clung to Johnson's psyche, and at the beginning of this year he announced that the band that had long defined his musical output would return. Last May, Fruit Bats released their sixth record, Absolute Loser, to critical praise. Despite its downtrodden title, Absolute Loser is actually a stunningly evocative pop record of full-bodied ballads and smoothly textured indie-rock gems that sonorously retrieve Johnson's spirit from the depths it had fallen.

Aside from Fruit Bats, North Bay audiences know Johnson best as one of the principal organizers of the excellent Huichica Music Festival that since 2010 has annually gathered the best indie musicians from around the Bay Area and beyond to Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma. Now fans get a chance to see Johnson back in his natural form when Fruit Bats play on Saturday, Sept. 24, at HopMonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $18; 21 and over. 707.829.7300.

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