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After 5 years and a brain tumor, Those Lavender Whales are back

The band Those Lavender Whales (left) Patrick Wall, Jessica Bornick, Aaron Graves and Chris Gardner.
The band Those Lavender Whales (left) Patrick Wall, Jessica Bornick, Aaron Graves and Chris Gardner.

The very first words Aaron Graves sings on the mellow opening track of his band’s new album are “There’s good types of growing, but there’s also really bad types of growing.”

The good growth: Those Lavender Whales’ new album and upcoming mini-tour.

The bad growth: The tumor in his brain.

“My Bones Are Singing,” the band’s second LP, is colored by Graves’ cancer experience, although the “C” word never finds its way into the lyrics.

On the track “Lose My Mind,” Graves sing-talks about the mounting worries and bills he had to confront after being diagnosed three years ago, when the tumor was slowly encroaching on the soft tissue in his skull, clouding his peripheral vision and causing migraines.

Then there’s the honeyed track “I Love My Friends,” of which Graves has many. He and his family received an outpouring of community support and love, as well as around $20,000 that was raised to offset his medical expenses.

Overall, the album is more synth pop and less acoustic folk than the Whales’ previous efforts – with dashes of their signature quirkiness, exemplified by the lackadaisical track, “How to Cook Everything.”

The band will have a release party on Friday, April 7, at New Brookland Tavern, where they will perform “My Bones Are Singing” in its entirety. In addition to Graves, the band is his wife, Jessica Bornick, Chris Gardner and Patrick Wall. The album was was produced, recorded and mixed by Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi. It’s the first full-length for Those Lavender Whales since 2012’s “Tomahawk of Praise.”

Graves wrote the first song for the album shortly before traveling to Duke University to undergo radiation in 2014.

“I thought I might record while I was there, but that didn’t happen. My energy was just shot,” he said.

While the band never officially took a break during his treatment, the gigs dwindled.

“We were waiting for Aaron to feel like himself again,” Wall said.

Bornick often encouraged Graves to keep working on songs, which has always helped cheer him up.

“It kept my mind active and kept me doing something normal and creative,” he said. “I think that was a big part of healing. Focusing on a positive creative output instead of the negative thing your body is putting you through.”

It’s been almost exactly three years since his cancer diagnosis, and the treatment (and songwriting) worked.

Graves has been off chemotherapy for over a year. His last dose coincided with the first recording session for “My Bones Are Singing.”

“I feel aged. I’ve gone through things that I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t take four to five years to make another record. Hopefully it’s worth the wait.”

The tumor shouldn’t be a factor for future albums, as Graves said his condition is stable.

“There’s still some junk up there, but it’s not growing.”

Related stories: Columbia musician celebrates 1 year fighting brain tumor: ‘I’m winning’

Community heaps love, support on Columbia man with brain tumor

If you go

Those Lavender Whales album release party

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 7

WHERE: New Brookland Tavern, 122 State St., West Columbia

COST: $8 over 21; $10 under 21

DETAILS: Dear Blanca and Live Singles will open.

INFO: www.newbrooklandtavern.com

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