Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recording update

Yesterday, I went over to our piano player Herb's place to record keyboard parts for 5 songs.

So far on this album, we have recorded Herb's parts in many assorted ways. For "Imaginary Girlfriend," the whole band played live in Herb's living room and he played his own personal piano (technically, the session where we recorded the song was for this radio show [which you can download], but the recording on the album is taken from a different source). For many of the band songs on Fustercluck!!!, like "(The Shame About) Manboobs" and "Hey 2-Eyes," we recorded Herb separately, listening to a rough mix of the existing songs and playing on the piano at Brooklyn Tea Party, engineered by Dan Costello. For six of the songs, the whole band went into a studio in Brooklyn and played live while I sang; for those songs, Herb played a keyboard about 2 feet from our drummer Doug Johnson whacking the hell out of those skins. I think it was a little hard to concentrate at times.

So yesterday we tried something that I hope will work out okay. We essentially did what we had done at the Brooklyn Tea Party, with Herb taking the existing rough mix and overdubbing his piano part onto it. The difference today was that we just used Herb's own keyboard. Herb has his keyboard hooked up to his computer through an M box, and we just recorded the sound of it in Garageband. I'm gonna give the files to our producer Major Matt tomorrow, and hopefully they will blend in nicely.

The recording session was nice for me, because it was pretty much a stress-free situation. I wasn't paying for recording time, so we could take all the necessary time to get the parts done right, and Herb did a great job without having to leave his practice room.

And if Matt agrees that these takes are good, then we are oh-so-very-very-very-close to getting this monster done. Just a handful of more overdubs, a bunch of mixing, and mastering, then the recordings are done! Then that'll leave cover design and CD replication... the EXCITING stuff (ha ha).

My hope now is to have this out in the world before the end of October. I talked to Brook Pridemore about having a CD release show at the Brooklyn Tea Party (his apartment), but he said they probably wouldn't be able to host a show 'til December... It makes me wonder whether I should drag my feet until then or just release the album without fanfare once it's ready and then have the party later whenever it's feasible. Is anybody reading this? Do you have an opinion? Please provide it below.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #1: Toby Goodshank

"Making Out At Work (Don't Work)" home demo featuring Toby Goodshank -- free mp3

So I just got done mastering disc 1 of Fustercluck!!! with Major Matt, and boy it sounds good! It almost flows like a real live album, despite being more like 12 albums (e.g., a full-band rock album, a stripped-down solo album, an album of children's and traditional folk songs, a covers album, an avant-garde collage album) diced up and put on a couple of discs. The one element of all this madness which is most exciting to me is all the collaborations. Fustercluck!!! features a dozen or so guest stars, and I'm gonna try to take some time and feature my thoughts on each one here.

I'm starting with Toby Goodshank, not just because he is amazing (and he is, in case you're not sure) and prolific (he probably just released three new full-length albums with three different bands and did all the cover art while I typed this sentence). I'm starting with Toby Goodshank because he is a big influence on this particular project.

Some of Toby's albums have a consistent sound and a coherent thematic approach, but he isn't precious about it and some of his albums are pretty ragtag -- not only stylistically, but in regard to everything. Helmic Regulator (2003) is a Toby Goodshank album with somewhere in the ballpark of 22 tracks, and they range from really full, slick-sounding studio recordings to home recordings that sound like they were captured by a walkman shoved in a duffel bag. And the tracks exist side-by-side in a pleasant and interesting juxtaposition.

The example of Helmic Regulator was both instructive and freeing for me. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a recording after My 3 Addictions, and I wanted to do something that showed how nice we were sounding as a full-blooded band. But I also wanted to be able to knock a recording out on my laptop in my bedroom at 1 in the morning and stick that on the record too. Helmic Regulator proved that I could have it both ways and still possibly make a kickass record.

Toby has been gracious enough to lend his voice and/or guitar to 3 tracks on our magnum opus, and he has agreed to draw 1/2 of the cover art (he has a blog at this link right here of various drawings he has done recently that you can peep, and that might help you decide whether or not I made a good choice). One of the tracks is an original called "Making Out at Work (Don't Work)" which is played by the full band and on which Toby sings harmony vocals (you can check out a lo-fi home demo version at the top of this entry). Similarly, another track is a cover of The Everly Brothers' "Poor Jenny" (here's a cool cover of it by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmund) where Toby sings Everlys-style harmony and the full band backs us up.

The third track is another cover: The Beach Boys' "I'd Love Just Once To See You." I sent Toby 2 possible Beach Boys covers to try to tackle, and he really dug the lyrics on this one. (The other was "Take a Load Off Your Feet," which I might try to do at some future date.)

One night, I had Toby come over to my pad to do a little practicing on the three numbers and I pulled out my laptop, so we would make a recording to refer to, and Toby -- again, not at all precious about these kinds of things -- said, "Why don't we just record the Beach Boys song now?" So, in a little less than a half-hour we went through and recorded Toby playing guitar and the two of us doing different vocal parts on the song using the built-in mic on my laptop, which also picked up plenty of random street noise from outside my window and unintentional side-comments (like me saying, "It's the meow bit," which essentially became the name of the stopgap EP I put out last year that includes this Beach Boys cover). It was so much fun.

Doing that recording was so easy and enjoyable that I tried to use the same "template," if you will, to the way I recorded the songs I did with Thomas Patrick Maguire and Liv Carrow for the album. But I'll talk about that stuff in due time.

So while the full-band tracks won't be available until the album is done, if you want to hear Toby and me taking on the Beach Boys, you can listen to it streaming right here... or you can buy the stopgap EP, The Meow Bits, over here (the EP also includes 2 tracks recorded around the same time that I've decided to leave off of Fustercluck!!!: a cover of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and an original called "Suffering From 7").

Monday, August 17, 2009

Glama Stretcha Time

I went on a solo tour of the United States in April 2008, bringing the music of Elastic No-No Band to all those people on the middle and left side of the country (directionally, not politically). And, as is my compulsion, I bought some used records at various stops on my trip (as I drove through Arizona and Texas, I feared for the health of that precious vinyl, but they all made it through the trip unscathed).

My last stop was in Johnson City, Tennessee, and I found an thrift store where I bought a handful of cool records (Belafonte, The Ventures) and a bizarre 10-inch excercising record (pictured above). When I got back to Brooklyn, I was very interested to take a listen. Even though I did not have the device necessary to do the exercises, the energetic instruction and backing organ music was quite enough to sustain 20-some minutes of listening enjoyment (and me and my roommates did attempt some of the exercises without the necessary device and accompanying diagrams).

Anyhow, I enjoyed the record so much that I decided to include interpolations of it on our new album. I felt like there was some linking thematic material about physical appearance and self-esteem to some of our songs, like "Manboobs", "Zaftig", "Hey 2-Eyes", and even the song I cut from the album "I Don't Think It's Right". So I felt like including excerpts from an exercise record was an apt, off-kilter way to comment on that.

Obviously, you'll be able to hear my selections and re-interpretations when the album is done, but I figured I would offer you the unadulterated exercise record for downloading and enjoyment. (As far as my internet research goes, this recording seems to have fallen into public domain. Also, my research has led me to find out that most copies of the record were pressed on special blue vinyl [!!] but mine was just regular black [boo!].)
Side One (11 mins. 44 secs.)
Side Two (13 mins. 20 secs.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Finalizing the tracklist on disc 1

Download "I Don't Think It's Right" (FUSTERCLUCK!!! Outtake) -- free mp3

I haven't been very good at updating this blog. Maybe I will add more things as the release of the album approaches, discussing topics that theoretically I should have talked about before.

Today was pretty exciting because we finished up the last bit of work -- and I just finalized the tracklist -- for disc 1 of the album. Now, there is just some scattered work on some of the songs on disc 2.

A few weeks ago, Major Matt and the whole band went into this studio in Brooklyn and knocked out 6 of the songs live, including some full-band recordings of some of the old lo-fi solo tracks like "Run-DMC", "Turn Out Right" (which now has a killer punk rock sound), "Hot As I Are" (which has morphed into a ska song), and "Let's Fuck" (which has now turned into the bar-band blues number it always threated to become).

This is noteworthy, because usually the band never plays any of our studio tracks live; we record each instrument separately. But I figured all of these tracks would benefit from just ripping right through them without much fuss, especially since most of them are remakes I wanted to capture to better reflect how they sound when we play them live these days.

Today, I brought my roommate (and Elastic No-No Band's labelmate) Joe Crow Ryan in to the studio to put some vocal harmonies on "Run-DMC," since he had done it recently at a live show of ours -- and since then I can add his name to the lengthy list of collaborators and guest stars on the album. Now, I'm not just trying to feed off of Joe's immense starpower here; all of the collaborations on this disc are borne out of a desire to create a kind of scrapbook of the artists and friends I've been lucky enough to know and play music with. And I don't think the album would have been the same without Joe.

Anyhow, after Joe left, Major Matt mixed the track, and I plopped it onto my iPod, where I proceeded to try to arrange the songs I had earmarked for disc 1. In the process, two songs bit the dust: a country waltz called "Exception to the Rule" (you can hear me do a live solo version of it at this link right here) and a solo ballad called "I Don't Think It's Right" (you can download it at the link at the top of this entry). I'm thinking of doing a collection of love songs as one of ENB's upcoming projects (maybe our next album??), and I figured that these two songs might be better suited to that... or maybe the second volume of No-No's?

Without further ado, here is the tracklist for disc 1 of Elastic No-No Band's upcoming album, Fustercluck!!!

1. Good Evening, Anybody/(Theme From) Elastic No-No Band
2. (The Shame About) Manboobs (you can download this track from the blog entry just below this one)
3. Imaginary Girlfriend
4. It's Different For Girls (Joe Jackson cover, feat. Nan Turner)
5. Poor Jenny (Everly Brothers cover, feat. Toby Goodshank)
6. Daddy's Song (Harry Nilsson cover, feat. Liv Carrow)
7. Zaftig
8. I Bought Me a Cat (feat. Debe Dalton)
9. The Color Machine (feat. Brook Pridemore)
10. Mouth
11. Hangover Dial
12. Hey 2-Eyes (feat. Dave End)
13. There's A Hole In The Bucket (feat. Debe Dalton)
14. (Re-) Run-DMC (feat. Joe Crow Ryan)
15. Goodnight Irene (Lead Belly cover)
16. Let's Fuck (Differently)
17. No F Words
18. The Congregation (feat. Thomas Patrick Maguire)
19. Abilene, Abilene
20. Don't Neglect Your Hands, Students
21. Red (Mellow, Shouty Version, feat. Chris Andersen of The Christian Pirate Puppets)
22. And Then There's Me
23. Go Away (Goodbye Southern Death Swing) (Major Matt Mason USA cover)
24. The End of Disc 1 As We Know It