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").

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