Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #7: Chris Andersen

The group featured above is The Christian Pirate Puppets. The guitarist is Toby Goodshank. The keyboardist is Peter Speer. And the singer is Chris Andersen.

The CPP started off as band that set the writings of teenagers and preteens to improvised musical backgrounds on their first 2 CDs, White, Manlike Structure... and Unpruded, before they shifted to original compositions like the video posted above, "Untimely Death, Pt. 2." ("Untimely Death, Pt. 1" is an excerpt from a shitty novel about sex and murder full of the purplest prose not written by teenagers and preteens. Both tracks are on the highly recommended Unpruded, available from Olive Juice.)

Listening to The Christian Pirate Puppets, I was inspired to recruit the very talented Chris Andersen to help us out with a song that just wasn't quite working. The song is called "Red," and it is about being besieged with bugbites at night. For some reason, the song lacked oomph. Elastic No-No Band played it both fast and slow in live shows (one of the fast live versions is included on Fustercluck!!!), but the tune never really made anybody jump for joy -- in the crowd or in the band.

But what if I subjected the lyrics of the song to the kind of recitation Chris did for CPP all the time? His brand of melodramatic mania might goose the song right where it needed it. And, by jove, I think it worked.

To show you what I mean, let me offer you 2 live clips: one of the original version of "Red" and one featuring Chris Andersen.
MP3: "Red" - live 11 March 2007 (slow and mediocre)

MP3: "Red" - live 21 February 2008 (faster and markedly improved - feat. Chris Andersen)

There. See what I mean? It ain't bad without Chris (although the mix is kinda lame so you can't hear Herb very well during his piano solo), but the tune is a heck of a lot better WITH Chris. And the studio version on the record is even better.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #6: Liv Carrow

Liv Carrow has always struck me as simultaneously a tender and tough performer. The songs she writes are simultaneously sweet and cynical -- naive and worldly. One time when I saw her perform at Sidewalk, she did a Harry Nilsson cover from The Point, and I immediately saw the connection.

Nilsson is the kind of guy who can sing a tender love ballad, then sing an upbeat number with the hook "You're breaking my heart/ You're tearing it apart/ So fuck you," then get a sing-along going with a tune about wanting to die before you get too old and incapacitated. That mixture of sensitivity and irreverence that characterizes Nilsson reminds me of Liv Carrow too.

So immediately after that Sidewalk show where she did the Point cover, I told Liv that we should do a cover of a Harry Nilsson song. I suggested "Daddy's Song," which I had first heard covered by The Monkees in their wacky-ass movie, Head. I even lent her my copy of the Head soundtrack, which has since disappeared off the face off the earth (if only I had had a CD burner at the time!!).

For the next year and a half probably, I would sporadically email Liv and say "Hey, let's record that song. Whadaya think?" And she would write back, "Sure." And nothing would come of it.

But I never forgot about the song. Last year, when I figured I needed better cash flow and I started busking in the subway, I added "Daddy's Song" to my repertoire, so that I could practice it a bunch.

Finally, a couple months ago, Liv and I found an afternoon where we could meet up and finally record the damn song. And once we were finally in the same room, performing the song was really fast and easy. We decided to trade verses back and forth, and as you hear the switch from person to person, it's kind of clear that I know the song from the Monkees' version and Liv was studying Nilsson's original version because she emulates his vocal acrobatics while I (and Davy Jones) take the more straightforward melodic route. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a nice blend. It's what I would characterize as a pleasantly bittersweet addition to the album.

Unfortunately for you, right now the tune is not posted anywhere as a download or as a stream, so you'll just have to wait 'til the album is out to see if you agree.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Album mastering complete!

John (our electric guitar player and leader of The Telethons) finished up the overdubs and final mix on "Snap Snap Goes The Mousetrap" mid-last week, which concluded all the mixing for the album.

Yesterday, I visited Major Matt at Olive Juice, and we mastered disc 2 of the album. My initial opinion that Disc 2 has a more natural flow (with a few oddball inclusions to break things up) than Disc 1 was confirmed as I sat there listening to Matt work his way through the disc.

This is certainly not to say that disc 1 is inferior. I feel like both discs are equally weighted with top-of-the-line "hits" and intriguing "deep cuts." This double-album is 2 1/4 hours of solid, worthwhile entertainment. Hell, a lot of James Bond movies can't even promise that.

Also, I realized yesterday (the 17th of October), as we were finishing up the mastering, that we were finishing the album 2 years to the day after we started recording it. The first Fustercluck!!! recording session was 17 Oct. 2007, and I recorded basic tracks for "Emotional Tourism" and a few other songs that day. At that time, the album was still going to be called Get Happier!!! (a reference to Elvis Costello's Get Happy!!); now, only the triple exclamation points remain.

So... now the only thing I'm waiting on, before sending the materials off to the pressing plant, is the finalized cover art from Toby Goodshank and Preston Spurlock. When I ask them for updates, all they can tell me is "Feester's Qweest" over and over again, which I'm sure is just some artist thing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #5: Brook Pridemore

I gotta admit something. The first time I met Brook Pridemore, I didn't really like him. The first time I heard his music I wasn't impressed.

Now, 2 or 3 years later, I don't know what the fuck I was thinking then. Now Brook Pridemore is not only one of my favorite performers, he is also one of my favorite people. His work ethic (he's on tour most of the year) and remarkable talent are incredibly inspiring to me as a fellow performer.

The music video I directed for him is one of the favorite things I've made:

Asking Brook to collaborate on the writing and recording of a song for this project was a no-brainer. And Brook was excited to do it. At first, he really wanted to do a gay disco song -- inspired, I'm pretty sure, by "Friends" by Ween. Of his many ideas for this fabled song, the only one I remember is "The Dancefloor (My 4th Addiction)." (Get it?)

We had one main songwriting session where Brook and I met up with Preston at the Brooklyn Tea Party, the sometime venue where Brook lives. We all goofed around and swapped instruments. Eventually, with Preston on piano, myself on bass, and Brook on drums, we worked out a chord progression for the gay disco song. Brook freestyled some lyrics over it. Then we never touched it again.

Brook had also gotten an idea to do a Folk Implosion rip-off -- a grunge throwback, a pastiche. So I got out the acoustic guitar, and I'm pretty sure I came up with the chords. Again, Brook freestyled some lyrics and the seed of the best song ever written -- "The Color Machine" -- was born. Later, Brook and I ironed out the lyrics in a long, painstaking session that took dozens upon dozens of seconds.

When it came time to record, Brook recruited his Crabs on Banjo bandmate Ariel Bitran to play electric guitar. Mere moments after first being introduced to "The Color Machine," Ariel came up with the scorching riff that is now the centerpiece of the song. We got Preston to play bass because... well, why not? And we got another of Brook's Crabs on Banjo bandmates, Brian Speaker to record the thing live at Brooklyn Tea Party.

We started recording about 45 minutes after we had all learned the song, and we didn't work out an ending, which is why the fade-out on this track is almost as long as the "Na na na" section of "Hey Jude". We actually probably had a better jam on the end of the previous take, but Brook's false ending (which he only did on the last take) was too wonderful to not have in the official version.

Go here to savor the mysterious lyrics and download an early demo version of "The Color Machine".

Also, you can hear the final version streaming on ENB's Myspace page.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Recording update

I am a little tardy with this, but the album -- less one track* -- is all mixed!

The past week and a half, Major Matt and myself have been working on the last 5 unfinished songs. They needed some backup singing and a final mix. This was more hellacious than it should have been.

I have always been fond of doing backup singing on ENB recordings, but I am not a technically good singer. So the ability to hold a note without wavering -- which is required for the kind of backups I hear in my head -- is often out of my grasp. Add to this the change of seasons, which has messed with my respiration and hindered my breathing, and you have one pissed-off inadequate singer.

A balance has to be struck between my perfectionist side (no really, I have one) and my more, shall we say, "antifolk" side, which doesn't want to sacrifice the spark of life from a performance in the service of getting it "right." People who are more talented than me can get away with only doing it once and saying, "Let's just go with that because it's fresh and unfussed-over." I even did it with a tune or two on this record. But, this time, I just had to sit in that fucking sound booth and do it over and over again. Sometimes the end product still isn't in tune.


Well, I've finally allowed these raw tracks to be pried out of my fingers in order that Matt could mix them and... I'm pretty damn happy. I think this album is fucking awesome, and I hope the reaction of listeners is at least half as excited as me.

*(The one track that remains to be mixed for the album is a tune that John Mulcahy and myself wrote and recorded in his parents' basement in New Jersey, and John will give it a final spit polish the next time he is New Jersey.)

That is all the news for now. Matt is on a tour with Barry Bliss and Toby Goodshank until mid-October, so we're taking a forced breather before the final mastering session. In the meanwhile, I will edify you with more Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration, so keep checking in.