Monday, November 30, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #9: Debe Dalton

"New River Train" feat. Debe Dalton -- free mp3

Unless I am mistaken -- and I might be -- I think that (apart from producer Major Matt Mason USA) singer/songwriter/banjo player Debe Dalton is the only collaborator on our new album who also made an appearance on our last album, My 3 Addictions.

Debe is a tremendous performer and a great songwriter (you should check out her CD -- I reviewed it here on the Elastic No-No Band Myspace blog when it came out). And, to top it all off, she's been a big fan and supporter of Elastic No-No Band, going back to when it was just a performing name for yours truly at the Sidewalk Monday night Antihoot. She has said on a few occasions that she very much enjoys being a member of Elastic No-No Band, which is why I've often asked her to play on various songs in live shows and on our albums.

Debe plays on 5 songs on Fustercluck!!! in duets with me, most of them old folk songs. When I went on my solo tour of the US in April 2008, I brought along 4 volumes of Pete Seeger's American Favorite Ballads -- which is an excellent, must-hear collection. I listened to those discs a lot over the course of my month on the road (didn't have an ipod yet, ha ha), and I started to earmark some as favorites. "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," which is a song that most folks learn as kids but I'd never heard, sounded so pretty -- and simultaneously whimsical and sad -- that I wanted to do it. Seeger's version had a banjo, and I wanted to retain that, so I decided to ask Debe Dalton to do the song with me. She told me it was one of her favorite songs. We recorded it shortly after I got back from tour.

I still wanted to do more music with Debe, so I set up another longer recording session, where we knocked out 2 more of the Seeger hits ("There's A Hole In The Bucket," which I'd originally heard in this version as a kid and used to sing along with my mom; plus "New River Train," which you can download from the link at the top of this entry), an old children's song I rearranged called "I Bought Me A Cat" (which I first heard in the orchestral arrangement by Aaron Copland), and a longwinded story-song penned by yours truly called "A Boy Named Snommit" (I already wrote about that song in this blog entry here). When we recorded, Major Matt decided to set us up in a couple chairs in his kitchen for maximum warm room sound, and it came out sounding good (no street noise, or nothin').

I'd like to keep collaborating with Debe. One of the next things I would like to do is have the whole band play with Debe on a recording of one of her newer songs called "Just Love" (at least I think that's what it's called -- I'm sure Debe can correct me if I'm wrong).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Evolution of a Song: "Turn Out Right (Rock)"

Fustercluck!!! is, in many ways, a journal of most of the musical thoughts I've had in the 2 years since the completion of My 3 Addictions. Most of those thoughts are new... but some of them are old, lingering thoughts that badly needed tending to. For instance, there are 5 songs on the album that are new versions of previously recorded songs -- two from an "unofficial" solo CD-R album back when I barely knew how to play the guitar ("Hot As I Are" (2004) and "Something You Should Know" (2004)) and three from our home-recorded lo-fi masterpiece, The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far: "Run-DMC" (2006), "Let's Fuck" (2005), and today's topic song.

And, of course, those of you folks paying attention know that 4 of the other songs on The Very Best of... So Far were already re-recorded on My 3 Addictions. When I said the very best "so far," I meant it.

One of the main reasons to re-do the songs is that band keeps getting larger -- and better. It just seems weird to do a killer full-band rock version of "Run-DMC" at a live show, have a new fan come up at the merch table afterward looking for that song, and only have a stripped-down, slightly sloppy acoustic version of it to offer.

In fact, Brook Pridemore bugged me repeatedly to make sure to include a full-band version of "Run-DMC" on Fustercluck!!!, so I knew it must be done. (The new full-band rock version is called "(Re-) Run-DMC" to differentiate.)

Meanwhile, "Turn Out Right Rock" was actually a request from our bass player Preston Spurlock, partly to capture the full-band sound for posterity but mostly so that there is a recorded version in an actual key recognized by Western music theory.

You see, the original version of "Turn Out Right" (2004) was done in a kind of marathon session where I sat in a voiceover room in the film school at New York University for a couple hours, trying desperately to play the song all the way through without too many mistakes. (It shows you how inept I was at playing the guitar that my main goal with the recording was merely completion and not transcendant artistic expression.) In the midst of pursuing this goal of just... ya know... finishing, I didn't even notice that the damn guitar wasn't quite in tune. The song, which is supposed to be in D major, instead occupies a weird land in between D and C-sharp.

When I got the full band (at the time) together to do the second version of the song, "Turn Out Right Waltz" (2006) (which closes out the Very Best... So Far CD), you would have thought I would have taken a moment to make sure I tuned my guitar. Nope. Not at all. You see, we were living fast, and times were wild. I changed the key of the song to C major (although, with my guitar out of tune, it's not really in C), I cut out one of the choruses, and I decided to shout out the last section of the song with Preston by my side. Also, we threw bourgeois convention to the wind and busted out the scariest instrument in pop music: the accordion. How could a crazed, meth-fueled* band like this possibly stop for 90 seconds just to tune my piddling guitar? Well, duh... we didn't. (Sidenote: This is the song that I am singing at the beginning of the Waltz version.)

Now, we're a little mellower and more focused these days, so when we attempted a new rock version of "Turn Out Right," I did actually bother to tune my guitar. We continue to leave out that chorus I cut out in 2006, and Preston and I shout out the last section of this song along with a little help from our drummer Doug Johnson. The recording is definitely in the key of D major (you can check it and everything), and -- hey -- it turned out pretty great.

Please enjoy this track from Fustercluck!!!: "Turn Out Right Rock" (2009) free mp3.

And for old times' sake, please enjoy this old video I made for the original recording of "Turn Out Right":

*The band actually was neither crazed nor meth-fueled during the recording of this song.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

WTF!? awesomeness

Preston and Toby, the fellas who made the cover art, went and made the following commercial for our album.

(It's only a double-CD, but if it were on record, it would probably be a triple-LP, so I guess that makes the claim at the end of the commercial make sense... sort of.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #8: Octavio Lafuentes

"Another Day Another Night" by Octavio Lafuentes & Elastic No-No Band -- free mp3

There are different reasons I wanted to collaborate with each of the folks I chose to appear on this album.

In all cases, I was a fan of their work and wanted to play music with them (as the title of this recurring feature makes clear). With some (like Toby or Nan), I was also kind of hoping their popularity would add to the appeal of the album. With others (like Tom), I thought giving them a guest spot on the record would be a good chance for more folks to hear their work.

It's the same situation with Octavio Lafuentes. Octavio had given me two of his CDs -- one completely homemade and one made with the help of Tom Drake -- and I really enjoyed them. They featured kind of low-key, lo-fi bedroom rock.

For about a year, Octavio was my apartment-mate, and I wanted to make sure that at some point we collaborated on a song for the album. When it finally seemed like we both had a moment to work together, Octavio thought we could just do a song he had already written. For about one moment, I was hesitant. I had been thinking of trying to write a new song together -- but then Octavio played me the song he had in mind. I liked it so much that I immediately wanted to have it as part of the album.

I set up my laptop in the living room and had him do the guitar part twice and sing the song through twice. Then I took that stuff into my room, and mixed it a bit. When I listened back, I heard high overtones present in the recording, accompanying Octavio's vocal. I wasn't sure whether I was partly hallucinating them or what, so I just decided to flesh the sound out by singing that high part I heard. Then, I added some synth bass and keyboard to give the thing a little more shape.

I played the song back for Octavio and he seemed to like it okay. I feel like maybe when he does another CD, he'll do the song and nail it down his own way. Also, since the song was untitled, I asked him if he minded if I called it "Another Day Another Night" (after the closing rhymes in the chorus), and he said okay. But maybe he'll call the song something different eventually.

Anyhow, take a listen to the song at the link at the top of this entry. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Feester's Queest

Toby and Preston finished the cover art. It is an awesome triptych which I'm sure will look amazing printed-up. Here is the center panel:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A few statistics

So... I've been kind of obsessed with this album. I'm still waiting on Toby and Preston to finish the album art, but the recording is done. So I've been listening to the complete 2 1/4 hours of the album quite a lot lately while I wait for them to finish. Try as I might to listen to other things, I find myself returning to Fustercluck!!! again and again. Fortunately, I think it's an album that can withstand that amount of concentration.

But, I found some interesting patterns emerging as I listened. For example, I think this is an album that has a lot of "seams showing": there's some false starts, a lot of count-ins ("1, 2, 3, 4" then music), and chatter. I don't think there's any greater meaning to it than that I liked the mood created for the listener by leaving this stuff in, but when you're obsessed about a thing (like I am right now)... well, you think maybe making some stats might be illuminating -- or, at least, maybe fun. Or at least give me some outlet for my obsessive compulsion right now.

A few statistics
*Total number of tracks on Fustercluck!!!: 45
*Number of tracks with count-ins: 8 (includes 2 songs where Doug counts-in for the band after Justin has already done the beginning of the song solo)
*Number of tracks with chatter before or after the song: 7
*Number of songs with false starts: 2
*Number of collaborators (non-band members) featured on the album: 11
*Collaborator who appears most on the album: Debe Dalton (plays banjo and/or sings on 5 songs, including the 8-minute "A Boy Named Snommit")
*Collaborator who appears least on the album: Joe Crow Ryan (sings backup on the choruses of "(Re-) Run-DMC")
*Number of hidden tracks: 1