Saturday, July 19, 2008

Into the wild

There were a few dorky ideas I had for a title to this blog: We Could Be Solo Acts, Goin' Solo, All by myself, etc. But inevitably, I start with the title of the movie I watched the day before I left to record my solo record, which has been in the works for awhile.

There's something very isolating about this record that I don't think I fully expected. I mean, sure, in the studio there's engineer Jack Gauthier, producer Todd Thibaud, and the rhythm section of Milt Sutton and Jeff St. Pierre. But the times that count most as a band -- driving to and from the studio/a gig, hanging out after the work is done -- aren't necessarily there. To some degree, that's cool because it does place me deep in the work, but it can feel very odd, too. For instance, when we wrap up at 9:30 at night in the woods of Rhode Island and it's like, "Now, what?" I was supposed to go back to the hotel and sleep until we started at noon the next day. Both days I ended up driving the hour and a half back to Somerville. This is for a few reasons, too: I calculated that the drive only wastes a quarter of a tank (half a tank round trip), which is significantly cheaper than renting a hotel room, even with these high gas prices. But also, what was I going to do?

The drives are fine, not as bad as I thought they would be, and they seem to get shorter every time I do them. I arrived Thursday morning an hour early on the plot of land that looks like a former camp site. The studio is built in a cinderblock building on the edge of the property, with a large gravel parking lot leading to an enormous barn. This barn, I come to find out, is a nightime hot spot with country music and line dancing lessons. All of these buildings overlook a small lake, with a nice dock leading out onto the water. The owner of the barn and the property found me taking pictures while waiting for the others to arrive on Day 1 and took me inside his venue to show me his amps and drums. It is a phenomenal place straight out of the south, but with one key difference: totally dry. He said it used to be a rock club, but he didn't like the drinking crowd, so now he tailors to the line dancing folks. And apparently they love it. Sure enough, when I left on night 2, the giant gravel lot was almost completely full. After he showed me the barn, I asked him if I could check out the property, which also includes a dilapidated skating rink and a 1940s ladies' bath house. I walked out onto the dock, past a fish carcass that plenty of bugs and birds were picking at, with my Kalamazoo in hand, and dangled my feet in the water, playing guitar until everyone arrived. I don't know if I ever remember being so at peace.





Jack was the first to arrive, and we immediately got to talking music. He is an extraordinarily good guy, and his repoire with Todd is what initially sold me on Lakewest (along with the bucolic nature of it all). Sure enough, the others arrived and we got to work. My voice was in bad shape (though, upon second listen, not as bad as I had first thought) but we tracked all the rhythm stuff up front. It's interesting to play with professional studio musicians: on one hand, I feel awkward being in control when I'm 30 years younger than them and they've played with the likes of David Bowie; on the other, Todd had said that having guys who really feel the rhythm of a song naturally (and instantly) can be "very liberating for a songwriter." Sure enough, I noticed that in rehearsals leading up to the recording, as they came prepared with notes from my demos and really creative ideas. As a result, on the first day we were able to track an unprecendented nine songs, leaving just five songs to cut on day 2 (we are recording more than we are using). That's what makes them pros, and what solidifies the fact that if this record sucks, you know that it's because of me and not them. That's one of the true pleasures and concerns of being solo: all the risk is yours, so all the rewards or blame is yours, too.

After coming back home and seeing the new "Batman," which I did NOT enjoy but am open to seeing again to see if I missed something (OK, Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhardt are great, but that was some of the worst script writing I've ever seen, that is, for a movie I had such high hopes for), I headed back down Friday for Day 2. We knocked out the other songs quickly, with the exception of "Withering on the Vine," which may be on the bubble right now. I wanted to revisit the first song we cut on Day 1, "Broken Beaten & Blue," since it is the likely album opener and must have a good feel. Everyone agreed that the song sounded good, and it did, but they were using phrases like "laid back" to describe it. I want that song to stick out, to rock, really, and not to simply meander nicely. So, we re-cut it, and in my humble opinion, nailed it on the first try. Todd agreed, so we moved on to getting some early rough mixes done.

I've never worked with a producer before, so having Todd there is quite interesting. We've been meeting once a week or so for months now, refining the song list and playing with the songs. He's a really good guy and I couldn't have more faith in him. He is a great songwriter, but more importantly, very tactful in his criticism. He likes most everything, but if he doesn't, he lets you know without making you feel bad. He can also be quite emotionally supportive, which I don't think I nessarily need, in fact I'd prefer him to slap me around once in awhile to make sure I'm on track, but he gets that job done nicely, too. And we work together, well, too. The team that's been assembled for this record is, so far, proving to be unbelievable.





So now, I'm back home on a quick break, going to see "Dinosaurs Alive" tonight, before heading down for some of my tracking tomorrow. Matt is on tour with Scissormen right now -- I think he's in Minneapolis tonight. The day Matt gets back, Scott leaves for Texas for 10 days. Mike, of course, must be knee deep in wedding prepartions. So, Cassavettes has to practice in a more raw form for the next few weeks, which should be fine. Maybe we can hone in a bit and get some of these songs ready for our big record, which I'm greatly anticipating.

This much is clear: 2009 is going to be big.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Apples and oranges

Before any more time goes by, here's a review by Jay Miller at the Patriot Ledger of our three-year anniversary (it didn't run online so I had to hand type this, sorry for errors). He got it right, for the most part: We were sloppy but the vibe was unreal. I just don't like comparing two local bands, especially ones that are close friends. It ain't a competition! But the opening and closing lines do just that. Ah, well.

RAUCOUS ROCK FROM THE CASSAVETTES, GIRLS GUNS AND GLORY

They may not be quite as polished as their compadres in Girls Guns and Glory, but for a night of rowdy and invigorating roadhouse rock, the Cassavettes deliver and then some.

The Cassavettes celebrated their third anniversary as a band Saturday with a barnburner of a night at the Paradise in Boston Saturday before about 300 fans. Their pals from Scituate, Girls Guns and Glory, provided a sparkling 45-minute set of their own, making it a glorious night of Beantown's best young roots rock.

Led by three transplanted Texans - leader Glenn Yoder, guitarist Mike McCullagh and bassist Scott Jones - the Cassavettes have moved away from both their mainstream roots and the twangy country sheen of the songs they penned after arriving in Boston.

Although there was a taste of country still lurking in the background Saturday, the basic foundation of the Cassavettes' sound seems to be garage rock now.

There were places where the joyful energy veered a bit too close to chaos, and spots where the band - which includes drummer Matt Snow from of Maynard - could've been tighter, but the overall effect was hard to resist.

There was a definite rootsy taste to the opening romp through "Carolynn," and it was immediately apparent the band was having the time of their lives onstage, an attitude which was clearly infectious. McCullagh sang lead, with his impressive baritone, on "Ordinary Girls." "Madeline" also had McCullagh singing lead, a sort of lost-love ballad amped up to raucous rock.

Yoder sang on the tempo-shifting "Golden Fleece," which began as a sensitive ballad and morphed into pounding rock. "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Trouble from the Start" were two of the night's most impressive numbers, with sizzling rock dynamics and big sing-along choruses, and McCullagh sang both with power and control. Yoder's best vocal was on "Lights On," his voice sliding into a soulful falsetto.

"Shotgun Wedding" was certainly a memorable tune, pop-country injected with a punky edge. The band's lone cover of the night was fellow Texans the Toadies' "I Come from the Water," a woozy rock sprint with roadhouse blues roots. The set finale, "Shine a Light," became such a rowdy rave-up that Norwell's Kier Byrnes of Three Day Threshold jumped onstage to play keyboards.

For the encore, Yoder sang the easy-flowing ballad "The Nadir," with McCullagh aping pedal steel with his superb guitar solo. That punk rock spirit resurfaced for a gallop through "Marie," and then GGG and a couple dozen delirious fans joined the Cassavettes onstage for the sing-along finale, "It's Alright."

GGG's 11-song set was ample proof the foursome didn't win last year's 'BCN Rock Rumble by accident. Ward Hayden's voice was in typically spectacular form, and country rock tunes like "Inverted Valentine" and "Beautiful Girls" turned the old rock club into a swirling mass of two-steppers. A furiously-paced cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" led to the set-closing, turbo-speed Western swing of "667." When the Cassavettes achieve the kind of precision GGG boasts, they'll have truly arrived.


With that, I'm off to Rhode Island to start my record tomorrow! Wish me luck!

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Six flags, four fools, three years of fun



It went...OK. That is to say, it was a lot of fun but there are definitely hangups as I reflect on our three-year anniversary at the Paradise... planning it on Independence Day weekend, for one. We could have done so much better if we'd taken July 12 like the club suggested, but in keeping with tradition, I foolishly didn't take. Well, next year, rest assured: I'm shooting for the second weekend in July.

We did have a great lineup of both friends and bands I love, plus since Kier made an all-star appearance onstage (after he said he wouldn't), it made the camaraderie complete. The draw wasn't great for any of us, but we met the club's payment and still made out ourselves. Plus, the crowd who was there was feeling it. Am I right?






Generally, it went like this: We walked on to a cheoreographed lights-off-play-"Moscow" deal; we immediately pulled a few folks up onstage and kept doing so throughout the set; I got security to back off after they removed Rob; Bruce ripped my shirt open in front of a room full of folks as pay back of sorts; Chris brought us a birthday cake; many people apparently thought it was Scott's birthday; Dave Hourihan came onstage and did a funny dance, though I couldn't hug him and play guitar at the same time; Kier just showed up to play piano; we forewent playing at times for partying; we did a three-song encore for the first time; we packed the stage with as many people as could fit during "Alright." Pretty good times.



Lots of laughs. And since we were having so much fun, occasionally, I bet, we didn't sound great. But if the spectacle trumps performance, then all's well that ends well, right? And it surely was a spectacle.







SET LIST: Carolyn, Don't Leave Like This / Ordinary Girls (debut) / Madeline / Golden Fleece / Don't Get Me Wrong / Debts / Trouble From the Start / Lights On (debut) / On the Lam / Shotgun Wedding / I Come From the Water / Shine A Light
Encore: The Nadir / Marie / It's Gonna Be Alright

Check out Sooz's photos.







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Friday, July 04, 2008

Show of the week?

Saturday's show has been declared show of the week by Ryan's Smashing Life, along with the Metro and the Boston Globe. Anybody finding anything else?

RSL checks in with this nice write up on the show and Animal Friends.

Cassavettes: The New Live Album & a Sensational Live Show
Fireworks from Boston: The Cassavettes are Ready to Rock!


Boston sons Cassavettes are back in a major way. Now in their third year as a band, the Cassavettes are celebrating the holiday weekend with a huge rock show tomorrow night at the Paradise. It gives the boys the opportunity to publicly unleash the songs from their brand new live album release: "Animal Friends."


EARLIER THIS WEEK the Cassavettes played live on Fox 25's morning news broadcast - in front of their largest audience ever. Tomorrow they take the stage to play songs for a loyal Boston audience and new friends at the Paradise . . And with the release of their hot live album, the summer could well be filled with the sounds with this red hot band!


Thanks for the kind words! Hopefully some more folks come out tomorrow!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Trickling in

Some press is starting to get going about the show, as there are a few in the works that should be up later today. But the Patriot Ledger is the first to the party with this post:

SATURDAY’S BEST

Virtually an all-star cast of Beantown roots and alt-country musicians, as the Cassavettes headline the Paradise in Boston, with Scituate’s Girls Guns and Glory opening.


And the Metro, I understand, checks in with this, including a nice quote from a good dude:

Two of our favorite local bands, the twangful Cassavettes and even more twangful Girls, Guns and Glory, team up with one of our favorite NYC outfits, the interminably soulful and sloppy Teenage Prayers... It's been a while since we heard from WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble winners Girls Guns & Glory, so we asked Ward Hayden, singer for the local alt-country act about tonight's show. "I've always said to them that if I had any money that Cassavettes would be the band I'd like to invest in. ... They just own the stage each and every time they play. ... And Teenage Prayers are incredible as well. They have a ton of energy and emotion in their music and have a great indie rock, alt-country sound."


Be sure to snag that Metro for a full interview with Teenage Prayers! And on the opposite page, there's an interview with Three Day Threshold!

Now, Boston Music Spotlight has posted a full interview we did yesterday. I come off a little jack-assy. Such is the risk.

Cassavettes celebrate three years Saturday

BMS talks with Glen Yoder of the local Americana rockers

So, Glen Yoder of Cassavettes, did you ever think that a band made up of Texans would last three years in Boston playing country-fueled rock music? "Not to sound conceited, but yea, we sorta did." Lucky for us Cassavettes believed in themselves and their music, and the Boston music scene has been the beneficiary. This Saturday at the Paradise fans have the chance to celebrate the band's decision to head north at Cassavettes' Third Anniversary party along with Girls Guns and Glory and The Teenage Prayers.

"It's the anniversary of when we convinced Scott [Jones] to move up from Texas and we completed the band," says Yoder, "So it's kind of a funny anniversary, and kind of narcissistic at that, but each year it's getting better and better." After moving from Upstairs to Downstairs at the Middle East the band is taking on the Paradise, where the Boston Pheonix Reader's Poll Best Local Band of 2006 has played before (once opening for Kings of Leon) but never headlined.

Those not familiar with the band and who might be wondering what to expect would do well to check out the band's newest release, live album Animal Friends, which is available for download at myspace.com/cassavettes. The album was recorded live at The Milkhouse Studios in Allston in order to document the harder edged turn the band's sound has recently taken. "We figured we'd get some people who were gonna be really into it and be drinking beer and making noise, creating this raucous atmosphere, and then just throw a full throttle show right at them," says Yoder. "I think a lot of people buy the record at the show thinking it's going to sound like what they just heard and then they get home and are sort of surprised."

That surprise can be chocked up to the fact that Cassavettes refuse to pin down their sound, which bears the alt-country label but sits comfortable on the fence between classic rock, country, indie rock, blues, and even jazz. The band has also grown steadily more aggressive, which can be seen in the difference between the version of "Shine a Light" from It's Gonna Change and the version from Animal Friends. "When you're a local band and you're not playing to a different audience every night, if someone's going to see you every two weeks, four weeks, or six weeks, they don't want to see the exact same set every time," says Yoder. "To keep us on our toes and to keep the fans on their toes I think it's kind of cool to mix up the songs a little bit."

Cassavettes have built up a devoted following in the Boston area thanks in large part to their live shows, which often feature, as is the case Saturday, Girls Guns and Glory and/or Three Day Threshold. Yoder credits 3DT's Kier Byrnes for "planting the seeds" of camaraderie between the bands, all of whom are now good friends and the celebrated leaders of Boston's strong Americana-rock revival.

While it may seem strange to view Beantown as a hub for the comeback of the good old days when country and rock were not antonyms, it makes sense when you look at Cassavettes' pedigree. Yoder, along with guitarist Mike McCullagh, and bassist "Coyote" Scott Jones all met in the Dallas area, and drummer Matt Snow is a Berklee man who met up with the band here, completing the perfect union of North and South. And you may be able to take the boy out of Texas, but, Yoder says, "Scott is the most die hard Texan among a state of die hard Texans that you will ever meet."

The band is truly alt-country, as in an alternative to the pop-country that abounds on mainstream country radio. Not exactly twangy, Cassavettes were raised on the likes of Superdrag, Neil Young, Ryan Adams, and the Old 97's and have incorporated elements of British Invasion and indie rock into their mix, and that will only continue on the band's next album, which they're set to begin work on in October. "I think people will be intrigued by the diverse sound that we're gonna go for on this record," says Yoder. "It's definitely gonna be a lot more hard hitting than the last album, but it's not like it's gonna knock you down and rip your eardrums out or something like that."

Cassavettes don't offer carnage this Saturday night, instead they offer a celebration for their dedicated fans, some who may remember the first birthday party, where the band had a cake, balloons, and kids' cowboy hats ("We did it like a little kid's birthday party"). "To me, all the anniversary shows are in our top ten," says Yoder. Come this Sunday, Cassavettes better make room for eleven.



In other news, I played a solo show at the Lizard Lounge last night. I'm out of practice at those. But it went well enough, I suppose.
SET LIST: The Rain's Not Far Behind / Broken Beaten & Blue / A Thousand Ways / Alone / Withering on the Vine / Set Free / Green & White / Like Secrets Beneath / Home

Plenty more to come as some more press starts swirling...

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Warning: PR post

I'm at work so I don't have enough time to write in detail. Instead, I will post the last email we're sending out about the big show...

Howdy Animal Friends,
This Saturday is the big day. Perhaps you've driven by the Paradise and seen the double-sided marquee and exclaimed to no one in particular, "WHA?!" Yes, that's right, Cassavettes are headlining the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on July 5. Whoa. This is a can't-miss show!

WBCN Rumble winners Girls Guns & Glory and NYC's finest Teenage Prayers get the party started at 8 p.m. The most affordable way to see this awesome show is to go to the Paradise box office, where tickets are $12 in advance ($15 on the day of the show). Or, you can get your tickets online -- there's a GREAT DEAL of four tickets for the price of three: http://www.livenation.com/event/getEvent/eventId/325293

We are also giving away a couple tickets, since it was you who got us here after all, so be among the first to respond to this email and you could win a pair of tickets to Saturday's shindig. Also, in case you missed it, Cassavettes played on Fox Morning News yesterday. Luckily, you can check out the two songs here: http://www.myfoxboston.com/myfox/pages/ContentDetail?contentId=6887318

That's all! See you Saturday!

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