Friday, February 06, 2009

Back to work, boys

All four of us are in the studio for the first time in weeks and we are...not working. There's not much to do as Dave and Jeff work out the kinks with the mix. We've been here for four hours already and we haven't finished the drums on the first song. Hopefully these sounds will set the template for the rest of the record.

We have high hopes that the weather will warm up enough that we can shovel out the basketball court next door and shoot some hoops tomorrow. That one is iffy, at best, since it's supposed to reach a high of 50ish over the next couple days. To entertain ourselves in the meantime, we're coming up with album artwork, ranging from a naked Todd Thibaud holding a mini naked Matt, to this photo of Todd with the four of us superimposed in as snot flying from his nose. The back photo would be a dirty tissue with a tiny Matt curled up, like when the Snuggle bear falls into the towels. Obviously, important stuff that warranted missing work. But the job will grow more important over the next few hours/days.

It feels strange to be mixing already. I really hope we're not rushing. There are things to be done still, and Todd is working simultaneously on his laptop to edit some tracks that aren't ready for mixing yet. Should we wait a little bit and let the songs air out? It's a tricky issue. But, we have the time booked this weekend, we have it off work, and we're here. So, we'll use it for what's ready, tune-wise.

Anyhow, last night was a late one. I went to Todd's to do some harmonies, and then rushed to pick up TD before my show at The High Street Grill in North Andover. The food was awesome. The crowd was a bit thin, and uninterested, but that's what I expected. I got to try some new, unfinished, just-written material, and fake my way through them. Hey, it was fun. I even just started playing a riff at one point and ended up faking an entire song off of it. That was not as cool as it may sound -- it was really bad, and oddly enough, I did it like right away and was wondering, "Am I out of material already?" But I did get to try some stuff I've never done before "Oh Maria," "16 Days," "Only The Rain," "Old Town" (an alternate version of "Green & White's" riff), and other songs that may never surface again. Plus, I did a few fun covers -- Todd's "Three Words," Three Day Threshold's "Chicken Shack," and The Jayhawks "Angelyne." Why the hell not?
SET LIST (probably wrong, but I'll give it my best shot): Okono Road / Angelyne / Made-up song / Set Free / You Led Me Into Your Love / A Thousand Ways / Oh Maria / Broken Beaten & Blue / Rainy Days / Til The Wheels Fall Off / The Rain's Not Far Behind / Three Words / Alone / Only The Rain / Chicken Shack / Someday Darling / Golden Fleece / Old Town / The Nadir / Bad Luck / 16 Days / Ambivalent Farewells

Anyhow, to take you out, this is the full-text of an interview I did with Spare Change, which is running next week. Check 'er out:
7 Questions with Glenn Yoder
Spare Change News

Q. What inspired the move to go solo? Are the Cassavettes done?

A. It's funny, there's this perceived notion that "going solo" must signal the demise of the band. When people hear about the record, that's the first question I get asked (for example, this is the first question you asked me!). In the liner notes of the disc, I wrote a short paragraph hoping to dispel this idea. When I first told the band that I was planning on doing this, I said that I felt the more you do in music, the more attention all of your projects get. It's all circular. So I don't think my solo disc precludes the band from getting recognition -- in fact, it increases it. Look, we're talking about Cassavettes right now. This is press the band wouldn't have had otherwise. So, the solo thing is in ADDITION to Cassavettes; it's not a death-knell at all. Everybody wins.

Q. Whats the difference between Glenn Yoder solo versus Glenn Yoder as a Cassavette?

A. The music is more open, and that's not a knock on Cassavettes. As bands evolve, I think, they kind of start to realize what works and what doesn't for their group of players. They hopefully learn to play to their strengths. Cassavettes started out trying to be this americana/rootsy sort of thing, with pianos and banjos and stuff that didn't really make sense for us. We took pride in NOT using distortion, or pedals of any kind. But in actuality, we all grew up playing garage rock. That's the kind of music we are the most comfortable playing. When we started stepping on the distortion and allowing Matt to dig in to the drums (he, by the way, is a VERY hard-hitting drummer, who possibly struggled with and sacrificed for the americana identity more than anyone), it felt very natural. At the same time, I had a stockpile of songs that didn't fit with this new sound and new direction for Cassavettes, and I just wanted to shed some daylight on them. I think that with a lot of songwriters, when you write a lot of material, if you don't get to air it out once in a while, it starts piling on your brain, like dirty laundry. You have to get it out some way in order to make room for new, fresh material. I was sort of going through that, and had a lot of songs getting backed up, and I just needed an outlet. So, they're different stylistically than Cassavettes -- maybe more "rootsy" and acoustic guitar-based than the band's new rock sound -- and they're just some songs I wanted to get out into the open.

Q. Is going solo harder because there are less people contributing or easier as there are less egos to deal with?

A. It's both. A lot of folks I've known who have gone the solo route go that way because they want complete control, and are tired of relying on a system with shared input. But while being in total creative control has its benefits, it can also be very isolating. The way I made this record, down at Lakewest Studios in West Greenwich, R.I., I was driving myself down from Somerville five nights a week. It's only an hour and a half down, but going both ways, that's three hours of alone time a day. You drive back after a session and think, "Man, I'd sure like someone to talk to about these songs," and that's natural. I found myself missing one of the core joys of being in a band: Having people to share successes with. And at the same time, band members also have folks to share failures with, which in turn, makes the solo thing all the more daunting. Instead of people going to see a show and thinking, "This band sucks," they'll put all the blame on your shoulders. It's my name on the record -- so all the glory and all the pain that come of this release are mine to bear, for better or worse. And that can be a very empowering -- albeit scary -- thing.

Q. Who (or what) were some of your inspirations when you were writing and recording these songs?

A. Thinking about the concept of a solo record, I looked back at what some of my favorite songwriters did when they went in a new direction. Did they try to sound different than their main band? That can be hard, because your writing style is still the same. And you shouldn't try to be something that you're not -- that's a recipe for disaster. So, I looked toward Bruce Springsteen's work outside the E Street Band, the early Neil Young stuff after he left Buffalo Springfield, the first few post-Beatles records (of which "All Things Must Pass" is clearly number one), Paul Westerberg's post-Replacements stuff -- that kind of thing. But I was also listening to a lot of music by Alejandro Escovedo at the time, Tom Waits, Ron Sexsmith, and the fantastic gentleman who produced the record, Todd Thibaud. Those records sort of gave me perspective of what vibe we were looking for with this collection of songs and where we should take them.

Q. You recently released your album at The Lizard Lounge. How was it playing music with your bandmates looking on?

A. The guys in Cassavettes are my three best friends. I can't think of any other people I'd rather be doing taking this bizarre sojourn into music with. They have been extraordinarily supportive throughout this process, and they've been involved, too. Mike played and sang on my solo record, and came up and jammed with the band on a number of tunes at the Lizard Lounge. Scott was one of the earliest cheerleaders of the solo idea. And Matt doesn't really care because he plays in 50,000 bands anyway. Ideally, this solo project is less "solo" -- I want it to be a collaborative effort, where everyone joins in when they feel it and people feel a part of the music. At the show, we had Todd up to sing songs, some of my friends from Girls Guns & Glory, and some other members of the musical family. Matt, for his part, distributed shakers and percussion to the entire audience during the last song, which was great to get everyone involved. It took that collaborative idea to a whole new level. So, really, there is no awkwardness playing in front of these guys -- they are part of it, as well.

Q. What are your top three songs on your solo album and why?

A. Early on, Todd and I identified "Okono Road" as perhaps the linchpin song on this record. We knew the album would likely be called that, and that lyrically, the song summed up a lot of what was going on throughout the record. Sometimes, when you put so much pressure on a song out of the gate, you're hard to please with the final results. But the guys playing on this record, which included drummer Milt Sutton and bassist Jeff St. Pierre, were such pros that they got a good take almost every time. It was me who was messing things up. "Til the Wheels Fall Off" is probably my all-around favorite track, which is bizarre, because it really came from nowhere. It's a very simple song, but sometimes it's the little background noises or sounds on records that you truly come to love. On that track, we had Adam Steinberg, this dynamite guitarist who plays with The Dixie Chicks and is an all-around pro, lay down some organ and slide guitar. During the bridge, his slide soars and it may be my favorite moment of the record. It's one of those things I listen to and say, "Man, I wish I did that!" Thankfully, it's on my record, so maybe that'll fool a few folks into think I did! Finally, "You Led Me Into Your Love" is the single biggest surprise of this record. We laid down 16 songs, and only kept 12. This song was close to my top choice to be cut, but Todd and Jack Gauthier, who owns Lakewest and engineered the record, kept saying how special the vocal interaction was between myself and MK Fabila. She is a great singer, and it really shines on that track. Plus, we got some amazing folk instrumentation from Mat Davidson, and the cut really took off. Lo and behold, the few folks that have had the record for a month or two almost unanimously have called that song their favorite. Guess I was wrong -- but it's the good kind of wrong. It always feels good to hear you have another good song, especially one you didn't realize was good in the first place.

Q. What lies ahead for Glenn Yoder, solo artist?

A. Well, Cassavettes is in the studio now, so my concentration is back on the band full-time. I'll keep playing in support of this record, and hopefully I'll be able to license a few of the tracks. Apparently, that's the name of the game these days, as far as making money back on your investment. I'm not sure if I'll be cutting another solo record anytime soon -- I certainly don't have the cash to do it now -- but if the dirty laundry starts piling up in my head again, I just may be back in the studio sooner than I think.

I'll let you know if we're able to shoot some hoops soon. That's what we're looking forward to.

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