Notes

Notes


WFMU

Drums & percussion, backing vocals, wild shouting at the end: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Tambourine, timbale, Latin percussion: Jesse Wallace

Clapping and shouting, chicken pickin’ guitar: Jay Braun

Electric bass: Daniel Flannery

Upright bass: Justin Braun

Grand piano, Roland SH-101, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, electric rhythm guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Sarah Brockett

Backing vocals: George Pasles

Backing vocals: Hilary Jane Englert

Basic tracks (grand piano, bass & drums) recorded by Nicola Stemmer at Nine Lives Studios in Jersey City. Synthesizer overdubs done right here at home. I recorded my guitar at Serious Business Studios. I told Travis Harrison that I wanted to sound big and badass for once,and he handed me a metal guitar of indeterminate make with a picture of a naked lady on it. Later Jay would say that my guitar sounded like something you’d hear on a Billy Joel album, which of course I took as a compliment, but that is by no means badass. Not for a second do I blame Travis; I mean, look at what he was working with. Matt, George, and Sarah did the backing vocals at what used to be the Overlord practice space. That’s Sarah talking about the “Matt Dance” (which is a real thing), and George laughing evilly.

I wrote “WFMU” in San Francisco. I was homesick, okay? All of the radio stations mentioned are real, or were real at the time I whipped up the song.


THE THROWAWAY

Drums: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Tambourine, shakers: Jesse Wallace

Bass: Lelan Estes

Clavinova, Rhodes, Roland SH-101, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Reluctant emo-pop guitar: George Pasles

Additional rhythm guitar: Jay Braun

Backing vocals: Sara Hallie Richardson

Basic tracks (Rhodes, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. This was part of the album’s most productive session: we also cut “Sunrise, Rte. 7”, “You’re Dead After School”, half of “First World, Third Rate” that cold afternoon. Again, my guitar was done at Serious Business, and my synths were cut in the living room.

Synthesizer key — if you hear a nice, smooth sound that fits into the mix well, it’s the MS2000. If you hear a sound that reminds you of painful dentistry or just makes you want to choke me to death, that’s the Roland SH-101. Initially, I was going to stick with the Korg for these songs, but Jun Takeshta at Main Drag fixed the Roland in time for the recording. Jay was so excited!, he regularly refers to the SH-101 as an “overdub factory”. They make lye in factories, too. I feel the need to report that George really didn’t want to do that two note, Paramore-lite thing on the choruses, but I insisted. We recorded that in his kitchen.

Because I am too indirect to write a real pop-punk number, I needed to purloin one. “The Throwaway” initially existed as “The Takeaway”, a pre-Palomar (Trixie Belden) song by Christina Prostano. When Palomar dropped the song from their set, I decided it was too good to get lost, so I rewrote the lyrics and changed a few things around. Christina is thrilled about this, or so I tell myself.


THE BALLAD OF FRANK VINIERI

Drums: Nicholas Heller

Percussion, marching-band cymbal, hand-claps: Jesse Wallace

Hand-claps: Jay Braun

Bass: Matt Hyams

Clavinova, Technics KN650, Nord Electro2, Korg MS2000, electric guitars, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Sara Hallie Richardson

Backing vocals: Angela Lane Hamilton

Backing vocals: George Pasles

Basic tracks (Technics KN650, bass & drums) recorded by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Studios. The Yamaha Clavinova — the principal piano on the album — was overdubbed at Jennifer Helen Logan’s apartment in Jackson Heights. Angela and George did their gang backing parts in George’s apartment. We used his JC-120 as a monitor, which is better than what I put Sara through: she had to hear herself through the then-blown speaker of my Fender Blues Deluxe. Incidentally, Sara cut all of her backing vocals with a Rode NTK microphone. Angela and George used the same Neumann from The Open Secret: Live!, Alone In Jersey City.

“The Ballad Of Frank Vinieri” was my umpteenth attempt to come up with something like “The Queen And The Soldier”, or at least “I Was A Maoist Intellectual In The Music Industry”. I wrote it in the Hi-Vue,during a bitter election season in Union City. So, yes, it’s old. Sadly, it’s still relevant.


BATTLESHIPS

Drums: Brett Whitmoyer

Shakers, triangle: Jesse Wallace

Additional percussion: Joshua Fleischmann

Bass: Michael Hollitscher

Rhythm guitar: Marisha Chinsky

Gary Katz guitar: Jedediah Smith

Clavinova, Technics KN650, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, Roland SH-101, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Sarah Hallie Richardson

Basic tracks (Technics KN650 piano, Marisha and Jed’s guitars, bass & drums) recorded by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Studios. Later, Travis added my dumb-ass, distorted six-string to the choruses. Any guitar that sounds skillfully played is either Jed or Marisha, and any guitar like it was played by a Cro-Magnon is me. This one almost didn’t happen: we had no plans to cut “Battleships” that day, but Brett and Mike started the groove, and Travis was kind enough to roll (simulated) tape. Later I realized how severely diminished the album would have been without it. Thanks, guys.

Usually, when I sit down at the piano with the intention to write a song, the result is so arty and precious that everybody in a five-block radius starts to feel like they’ve been radiation-poisoned by Vladimir Putin. “Battleships” is (I hope) an exception. This story of a summer break gone ambiguously wrong is set in Margate, a shore town famous for its elephant. If there were names named, I’d have to change them, but there aren’t, so I am home free. There certainly aren’t any innocents to protect.


SUGAR NOBODY WANTS

Drums & percussion: Joshua Fleischmann

Shakers: Jesse Wallace

Bass: Justin Braun

Clavinova, Technics KN650, Nord Electro2, Korg MS2000, Roland SH-101, vox: Tris McCall

Rhythm guitar: Jay Braun

Backing vocals: Sara Hallie Richardson

Backing vocals: Amy Jacob

Soul vocal: Hollis Queens

Basic tracks (Technics KN650 piano, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. All auxiliary percussion was recorded in two fast afternoon sessions; Jesse Wallace came into Melody Lanes with a bagful of things to hit, scrape, and shake, and used almost all of them. For reasons I don’t understand, Jay called this Jesse’s “L.A. kit”. At the time, Josh was using the studio as the base of operations for some busking activities, so he got roped into hitting, scraping, and shaking, too. Jay called in Hollis Queens to add some additional, wailing backing vox when he decided that the ones we had weren’t quite Radio KAOS enough. Rush and Marillion were also discussed; we aren’t shy.

The Shackamaxon is a country club and Bar Mitzvah mill in Scotch Plains, and a symbol of North Jersey conspicuous consumption. Breaking in to the Baltusrol Golf Club and gently vandalizing the course was a mandatory team sport for kids at my high school. We justified our misdeeds by reminding ourselves that the club was reluctant to admit blacks and Jews. We were freedom fighters, see, not idiot litterers.


LET THE NIGHT FALL

Drums: Jedediah Smith

Shakers, tambourine, triangle: Jesse Wallace

Extra percussion: Joshua Fleischmann

Bass: Michael Hollitscher

Rhythm guitar: Marisha Chinsky

Post-punk guitar: Brett Whitmoyer

Clavinova, Technics KN650, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Angela Lane Hamilton

Backing vocals: George Pasles

Backing vocals: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Backing vocals: Sarah Brockett

Basic tracks (Technics KN650 piano, rhythm and Bunnymen guitar, bass & drums) recorded by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Studios. Credits where they’re due. “Let The Night Fall” was developed during a Consultants band jam. We were attempting to generate some material for a second album that never materialized. I sort of hijacked the practice. What can I say?: the spirit moved me and I began to sing. Marisha never should have given me a mic. In retrospect it was silly for me to think this fit with the Consultants repertoire — although we did perform it at the Delancey one night. That was memorable.

Anyway, words and melody by Mr. McCall, music by the celebrated firm of Whitmoyer, Hollitscher, Chinsky & Smith. They reprise their roles as working consultants on the album version. Remember that it is always 1783 somewhere. Your living room, maybe?


FIRST WORLD, THIRD RATE

Drums, backing vocals: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Bell tree, jackass percussion: Jesse Wallace

Bass: Lelan Estes

Additional bass guitar: Daniel Flannery

Grand piano, Rhodes, Technics KN650, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Sarah Brockett

Backing vocals: George Pasles

Some basic tracks (grand piano, bass & drums) recorded by Nicola Stemmer at Nine Lives Studios in Jersey City, and some basic tracks (Rhodes, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. Later, Jay assembled this Frankenstein’s monster and jolted it to life.

A few words about a highly underrated instrument — you won’t find the Technics KN650 discussed on the high-profile Internet synthesizer boards. You’re more likely to find it at a yard sale. That’s where Justin turned up the Technics used all over this album: his girlfriend’s grandmother was getting rid of it. If you’re looking for a programming or sequencing synthesizer, forget it; the patches are what they are, and you won’t want to change them, anyway. The preset piano and organ sounds compare favorably to those of synthesizers ten or twenty times the eBay price of the KN650. The internal reverb sounds real enough, and the built-in drum machine tickles me pink, or at least a nice shade of lavender. If you ever come across one of these, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Treat it like a cheap plug-in spinet with a built-in speaker; you won’t regret it.

“First World, Third Rate” was inspired by a forlorn fast-food joint on Morris Avenue on the Springfield-Millburn border. When I was in high school, it must have changed hands six times. I think it’s a Jiffy Lube now.


YOU’RE DEAD AFTER SCHOOL

Drums: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Shakers, castanets on bridge: Jesse Wallace

Bass: Lelan Estes

Rhodes, Nord Electro2, Korg MS2000, Roland SH-101, rhythm electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Additional guitar: David Schreiber

Backing vocals: Angela Lane Hamilton

Basic tracks (Rhodes, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. I cut almost all of my vocals in two marathon sessions on North 11th Street, but some of “You’re Dead After School” was recorded at Serious Business. Travis had never heard the song before, and I needed to give him some sense of what went where. Usually my guide vox have the authoritativeness (and tone) of a mouse caught in a glue trap, but I guess I’d eaten my kale that morning. David e-mailed guitar commentary from his home studio in Florida. This is the only concession to the FTP Rock we made on during the recording of Let The Night Fall. Everything else was tracked in person, and we mean personally.

A few years ago, C-Murder put out an excellent album called The Truest $#!@ I Ever Said. I’m not in jail in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center (at the moment), but this is some true $#!@, too. My role model did not play at Beth Israel; I just couldn’t find a suitable rhyme for Sha’arey Shalom. The rest is accurate. You may be interested to know that although my role model was caught red-handed, he was acquitted on a technicality. He died of a massive coronary a few months later. We’re never going to fix American education unless we grapple with the fact that most of the best teachers are borderline criminals. That’s just the way God made it; it’s on us to figure out what to do with that.


CONVENIENCE STORE MOZART

Grand piano: Tris McCall

Recorded by Jay Braun and James Frazee at Water Music in Hoboken. We’d rejected a prior version of the piece because I’d made too much pedal noise. Ms. Mary Hrebin, my former piano teacher, would have had my ass if she’d heard it. During our final mixing session, James and Jay sat me down at the Water Music piano, and rolled until I got it right.

“Convenience Store Mozart” was written in a 7-11 parking lot in Hackensack, New Jersey. I was a passenger, as usual, and I had my Casio SK-1 with me. I remember it was raining, a little, and the plate glass in front of the store had fogged up. We’d played a house party earlier that night; I was exhausted, but not hungry at all. While my bandmates bought slurpees and sixlets, I rested the little synth on the dashboard and composed this piece.


MIDNIGHT (NOW APPROACHING)

Drums & percussion:  Joshua Fleischmann

Shakers, tambourine, cymbal swells: Jesse Wallace

Bass: Justin Braun

Clavinova, Technics KN650, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Power guitar: Jay Braun

Guitar solo: Jun Takeshta

Backing vocals: Amy Jacob

Backing vocals: Sara Hallie Richardson

Backing vocals: Hollis Queens

Basic tracks (Technics KN650 piano, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. For those who need a RIYL to feel comfortable, I have been describing  Let The Night Fall as a cross between Manowar and the “Schools On Demand” commercial. Here, Jun supplies some of the Manowar. It was Hilary who suggested that I get Jun on the song; I don’t think she even realized she was facilitating a Negatones reunion. We’re all Melody Lanes All-Stars on this bus. Jay borrowed a Les Paul — a very manly guitar, he noted — from well-known manly man Doug Cote of The Sweet Ones. We all manned up for this one.

Just as any candidate for statewide office must buy media in the two major markets, it is impossible to write about New Jersey without also discussing New York and Philadelphia. “Let The Night Fall” is the Philly song; I wrote that one while walking through Center City on a freezing January day. “Midnight”, as you might guess, came to me while commuting into Manhattan. I don’t remember the ride when it crystallized into a song, but it had nothing to do with the color-coded alert level. Looking through one of my old notebooks from the Nineties, and I was slightly surprised to find several unused lyrics about New York City under siege. The era of apprehension didn’t begin in 2001. We’ve felt vulnerable for a long time.


MOUNTAINSIDE

Machine-drum programming:  Jay Braun

Live percussion: Jesse Wallace

Acoustic guitar, Roland SH-101, Nord Electro2, vox: Tris McCall

Backing vocals: Sarah Brockett

Backing vocals: George Pasles

Backing vocals: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Backing vocals: Hilary Jane Englert

Basic tracks (acoustic guitar) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. Any electric organ on Let The Night Fall was generated on a Nord Electro2, dubbed the “instrument of old assholes” by a sharp-witted memberof Ford & Fitzroy. Hey, if the shoe fits, right, guys? I remember David Espinola explaining why he didn’t trust singer-songwriters whose principal instrument was the piano: they’d never gone through that initial rebellion, symbolized by the electric guitar, against parents and other authorities. “You bought a guitar/to punish your ma”, etc. Me, I took my lessons like a good boy, and I will save my acts of defiance for the barricades.

Literary listeners may inquire about the location of the little Mountainside bookstore. Let me head you off at the pass: it does not exist. There is no proper downtown in Mountainside — just Route 22, a dreadful bar called Chrone’s,and a sad one-block retail strip. When I was a kid, my Mountainside pals got their books from Quimby Street in Westfield. I don’t know where they go now. They probably just order them off of Amazon. See, this is the sort of town-by-town detail that a newcomer like Sufjan Stevens simply cannot provide you. For that, you must dial up a booster club crank like me. Mountainside used to print up their own sticker, do they still do that? Brad? Mike? Cynthia Evans Moser? Michael Edward William von der Linn III? Do any of you go home anymore, or are you all like the addressee of the song?


WE COULD BE THE KILLERS

Drums: Nicholas Heller

Bass: Matt Hyams

Technics KN650, Nord Electro2, Korg MS2000, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Clarinet, backing vocals: Hilary Jane Englert

Basic tracks (Technics KN650, bass & drums) recorded by Travis Harrison at Serious Business Studios. Other songs tracked that day: “The Secret Audience”, “Paul Simon, I Had To Ask”, a full-band “Mountainside”. Additional songs cut at Nine Lives: a non-techno version of “Holding My Jacket” and “Tight Times”. We also cut a version of “Tight Times” with the Consultants at Serious Business. Ultimately, I felt that song’s sentiment was too ugly to share with others; I do have some sense of shame. All of this stuff will come out soon; you know how this Internet is. “Paul Simon” will be on the next album.

All the Game Theory/Loud Family references are deliberate. I’m going to keep doing it until I get a cease and desist letter from Scott Miller’s attorney. It’s my sick way of saying thanks.

At the age of nine, I was a reluctant camper in the wilderness of West Orange. We were divided into teams of twenty and flung into the woods to fend for ourselves. Since I was no good at gathering sticks or playing kickball, my councilors thoughtfully picked out a suitable task for me: choosing a name for our group. I took it very seriously. I casted about for something woodsy, yet sophisticated and knowing. I played with combinations of colors and flowers, tried to incorporate street names, names of planets, trees, third-grade puns, faraway nations. We’d done a Japanese unit in school that year, and I felt that a Japanese-sounding handle might impart shogunlike nobility to our side. In the midst of my deliberations, one of my fellow campers piped up. “We could be the killers!”, he suggested. Nineteen other campers cheered their heads off. In the rocky soil of Camp Cannundus, the Gordian knot lay in tatters. I was outvoted and outgunned; worse than that, I was now one of the killers.

Story of my life, folks.


SUNRISE, RTE. 7

Drums: Matthew Lincoln Houser

Bass: Lelan Estes

Clavinova, Rhodes, Korg MS2000, Nord Electro2, Roland SH-101, electric guitar, vox: Tris McCall

Additional guitar color and shading: George Pasles

Even more additional guitar color and shading: Jay Braun

Backing vocals: Sara Hallie Richardson

Backing vocals: Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy

Basic tracks (Rhodes, bass & drums) recorded by Jay Braun at Melody Lanes. I recorded the Mayor in the conference chambers of City Hall. He was, as always, a perfect gentleman. My mobile recording unit consists of a Mac laptop running ProTools LE, a glyph drive, and an MBox2. If you don’t mind being a little wobbly, you can stick it all in your bike bag and rock around town.

“Sunrise, Route 7” was initially recorded at the original Nine Lives Studio for Nicola’s Mayday box set. That set was sold to raise funds for 111 First Street’s legal team. I’ve never wished more that I could write a hit. I’m not much of a paladin, really, but I’ll keep on doing what I can, until the day I can’t.

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