Our twice-recorded debut album
It wasn't until I was finished studying at university that I fully understood the limits of pains and joys that an obsession with music can bring. It isn't that I hadn't been obsessed. I just hadn't pushed my obsession to its limits.
I moved to Philadelphia. I bought a grand piano from some shady guys in New Jersey. It was a Hyundai with the heaviest keys of any piano I've played. The resistance was like weight training.
I began the practice regimen I should've--but didn't have in college. I started learning the last piece of classical music I had attempted to learn before quitting my piano lessons, before starting a decade-long thing with jazz. A Beethoven sonata in combination with my new passion for riding my bike left my hands raw as hell.
For a couple of college years, Dane and I did this whole band-incest type thing. I played accordion in Dane's folky band, and Dane played bass in my poppy band, and we had a experimental jazz trio with Kirk, (the drummer from my pop band). And now, we just weren't actually doing anything with any bands. Except we played in our housemate, Liz's band.
We were not creatively at a loss because the songs kept coming, but maybe organizationally we were totally gone. I think Liz suggested we just have one band. We found a bassist, this guy who I had played literally one jazz gig with. We made a list of band names on the white board in our kitchen, and erased the worst ones every time it got too crowded. How we ended up with as bad a name as My Son Bison beats me.
Finding a name is one thing. Figuring out what our sound was going to be was an entirely different challenge. Without choice, we sounded like an indie folk band, but we also sounded like country, salsa, jams, and the jazz kept slipping out. You are what you eat, but you also are what your parents ate. My parents are Colombian immigrants, my mom's parents are from Argentina; Dane is of Basque and Filipino, so that stuff probably sneaks in too.
After an EP we recorded in Dane's room and two singles we recorded in DC that sounded like rock and roll, it was clear to us that our first LP had to be something different. None of our previous recordings really captured what our rehearsals sounded like. I pitched making a purely acoustic album. Dane was entirely for it. I could tell he was excited to make something in a studio using the instruments we rehearse on: grand piano, acoustic guitars, upright bass. We rehearsed until things were super-tight, and then started tracking with Ron DiSilvestro at Forge Recordings.
This part isn't really much to talk about, but here's the gist of it. We tracked everything once, and then when we were done tracking, but before mixing, we lost everything. It was devastating.
The first song I wrote after finding out has this bit in it:
"Playing Prussian roulette,
Hammer to the head of portraiture in pastel.
Art imitates life by failing to see the light that life is hell.
Life is hell."
When the melodramatic grief subsided (as if), we got back into the studio, and vowed to make it the best damn album we could make. And I'm really proud of it. It's the twice-recorded debut album from an indie band you've never heard of.
Since we first started work on it, my abuelita died. Dane and Kirk lost grandmother's too. Nick got married, bought a house, and started grad school. The rest of us quit jobs, got new jobs, or went back to the jobs we had quit. And as tiring as all of that sounds, it never transferred to the music.
The songs on this album are still fresh, dense, and emotionally raw. They are about communicating with the girl you love, a zoo keeper in Ohio who killed himself and a bunch of animals by setting the animals free, a friend who crossed the entire United States picking up garbage--generally being lost and being found.