Our release show is at the Montrose Saloon on March 29. Look for details soon.
The Highway Gothic CDs have arrived! Can't wait to start sharing these beauties. As great as it is to be able to distribute music digitally, there's still something extremely Official and Exciting about having the physical object.
Our release show is at the Montrose Saloon on March 29. Look for details soon.
Fwiw, current plans are for the LP to mimic this gatefold design, but the vinyl discs themselves will be the green or blue of highway signs.
First look: here's the cover photo for Highway Gothic. It's from the onramp to I-94 at Lawrence and Cicero; the lozenge for "94" is mysteriously missing, leaving this odd direction to...the frontier? Manifest Destiny? Some other promise betrayed? (If you've been there, you know the arrow is actually pointing north: one must put a lot of trust in this sign.)
This feels about right, for a road album, and specifically an album that begins in the suburbs and ends in the Badlands. I love the color of the sky—a massive lucky break, as I knew I wanted blue, but had no guarantee of getting it until...well, April, probably, the way this winter has been going. The big open negative space is as close as we'll come to duplicating a genuine Western sky in Chicago. I think it asks a question.
The lit geek in me is also pleased by the accidental resemblance to the color scheme Joyce demanded for the cover of Ulysses (the blue was to represent the Mediterranean, the white islands, if I'm recalling correctly). Beyond the idea of wandering, there's no connection between the album and the book—certainly nothing deliberate—but I like the coincidence.
It's the final track list for Highway Gothic!
4. White Flag
5. Lost in America
6. The Age and the Ache
7. Gen X
8. One Two
10. After All
Weren't there twelve songs before, Liz? Yes, yes, there were. We have decided to cut "Bender" from the download/CD version of the album. It will still be available in some form, and it'll be on side 4 of the longer LP, along with a couple of other songs. But it's always been a bit of an outlier (this is not a relationship album at all, and "Bender" is definitely a relationship song). On test listens to various track orders—especially while driving—it just stuck out more and more.
Anyway. Head over to Soundcloud to hear an unmastered preview of a handful of songs.
ReverbNation really wants me to take out ads to promote the band, and they're telling me this via banner ads using a still image from the "White Flag" video. Hilariously, these banners tend to appear when I'm reading Go Fug Yourself, and some alchemy of browser settings means my face appears at more or less the same scale as the celebs in the GFY slideshows.
At this point in the video I'm singing "You can radio the captain," but it turns out this is a relatively neutral facial expression that acquires a lot of meaning from context.
For example, here I am awkwardly serenading two legendary women about how much I want a 9 to 5 sequel, and Jane is not having it:
"YOU ARE SO PRETTY HOW ARE YOU SO PRETTY."
"I...have questions about the eyewear."
I freeze, recognizing that this is my last moment of life, as she sprouts wings and transforms into a Creature of the Night.
CELINE: Ne mentionnez pas les jeans.
ME: Okay, but...that's an acid-wash paper-bag waist, right?
(incoherent noises of lust-drooling)
Here's the set we played Saturday night, as amended when we discovered we were missing a crucial cable and weighed the lateness of the start time against the snow accumulating outside.
Notes: I thought I had a little more time before we started, so I headed for the bathroom. That turned out to be almost the exact moment that the audience came into our space. And THAT was how we learned that a) the live slow-build intro to "Slinky" is long enough to cover a pee break, and b) I can enter a stage from a bathroom door, pick up a Strat, and start playing. It's not how I would choose to start every show...but it's good to know it can work that way.
I haven't even posted a demo of "Lie" yet, but it's likely to be our single for Record Store Day 2019. It will not be a late addition to Highway Gothic--more probably part of an EP with "Windowsill." But one thing at a time.
This was also the live debut of "Subourbon," which we scrapped from its last set after not being able to nail down an arrangement we all liked. Some things don't come together until you're in the studio. ("Get Out" also worked that way.)
Julie Jurgens sang as a special guest Baguette, as well as playing her super-cool mini trumpet for the horn lines in "White Flag." (She shared a bill with us in 2016, and she's on the album yelling in the background of "One Two"; hopefully we'll get to have her back for more shows.) And I would be HUGELY remiss not to mention that Thomas delayed his return trip to Hawaii so he could play bass for this show. Which is pretty amazing.
Today, I hung nine original paintings on the wall at the eternally cool Logan Parlor space. Each painting is based on a Highway Gothic song (pictured above: "Subourbon," "Teflon," "Badlands"). They'll be on display for the first three months of 2019.
Each painting is 12" x 12", acrylic on board, and priced at $100, with proceeds going to the first pressing of Highway Gothic; the price includes a CD and download. We'll also have some giclée prints available.
It will not have escaped your attention that the paintings are the same size as LP jackets. Hopefully we can do a vinyl pressing later, with "Badlands" and "Lost in America" inside the gatefold; at nearly an hour, it'll have to be a double album anyway, so we might as well exploit that for graphic design. Side 4 will probably include a handful of newer songs that don't have any other home, like "Lie" and "Windowsill." But that's a few thousand dollars away, so...for now, enjoy the paintings.
ICYMI: the first single from Highway Gothic is now available, with a full video and everything.
As its single art, "White Flag" uses a 12" x 12" acrylic painting on board. I'm painting one of these for each of the tracks on the album, and they'll be available to people who support the vinyl release next year.
In refining album mixes and percussion sounds, Charlie discovered that "Lost in America" had the exact same bpm as Duran Duran's "Girls on Film." He went ahead and created a mashup, using Duran Duran's drums and our everything else. Here's a sample.
I've been listening to the early mix of Highway Gothic, which is just ridiculously exciting. Almost no one plays "their" instrument exclusively on this: we have vocals from Zach; I jumped onto bass, baritone guitar, keys, and banjo at various times; Charlie drummed and played keys and bass in addition to lead guitar. I'm probably omitting a few.
It reminds me of one of the best things we ever did in Loudness War rehearsal, which was Not My Job Day. I forget whose idea it was or why we did it, but for that day's rehearsal no one was allowed to play their usual instrument or sing their usual leads. The room had keyboard, banjo, ukulele, violin, sitar, harmonica, melodica, and mandolin in addition to the standard drums/bass/rhythm/lead lineup.
We slogged through our set, knowing it would sound weird and loose and letting that be okay. We laughed a lot, because what else can you do if you've never played a banjo before? But we also discovered that we had way more versatility than we'd been taking advantage of. I can't speak for what other people discovered about their own abilities—sitar may have been the only instrument Charlie didn't already know—but I learned plenty. I tend not to approach keyboard as an improvisational player, and it turned out that I could improvise okay. Zach had never played guitar in our lineup before, and we learned he's really good at it. At the end, with him on lead and me behind the drum kit, the band wrote two new songs. Together. Which had never happened before.
I don't have a great name for that mindset, beyond maybe "creative goofing." But I think it's one of the best things you can do, either as a solo artist or in an ensemble.
Got a new song, "Windowsill," Homebrew edition. I don't think this one is destined for the album, though it may surprise us.
Apart from the handclaps and snaps (which I did by, y'know, clapping and snapping), all the percussion loops on this track were created with a guitar. The high pattern is the B and E strings, muted at the tenth fret. The low thud is an open palm lightly hitting the bridge pickup; then the track is doubled and one version is fed through a low-res filter. The bass guitar (my Hofner in drop-D tuning) also doubles that rhythm, which adds to the thunkiness.
If we ever do get this one into the studio, I'd love to add some true drums, probably with some Adam Ant–style heavy tom beats. But one thing at a time.
Songwriter & multidisciplinary artist