It never ceases to amaze me how – and this is the only thing that really ever seems to be true – one thing leads to another.
Let’s do this chronologically.
In the fall I had a bunch of demos that I was really only writing because it made me feel a bit better. I had never bothered to learn protools or logic, but had a bit of time on my hands and clumsily worked through some home-spun recordings in the basement. It ended up being more fun than I imagined and a good way to use my evenings.
As I was recording on shoddy mics, barely understanding how any of this equipment worked, I was thinking about those raw ’70s Paul McCartney albums, and Bright Eyes, and Neil Young. Stuff that sounds imperfect but has heart and soul.
In January the band had some time off and we decided to hang. We had a jam space lined up (we like to work in different environments), but it fell through at the last minute. I started calling around, and realized my neighbour Jim had a music making garage that I walk by every single day. He invited Nick and I over, and low and behold it was the most serene music making space we’d ever seen. Big windows. Nice piano. Some vintage gear. He doesn’t rent it out, but said “it’s for the neighbourhood.”
“The neighbourhood?” I asked.
“Well, I like people in the neighbourhood to use it, and you’re in the neighbourhood, so you can use it.”
At first we were going to do acoustic versions of Blink Once and Blink Twice. It fit the slow vibe of January. About 45 minutes into jamming an acoustic version of “Liberation” (which sounded quite good I might add), we all agreed it might be more interesting to try something completely new. I had already sent the fall demos around, so we started there. By the end of January we figured we should be responsible and document the material because songs were beginning to take shape. The band was feeling very connected with one another and we were engaged in the work. Everything felt slower. We had no timeline. We had no agenda. It felt very stoned. We didn’t want to pep anything up too much. We weren’t looking to recycle versions of older songs. Together we were living in a world that embraced this new headspace.Early in the process, Mike suggested the goal of the session was to simply have our fingerprints all over the music. Lean into all of our individual musical personalities more than ever before. Musically this effort was the most band-directed thing we’ve done since Jackson Square, and you hear it in the performance. There’s little editing. Many of the final performances were from the first take. You can hear the little ghost-note taps on Tim’s hi-hat and the creaky piano pedals of Tony’s upright at home. There’s a lot of imperfections on the album, which was kind of the point.
During the recording I asked friends for some feedback. I was unsure about how far we should take the new direction. Chase from COIN gave the best notes for the title track. Anytime we were trying something that distracted from the lyric and the sentiment, he said it began to feel “less honest.” Honesty became the policy. I visited Ben from Lord Huron in his studio in LA and sheepishly played some very rough ideas, and he said “the songs are all in there. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect – you gotta trust that people will hear the songs.”
So we kept going.
To finish the music we brought in our co-conspirators Eric Ratz and Derek Hoffman to keep the train on the tracks. Like any good producer, they understood this particular assignment: honour the songs. Honour the intimacy and the rawness.
Starting a record is one thing, but finishing it and figuring out if it is even worth the trouble of putting it out is another.
In late March, we went over to our other neighbour Andrew’s garage who lives a few laneways over. Among other things, Andrew is a painter with a vibrant and original style. We asked if he might be able to make an original piece for an album cover.
“What kind of design are you thinking?” He asked.
“How about a laundry machine, on fire, with a palm tree blowing in the wind and waves crashing against the beach” I replied.
“No problem. I’ll get on it right away.”
It’s now sweater weather and this album feels just right. Releasing it in the season the songs were conceived. We are excited to put these songs to work and see what happens. With any luck, these intimate little vignettes might be part of someone else’s life.
Laundry Pile is for the sentimental. It’s about having a wish that you know won’t come true. But all the things you learned along the way end up being the gift you really needed in the first place.
Enjoy it, and see you on the road.
Max, Mike, Tony, Tim, Nick