"Some stories and excessive ramblings from the recording of "So Long, Astoria"
Pretty much all of these tracks are previously unreleased.
They were uploaded to Bandcamp directly from my own personal stash of recordings.
Most of which are the only actual existing copies.
Included are the complete "So Long, Astoria" demos from Orange Whip recording in Santa Barbara, CA.
This is the same studio where we recorded "Blue Skies...", "end is forever" and many of our other recordings.
We spent a lot of time fine tuning these songs before we finally went in and recorded the album with Lou Giordano.
I guess we basically recorded "So Long, Astoria" twice.
What you are listening to here is that first version of the album. Recorded live in the studio, very little or no overdubs, with the exception of vocals.
Tracked by Angus Cooke and Thom Flowers who have worked on pretty much all of our previous albums. Angus also played Cello on several of our records.
I feel these demos capture a certain honesty and for a moment at the time we almost actually considered releasing it "as is" and bailing on recording the actual album altogether. In hindsight I am definitely glad we did not. Ha. Because even though I think these recordings capture something kind of cool, we did definitely improve upon these songs greatly and I learned a lot from working with Lou Giordano. Many things that as a songwriter I still carry with me to this day.
Also included are some extremely early versions of the song ideas as they began to come together and a few acoustic demos that show the songs in their beginning state as they were still being written.
The rough song idea of "My Reply" began simply as a single U2-esque guitar lead which I then proceeded to layer multiple tracks of on my 4-track. CNN playing loudly on my television in the background for ambient noise effect. I guess it's sometimes little things like this that can later turn into some of our favorite sing alongs.
There are also several unfinished and untitled leftover songs from the "So Long, Astoria" sessions. Songs that were works in progress but never got finished and later got scrapped for one reason or another. In the case of this album I feel we already had enough songs and I just couldn't seem to come up with any lyrics or good enough melodies for these remaining ideas. These other song ideas just did not fit or I just did not feel they were good enough in comparison to the ones we already had.
However there is one song here that I did feel had some good parts, It's labeled "Untitled #1"
Personally I really liked the verses in that song but no matter what I could never seem to get the chorus right. The chorus here is just way too happy and poppy for the rest of the song. I never felt that it fit the song at all and I hate it. Ha. But the verse reminds me more of a Samiam or Hot Water Music vibe and I always thought it was a pretty good part. Way later I actually turned that verse into a completely different new song that I recorded in the sessions for "The Graveyard of the Atlantic." Not sure if this particular song will actually make the final cut but who knows? If it does you'll know the story and maybe you will hear it and say "Hey I think I sort of recognize that song!" :)
I thought the big noisy ending of the song was cool too. Had a bit of a early 90's vibe up the alley of Quicksand or maybe some of the more grungy Sub Pop bands. Come to think of it now... we did actually end up tracking drums for this song for "So Long, Astoria" but we never got around to finishing it. It was the only song that did not see the light of day somewhere. I remember recording it now, as it was the first time I actually played a bit of drums on one of our records. I usually write most of the basic drum parts and then I show the parts to our drummer and he plays them but for this song for the big ending part I double tracked this big trashy floor toms part. I was ultimately going for a kind of Melvins vibe since Dale Crover always doubles a lot of his drums and it sounds fucking crushing. Big and heavy. Coincidentally we were tracking this in the same exact room where Dave Grohl did a very similar Melvins-y thing for the Foo Fighters song "My Hero" which I am sure you are probably familiar with.... but anyways doesn't really matter because I don't even have a copy of it. Ha. It's probably on one of the reels for "So Long, Astoria" somewhere but yeah... That chorus. No beuno! Ha. Anyways, the new song idea that the verse later turned into is now much much better. Trust me. When and if you ever hear it you will totally agree.
And then there's also some demos that we did at Chris Knapp's old house. He was living in this big nice house with some friends in the Hollywood Hills which at first seemed like a good idea to record there. Ha. John was also living in a spare room in the house while the band was busy and he wasn't able to fly back to New York as often as he liked. Anyways it turned into this big party house that was notoriously known as the "Hesby House" Because it was on Hesby Street. One time John came home from tour and someone had thrown a big ass brick through his window! There was glass all over his bed and all over the floor of his room! He was soooo pissed! Turns out that some of Chris's friends had thrown a party one night. They went into Hollywood inviting everyone in sight. Anyone they could find! Supposedly later on in the evening when the party was in full swing, a couple of folks from the band Nashville Pussy, (who we had played with a couple times before) came up to the house to the party but things started to get a little out of hand so one of Chris's roommates kindly asked everyone to leave and supposedly later on one of the chicks in the band came back and threw a big brick through the front window. Ha! Now, I personally don't know how much of that story is completely accurate but either way it's fucking hilarious.
...and John was so pissed! You ever seen a bull when it's ready to charge someone in the ring? That's what John looks like when he gets pissed! His nostrils flare up and he looks like he's going to charge you. Ha. And I'm sure he did! I remember him saying to Chris's roomates "I'm leaving! When I get back, this fucking mess better be cleaned up!!!" Ha. Oh, and they did clean it up. Ha. But I remember John had no window in that room for a while and it was cold as shit. When the Santa Ana winds would blow, a big breeze would come cutting through the room. Fuck, it was cold! I don't know how he stayed in there for so long. Oh, the rock n' roll life. Ha. But what good times though. But yeah, we never got anything done so then we eventually moved up to Orange Whip in Santa Barbara to record the real demos that mostly make up this collection of tunes.
And lastly there are a few recordings from the pre-production session of "So Long, Astoria."
For those of you who don't know what "pre-production" is... For the most part you already have all of the songs for your album ready to be recorded, but you go in to a studio or rehearsal room one last time, play all the songs for the producer, get their input and then see if you want to fine tune any tiny parts or ideas one last time before you actually record them.
Lou felt the songs were already pretty complete "as is" but we did it anyways. One thing Lou definitely taught me is to make sure songs have peaks and valleys. To drop a song down in the verse and make sure when the chorus comes in, it is big and hits you hard. He showed me how to actually add a tiny bit of structure to what I wrote. How to refine something, how to be a better editor. All of which I still carry with me til' this day.
One additional crazy story about this very pre-production session.. We went out for lunch on one of the final days we were there. We were running late so we took our food to go and then when we went back to the rehearsal room. I tried to eat really fast so we could get back to work and before I knew it I couldn't breathe. My face started turning blue. I took a drink of water to try and help but I started drowning on the liquid. I was choking to death. Lou came up behind me and gave me the Heimlich maneuver and saved my life. True story. I couldn't make this shit up. Wish I could. That was not a fun moment. But seriously how many producers are so awesome that they not only help you make a great record but they also save your life!?! Pretty surreal. Ha.
I feel there is a certain honesty in hearing how these songs began, how they shaped up and ultimately how far they came from inception to finally being put on tape.
I hope you enjoy listening to these early versions of the songs, to hear them in their working state and while they were still taking shape, before they became the album that you know today as “So Long, Astoria”
Sincerest thanks to Lou Girodano, Angus Cooke, Thom Flowers, Bob Hoag and to you for listening.
-Kristopher / The Ataris
released December 18, 2013
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