[Danny Shaheen graces us all with another guest appearance on the Fletch blog. Since he’s a better writer than me, read up! -Cody]
The last time that anyone updated this blog was this past spring when Cody was heading up to Alaska for his third year in a row. What none of us had taken the opportunity to write about at that juncture was the 7” vinyl that we recorded shortly before Cody headed north. Our friends Dave and Laura Hoenack are putting the record out on their Hymie’s Records label, and we are once again immensely in their debt (both in terms of gratitude and also financially speaking. We’re good for it, I swear!). The two songs on the disc are special, in that they capture a significant moment of our group’s evolution. We’re releasing the 7” on February 19 at Icehouse. Think of this blog as equal parts promotion and our end-of-year Shutterfly holiday card update that you typically get from relatives.
The inspiration for the ‘45 came during the Southern US tour Cody and I took early last year. While we were in Memphis we had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Kitty Wompas, a burlesque performer who came to see us play a couple times. Kitty asked us if we had a recording of our song Lady Tarantella, and asked if we would mind if she used it in her routine. We liked the idea of one of our songs entering the rotation in Memphis’ burlesque scene, and we resolved to get something recorded once we returned home.
To catch you all up to speed, Cody and I toured for a month throughout February and March, got sicker than hell of each other (ask us about the post-New Orleans camping trip sometime), became the best of friends again, and put together a residency at Reverie throughout the month of April with the full band (all seven of us plus revolving guests). The weekly April shows proved effective in holding us accountable for learning how to live inside these songs as a musical collective, and perform in a democratic nature so as not to step on anyone else’s toes (literally and figuratively) onstage. If you remember that scene in D2: The Mighty Ducks where the whole hockey team has to learn how to skate together while they’re all tied up to one another (2:11 of this clip), it was a bit like that – try to strike out on your own, and everyone falls over.
Given that we’d put in all this hard work, had a slick, well-oiled band we were playing with, and knew our time was limited before Cody headed back up North, we figured that we’d do well to capture a document of what Fletch in Spring of 2016 sounded like; I’m glad we did. We recorded two songs in the old Polish School building in Northeast Minneapolis, each tracked as live as possible (one or two auxiliary instruments were the only overdubs). Based on a recommendation from our drummer Gabe, we booked Paul Flynn (of Midwest Paul Cook fame) to engineer the session – couldn’t have picked a better guy for the job.
Listening to the single, you’ll find Cody pleading on Lady Tarantella and preaching on Sad Sack; slinky, cascading guitars by me; pedal AND lap steel by Ross Fellrath that Marc Bromaghim-Oropeza’s organ playing fits inside like a glove; upright bass (that groans and pops like an old floorboard in the best possible way) by Rory Alt; electric bass by Sir Paul DeLong; shuffling drums from Gabe Roy; Jonah Rees on musical saw; and last but not least, a spontaneous vocal performance from Meg Ashling who filled in for our dear friend and backup vocalist Victoria Carpenter.
Viki bade us farewell early last spring to take on the awesome (in the truest sense of the word) task of filming a documentary of two friends who broke a world(?) record for being the first women-led team to traverse the fourth longest waterway system in the world. More info about the upcoming documentary, as well as their nonprofit organization – Source of Confidence – can be found here. Surely we’ll get the chance to hear Viki’s vocals sometime in the near future (with Fletch or otherwise), but for now we’ll eagerly await the documentary’s completion while we welcome those canoeing badasses back home to Minnesota.
Recording only took an evening, but due to the lengthy process that is vinyl production (not to mention sending mixes back and forth from Minneapolis to Denali National Park) we’re only just getting copies into our hands now. In between while Cody was in Alaska, though, we certainly kept busy; Paul wasted no time during Fletch’s hiatus and joined glam rock band Kiss the Tiger (in addition to, as always, holding it down in Minnesota’s #1 Springsteen tribute band, Tramps Like Us), Ross jetted off to Spain to passionately immerse in his flamenco guitar studies, Marc got promoted and became a manager at the nonprofit organization Project Success (and helped plan his own wedding), Gabe gigged around on washboard with Mike Gunther, The Dumpy Jug Bumpers, and others; and I went to Slovakia to study counseling psychology. Miraculously, after all those divergent paths, the majority of us reconvened in October once Cody had returned to begin playing shows again.
With Viki still floating down a river somewhere, Cody’s longtime romantic partner and Alaskan produce growing expert Emmalyn Kayser joined the group to fill in on backing vocals. Emmalyn’s no stranger to these songs, and her voice is all over our full-length. She and Cody performed as a duo in Alaska all summer long, honed their musical style together, and brought us home some new arrangements and melodies. Given that the two sold out of all the copies of the album so early on in their summer, and I had to ship another box up there for them, I’d say they were successful.
As it stands at the moment the core group consists of me, Cody, Emmalyn, Paul, and Marc – Ross is still studiously playing flamenco (exquisitely, I might add – I have great memories of our time in Chicago when Paul, Viki, and I were on a balcony chatting in the sun with Ross’ guitar floating up from the street below); Gabe also got stretched a bit thin between his many musical endeavors, and bowed out after our last show to focus more intently on his other projects. Rumor has it that his band of longtime Northeast favorites Gabe Barnett & them Rounders will be returning with an album’s worth of new material before too long – we’ll just have to wait and see. I personally am really hoping for that new Rounders record now that Barnett is done running for State Representative.
As I’m writing I feel compelled to take pause, and Cody and I have had numerous discussions about this – we’re floored that so many talented folks have wanted to be a part of our music. From when we first brought Paul into the fold a little over a year ago, we’ve had a revolving door of great talent who’ve each made the music their own in ways we could never have predicted. We’re now at the point where the core group is solid enough that where we’re even entertaining the idea of bringing in songs written by other members to break up Cody’s lead vocal duties (Paul, no pressure finishing that tune, but I’ve got a feeling you’ve got something really special on your hands).
Lastly, we couldn’t be happier about the shows we have coming up over the next couple months. Tonight, Saturday January 7th, we’ll be supporting our friends Pleasure Horse release their new EP at Icehouse, and are welcoming back Jordan Hedlund who will sit in on drums with us. Jordan, for those of you who aren’t aware, recorded the drums for Became a Stranger, and has been a musical collaborator with Marc for years. Jordan has also agreed to accompany us to play Palmers on Friday, January 27th, and for our ‘45 release on February 19th at Icehouse. We’re excited to see how far this current iteration of the band takes us. Thank you for reading and for your support – come say hi at one of the shows!
See you around,