CT's Souvenirs and Evidence, Volume One
Pressing records has gotten progressively more expensive and we've had to raise some of our prices (both wholesale and retail) recently in order to stay afloat, which I still hate doing, but it's necessary. With this Cheap Tragedies LP, I wanted to spare no expense because I knew the recording would come out awesome. (Well, almost no expense; I had to nix the idea of a million different colored vinyl versions since we couldn't afford that.) All told, the damn thing cost me about a year's worth of rent, and I dare say it was worth it. I just want to share a few stories on how to came about. Below will be part 1 of my musings.
I hadn't known Tony Erba was in a new band when he sent me an email on myspace about it. I guess he was hitting people up he had worked with previously in other bands and MATW put out a 9 Shocks disc after we met when they played the house I was living at in NJ in '01 (Step Sister played there in '02 as well.) Now, I rather hate myspace communications because myspace has a knack for crashing my browser and just taking a long time to get anything done, so I'm often very late in responding to messages there. I guess Tony was eager to get the ball rolling, and he's an impatient mofo, so 2-3 days later I get another message basically saying "Thanks for not listening to my band's demo, asshole!" So I told emailed him told him about my email woes and asked him to take it easy. Funny thing is, I definitely wanted to hear this, if only because it was Tony's new band, he's back on vocals, and also because the last "ex-9 Shocks" band that asked us to do something was the Homostupids, which I wish we would have jumped on (that's another funny story though).
When I did listen to the Cheap Tragedies demo, I was taken aback. I didn't know what I was expecting, but it was nothing like what I was expecting. Much more tuneful than Tony's immediately preceding hardcore efforts, and Erba even carries a tune! On first listen I kind of pegged it a more melodic, late 80's hardcore affair, which was well executed, but not typically something I get terribly excited about. On repeated listens though, there was definitely a lot going on there-- tight musicianship, creative song structures, interesting leads, and a definite rust-belt rock influence beaming through the songs. Yeah, I did want to do something with these dudes....
Tony and I spent some time going back and forth brainstorming-- seems he wanted us to do their LP. OK, but LPs are expensive-- can I afford this? MATW certainly couldn't, but with a little saving on my part, I could probably front the money. "Cool, now we've got this great deal to record at Mars studio, could you front the money for this?" "Uhhh....." So I did. Things were quiet for a while, and recording updates seemed to indicate things were going smooth--- except they needed just a little bit more dough. Fine.
Then one day I'm relaxing at home on a weekend on the eve of Cheap Tragedies finishing up laying down all the tracks in the studio, and I get a soul-bearing email from Tony about how he loves his bands, can't stop playing music, totally wants to do right by us for helping out his band (which is pretty much what I've experienced from the guy, so it was kind of known already, but it was touching to see it in print), BUT-- he's absolutely fed up with those dudes and can't take it anymore. He's leaving! DOH! Needless to say I was quite bummed. I put together a quick response-- "don't sweat it, we'll figure something out," but I can't help but feel super bummed about CT's potential demise. I stewed on it for a little bit, crunched some numbers, and figured I could still break even on the whole thing on the strength of the band's members' reputation and whatnot, and decided not to stress too much.
Then I actually heard the record. Even as a rough mix, it was a monster. To say "epic" didn't even do it justice. The guitars were loud, the drumming fierce, rumbling bass, screeching leads, and Tony laid down an absolutely intense vocal performance. He wasn't lying when he said it was his best. The lyrics (what I could make out of them) were totally on point as well. In spite of the fact that there was some precision musicianship on those tracks, the songs could barely contain the energy. So much going on on this record, and it was still a hardcore record from top to bottom. I was totally floored, and listened to the damn thing 5 times in a row when I finally got it. No wonder dude was so stressed out; from the sound of it, these guys must have fuckin' labored in the studio like nobody's business. I composed a lengthy email to Tony expressing my thoughts about the record: they wrote and recorded one hell of a record. Not only was it a good-- nay, great-- record, but I'd go so far as to say they went above and beyond and recorded an important record. As in, one that would be listened to and sought after years from now. I wrote that a lot of bands who reach that caliber probably couldn't stand each other but that somehow it just works. I thought it would be worthwhile for them to stay together, and listening to the thing, I'm not surprised they didn't come close to murdering each other. (Ian later confided in me, for example, that on one particular day, he was recording drum tracks for 10 hours straight.) But if it really was the end of the road, it would still be a great record and one I'd be proud to put out. The response: he'd try not to stab the other members of the band, so they stayed together.
(Part 2 coming soon. Not to worry, the story has a happy ending, and these dudes obviously don't hate each other.)