In 2015 we were on the verge of releasing Book of Guinnesses, our first full-length on vinyl. We have four other releases on CD, a few CD EP’s, and two 7- inch singles. In between our two record release parties for Guinnesses, our drummer quit. Within a week we recruited Rob Budowsky to learn enough songs to save the second record release in July of that year. Rob had filled in once for us and was a good friend. He had also played in another band with one of our members. We were good as new. We then added my street performing partner Emile Milgrim to the mix, and the band seemed ready to rock!
Loss seemed to haunt us going forward. First I lost my father-in-law unexpectedly in late 2015, then my mother had an accident and passed away in May 2016. I was already writing songs for the band since we had a new feel, and wrote “Don’t Let Your Ghosts Down” the last day my mother was alive, as a sort of ode to her, my father-in-law and others that were not with us.
In June of that year the Pulse Nightclub Shooting happened, and the following day the news announcement was “a new record for shooting deaths,” and I looked at my wife and said “records are made to be broken” in sadness. I realized that would make a great song but would not write about this event out of respect. I ended up writing “Broken Records” about an unfinished Phil Ochs song, the story of Evel Knievel, and Marie Antoinette. Go figure – more loss, more music. I had already written a song about a guy who was so cool he didn’t have a gun, so I figured I had both bases covered. That one is called “Johnny Ain’t Got No Gun.” I wanted to write a Johnny song, and the pun on the book and movie Johnny Got His Gun was golden.
I’ve always loved Midnight Cowboy and its Hollywood, Florida connection, and conjured the band into doing its theme. Barry Stock, our guitar extraordinaire, worked up a slide guitar ode to the beautiful melody of the song, and our “Mr. Gadget” of the band, John Mahoney, worked in strings in the vein of “Everybody’s Talking” by Nilsson, to compliment the tune. We had been toying with the idea and it worked. It was all done on John’s iPhone using a GarageBand “keyboard” patch through his guitar pickup.
As the year went on we became a really tight sextet. We had seven songs ready to record including another instrumental and a barn burner titled “The Great Escape,” which was the first song I wrote with the new lineup. It implies some love, loss and other secret messages that make you shout “woo-hoo!”
I always wanted to record with Andrew Yeomanson (Le Spam) at City of Progress studio and we bounced around dates until early January 2017. We entered ready to rock and hungry to make something special. Andrew’s home studio is so amazing and comfortable, and filled with every toy imaginable. His ear for music is almost as incredible as his home-roasted coffee that he fuels your head with. That two-inch tape and Trident board capture magic. We crushed our weekend session and “Ghosts” even brought a tear to my eye.
As the process of overdubbing was happening in early March, my longest band cohort Brandon Samdahl. our bassist, decided to call it quits. Another loss. We were determined to finish this record and I had written two new songs that needed recording. We were having so much fun at City of Progress that we wanted to capture these too. One of these songs sprung from a funny thing Emile said while practicing vocals together. She said “I’m Going Up On You”. That was total song material there and I wrote it quickly. The other was a funny saying about Hüsker Dü. “Everyone is all Bob Mould but I’m so Grant Hart.” I loved Grant’s solo records and they seemed to always go under the radar while Mr. Mould’s got all the praise. No knock on Bob though, and I ended up writing a gem. While we were in the final mixing stages of this song Grant Hart passed away. We really wanted him to hear it. Another loss in the process.
We went back in the studio and dug into recording the two new fresh ones. During these sessions Barry lost his dad. He even toughed through a recording session while hearing some dire news. A real champ there as a bandmate.
By the latter part of 2017 we had 9 songs of basic tracks and overdubs in the can. The process of weeding out with Andrew continued to take place. While busy during studio time I quoted a poem I had written with heavy importance about equality and not being too proud of our nation’s take on it. Andrew said “we have to make something of that.” Bingo, 10 tracks makes an album.
The process of all this was kind of the cure to all the sorrows in our lives. The album title stems from an old painting my wife and I have had for years which became the album cover. Pure folk art for the music- minded people. We recruited Jordan Kohn as our bass player, who knows as much if not more about loss than any of us, but that’s another story. We are looking forward to making new music with him in the studio soon. For now though, we give you Good Black Medicine Here.