Garage A Trois 2.0

 
[Next time] you steal music, I'll be there, while you sleep, pissing on your face. But seriously, that's evil. That's taking money from me and other musicians.

-Skerik

 

Photo by: Michael Weintrob

Initial recording was done in New Orleans at Galactic's studio space, Number C, over two days in December 2007. When the material was in the can, Benevento explains, "We sat with it for a while. We weren't sure we had enough material and we didn't have a label to put it on."

Garage A Trois at Bear Creek 2009 by Amada Kaschkarow
"We shopped it around for over a year. It was frustrating because there are no more labels because everyone uses BitTorrent and people no longer go to record stores. [Next time] you steal music, I'll be there, while you sleep, pissing on your face," laughs Skerik. "But seriously, that's evil. That's taking money from me and other musicians."

Frustrated but not deterred, Marco and publicist Kevin Calabro decided to put Power Patriot - an album, according to Skerik, named after a sexually aggressive bull once owned by Dillon's dad - out on their home-cooked label, The Royal Potato Family. In order to have enough material for the release, the band went back into the studio for a secondary session to record the coruscating '70s synth-rock track "Computer Crimes."

"I think records shouldn't be too long. Vinyl had built-in limitations, but CDs had 74 minutes to work with and it created a bad precedent," says Skerik of the roughly 48-minute disc. "We subscribed to the 'less is more' school of thought."

Garage A Trois finished the final track at the Studio in the Country, a recording industry relic in Louisiana.

"It was such a badass studio," says Benevento, "It's where Stevie Wonder, Kansas, and Willie Nelson have recorded. They had all this pimped out gear and over the day we recorded a bunch of extra tape."

Mike Dillon
"As soon as you walk through the doors, it's 1976," adds Skerik. "It is one of my favorite studios in the world."

After that session, the group again let the material marinate a bit as they hammered out the release plan. Benevento, ever the tinkerer, would later go back in his "Bat Cave" and fiddle with the final mix and track order. "A couple of the tunes, like 'Rescue Spreaders,' were sketches and didn't feel finished, so I finished them after the fact at home," says Benevento.

Given the different approach to this album and the different roster and new dynamic, how did the songwriting duties and process break down?

"Most of the songs came to the studio pretty fully realized so the initial process was pretty straightforward and easy," says Moore of the ten tunes on the album. "The compositions were really strong; all instrumentally driven."

"Not all the songs were written specifically for Garage A Trois. Actually 'Dugout' was a Go-Go [Jungle] tune and "Germs" was originally for the [Hairy] Apes," says Dillon. And it's fortunate that "Dugout" was brought to Garage A Trois' table because Benevento absolutely kills it. "You know, it's easier to write in New Orleans," Dillon continues. "It's pretty simple. I make a cup of coffee, go for a run, and play music all day. The songs just come up. With 'Computer Crimes' and '[Electric] Door Bell Machine,' they were already written and I was hoping they'd work."

Garage A Trois at Bear Creek 2009 by Amada Kaschkarow
Skerik is of a similar school of thought. "If I know a certain band is going into the studio, whenever I'm practicing at home – if I'm working on a certain scale or time signature – during that process, I'll be flushing out every variable and I'll record what I think has promise, what could be the base of a song," he says. Skerik is perhaps most effective on this album in the creation of the standout title track; a futuristic romp with glitchy effects and a punchy, syncopated beat interspersed with dense squall. My only concern is Skerik and Dillon's synergistic creativity is evident not only with Garage A Trois, but in Critters Buggin' and Dead Kenny Gs, and though not redundant, the style can be a touch specific.

Benevento says of his contributions, "Hearing The Duo gives you a pretty good idea of my go-to song style. Lately I've been into epic rock like the Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, and [David] Bowie. I'm into lots of melodic songwriting."

A fantastic example of this is "Fragile," featuring a low-end fuzz and lovely melody reminiscent of Morphine. "Radiohead and Grizzly Bear are using interesting harmonies and expanded instrumentation, which I like," offer Skerik.

The compositions on Power Patriot, for the most part, reflect this ethos. While I immensely enjoyed and appreciated the Garage A Trois from the first half of this decade, I honestly feel this lineup and sound is what Garage A Trois was meant to be and what will take them to the next level. While the former Garage A Trois' sound felt more rooted in cross-cultural, past musical traditions, the new sound feels current and even futuristic. Even with Hunter, recent albums had incorporated more studio effects and experimentation with technology, and not technologies designed to make a mediocre artist sound good but those designed to make great music sound awesome.

So what can fans expect now that the band has found the collective time to tour?

Garage A Trois by Greg Aiello
"Oh man, the shows have been off the hook!" says an excited Skerik about the first three shows in Louisiana and Texas in mid-November. "The new songs are just so much fun to play. It's great to get in the process of perfecting them and to get it out there."

"You know, we're still high energy!" Moore assures us.

"We'll play songs off the record and call tunes as we play them - some of our older repertoire, new sounds, different song types. It'll be less monochromatic [than the album] with more colors," adds Benevento. "Last weekend at Bear Creek [Music Festival], we did cover tunes and improv. There was a lot of room for changes."

"You know, the songs are just a jumping off point," says Dillon. "Sometimes Skerik and Marco have gone to another planet with a song and there's no coming back. That's just how it goes."

"Skerik is fearless," Moore concurs, "but those are large risks that often pay off musically. It's fresh."

It is ultimately the chemistry of the players and the sonic vision of the band that determine its success. Forced to risk altering their sound with new players, Garage A Trois has succeeded by using less traditional approaches to an instrument's role and technology to excite the instrumentation. Strong compositional skill and understanding of one another's strengths has been paramount and a firm belief in exploring the unknown a prerequisite. You can see them on both coasts through the end of the year and Japan at the end of January.

Garage A Trois is on tour now; dates available here.

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[Published on: 12/10/09]

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