Greyhounds by Tapir Productions
Have you ever been handed a cocktail and
upon taking a sip, sputtered, choked, and let loose with a "WHOO!" You
were expecting a smooth Captain & Coke, but what you got was Wild Turkey?
That’s the deep-down straight-to-the-gut burn I experienced when I first
listened to the new Greyhounds
album, Liberty. I've been familiar with the band and their loose,
laid-back soul-jazz groove for several years, so imagine my surprise when I was
greeted with a much dirtier, more rockin' sound than I'd ever expect from
this young Texas trio. With rich, multi-layered tracks like "Yeah Yeah Yeah"
and "Hot Sauce," it's evident the group has truly found its voice.
Indeed, in a literal way, as Liberty sees keyboardist Anthony Farrell
sounding like the result of a one-nighter between Bill Withers and Sly Stone
as he steps up on vocals for the first time (the great track "It's All Over
but the Shoutin'"). Their new sound is the product of years of incredibly hard
touring and writing (and most certainly their relocation back to their home turf
of Texas), and it pays tribute to the fundamentals that always made them a great
live band with the addition of mature songwriting and a turn towards a more
organic, rock-solid sound. Think of 'em as a once-smooth stone rubbed gritty
with sandpaper and dipped in a shot glass full-a Jack... With a barbecue sauce
In their journeys as one of the jam/groove
scene's most relentless touring acts--it's not uncommon for them to venture across several states overnight to get to a gig--Greyhounds were
fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of another of the hottest groups in
this musical arena, Galactic.
It's here that our story begins--check the liner notes of Liberty and you'll
see that the album was produced by two members of that New Orleans powerhouse,
drummer Stanton Moore and bassist Robert Mercurio. I managed to
sit down with Stanton, Robert, Greyhounds drummer Nick Pencis, and keyboardist
Anthony Farrell to get the scoop on how they achieved Liberty.
How did you meet Greyhounds?
Ha! Greyhounds! They’re this band. From
Texas? I hear they're pretty good.
came to our show in Boulder in 2001. I think I may have met them at a show
before that, but that was the first time we really met officially.
Robert: I first saw them at the Hi-Ho Lounge after one of our shows during JazzFest 2002. I didn't actually meet
them that night, but it was an intimate affair and I felt like I already knew
Were you familiar with their music before
you took them on as a project?
little bit. You know, I'd sat in with them and checked them out a little bit.
They were doing this soul-jazz thing for a while. Then they changed the
direction they were going in. They wrote a lot of great new tunes--I think they
changed for the better. Andrew's a really talented songwriter, and he's only
gonna get better--I mean, they're all young so... I'm really proud of what
they did on this record. They totally had their shit together. They really came
up with a new voice on this record. It's raw, kind of who they are and what
they grew up with, and it sounds really cool.
Where did the band rehearse and write?
Nick: We heard
from our good friend Elbert Wright that the Liberty Theater (in Tyler, TX)
was being renovated and the owner was super cool. Andrew and the owner, Jake
James, hit it off really well. Jake gave us a key and insisted that we make
ourselves at home. We worked on these tunes in there off and on during November
and December of 2002 and then headed to New Orleans to record in January. It was
such an amazing, creative atmosphere. I mean, there is a freakin' jet hanging
from the ceiling! How cool is that? The Liberty couldn't have been more
perfect for us. It was an easy choice to name the record as a tribute and I
can't imagine it happening any other way.
What was the most challenging part of
preparing for the album?
fact that we were working under a deadline--we weren't used to that type of
pressure to create, but I think it inspired us. We've been working towards
this for years and now we finally had our chance to show people what we can do.
Anthony Farrell and Robert Mercurio
Did you find that you had an idea of a
specific sound you wanted to produce for them or was it just organic?
sound is pretty much straightforward on this record. It is what it is--Nick
played on vintage drums, Anthony plays an organ, and Andrew is on guitar a
majority of the time. So it's pretty much an organ trio with Anthony pushin'
bass. So it's like we just wanted to get nice, fat tones, y'know?
Anthony: Yeah, it was great getting to
use vintage keyboards such as the clav and Dave Pirner's (of Soul Asylum)
Wurlitzer. I haven't had the chance to play those types of
instruments before and it was a real
pleasure to get to work with sounds that I've loved listening to growing up.
How do you feel you all worked together?
What was the balance of power?
Robert: It was a
combined effort, I went into it thinking there would be more experimenting going
on, but we ended up just tightening up the tunes they had. This band's record
is a perfect representation of the great songs they had written. They had almost
total freedom. We took into account their suggestions and they would listen to
ours. We usually agreed on stuff--it became the 5-headed animal that wanted to
take over the world.
Stanton: A lot of it was just us
offering constructive criticism. "Instead of going to the verse after the
solo, I think we should go to the chorus," or "I think we need four bars in
front instead of eight bars..." Simple things. They'd say, "Oh, no, man, that
tune? We usually play it much slower than this," and I'd say "No! That
Nick: We all got along really well.
They were great producers. You'd never know it was their first time in that
position. Plus the guys that they hired to engineer (Goat--Drums
& Tuba, Ani
DiFranco) and mix (Michael Napolitano--Squirrel Nut Zippers, Blind Melon,
Galactic, Garage a Trois)
were freaking AMAZING.
Was there a big shift in the music from
start to finish?
Nick Pencis and Stanton Moore
really a big shift, I don't think. One thing that they did while recording was Nick played all these tunes with a click-track, so everything is just block-rockin' and relentless. It just made everything really feel solid--they came in playing live to 2" tape, so it's not like on our new record (Ruckus) where we wrote shit, rewrote it, demo'ed it, re-recorded it,
re-re... You know, went in and tweaked it out, always changing it, always
messing with it until we got the final product--their thing was just come in
and play to tape, which is how we did our first record.
Robert: They worked their collective
ass off. They hustled and wrote some great, mature songs in a very short amount
of time. Greyhounds started a jazz/funk/jamband and became an original Texas
soul band, which I think is so much more what they are about.
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
Robert: I like
"Troubled Days"--it has a great bass line, great lyrics, and they just
killed it. It is a very sexy song.
Stanton: "Hot sauce" and "Yeah
Yeah Yeah." There are so many good tunes on the record!
Nick: I have my fave's because of the creative process. "Yeah Yeah Yeah," "Troubled
Days," and "Hot Sauce" were written because of new toys. I got a cowbell
for my birthday, Andrew had this lap steel that he bought when he lived in L.A.
and he had never even played it. He blew the dust off and pulled it out one day
to screw around. He also found his old harmonica--he said he wanted to see if
he could play it. Turned out he could.
Speaking of new toys, I don't know if a
voice counts, but I'd never heard Anthony sing before. I was shocked!
Ani laying down "Black Hole"
he sounded good. He's gonna blow up.
Did you bring any friends in to help? And
how did Ani DiFranco end up on the record?
Robert: We used
two great engineer friends of ours, Mike Napolitano and Goat to do the project.
They both kicked ass and went the extra mile under a tight budget. As for Ani,
she was living in the studio house. She'd pop in throughout the 5-day session
and took a liking to the band. Andrew was sweet-talking her and finally one day
just asked her if she'd sing on "Black Hole." She was more than happy to
"try," and the outcome is one of my favorite moments on the record.
So is this your first full album as
producers. Do you want to do it again soon?
Anthony Farrell and Stanton Moore
Hopefully some bands or labels out their will like what we did and think about
using us someday. It is something that I am very interested in pursuing. I plan
on producing some of my own projects. From working on the Galactic records and
this one, it makes me feel more comfortable about the making of a record.
Stanton: There's just so many
projects that I want to get done, but If someone asked me and I had the time, I'd
love to do it, but right now there are so many projects that I'm pursuing--a
DVD, another Garage A Trois record, some solo stuff, a book--I need to
concentrate on those things first.
Where did you record the album? And in the
studio, what constitutes a good vibe for you--what mood contributes to your
creativity? How important is the vibe of the room?
Anthony: Down in
New Orleans at the Truck Farm.
Stanton: Well, the killin-est studio
of all time was Kingsway in New Orleans--it was like this decaying mansion. It
was awesome. Crumbling--it just added to the killer vibe--antique furniture,
oriental rugs, just really comfortable--it felt like you were in somebody's
living room. And, the same people that ran Kingsway now run the Truck Farm. So I
really dig that kind of a vibe. I mean that's what we did at the Galactic
studio. We have a big room where we all play--lots of chairs, oriental rugs
where we can just sit and hang, or there's another whole room with big sofas
and Christmas lights.
Robert: I think the vibe of the studio
is very important. Stanton and I went to visit Truck Farm before we tracked
there to make sure it had a great vibe and would make these guys feel
comfortable on their first recording. The last thing you want for a new band is
to feel uncomfortable.
Stanton: Yeah, The Truck Farm's a
really cool spot--it's got a really nice vibe.
Nick: I felt like we were playing in
our buddy's house. It was so laid back! Very comfortable. And to top it off, we
were practically in the Quarter.
Anthony: New Orleans definitely had a
big impact on how I felt in the studio. There's just something about the whole
flavor of the town. It made me feel like in order to be worthy of recording in
NOLA, we really had to put our best foot forward since there is so much musical
history there. There was a little bit of pressure, but thanks to Stanton's and
Robert's help, I feel grateful that we got to be a small part of that in some
Interview by: Gina Figliuolo
JamBase | Texas
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