When Longwave first began discussing where to record their newest album, There’s A Fire, the guys were thinking that they might keep things low key, perhaps stay in New York City at their poorly lit Brooklyn apartments and record somewhere in the neighborhood-maybe even record some of it themselves, like they’d done for their 2004 EP Life of the Party. It would be great-stay at home, read the newspaper, see girlfriends and wives, eat at the delis they were used to. Then producer John Leckie signed on, and plans began to change. Leckie has produced some of Longwave’s (actually, some of any intelligent human’s) favorite albums: Radiohead’s The Bends, The Verve’s first album, The Stone Roses, he’s worked with George Harrison, John Lennon, Yoko, Pink Floyd. The list goes on.
“It was his idea to go up on the mountain,” said singer and guitarist Steve Schiltz. “We were just gonna do it somewhere around here, you know. It was only a few days before we were going on tour for Life of the Party, and we find out that this studio has been booked. There were photos of it online that we looked at, and we were just amazed.”
“It just looked so much nicer than my apartment,” added guitarist Shannon Ferguson.
They were talking about Allaire Studios: a remote mansion in the Catskills, and estate originally built for Pittsburgh industrial tycoons in the 1920’s.
“The first night we got there, we stopped twice on the driveway, calling them on our cell phones because we thought we were lost. The driveway alone takes like ten minutes to just get up – and we’re in a van, hauling a trailer up these hairpin turns. It was foggy too, and finally we come to these metal gates that open up, right there in the fog. It was like a haunted mansion,” said Steve.
“And seriously - - I was right,” Shannon said. “It really was nicer than my apartment.”
Over the last few years, Longwave hasn’t spent much time in their apartments to even know what they’re like. Since forming in 2000, they have released a string of EPs and LPs, all of which have been augmented by extensive tours. The first release, 2001’s Endsongs (LunaSea Records), had them touring in Old Blue, the van that Steve’s dad found and refurbished for them in Steve’s hometown of Rochester, NY.
"It was a cargo van that had a window cut into it and some alien backseat bolted in. No radio, no AC," said Steve.
This piece of reliable scrap metal took them on endless tours of the country. First by themselves, playing odd dates up and down the east coast -- to then small tours with friends like Jolene, and finally to strings of larger shows with the likes of The Strokes. And this was all before a record deal.
It was this early grind that led to Longwave's eventual signing with RCA and the release of The Strangest Things in 2002 with producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Low, Mercury Rev) at the helm.
For The Strangest Things, Longwave finally killed Old Blue and toured the world in nicer vehicles with such acts as The Donnas, The Vines, The Raveonettes, The Mooney Suzuki, OK Go!, and Ben Lee. They did the rock triumvirate: Europe, Japan, and Australia.
The Strangest Things garnered some serious critical praise, including this subtle statement from NME: "Fucking Amazing! Christ in a sonic cathedral! A storm-busting riot-clash of the Icicle Works, Sonic Youth, Ride and My Bloody Valentine!"
In early 2004, Longwave recorded the limited edition EP, Life of the Party, with Pete Min, with whom they worked on Endsongs. After touring for Life of the Party in the summer of 2004, Longwave packed up to record the new album.
Once in Allaire Studios, the album began to take shape, building on what we've heard from Longwave before--a combination of spacey guitar work atop visceral and sometimes angular rhythms. However, There's A Fire is more dynamic than anything previously recorded by Longwave. From the sustained explosion that is "We're Not Gonna Crack," to the orchestral and spooky "Underworld" and "Down In Here," Longwave explores a wider sonic landscape here than ever before. The anthemic but inside-out title track, "There's a Fire," also introduces some of Schiltz's most cinematic lyrical work, a continuous spooky and dreamlike imagery sustained throughout the album. There's A Fire is a truly cohesive work in which you hear a band making a musical statement from an expanding musical palate, including the contributions of new multi instrumentalist Jeff Sheinkopf (keyboards, guitar, vocals), the most recent addition to the ranks.
"The songs here really work according to their own logic. It was a very organic recording experience," Steve said. "Straight to tape through an old Neve board. And the studio was open, with no dividers between the musicians tracking and the control area."
The members of Longwave are now back in their apartments, without tennis courts, without private chefs, without adequate heat. If the past is any indication, however, they will soon be leaving these apartments to come to your town, to play the club in your town, or to simply take up residence in the mansion on the hill in your town.