by Bradley King
Michael has converted his bedroom and our living room into A Studio to record some first takes of the second Longriver album. The center of his room is completely cleared; mics are set up for vocals and guitar. Mattress and box spring are leaned up against the walls covering the windows to protect the sound. The walls are draped with flowery comforters and white sheets. There’s a table with a notepad and a lamp and two of my houseplants: a pothos vine dangling down to the floor and a young spider plant. And there’s palm over in the corner . And there’s a blanket hiding the mirror.
In in the living room, Michael has set up three Neve pre-amps, and stacked them neatly on the coffee table. The equipment was borrowed from friends or rented ~ the dude at the rentals store, Michael says, was like “whoa, nobody’s ever rented this piece before” ~ meaning, it’s Nice. There’s also a mic so that he can talk to David when the door to his room is closed , and a Tascam Portastudio to make a cassette tape, and an Otari 8-track reel to reel.
When David gets here , he seems to think he’s going to be recording on the mic in the living room, and when Michael shows him the bedroom sound booth, David’s totally surprised ~ they had planned to record some rough demos to cassette just to hear the songs , but he had no idea what was waiting for him. “I feel like the boy on Youtube who cries when he’s reunited with his dog who had run away.”
David had to work today , he’s a substitute teacher at a public high school. The kids have worn him, he says, fear of criticism ~ then he goes in to start playing.
The first song is upbeat and about a boat: When the ark was building Noah, and I was sitting nowhere ~ okay, lets get on the boat. I lean back in my desk chair when I catch the line about sitting nowhere ~ it creaks, I wonder if I’m creaking in the background
Mid the third song , David’s voice startles me, now it sounds clear and in the room with me rather than muffled through a wall . Michael has got him playing through our hIfI speakers , I walk to the living room and sit on the floor, Michael doesn’t look up : he’s adjusting knobs on his three machines , then turns to face the Otari siting to the left of the couch and Does Something to that.
They’re moving fast , David plays one song right after another. The tape keeps rolling. Michael keeps everything rolling. For him it’s about much more than operating these machines. Michael is inspired , sometimes he seems more enthusiastic about the music than David. He’s dancing around in his headphones. It’s an atmosphere that’s free of judgment, free from criticism, full of invitation, full of affirmation and admiration. He’s got water and tea always ready when David comes out for a break.
David’s out for a break ~ “you guys are gonna have to be the judge, I’m a spent man, I guess I have to surrender,”
“ Naw man ~ fuck surrender” says Michael
“ Naw I mean like surrender , you know? fears, doubts, hope.”
“ Let’s just do some pushups ~ 15 push ups”
[DO 15 PUSHUPS TOGETHER]
“ I guess I’m going to go play some more . ”
The next song is direct and demanding , it repeats the line “Wasting Time” in the myriad of contexts : wherever I look I’m wasting time , I point and click on wasting time , I open the book of wasting time. It’s our song of criticism, sung worn and surrendered, but with a power that invites everyone see ourselves honestly and collectively.
Now David’s already through three more songs , he takes a quick break and then rerecords the first half of album , and that’s it. When he finishes he says “There’s something that happens when you record ~ it’s like playing the songs a hundred times ~ it’s fire.”
They plan to record more in a month or so, and release the album in 2018.