Photo: Antoinette Grajeda
Fayetteville band High Lonesome will celebrate the release of a new record this week.
The band is planning an album release party for their new 10-track record, It’s Midnight, I’m Not Famous Yet, on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Stage 18 just off the downtown square.
The record was recorded over the course of about a year in 2016-17 at Let’s Talk Figures studios on Dickson Street.
An $8 cover the evening of the show gets you in, and a download code for the new album. Locals Open Fields will open the show.
We got in touch with songwriter Martin Bemberg (Memphis Pencils) via email this week to talk about the new album, and this weekend’s release party, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
What have you been listening to lately?
It kind of depends on where I am. For instance, if I’m in a bar with a jukebox, I always play “F*ck Tha Police.” Or say, in Charlottesville last August, through my ghetto blaster I played a recitation the Koran at full volume in the faces of all the Oathkeepers protecting the right to be a Nazi in public. I also played “F*ck Tha Police.” (You know me, I’ve always been a provacateur.)
Katherine has had the same albums in her car’s CD changer since we met, so we’re going on two years of Father John Misty’s “I Love You Honeybear,” (our song is “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me”), “To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar, T. Rex’s “Unicorn” and “Combat Rock” by The Clash. (Katherine is also an expert on the early Blues, so I have to include Memphis Minnie, Bessy Smith, and Blind Willie McTell.) She and I both grew up with parents who had NPR playing pretty much non-stop — Terry Gross for dinner five nights a week — and in either one of our cars you’ll find 91.3 on preset number one. There’s something special about listening to local public radio, and not just KUAF either (although it’s my default from 11:00-3). When I’m lucky enough to be in the car during rush hour I catch Democracy Now! on KPSQ Community radio.
If I need to tune out for a bit, I throw on KXUA. To be honest, I listen to the 2017 Let’s Talk Figures Christmas album, “Xmas 4 Dummies” more than any other music. Elsewise I’m most impressed by Gillian Welch, Run The Jewels, St. Vincent, Billy Bragg & Wilco’s “Mermaid Avenue, Volume II,” Julia Lucille, And of course, Father John Misty’s latest, “Pure Comedy.” I don’t care what the haters say. I made a promise to love everything he does and I intend to keep it. My favorite song at the moment is “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait.
Oh, and it’s the tenth anniversary of some devastating, transcendental stuff that went down ten years ago, so it’s about time I go cry alone in my bedroom to Feist’s “The Reminder.”
How long have you been working on the new record?
We started writing songs for the new record back in 2014, maybe even as early as winter of 2013, but certainly before we’d released Get Some Young. The record took a total of 16 months to finish. And we’ve been sitting on it for another four or so.
Where did you guys record? Tell us a bit about the experience of making this one.
As I mentioned earlier we recorded at Let’s Talk Figures, with Bob Gaiser and me (but mostly Bob) engineering the album, and Willie Kyrzsenzki doing the mixing, and all the other stuff producers do. Our first recording session was in May of 2016. We managed to live-track all ten songs in five hours. I did all the lead vocals in one or two sessions, and after that, we pretty much had ourselves a whole summer of lazy-day studio magic. We worked in and out of the studio — I’ve still got notebooks full of ideas for overdubs and post-production, mixing suggestions, et al. By the time I fell for the aforementioned Katherine, in August of 2016, the album sounded fine to me. But I’d occasionally sit in on mixing sessions anyway. Eventually Sean and Willie told me I wasn’t welcome at the mixing sessions, which worked out for everyone. All I ever did was talk about how great everything sounded. Willie has the best ear of anyone I know. It feels good to be able to put your work into someone else’s hands and know that it will come out better than you thought was possible, that it will come out perfect. Same goes for Eric Whitthans, who mastered the album at Homestead Recordings. Willie’s post-production tweaks and Eric’s mastering, along with some tape magic, made all the difference, and the wait worthwhile. I can’t thank them nor recommend them highly enough.
What about the subject matter for this record. What are you writing about these days?
I think we covered a lot of ground on this one. One major motif is all the literary and pop culture references, some subtle and some overt, from Tom Petty and Herman’s Hermits parodies to empty threats involving Mountain Dew and a madman’s kinship with Ayn Rand. “V.” and “Meno & Me” are, in a broad sense, about two of my favorite works of literature –Plato’s Meno and Thomas Pynchon’s V. — and how strikingly life imitates art. “Jocelyn,” is a first person account of a manic episode and its aftermath. It’s not perfectly autobiographical, but as an expert on manic-depressive illness, I highly recommend it.
You know, thought for sure that “I’m A Good Looking Man,” our tongue-in-cheek vanity-anthem, or “V.”, the catchiest of catchy make-ya-wanna-dance tune, would be the album’s standout, if not defining, tracks. Unfortunately this album will probably be taken by some as an exclusively political statement. That’s not to say that the album isn’t political. Because it is — every act, even inaction, is political. What’s unfortunate is that the songs written two, three years ago, songs that happen to have a sociopolitical bent to them (“She’s In Love With A Fascist,” “Meno & Me,” and “Lucille”) are far more relevant than they were when they were written. Correction: regarding “Lucille,” it’s beautiful, not at all unfortunate, that third wave feminism is not only more relevant but has in part become mainstream.
These songs were written between the winter of 2013-14 and spring of 2016: before Charlottesville; before a reality TV star became the most powerful man in the world; before #MeToo and the Women’s March. But at the same time it would be myopic, and silly, to mistake these tunes as prophetic. Because fascism, anti-intellectualism, and especially violence against women are nothing new under the capitalist, imperialst, white-supremacist patriarchy. But don’t get me wrong — this is a fun album. You don’t have to be Antifa to sing and dance along. You don’t even have to be a leftist to be in High Lonesome.
You mentioned you made a mix CD before you started the band to encapsulate the kind of music you wanted to play with High Lonesome. What tracks were on that CD?
5. Yeah! Just recently I discovered a mix CD in my car called “Modern Man” and dated 9/5/2012. So I popped it into my stereo, and song after song after song took me back to that period after Memphis Pencils had called it quits. At some point amid those couple bandless years, I decided I wanted to do something different, which oddly enough meant I just wanted to play some rock and roll. While “Modern Man” wasn’t curated to do so intentionally, it very much encapsulates my earliest visions for what would become High Lonesome. I just want to say, I think it’s so cool that two Fayetteville bands — Swimming, and Moon/Ruin — made my subconscious to-do list.
Here’s the track list.
1. The Arcade Fire – “Modern Man”
2. Warren Zevon – “Johnny Strikes Up The Band”
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”
4. Elvis Costello – “Miracle Man”
5. Moon/Ruin – “Ocean”
6. The Rolling Stones – “Under My Thumb”
7. Swimming – “Frands”
8. Here We Go Magic – “Collector”
9. Television – “Guiding Light”
10. Tom Petty – “Keeping Me Alive”
Tell us a bit about the release party. What’s going on on the 27th?
Our record release party will be at Stage Eighteen, our favorite venue in town, and happens to feature the best sound guy in town, Dave Embree. Open Fields will be opening up the show around 10:00 p.m.. And then, High Lonesome will be performing “It’s Midnight, I’m Not Famous Yet” from cover to cover, followed by some old beloveds from “Get Some Young” and “Sloppy Gospel.” The cover is eight bucks, which also gets you a free digital download card. The manufacturer is still working on the tapes, but we’ll have a way for you sign up for tape delivery. Still, you get two live sets and a full length rock and roll record for $8.
We hope to see you there!