Chris & Carla
Fly High Brave Dreamers
Release Date: 01/26/2007 · Format: CD · Catalog-No:Along the way, we have grown tired of the word “melancholy”. Admittedly, a good amount of the songs that Carla and I have been involved in over the years, can wear that word like a suit that fits. But that doesn’t change the fact, that to us, the word seems a bit exhausted. I think that those that have focused on it as the main characteristic of our music have missed many of the other things that are going on. Of course it is probably our damn fault. We performed and wrote the songs, but……
This new album “Fly High Brave Dreamers” makes attempts to avoid the above-mentioned word. Sure it sticks its toes into some murky, dark waters, but in one way or another I believe all of the songs are about hope. Not some Hollywood, “in the end everything is beautiful “ style of hope, but more the “I did my best today, and I haven’t stopped dreaming” style of hope. You turn away from the explosion, you wipe your brow, you pickup the pieces of what remains, and you start building again. That might not sound like hope to you, but I think if we are honest, it is the only real hope that exists.
We made this album primarily in August of 2006. I had written 16 songs and Carla chose the 10 that she thought held together best. She went for the most “uplifting” ones. The song that became the title track of the album had a normal construction, with a verse and chorus, and she wisely suggested that we cut away the verse and merely repeat the chorus over and over. It made it into a mantra that brought the central theme of the album together.
The recording sessions were divided into two halves. We began the album in my small studio in Ljubljana, building the tracks up from nostalgic beats and stray sounds and simple acoustic guitar and electric piano motifs. We were going for something intimate, and even claustrophobic, where the sounds and the words combined to make short dreams that floated inside the ear.
The other half of the recordings were done almost entirely live and completely unrehearsed. We assembled a sympathetic group of musicians and beforehand gave them no demo recordings or hints about what the songs would sound like. We taught them the songs on the spot, told everyone that they had to “play for keeps” (you could not “fix” your mistakes), and proceeded to record the songs in a couple of takes. Throughout the session I remember looking at everyone playing together (we were all in the same room, except for the drummer who we could see through a large window) and thinking, “what we are playing right now IS the record.” It was a deep exciting feeling .In this age of cut and paste and performance manipulation it is also a very rare feeling.
The band for these five “live” songs was: Al Deloner (Midnight Choir) on piano and harmonica, Jason Victor (Steve Wynn, Willard Grant Conspiracy) on electric guitar, and the rhythm section that played on my “Black Field” album, Sergei Randzelovic (drums) and Jani Hace (bass).
And why is the eleventh song a Young Marble Giants cover? When The Walkabouts started one of the bands that bonded us together, was the Young Marble Giants (others: the Go-betweens and Love). All four of us played their one and only album, Colossal Youth, incessantly. Allison’s whispered voice and the minimalist arrangements were completely unique at the time. They forged a music so uncompromisingly simple and reactive (70’s beatbox, voice, spare bass and guitar figures) one could call somehow call it --in spite of its quietness --punk rock. The lessons we took from YMG showed up in many Walkabouts songs over the years, and on the Chris & Carla “Swinger 500” album the 70’s drum machine we used on the title track was a clear and conscious homage to the band. We have continued this homage on “Fly High Brave Dreamers” by using an old East German drum machine on the album opener “At The Twilight’s last Gleaming” and of course by covering their wonderful song “Salad Days.” “Salad Days” was the first song that we recorded with the crew we assembled in Ljubljana. I showed the band the chords (there are three) and played a few bars to set the rhythm, and then we quickly started recording it. I signaled the ending of the song, and after the last piano note decayed, the drummer asked if that was the full arrangement .I said that that it was. We listened back to what we had done, and we all agreed that another take of the song would be a waste of time.
It was a very Young Marble Giants decision. Keep things direct. Simplify the process. If it feels right as it is, add nothing else.
Simplicity is a damn hard thing to aspire to. The human impulse is to complicate everything: our personal lives, our creative endeavors, and our vain attempts at success, whatever. It is a precious moment when you do the job right, and you just walk on……." - Chris Eckman, November 2006, Ljubljana