A Word From Caroline
Just finished up this week’s Stellarondo rehearsal. Sat in a ring and started working “Train on The Island,” a song we’ve been invited to re-imagine for a tribute to the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle.
“Train on the island, thought I heard it squeal,” the first line goes. “Go tell my true love: I can’t hold the wheel,” the second.
Could there be any vehicle more powerful and impractical than a train on an island? All that fire and steam just to huff around in circles? Beautiful. And then there’s a declaration from the person in charge: this handsome bulk of flying greased parts and kinetic energy is a thing far too powerful for me to steer: “I can’t hold the wheel.”
After those words came out of my mouth at rehearsal I had to put down my banjo, round end on the ground. Too familiar a sentiment: "I can't hold the wheel."
Stellarondo could be a sort of a train on an island. We are beautiful, powerful, impractical, unlikely. A band of musicians who have (mostly) come up playing in bars, yet we have created work that is virtually undeliverable in a bar. On paper we might be mistaken for a country band, the kind of band that could be on a track to big earnings. But those are not the rails we’re riding.
This band works. Man, do we work. You have likely seen Travis play upright bass and drums at the same time. But have you seen the frenzied Tetris game that is him packing the van, somehow remaining sensitive to the vulnerable necks of stringed instruments? To watch Bethany get her bearings on cello in service of finding just the line she’s listening for on saw is to catch a momentary glimpse of the unknowable. Likewise unknowable is how she manages to play a late bar gig and then show up at an 8am meeting with the Missoula County Public Schools to convince them to let Stellarondo visit local classrooms. Gibson’s wallet would likely survive a couple extra meals while we’re on tour, yet he puts in calls to restaurants and secures sponsored meals for our entire lot and has been caught cheerfully awake-- hours before any of us—txting inside jokes to the band from an auto garage while having a strange van noise checked out. And then he sits at the pedal steel and somehow chooses a path of surprising notes that combine into a revelation of the human spirit.
I had no idea two years ago when I started assembling the group what a force it would become. It would be foolish to even try to hold the wheel. The energy created and exerted at Thursday rehearsals could power the Rattlesnake Valley. You should see the mountains of food the team tears through. Sort of counter-intuitive that the music itself is so quiet?
And then there’s Rick. Politely throwing a blazer over my psychotic cat when it attacks him at rehearsal. Responding to doubt or caution with a txt “WE DIE SOON!” Missing a turn on a 6-lane Portland street, bringing the van to a dead halt, honking the horn rhythmically as if it were a back up signal, taking a look behind us, and throwing the rig into reverse. Rick hauling our amps up the stairs to Type Foundry. Using gaff tape to reserve the front-row of the Panida Theater for the wife and young daughters of Scott Daily, a dear friend who passed away last summer, then reading a eulogy for Scott during the show that not only changed the color of the air in the room, but transformed every song and story shared after into something crystalline. Rick, short-sighted enough to curse about shitty Portland waitresses, long-visioned enough to not be fazed by the hemorrhaging of money we experienced on the road. It is only money. This is just our first trip. Rick feverishly typing during down time, using all five fingers of his right hand and only two of his left. Before a meeting with an enthusiastic publicist, Rick coaching us to be sure and protect our “quiet artist lives.” Rick inviting us into his already-whole stories with faith that together our music and his words would create something bigger than either could accomplish alone.
We are making this record because the scored versions of Rick’s stories need a home. Giving habitat to Rick’s scored stories is a step on our Road to the Ryman quest, which is also about finding a home-- if just for one night-- for Stellarondo’s powerful and impractical sound.
The recording part is done. What was it like to record? Imagine being chased or making out for nine consecutive hours. Three days of highest arousal. We know that what we made during that time is remarkable, and we want you to be able to visit the stories. In order to make that possible, we need to let Adam Selzer mix them, have them mastered by Carl Saff, employ Yogesh Simpson for cover design, and have Crave Dog Manufacturers print and press physical copies. We have done our best. We believe that these people with whom we want to work for mixing, mastering, design, and manufacturing are the people absolutely best for the jobs. The cost for all this is $8,000.
We can’t hold the wheel. We are grateful to the friends, family, neighbors, students, and fellow musicians who have backed us so far. Really, they are all teachers, teaching us that it is OK to ask.
We can’t hold the wheel. We are asking, with great incentives, for you to help us. Only 4 days left.
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Thank you for buying a brick in the Road to the Ryman! Every step we take…we’ll be thinking of you.Estimated delivery:
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Thank you! You’re so sweet we want to pack you up in our suitcase and take you with us! But…we can’t afford it, so we’ll keep you updated all along the way with notes and videos!Estimated delivery:
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What?! You’re the coolest! Let’s be pen pals! We’ll send you a personalized card from the road and keep you updated along the way!Estimated delivery:
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You make us want to sing! We want to send you a digital download of the album we’ll record this month. You’ll get all of Rick Bass’ scored stories and the album artwork before anyone else.Estimated delivery:
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You're so nice and good-looking! You'd look good in an Owl Shirt! Turns out, people have been fighting over our posters because they love the design by our friend Yogesh Simpson. So, we thought, "Let's get everyone a cool T-Shirt!" Printed by a local Missoula company on quality, well-fitting material, we know you'll love it! Almost us much as we love you for backing this project!Estimated delivery:
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You love the owl but aren't the T-shirt wearing type? Well, we still want to give you something! How about your own hand silkscreened poster?! Sounds cool right? Almost as cool as you.Estimated delivery:
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Wow! We like you so much, we want you to hold us! You’ll get your own hard copy of the album to listen to, look at, and caress. But, so we don't make you wait, you'll get access to the digital download as soon as it's available!Estimated delivery:
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Fifty dollars?! That will get us all from our show in Sandpoint to Spokane’s Get Lit Festival! We want to give you the shirts right off our backs! But…they might be a little sweaty. We’ll send you a copy of the CD and a brand spanking new T-Shirt instead!Estimated delivery:
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Oh my goodness! You are the Stellarockingest-Rick Badassest! We’re so honored; we want to come home with you! But that might put you out, so we'll send you home with a copy of the album and a limited edition piece by Rick Bass written just for this project.Estimated delivery:
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Well hello there, Fancy Pants. We just want to kiss you on the mouth! This is such a unique and special project to us, that we want you to have all kinds of unique and special things! You should have the signed silk-screened limited-edition print of the tour poster, the limited-edition DVD/CD package of the album and Kickoff show, and, of course, a personal love letter from the road from Mr. Rick Bass, himself.Estimated delivery:
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0 backers Limited (4 left of 4)
Love the idea of scored stories, but want to hear one of your own? You're in luck! At this level the gang will SCORE YOUR STORY while Rick reads it aloud. Don't have a short story? How about a beloved children's book that you've always imagined set to music? Wouldn't you like to give your children a recording of Rick reading "Goodnight Moon" while Gibson's pedal steel paints a twinkling night sky? For short stories under ten pages and children's books (of a reasonable length) we'll professionally record an original score and reading. The final product will be delivered to you as a High Resolution digital audio track or in CD form, whichever you prefer. Happy listening!Estimated delivery:
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Whoa! It must be exhausting to be so generous! We want to swaddle you up and sing you a lullaby while Rick Bass tucks you in and reads you a bedtime story. Not ready for bed? You can invite some of your friends over to drink wine or warm milk while Rick Bass and Stellarondo entertain you in your home, if it's within 40 miles of Missoula. (Live farther away? Send us a message and we'll work something out.)Estimated delivery:
- (28 days)