Full disclosure: I possess the attention span of a goldfish. I’m a sucker for short pop songs filled with hooks and devoid of filler. Equally satisfying is a succinctly composed overture, that opening section of musicals and albums that quotes and connects the best parts of the big songs in interesting ways. There are great overtures at the beginning of West Side Story and the Who album Tommy. Sometimes I don't even make it past the overture; why bother if the best bits are already there at the top?
But I'm also a fan of longer medleys (or suites, if we're using the fancy term.) Think of the Who’s mini-opera “A Quick One While He’s Away” or side two of Abbey Road. Despite their current reputation for being archaic or hokey -- or maybe because of it -- I love hearing similarly themed, but musically varied, songs interwoven into a longer piece.
With all that in mind, it was no surprise when I found I’d written a series of short pop songs which, upon closer inspection, shared a common thread. Each one touched upon a series of recent upheavals in my life - I had lost a beloved relative, had a permanent falling out with a friend and musical partner, and touring was keeping me thousands of miles from my family. But I was on the road with talented musicians whom I enjoyed performing alongside, and despite my absence, my rock n’ roll lifestyle had the support of my amazing, loving wife, so it wasn't all doom and gloom. In a word: bittersweet. It didn’t take much to realize these brief songs could be connected by more than just thematic similarities. So I went about sewing the song bits together at the piano and recorded a home demo.
Enter Chris Grehan: Longtime best buddy, musical collaborator, recordist, co-producer and all around musical enabler. Chris suggested we take the suite demo into a bonafide studio and add some bonafide drums. The studio was 1093 Boulevard, owned by the talented and gracious Jim Hawkins. It's got an amazing sounding room and lots of great gear. For the drums we brought in our friend Joe Rowe (The Glands, The Goons) who's a great musician and has played with us over the years. Our friend Tom Lewis then helped Chris transfer the tracks to 16 track tape and then mastered the suite when Chris finished mixing it.
The result was an epic, 13-minute track that sounded better than I had even imagined, upon which I conferred the title, “The Bitter Suite.” (Remember when I mentioned my love of hokey things?)
Since Chris, Joe and Tom put so much of their time and effort helping me make this sound as great as possible, I really wanted to release this on vinyl. Probably 90% of my favorite records were originally released on vinyl and I've always wanted to release something in that format.
Hence this project. Reaching the $6500 goal will enable me to press 500 copies of The Bitter Suite on 180 gram vinyl. The money will pay for:
*Mastering by Tom Lewis
*Artwork by Jeff T. Owens (including an impressive etching on the B side of the record)
*Pressing 500 copies on 180 gram vinyl
The A side will be the 5 song suite and the B side will have a custom etching by artist Jeff T. Owens mentioned above. His work alone is worth the price. How many records do you own that have custom artwork across the entire B side?
I've admired Jeff's artwork for years and he was kind enough to do the artwork and layout for my previous record, Mess of Happiness. You also may have seen Jeff’s work on the cover of Tom Scharpling’s one-off Best Show magazine, or on any number of t-shirts worn by only the coolest folks around. Despite the demand for his talents, he agreed to design both the sleeve artwork and the vinyl etching for The Bitter Suite. That's his fine work at the top of the page. To me, his designs for my stuff look exactly like the music sounds.
When I decided to take the plunge and do the Kickstarter project, I asked my friend and videographer John Britt to make the video you've probably already watched. I love it as much as I love the videos he's done for my songs in my past. I can't wait to start on the epic video he’s planning for the suite.
Premiums are listed on the right. For as little as $20, you can get a copy of the 180 gram vinyl release, along with a digital download code and a nifty sticker. Not a fan of vinyl, but love pop medleys composed by Italian-Hispanic songwriters? For just $10, you can get a high quality digital download of the album. I’ll even throw in a sticker as well. Check out the other cool offerings as well, including a personal song written just for you, or even a performance in your own home.
Thanks for your help. Feel free to contact me with questions, and I’ll post updates here as needed.
For those of you unfamiliar with my music, you can stream my previous album, Mess of Happiness, for free on my site: http://jaygonzalez.com/music/
Here's a video of me playing my finely hand-crafted acoustic keytar:
Here's the music video for my song, "Turning Me On," from Mess of Happiness (heard briefly in the Kickstarter video above):
And here's the music video for "Punch of Love," also from Mess of Happiness:
Risks and challenges
Since this is project is about getting the Bitter Suite onto vinyl, I could see where this might be a concern to backers. Fortunately, I'm using a record pressing company that has been doing quality work for artists since 1996. Furnace MFG ( http://www.furnacemfg.com) has done work for labels releasing albums by Neil Young, R.E.M., John Coltrane and Wilco. They specialize in specialty items such as picture discs, colored vinyl and etchings, which is one reason why I chose them. They were highly recommended to me by a friend who was very happy with the work they did on an album he was working on. He assured me that they were courteous and delivered the product on time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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