Only a year ago, Mark Norris was through with music. A chance encounter with one of his idols and an unexpected loss changed all of that. Now, Norris' group, the Backpeddlers, is poised to release the best recording of its six-year career and all it took was a lot of pain and a little inspiration.
A Little Bit of History
For over a decade, Norris fronted the powerpop outfit girlpope. Hailed as one of Buffalo's best live acts for its breakneck, sweat-soaked performances, the band eventually went its separate ways after several critically hailed recordings and a few dalliances with the major labels.
Forming the Backpeddlers in 2005, Norris was looking for a new approach. After a few key shows opening for the likes of Steve Wynn, The Pernice Brothers, and Elvis Costello, the band released its debut CD, Stranded Between Stations, in 2007. Filled with stark, quiet ruminations, the disc was a step away from girlpope's bombastic, uptempo songs. The disc was described by the Buffalo News as “The Basement Tapes recorded with Ray Davies instead of Bob Dylan.”
After the disc's release, Norris put music aside to concentrate on raising a family. As the old saying goes "When the baby carriage is in the hallway, inspiration is out the window." Only a few years after releasing its debut, the Backpeddlers was largely on hiatus.
Once in A Blue Moon
Norris wasn't looking for inspiration in November 2009, but inspiration found him. It was during that time that the songwriter bumped into one of his long-time idols, Alex Chilton. Chilton was in Buffalo performing a one-off gig with the Box Tops. Attending the show, Norris bumped into his musical hero and chatted about Chilton's lack of new material. "I don't create much without a deadline and I never have deadlines" was the gist of Chilton's response.
Sadly, the Buffalo appearance would be one of Chilton's last. The singer passed away in March 2010 from heart failure. For Norris, the loss was chilling, particularly considering his recent contact with the singer.
Unfortunately, more loss was to come. In May, Norris' father died after a thankfully brief battle with cancer.
For Norris, the two passings inspired the need to create something new, something different than he had released before. After a dearth of new material for several years, Norris suddenly had an album's worth of songs to get down.
Songs of Guilt and Revenge
Held in the summer and fall of 2010, the recording sessions were drenched in catharsis. Forgoing the moody quiet of the band's previous efforts, the Backpeddlers focused on making music that sounded raw, live, and loud. Attention was paid to the details, but the details were the small mistakes and flaws that are normally wiped from the finished tracks. Instead, the band harvested the flubs and wild notes and featured them as key components of each song. Chilton's Like Flies on Sherbet was a key inspiration.
The sessions went by quickly, with the band performing well and getting along perfectly. Still, a lot of pain and remorse was being wrung out of the room by the end of the night.
One listen to Songs of Guilt & Revenge doesn't convey all of this backstory, of course. On its own, the album is a celebration of American music songs forms: From garage rock ravers to imagined dance crazes and from country tear-jerkers to mod-action packed blazers, the album covers a lot of ground in just over a half hour.
Now Here Comes the Plea
The Backpeddlers paid out of pocket for the recording, mixing, and mastering of this album. For Norris, a lifelong dream of releasing a full-length LP was too much to ignore. While the cost of pressing vinyl is prohibitive, the end product is worth it. While never one to ask for a favor, Norris turned to Kickstarter with the hopes that some like-minded vinyl lovers would help fund the project. In truth, the cost of pressing 300 lps is closer to $2,000, but we wanted to keep the goal modest and obtainable. As a bonus for those who choose to support the cause, there's beau-coup extras in the "thank you gift" department. Please take a look, pledge what you can, and make this project come alive.
We absolutely cannot do it without you!
- (60 days)