Over 15 years ago, Monique & I began playing music in our living room. When I say we "began," I mean that in just about every way imaginable: neither of us had any formal training in music, nor could we play any instruments. We'd never written any songs, we'd never sung together (except in church)... but I'd ordered a guitar through the mail and then one day it arrived. I carried it upstairs to our first New York City apartment and I took a knife to the big cardboard box, pulled out the case and opened it, then pulled out the guitar. We looked at each other for awhile. We weren't sure what to do! We were beginners.
The journey from that first day has been one of the greatest joys of our life: we learned to sing together, mostly songs out of old hymnals at first. Then we started making up our own songs. We recorded two records for Asthmatic Kitty, the first produced by our dear friend Sufjan Stevens (if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be a band.) We've played shows in churches and bars and union halls. We've performed at festivals in the great state of Texas and in Great Britain. We've sung in living rooms in Mississippi and Michigan. And all of it, always, with the goal of singing with joy and love to God and to one another.
"But For You Who Fear My Name," from Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
But after all these years... We are still beginners, really. It feels new, every time, that moment right before we sing.
Now we are beginning again with this, our 3rd record. It's called Light Up The Stairs. In some ways it's similar to our other records: there are some re-tuned hymns, some new, original, liturgical and gospel songs, and some other new songs that, while not explicitly religious, still feel holy to us because they seek to explore the depths and joys of love and friendship: with God, with others, with even with ourselves.
But in many other ways, this record is a very new beginning. We have a new producer, Jeremy McDonald (Beyonce, Kevin Garret). We've played with almost all new musicians. And much of the album was recorded in a new place, Daniel Smith's New Jerusalem Studios in New Jersey.
And, after over a decade of unbelievably generous support from our label, Asthmatic Kitty, it's time for us to undertake a new way of raising the support to make this project happen.
"I Know That My Redeemer Lives," from Precious Remedies
It's pretty straightforward what we're raising the money for in this project: we need to pay the musicians who have played on the record, the producer and engineer who have been handling all the artistic and technical aspects of recording the music, the rental of studio spaces, the production of the CD's, plus some funds to help promote the record once it's released. Almost everyone involved thus far has been willing to wait to get paid, some for over a year now. We want to honor their time and talent, and we'd like to ask you to help us to do it.
We are really excited to be able to give you Light Up the Stairs. I don't mean that in a prideful way, though I really do think this is the best collection of songs we have ever written and recorded (and I know I sort of have to say this, but I believe it: just ask the friends I've been texting late at night as we have worked on this project how I've ranted and raved to them).
This music has been a uniting power in our lives, uniting us to each other, to the friends we play with, to God, and to many of you. You've told us that connection in emails and letters and in person after concerts. You don't really even have to tell us: we have felt it in the shows we have played, in those moments when it feels like something (or Someone) who is bigger than all of us is drawing us into a mystery, into an embrace. By supporting this project, you are giving us this joyful privilege. God willing, may the music bless you.
In return for your support there are lots of things you can receive from us. Every reward tier will receive a digital download of our latest EP, A Work of Love In Progress, which we put out last year as a sample of some of the stuff we have been working on. We'll send that out at the end of the campaign.
"March 1," from A Work of Love In Progress
Every tier will also receive a digital download of the new album, Light Up the Stairs after we've completed it.
From there we have a variety of formats including CD and vinyl.
We also have two t-shirts to choose from, both designed by Monique. For the kitty shirt, she was inspired by all the beauty that summer has to offer at the beach, and God's creation, especially seen in animals. For the second shirt, Monique designed a "Light up the Stairs" crest to put on a soccer jersey for me because I love soccer jerseys. The soccer jersey is unisex. The kitty shirt comes in mens or womens (womens shown below).
We'll send an email after the campaign wraps up to ask your size and t-shirt preference.
We still have the original songsheets from Welcome To The Welcome Wagon. Monique drew them back in 2008 and has kept them tucked away for years. We only have one of each, so we can't guarantee you'll get your favorite. But we'll try to accommodate everyone!
Monique will also draw your pet. I know I have to say she's a great artist because she's my wife, and I'm trying to get you to support this thing, etc. But seriously, look at the drawing she did of her friend's rabbit. Whoever gets to have their pet drawn by her are some fortunate folks. She got a BFA from Cooper Union, NY and an MFA from Columbia, NY! Wow! She has been grateful for the privilege to be able to make art for this project and she craves God's blessing on her handiwork.
Risks and challenges
We're close to completing this record already! All the lead vocals are done. Most of the tracks are recorded. We even have and old fashioned gospel choir signing on some of the songs. We've done all of this with IOUs.
But there are a few things you should know.
We still need to record some arrangements. For those we've asked Joshua Stamper (https://joshuastamper.wordpress.com/) to help out. He can't do that until later in the year. Like many of our musician friends, Joshua is also busy so we wanted to make sure we could pay him prior to composing.
We also still need to finish a few takes, and then engineer and master the record.
And if we manage to reach the tier with vinyl, vinyl is always tricky.
Otherwise we're close to done!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)