Lonesome Onry and Mean: To a lot of critics, "Steeple Full of Swallows" on Heavy Ornamentals was singled out as a new quieter, serious sound for the band, almost like they were saying it didn't sound like a Gourds song. Did that carry over consciously as you put the new album together, or was that just something that happened and went?
Kevin Russell: There is nothing approaching that on this new record. That is just another kind of song that we can do when it is called for. That's the over-riding aspect of us that is really not easy to sell. We are diverse. People hear that term so often they forget what it means.
Our world is so diverse and fragmented that maybe we do not have a reference point to really understand what it means. There is no context for such things anymore. For people like you and me, we remember a time when things were not so freaked out.
As the Gourds, we are simply making music with no rules for ourselves. We are interested primarily in the creation of songs and poems with music that excites our imaginations and our asses. Danceable roots music with some literate substance.
"Burn the Honeysuckle," Bumbershoot Festival, Seattle, 2007
LOM: Max's two songs on the new one [Haymaker!] seem like more traditional type songs and lyrics than yours or Jimmy Smith's. Oddly enough, those two by Max Johnston are actually my significant other's two favorites from the album. And to my ear, "Tighter" comes closer to a radio single kind of pop thing than anything I can remember you guys recording. It makes a super closer for the album, too. Was there any thought of using it as a single?
KR: This is funny that you like it so much. It is the one song I wanted to drop. I agree with the pop sensibilities of it. It has a cool sound. Max's songs were done at a different time than the other tracks on the record. He went in one night with Keith and Jimmy and recorded these two songs.
It was a quick and dirty affair, I am told, basically Max with an acoustic guitar sitting at a mic and Keith and Jimmy playing in the room with him. The technical considerations of this have to do with the bleed in his guitar and vocal mics from the drums and the bass.
When mixing, there is only so much an engineer can do when drums are in the vocal and guitar mics. To turn up the vocals or guitar, the drums will increase as well. This is a simplistic explanation, but you get the idea.
So, it works great for "Valentine" with its sparse arrangement. But for "Tighter," things got a little weird. To add confusion, Jimmy and Max were using a tuner that was wrongly calibrated, or maybe not using a tuner at all. So, the track is in an odd key, like E-flat. I did that jangly guitar part because it is all I could do, really. It worked well though.
When all was said and done, I felt the song could be recorded better and in the right key, thereby making it better than the recording we had. Max just wanted it on the record. And in the end, I realized it was a sloppy democracy we exist in. No one else had strong feelings about it. I just thought this was a good song with the potential to guide the next record.
It didn't really belong on this record, but that is my sort of producer mind working. The fact is, not too many people sit and listen to a record in one sitting and consider the work as a whole. You probably do and I do, but most do not. "Tighter" works at the end of the record because it is such an odd creature in those ways I described.
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"Gin & Juice," Continental Club, Houston, December 2006
It really is somewhat of a misfit on Haymaker!, I think. I will always see it as an add-on to the record. And we don't do singles, really. The label picks a few tunes to push to radio. I think the only people who do singles are the payola folks who lurk around and pay DJ's to play songs. If we had the bucks, we'd be right there, I reckon.
That is the way the world works. So fuck the world. We're making music in our own world. The hell with the rest of 'em. - William Michael Smith
10 p.m. tomorrow night at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899 or www.continentalclub.com/houston