Early next week we head down to the studio at KUFM to live-score two of Rick Bass’ stories, “Eating” and “The Canoeists” for a Montana Public Radio music special. We’re currently at work on a third of Rick’s stories called “The Bear” and– thanks to Montana Arts Council– will debut it at The Whitefish Review Issue #10 release party in December. Also, look for us, with Rick, as headliners at Spokane’s Get Lit! Festival in the spring.
Up until we set out for our Fall Tour, the question: “we’re not touring a record, so what exactly is this trip about?” ran around a bit in our collective psyche. Early on in the trip, Trav came across and read aloud this quotation from Ira Glass:
“We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”
So we did a lot of work. 14 shows in 10 days to be exact. Taking the trip taught us what the trip was about. As it turned out, this trip was about work and new friends.
Besides the lovely, talented, and intimidating Caridwen Spatz, who opened for us in Spokane we shared all our shows on this trip with “strangers.” Had no idea we would be introduced to such great music! Playing in Seattle with Pufferfish and John Totten was a win for us at Conor Byrne (apparently Sufjan Stevens was at the bar that night! ). Danny Barnes sent us to kindred spirit Matt Sircely in Port Townsend, and we hooked up with Betty + The Boy (originally from Big Fork, MT) in Cottage Grove, Oregon. In Portland we played at the Woods with Sam Adams (not the mayor), but unfortunately missed his set because we were choking down enormous sushi:
Playing on Orcas Island was a highlight for us. Our Doe Bay experience was darn magical.On our day off on Orcas Island, we set up our instruments in a coffeeshop, along with a sign saying we were looking for a gig. As we played, two counselors from Camp Orkila told us that their environmental ed campers weren’t due until morning, and that we could come play on their porch that night, right on the beach. The Camp Orkila gang made us dinner, hosted our show, housed us (everyone in his/her own room!), fed us breakfast, and sent us back to the mainland energized for the rest of the trip.
Musically, the gigs got better every night. We all wished we were able to be on the road twice as long this time. Our last gig was in beautiful Hood River, Oregon. The venue we played was a bit of a poor match, but we had a true blast at the show, which included an extended oscillator jam towards the end of the set (we cleaned out Trade Up music of cigar box oscillators earlier in the day).
The last gig may have been in Hood River, but our last stop was just east of there, where we were fortunate to be taken in for the night by Paul Lestock. Paul builds breathtaking instruments. One of his specialties is tenor archtop guitars. Even if we did not have a thing for tenor archtops, we would be smitten by Paul’s. The man has a gift. He also, as it turns out, designs pickups for tenor archtops (and if you have ever seen us live, you know that we have had a pretty serious need for a pickup in Caroline’s tenor archtop). Anyway, long and beautiful story short:
“Yes, the couch is open,” I replied.
And thus began our collaboration with writer Rick Bass.
In his words: “I volunteered to write something for Stellarondo’s web page and began going to their weekly practices, taking notes for that purpose. During this process, we started talking about stories, and sounds, and rhythms and arcs, and before we knew it we found ourselves working together—me on some songs they were writing, and Stellarondo asking me to read stories and adjust pacing and diction as they developed songs that fit the meter and mood of the shorter pieces.
It’s been an amazing experience, and I don’t mean to represent it as the somewhat-standard poetry-and-jazz fare that is sometimes encountered late at night in college towns and settings. If that sounds harsh and critical I don’t mean it to be. What I mean to convey is that this is way different from anything I’ve seen or heard; not only are they scoring stories as they would the visuals for cinema, we are adjusting my stories, editing, tempering, reworking.”
We’re on a search for funding to help us develop the project (Will it be radio? Live performance? Album? All of the above?). We’ll try it out in front of a live audience during our tour kick-off party on September 14. Stay tuned.
One year after playing for the first time in front of people, we returned to the porch at Rick & Elizabeth’s. Here’s some video of us messing around with the seeds of a new song there:
Back on April Fools Day, Caroline and Art Burch made a July 17 date for Stellarondo to play aboard The Far West on Flathead Lake. There’s usually a 2-week window of “perfect” weather in western Montana beginning around July 15 and man, did we hit it dead on. We floated, surrounded by blue, and the air was the same temperature as our skin. Many familiar faces from Caroline’s days as a Many Glacier Boat Captain were in attendance, and we met great folks from Brooklyn and North Carolina. Pretty unforgettable.
As part of Bethany’s birthday celebration at the Top Hat, we scored a locally-written short play starring members of The Lil’ Smokies and Wartime Blues. No potholes were harmed in the scoring of the play.