Perry Wright of The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and Go Machine's Alex Lazara, who produced Wright's new album, The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia, are sitting in the coffee shop of Barnes & Noble, fresh from a 12-date tour of the Southeast. They're members of the Bu Hanan Records collective, and their back and forth banter is that of two people who know each other well. Perhaps even too well. "We just finished the album. It's 12 tracks, 50 minutes long," says Wright, who looks like he could be Opie's taller, older brother.
"That's a meaty album," I offer.
"I told you, everyone is 35 now," Lazara comments.
"It's two Weezer albums for the price of one," Wright suggests.
"You need 50 minutes when you have seven syllable words in your songs like Perry does," Lazara gibes.
Of course, it's all good-natured. During the tour, Go Machine served as Wright's backing band.
"It worked pretty well because we got to share gear and the van at $2-a-gallon. It was the only way to conceive of a tour that could break even," Wright says.
The new album (which will be available in February or March) was recorded at Bu Hanan's in-house (literally) studio. It's a vast leap forward from the last Prayers and Tears album, Psalterie, not just because of new equipment purchases, but because they finished the last one in a mere seven days.
"Perry had finished his master's degree and I was unemployed," Lazara explains. "We were hanging out one Saturday night and we knew we had nothing to do the next week. So we started it Sunday night and we released the album at our show the next Saturday night."
For this album, Wright worked with Lazara and fellow Go Machine member Daniel Hart (who arranged the string parts) between their tours, and finished up this summer. Wright sent it to Chris Colbert in Indiana to master it.
"He mastered the last Pedro the Lion, Elf Power and Summer Hymns," Wright says. "The stuff he's done has a lot of nice play between acoustic tracks and electric, so I thought he would do a nice, thoughtful job of not over-compressing."
"The album was mastered analog for the sort of purists who want analog warmth," pipes in Lazara. "The guy who mastered it, he goes out of a digital source through analog mastering equipment back into a digital source, so it has an analog master on it, which warms it up."
"I'm not a songwriter," Lazara explains a moment later. "I have to do something to justify my existence."
Since he seems to know so much about these kinds of things, I offered former music composition major Lazara a chance to describe Wright's sound.
"Perry doesn't really write traditionally structured songs, verse-chorus-verse-chorus, a bridge and a double chorus at the end," he explains. "Perry's music sort of thrives on this polarization of this super-intimate and this cathartic release. Sometimes you have an entire song of this intimate thing and an entire song of these explosions. One of the things that attracted me to Perry's work is he plays with dynamics, and I don't think enough bands out there do."
The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers play Local 506 on Thursday, Nov. 18 with Go Machine and Shearwater.
Gerty is also in the studio working on their fourth album, the follow-up to Sweets from the Minibar. It's been a bit of a long process, since they've been working in spurts, a style made possible by their association with Raleigh label Pox World Empire, which also has its own studio. "We write a lot of songs and then record them and scrap them after we live with them for a little while," says singer/guitarist David Koslowski.
"But it's really nice to have the luxury," says bassist Shirle Hale. "When we first started, we'd have a whole album ready to go and we'd go into the studio in the matter of two days and record everything and then be like 'It's done.' You listen to it three months later and it's 'Goddam, that sounds like crap.'"
The album, Dance the Swivel Hips, should be out in the spring, and will put a slightly rougher edge to the band's keyboard-driven, '80s new wave sound.
"It's not as polished as the last record we worked with Chris Stamey, and he kind of brought out the super pop stuff in us," says Koslowski. "Now we've gone back to a little more of the roots. It's a little edgier and punkier. A little more hyperactive."
Yes, but what does it sound like?
"It's a party record," he says. "The kind of record that you'd drive around in your convertible listening to. You'd want to have a kegger in your yard one spring afternoon and put it on and watch the girls go."
Oh, that kind of music.