The Cherry Valence, Mountain Goats, The Old Ceremony After a break of more than 18 months, The Cherry Valence has returned to the stage with a new lineup and album in tow. The rugged Raleigh garage rock quintet had to weather the departure of guitarist Cheetie Kumar and bassist Paul Siler, who were replaced by Erik Sugg (Dragstrip Syndicate) and Charles Story (The Weather), respectively. According to singer/drummer Brian Quast, the decision was mutual and amicable. (Kumar and Siler have a formed new band, Birds of Avalon.) "They wanted two different things. We've been a band for a while. That's how it goes if you do a lot of touring," says Quast.
Though The Cherry Valence hasn't played out since 2003, they've been busy recording TCV III straight to a TASCAM 38 reel-to-reel in their practice space. The album, their third, is set for July release on Bifocal Media.
"A lot of it is ideas we had right after the last record, and some of it's new stuff. There's a couple songs we were playing in 2003--'Low Class Warrior' and 'Trees'--that have made it onto the album," says Quast. "We were trying to capture a little more of the live show feel. It's a studio album so we did some stuff that you can't do in a show, but mostly we wanted to capture the energy of our live shows."
The 14-song disc, recorded by TCV and mastered by Greg Elkins, follows up their 2002 release, Riffin'.
When it comes to home-recording, The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle is a no-frills kind of guy. Working for years with only an acoustic guitar and a Panasonic boombox, Darnielle's fashioned an outstanding catalog, proving great music is about more than fidelity. But since signing to 4AD for 2002's Tallahassee, Darnielle's albums have assumed a richer fuller production. His latest, The Sunset Tree (out this week), features an eclectic array of arrangements, but what's drawn the most attention so far is the autobiographical nature of the album.
For years Darnielle avoided 'mining his personal tragedies,' as he said in one interview. But the new album dives into the sometimes-harrowing tale of his abusive stepfather, unfolding with a child's eye view across The Sunset Tree's 13 tracks.
"The last record was really toes in the water. All the names and locations were changed and it was sort of drawing on autobiographical stuff as source stories, but I don't think there were any straight autobiographical stories on it. I just ran with that, and then said what's next? The next four I wrote over in Europe going into the Peel session, and they came out so good that it seemed pretty clear that was the way forward," Darnielle says.
While the subject matter may sound a bit grim, Darnielle's writing--from the perspective of one looking back through the child's eyes -- adds a certain implied distance and perspective that leavens the tone and creates an air of hope, noting the resilience of the human soul.
"The hope that's there is that I'm still around. This is sort of the hope that if you live through bad situations you learn to have -- did I eat today? Am I around, then I'm fine," he says. "Resilience of the soul? Well, that's either an optimistic or a depressing fact of existence. There's nothing you can do to somebody that they won't still want to go on."
Finally, Django Haskin's next album has finally taken its final shape. Originally, you may recall, he'd recorded some pop noir tunes with piano, strings and horns, which he assembled a band to play. But the band, The Old Ceremony, was so good and so much fun, Haskins decided to rerecord the material and make the band an ongoing concern in addition to his solo career and the apparently shelved International Orange.
"I'm just really interested and excited by a lot of different kinds of music. So it's great for me if I have an outlet for different things at the same time," Haskins says.
While Intl. Orange is on "indefinite hiatus," according to Haskins, he continues to play solo throughout the area, but credits The Old Ceremony with charging his creativity.
"It keeps you honest because you can foist any old shit on people if you have enough instruments. Playing solo the songs have to stand on their own," he says.
Haskins expects to release The Old Ceremony's self-titled album in June.
The Cherry Valence plays The Local 506 on Tuesday, May 3 with The Forty Fives.
The Mountain Goats play The Cat's Cradle on Monday, May 2, with Shearwater.
The Old Ceremony play The West End Wine Bar on Thursday, May 19 and Raleigh's Artsplosure during the afternoon on Saturday, May 21.