Cassavettes - Shakedown the Sun

New Music this Week!
Someone You Should Know

NEW MUSIC FROM ONE OF BOSTON'S BEST - Local readers should head to the Middle East in Central Square, Cambridge, tonight for one of our favorite live acts. Boston perennial favorites Cassavettes are releasing, 'Shakedown the Sun,' their first new studio in almost three years. The album is a scalding attack on inertia - with the band proving once again that they are one of the best going. (The original band: Scott Yoder, Mike McCullagh, Matt Snow and Scott Jones - are friends and each is present and accounted for on the new record.)

The 12 tracks on Shakedown deftly navigate the waters of the band's last three years. Some are more obviously, but updated, versions of the band's Americana past. Others are more howling versions of the band's wrestle with the Pop Sound. And there are abundant examples of their new and glorious future: rock-fueled soul tracks that uses emotion as a primary motivater. This is the Cassavettes that Boston folks have come to know and love - but it's Cassavettes 3.0 - a time when the band is getting better almost daily. This is why RSL has tapped this material as Best of 2009 material.

"Seek Cover"
from Shakedown the Sun

Over the course of the last three years, Cassavettes have found themselves the standard support for a number of prestigious band. The Allman Brothers, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Superdrag, Jesse Malin and Kings of Leon all tapped them to open the stage on different dates. The offers kept coming and the Cassavettes have not let them down.

GLENN YODER of CASSAVETTES: "That Paradise gig (opening up for KOL) really seemed to jump-start our career, actually, more than any other I can think of. KOL showed up after losing all their equipment on a flight connection in Japan, were quite surly, and played sort of a half show after some fans got them all riled up. It was a free show, and as I recall, it was the evening the Kevin Garnett trade was announced. So people were in full-on party mode. We still get people coming up to us, telling us that it was a great time and a show they discovered us at."

RYAN SPAULDING for RSL: "Let's talk about 'Shakedown the Sun,' What was your approach to writing this songs and recording the album? How was it different this time around?"

YODER: "This time it was all about letting the songs really sound, well, BIG. I wanted to put that old 'Let It Bleed' tagline in the liner notes, "This Record Was Made to Be Played Loud," but we figured that idea had been played out. Either way, the record was indeed made to be played loud, because that's how these songs sound best. Over the years, we've evolved into a louder, more "rock" band, and this record reflects that change.

"It actually hits you over the head with it. We have a beast on the drums, who has once been described as trying to put his stick through the drumhead, and keep in mind, Mike and Scott grew up admiring Metallica. Our record certainly doesn't sound like Metallica, but we indulged those rockier aspirations that were lurking deep within us. It turns out that, deep down, we are a rock band. This record is a coming of age story, I suppose -- like "Harold & Maude" without fake suicides and sex with old ladies."

RSL: "Let's talk about the band. In what sense is the new material reflective of you and the band? Or, are these songs inhabited by original characters of fictitious origins?"

YODER: "Well, lyrically, it's a mix bag as it always will be when you have two writers writing separately. Mike likes to write about certain subjects, and I have my comfort spots. This is the first record we've made that doesn't have a song we've teamed up on lyrically (however, we often play with each other's progressions, melodies, etc). So, I think the contrast may be more stark than previous records, which is in some ways cool. Also, these songs are a long time coming, since we haven't put out a studio CD since December 2006, so it's really a document of a few years worth of growth, personally and with the band. Kind of a time capsule. Or, like I said earlier, a coming of age story? That circled back nicely.

RSL: "Would you be willing to take a song from Shakedown the Sun and try to do your best to describe how it came to be?"

YODER: "As I've grown as a lyricist (hopefully), I've started putting a lot more emphasis on writing the words separately. Growing up, I'd often just fit words into what sounded cool or worked in the meter, and if something cool came of that, great, if not, then it was just "playing music." Eh, not always the best way to get good results. Starting with the first Cassavettes record, I think we've really placed a premium on storytelling, and the words have taken center stage.

"I often will write things separately, like a melody and a couplet or a verse, and then pair them together if it feels right. A song like "Golden Fleece" is a great example of that, as it was a story I was trying to get at -- half-true, half-fiction -- about this old woman who is just trying to find peace of mind after a life of extreme misfortune. Heady stuff, I realize, but I had a very clear vision of this character and who I wanted her to be, and the melody was just something I'd been toying with for ages. Eventually, the two made perfect sense together, and from there, it was just a process of refinement until it sounded like it sounded in my head.

"Golden Fleece"
from Shakedown the Sun

"Not all songs work that way, though -- some click instantly. "Lights On" I wrote while we were on tour in Texas in about 10 minutes. I had just woken up at my old friend Jimmy's house, and was playing his guitar while he kept sleeping in the other room. I recorded the song into my cell phone, flew back to Boston, and hardly changed a thing about it when I turned it over to the band. So, it can really go either way."


Gene McCullagh photo

TONIGHT - Cassavettes release their new CD tonight at the Middle East with Movers & Shakers [on RSL], post), You Can Be A Wesley, Quixote and Jookabox. Highly recommended! 8pm Doors / $12.


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