BOAT who are poised to release their third album Setting the Paces this week are like one of those new and improved products: Now better sounding and with more pop hooks! Not that the old version was inferior by any stretch of the imagination, and not to worry long-time fans, Boat is still Boat. The animal imagery, falsetto choruses, and sincere yet over the top delivery is all still there, only now it sounds so much better. Setting the Paces is like a rush of sugar to the head. The band is now officially a four piece with the addition of J. Long on drums. Long who also works at Two Sticks Studio in Seattle produced the new record and the results are immediate and winning.
When I contacted their fictitious manager H. Fozzleberry about interviewing the band, D. Crane responded graciously accepting my request and suggested we meet face to face. So we sat down in a big red booth at Piecora’s on Capitol Hill, where the band are obviously regulars and the diet coke flows freely. I wanted to find out about the new record so I stole the modus operandi of Lars Finberg and his interviews over at Terminal Boredom and started by going through the new album song by song to get a better idea of the approach the band took in recording their new record. Thanks to D. Crane and J. Long who sat in the booth, ate pizza, drank diet coke, and talked all things Boat.
The official Boat record release party for Setting the Paces is this Thursday (22 October) at Neumo’s. It promises to be quite the production (we talk about it below). They also have a second release gig scheduled for Portland at the Woods on 5 November and some rare east coast dates coming up. Check their MySpace for details.
Friends Since 1989
J Long: One of the first songs done I’d say, for the record. But what do the lyrics allude to?
D. Crane: It’s kind of a secret. It’s about one of the guys in the band, but they don’t know. Josh and I always battle back and forth. We always get in these epic battles.
J: Because they’re brothers in law.
D: Yeah we’re brothers in law. So the song’s kinda about him and battling with him. But we’ve been friends for long time. It’s deep.
J: My favorite Boat song, and a favorite to play at shows for the past year, but it was the last one that got finished for the recording because we had tried it early on in the process and then we ended up re-recording it with all of us, me Mark and Dave playing it together at the studio. Actually, what was really fun during the last piece of recording Dave was doing, he still had to do the middle Lately vocal things and I had I had you do it like a million times. It was funny because my wife was over when we were doing it and she was like, “Wow he really goes for it when he does the vocal takes.” It was really funny going back and listening to some of the vocal tracks solo. They were so hammy but so authentic too.
Toby: That’s kinda like Boat in a nutshell: Hammy but authentic.
D: I’ll take it.
J: that was the one that I really, really liked and people liked at shows. We’d been playing it over a year and half. It was just finally getting to the point that it lived up to the greatness in my head or something, or the greatness of the shows maybe.
D: Yeah, because when it was demo it sounded like a UB40 song. I was singing it like lately, lately kinda weird chorus.
J: Not Rasta.
D: Kinda slightly English white guy reggae.
J: With some bad reverb.
D: Yeah, so it was questionable. Strange that it made it.
Tough Talking the Tulips
D: They all have a bunch of different starting points but…
J: I want to know about the lyric. The line about blocking out the sound, cover your ears maybe you can block out the sound?
D: I think some of them are kind of strung together with the other lyrics, but it’s mostly about um (laughing). These are all about you guys and myself. I guess. But this one again is about uncomfortable dude stuff, a lady leaving town on a guy, heavy stuff.
Waiter arrives with our slices bringing Dave an extra slice on the house. I think they come here a lot.
T: Is this your Wedding Present song?
D: I was not aware that the Wedding Present had song called Interstate 5
J: I remember Chris in my old band had a big I-5 shirt.
T: Gedge was living here when he did Take Fountain.
D: I’d never heard it, and I still haven’t. I would like to. I actually kind of frustrated now, because I wanted to call it something different.
J: The song?
D: Yeah, I wanted to call it Beat Me, Break Me. It would have had a single cover drawing or painting of this guy smoking. It was going to be like he took on this kind of tough oath, but It never really happened.
J: The beat me break me, bound and gag me kind of reminds me of Seal. There was some song on a soundtrack, like Batman Forever?
D: That’s Kiss from a Rose, right? I know that song and If We’re ever gonna survive. Those are the only two Seal Songs I know. Plus he’s married to the lady on Top Model…or Project Runway.
We start off on a tangent about Seal, Project Runway and Heidi Clume and Tyra Banks, whether or not my wife watches Project Runway and the importance of having the rock and roll encyclopedia in the bathroom.
100 Calorie Man
J: My favorite one to record. One of the times I was working (Jackson works at Two Sticks Studio recording studio) we really couldn’t dive into the vocal track, but I had enough time to try something else. Dave always does these interludes that were used pretty heavily on Let’s Drag Our Feet and somewhat on Songs that You Might Not Like, a little bit. So 100 Calorie Man was one that he had had a demo version of. It was cool because, I think Dave turned on the organ, cranked up the beat, and then played to the beat with the guitar amp. It was just very live. That was the song I got to actually do something. I made the little loopy, backwards-y thing, but I think the really cool thing about it is that it’s one little nugget. We finished it in a day, and it’s really satisfying.
D: I think you finished it in a half an hour.
J: It came together quick.
D: I’m not gonna say what it’s about.
J: No, no let’s hear
D: So much of my day is repetitive; waking up at the same time; going through the same routine. So I got on this thing of having the same routine every morning. Instead of breakfast I started eating these 100 calorie snacks. It’s the lamest conception of a song ever. It’s kind of like, getting ready in the bathroom, it would be dark. It’s the horrible time in the morning when you realize you’re just at the beginning of that routine and you still have 90 percent of the routine to go through. You get to that point, you know. I do like my job, but at 3:00 it’s the best time when you’re done.
We Want It! We Want It!
D: I was going to have a band with my wife. She plays the drums. I don’t remember why I was going to have a band with her. It was kind of a period of inactivity maybe?
J: I think maybe it was I was just being too slow.
D: No, no there were a couple months where we didn’t do much last winter and I was trying to force her into doing a band and we made this song. I had this sucky guitar because I get all these crappy guitars. So I played those chords and we made this song, and then I ended up liking it so much that I stole it for Boat. Then she didn’t want to have a band anymore because she felt like the second best.
J: She’s still pissed about us stealing it.
D: Yeah, she’s still pissed.
T: So you guys had a name for the band?
D: It was going to be called Genuine Diamonds. We almost played a show, but we had to cancel it.
The Name Tossers
J: that was one of the last demos we put together. I kind of latched onto it a lot because I thought it sounded very Motown. I was looking for ways to have that sort of vibe on the song. so I think we just tried to throughout the whole process of recording it, we tried to make it sound like not necessarily Motown, but kind of 50’s-esque. That was one we actually played together. Mark’s guitar part with the little whammy bar, I don’t think he had done that before.
D: It sounded like Interstate 8, Modest Mouse guitar part. It was awesome!
T: It sounds like the hit single to me.
D: It was weird, Kurt at Magic Marker, I think he didn’t like that one.
T: It’s got kind of a sound to it that isn’t typical of [what you expect to hear on] Magic Marker.
D: I think he kind of feels that way about the whole album, but he likes it. That’s pretty fun. We just started playing that.
Jeff Fell Dream (Grow Into Your Scene)
D: I can’t believe we’re getting away with the parenthesis
J: That was another interlude.
D: Yeah, It was just thrown together real quick. It’s the first draft lyric, first draft everything. Not that it was a toss-off; we liked it kind of as it was. It was one of those ones, like why try to make it something bigger? Just have it be that. We played with Jeff Fell from Tullycraft for about six months a couple years ago because we didn’t have a drummer, before Jackson joined the band. He just helped us out. He’s the nicest guy. The Tullycraft people are all nice, but he was the most genuine. If I had a big brother, I’d want it to be him. He was just super awesome and we never did anything to thank him. He didn’t really want to join the band necessarily, but we just kind of said goodbye and really didn’t hang out after that and we feel bad. So it’s supposed to be a tribute to him in some way. I don’t even think he’s aware that it exists.
Prince of Tacoma
T: Lyrically this song reminds me of Clogged Castle (from the first record).
D: It’s kind of the same…my dad.
J: Who is the Prince of Tacoma?
T: That’s a good question. I should have asked that.
J: I have a journalism background.
D: Did you take journalism? I didn’t know that.
J: Yeah, that was my major.
D: Yeah, I guess I am [the Prince of Tacoma]. I want my friends to move there.
God Save the Man, Who Isn’t All That Super
T: This is the audience participation song.
D: Yeah, it’s got the shaker part. That was all his (Jackson’s) idea.
J: It was?
D: It was kind of like Last Cans of Paint. It was very much straight strum. Then we played it as a band and thought how we could make it more interesting. So you came up with the idea of some kind of drop out, but it was going to start with the drop out, and then you had this idea to have the second verse be the drop out and have this big shaker participation part.
J: It’s got the faux Who part. What song was it, Genius that had the faux Live at Leeds version?
D: They played stuff, not badly, but a lot rocky-er than the recording.
J: I can’t think of the words to this one.
D: Really? It’s a pretty memorable song.
J: No, it is, but we haven’t played it in a while.
D: It was supposed to be a big rock song with the shaker part. I’m big into whenever we can get the shakers going. It’s really cool the way you recorded it because you did one shaker and then that shaker would stay and then there would be another shaker, and then I think there’s a third, and then a fourth would pop in. From a recording sense it was pretty phenomenal.
J: Thank you.
(do the) Magic Centipede
D: It’s a Pearl Jam reference
T: So it’s not a dance?
D: It was going to be. It was going to be like the Locomotion. Very seriously that was the idea. It was gonna be like the Locomotion. I guess that’s where the “do the” comes from. But then we both were really into Pearl Jam growing up, so it reminds me of Do the Evolution where Eddie Vedder pretends he’s a character singing it. I thought it was their most awesome song because of that. It seemed kind of silly and over the top and so I kind of wanted that song to be over the top too.
J: It sort of compares with Name Tossers because it’s hammy and sounds kind of 50’s. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
D: Like the Rodney Dangerfield ooohs and stuff in Back to School. It really is hammy. You’re right, there’s a ham element, but it’s natural. We shouldn’t be getting away with it. I’m not sure how much longer we will.
J: Our orchestral piece. Z. Duffy thought that it was a diss on Chicago, and I told him I thought it was about you going to work out.
D: I always thing that every album needs some variety of sounds. I don’t know if we achieve that always, but still not everything’s fast or not everything’s loud. That was supposed to be kind of a mellow song. The other thing I think of is that I made it when I use to go to the gym a lot the last couple years. I would just run on the tread mill for a half hour, do the chest press, do maybe 25 sit ups and leave. It’s not the most intense. It’s like the married guy’s work out. We (referring to his wife) both do about the same and then we go somewhere and eat a bunch of food. So I had this Shakey Hands t-shirt that I love and I would always wear it to work out. I would check myself out in the mirror, I didn’t necessarily mean to, but it would just have this little sweat. You could see the shadow of the sweat. Whenever I’m at the gym, I think about is that song.
J: It took eight hours to mix. We did a lot of shaping after the fact with that one. It started as song that Dave and this guy Ricky who plays with us, he’s from Portland.
D: I stayed at his house in Portland and we made up a song together, and that was it. He does the high pitched harmonies.
J: it would be fun to do a mix of that where it’s just Ricky’s overdubs. There’s toy piano, and gloc. They’re independent. They don’t work [separately], but together they’re totally twinkling back and forth
D: He’s got a weird basement full of funky little instruments
T: Is he in a band?
D: He’s was in this band the Galactic Heroes on Magic Marker. I think he longs to be in a band again so we always invite him to play with us. He’s a band nerd guy where he can transpose anything, sing these harmonies.
T: He’s like a utility guy.
D: Yeah, definitely a utility guy. We can just tell him to learn these songs and he totally does. He just shows up!
J: That one had been around a long time. I always thought it’s a great chorus, but where does it go? We’d get to the chorus within 10 seconds. We had to expand it and make it big in the right places
D: I think the ending is almost, I wouldn’t say bad rock, but it just kind of continues
J: Well it’s got J. Goodman’s guitar.
D: So Josh in the band can play the guitar like none of us can, so we kind of let him just pour it all on at the end of the album. In the past I’d always go let’s end with a quiet song, but this time it seemed like let’s go with a crazy ass song. I think it might be my favorite song on the album.
J: That one got the full cocktail, a whole slew of shakers and tambourines.
D: Yeah and it kind of sincerely references China! It’s kinda got corny motivational lyrics.
D: Yeah, it’s corny, but it was intentionally a motivational kind of lyric, maybe not for a generation, but for 30 year olds everywhere. (Laughing) That’s totally not it.
J: A sort of a “you can do it”?
D: Plain as it can be. You can do it song.