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Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010

826NYC, otherwise known as the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co, is a non-profit center that encourages children to develop their creative writing skills.  It is also a brainchild of Dave Eggers, acclaimed author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and, most recently, the screenplay and novelized versions of Where the Wild Things Are.  As it happens, Eggers also happens to frequent a celebrity circle, which allows him to bring talented comedians (John Oliver, Eugene Mirman), musicians (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens) or actors to 826 benefits as was the case of the present Ping-Pong charity event.  SPiN New York, an extremely chic table tennis club in Manhattan was the latest benefit venue where Eggers, along with author Sarah Vowell, the Times crosswords editor Will Shortz and actors, David Schwimmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Catherine Keener, and Mike Meyers, played some ping pong.  And I don’t want to forget New York Ranger Sean Avery or chef Mario Batali either.  For those Regular Joes, you could raise money for a chance to play against a celebrity or make a smaller contribution to come in and watch.


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Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009
by Roman Kuebler

When Baltimore’s Oranges Band announced that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their new record, having soldiered through personnel changes and struggles at their label, Lookout Records, it seemed like an excellent time to catch up and to allow them to speak for themselves by cataloging the happenings.  Blog entries One through Five tracked them from the very beginning of pulling the band together for the first time in the studio, to laying the album down piece to piece, to looking into just why albums can sometimes take so incredibly long to finish.  In entry six, with the album largely tracked [Editor’s Note: It sounds incredible], Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler took a break from writing about the experience of recording to providing the photos that come along with it.  In this final installment he explores the inconceivably painful and time-consuming task of coming up with cover art, once again with the same [much-appreciated] humor, attention to detail, and self-effacing honesty that has marked all of his entries.—Jon Langmead


The final product

The final product


Cover Art


The Oranges Band Are Invisible. An album is not an album without a name. And after what seems, now, like an eternity, this collection of songs is, officially, an album. Not only because the album now has a name but also because it collects the experience of writing and rehearsing it, demoing and recording it, mixing and fixing it, and yes, naming it.


For me, processing and reflecting on all of the stages that went into the making of this album is rather overwhelming. Our last album was released close to four years ago and this new album, because albums are the benchmarks of a band’s history, is responsible for gathering all the experiences since then and, somehow, defining the band through these songs and under this title, The Oranges Band Are Invisible. Easy enough to consider that no album could really comprehensively sum up four years of any band’s history, right? Well, what is overwhelming about that concept is that I might be the only person in the world for whom this album really CAN do that.


A band’s album is so many levels. It’s songs and performances and ideas and potential but at the end of the day, it’s a product. A physical product that has a name and a visual reference so that it can be classified among the other albums that people experience. What this means is that after working forever on getting your music where you want it to be, you have to wrap it up in a package to sell it. It needs a name and artwork that will classify and define it. Now, assuming the responsibility for just about everything in the progression of a band has it’s advantages… I guess you can claim all the credit for your, many… errr, ummm, well, some of your successes. You know, you get to ride in the convertible at the parade! You get, also, to own (outright) all failures! The fringe benefit, the one that people don’t see, though, is that you get to wake up in the middle of the night realizing that the artwork is not going to complete itself.


I really like doing the artwork for albums but not necessarily for my own albums (even though I’ve done every one). It deserves so much focus and attention and I found that, after having “left it all on the field” during the recording, the artwork can be a daunting task. Not only it is creatively stressful but it is also a technical exercise that requires patience and administration, commodities in short supply at the end of the album-making process. It was with this in mind that I sat awake in bed one night devising ways to get around doing the artwork this time. The obvious answer was to have someone else do it. Employ one of my many talented and artistic friends to create a great concept and execute it, visually, to perfection. Sadly, it’s an idea as simple as it is unrealistic. I have tried this many times and it has been my experience that artists, myself included, are as capitalistic as the next guy. Well maybe not if the next guy is an investment banker or something, but we still operate on the “time is money” concept and creating an album cover takes a LOT of time. Of course most bands, ours included, find that money is another commodity in short supply at the end of the album-making process so that didn’t seem like a workable solution.


CDs were hand assembled while watching football

CDs were hand assembled while watching football


Still lying awake, racking my brain to figure out how to get out of doing the artwork, I was nearly resolved to having to put in the hours of being shackled to my computer, staring at the screen when, in a MacGyver-like flash of inspiration I thought, “What if there is NO artwork?” Wait… what?! The basic thought of an album with no artwork is a little too easy. I mean, again, an album needs to be represented visually in some way and needs to be a physical product so it had to be something but an adjusted concept that eliminated paper sleeves and tray cards did seem legitimate. Not only did it seem manageable, but I was quickly aware of how the idea of a “paperless” album actually challenged the popular concept of music packaging at a time when the music industry is struggling to define the value of music and the legitimacy of the compact disc format against, obviously, the digital format which has no physical representation. I liked it’s environmental statement as well, even though it’s still a lot of plastic… well, we won’t sell too many then, out of concern for the environment.


Ok, so having convinced myself I can get around the idea of artwork, at least in the traditional sense I still had to name the album. Easy enough, if the Beatles did the “White Album” with the all white artwork and Metallica did the “Black Album” (uh, I mean Spinal Tap-never figured out if that was a joke by Metallica), then we were going to claim the “Clear Album”. Knocking it around a bit I thought it best to shy away from inviting comparisons to the Beatles, which would seem a little self important, and came around to the idea of the “Invisible Album”. But you can’t write it on the album and say it’s the “Invisible Album” and I am sure we wouldn’t get the opportunity to nickname our album through the press or anything so I had to figure out a way to call it something that included invisible. By the way, I am still lying in bed thinking about all this. Even though it takes a couple hours to sit and recount the episode in writing the whole thing developed in about three minutes I would guess. Crazy, huh? As I am cycling through a number of album title options utilizing the “invisible” theme, I thought about The Oranges Band Are Invisible. I think some of the others were just Invisible or The Invisible Band or just stuff like that but when I got around to The Oranges Band Are Invisible, I was immediately reminded of The Fuses Are Lies. The Fuses were one of the great Baltimore bands of the late 90s and have inspired many Oranges Band songs and, along with a handful of other local Baltimore groups, are largely responsible for me playing in bands at all. This album draws deeply, both lyrically and musically, on that music and that time in my life so this association with the title really felt right to me. I love it when a concept comes together!


Finally, in thinking about the title I was toying with the idea of an invisible band. The Oranges Band have always felt a little bit like the invisible band, kind of hiding in plain sight. Not necessarily the underdogs or the attention-getters but more the guys who fade into the landscape a bit. I don’t mind that so much as it sort of accurately describes our perception and maybe our place. We have an understated appeal, that’s all. I appreciated how the title of the album is a statement about our band from our band. And hey, I mean the Invisible Man, right? Who hasn’t dreamt of being the Invisible Man? He’s easily one of the coolest superheros–or was he a menace?! I guess I didn’t see that one.


The CD covers were hand screened by Alex Dondero. This is the artwork for the screen. Thanks to Alex for his help.

The CD covers were hand screened by Alex Dondero. This is the artwork for the screen. Thanks to Alex for his help.



Tagged as: the oranges band
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Monday, Nov 10, 2008
by Roman Kuebler

When Baltimore’s Oranges Band announced that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their new record, having soldiered through personnel changes and struggles at their label, Lookout Records, it seemed like an excellent time to catch up and to allow them to speak for themselves by cataloging the happenings.  Blog entries One through Five tracked them from the very beginning of pulling the band together for the first time in the studio, to laying the album down piece to piece, to looking into just why albums can sometimes take so incredibly long to finish.  In entry six, with the album largely tracked [Editor’s Note: It sounds incredible], Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler takes somewhat of a break from writing about the experience of recording to providing the photos that come along with it.—Jon Langmead


THE ALL PHOTO BLOG!


This is the all photo episode.  We had a few guests in while recording this album and I remembered to snap a few pictures here and there (and Dave took a few also).  Thanks to them for their contributions! Listed below the photos are links to their respective musical outputs so visit them and tell ‘em I sent ya. (I’ll get a cut of the profit if you do!)


The tape machine. A Sony JH-24 if you are interested. Use tape y’all, it’s like someone is softly whispering your songs back in your ear as you fall asleep.


Producer/Engineer Adam Cooke through the glass.


Mandy Koch (Karmella’s Game), Shawna Potter (Avec), and kicked out the background vocals for our most wannabe dance-y, ESG, “Steam”-era Peter Gabriel track to date, “When Your Mask Is Your Revealing Feature”. 


Roman does the conducting!  (Really, I was just trying to stay out the way…)


Jim Glass (Impossible Hair) is a straight-up legend! If the Oranges Band album were a play, Jim would be playing the part of Peter Murphy from Bauhaus.


Jim Glass up close and personable. Jim also does an incredible Andy Partridge of XTC, but that would be a different play.


Pat Martin (Oranges Band bass playing dude) is the least intimidating security dude ever, according to his press release. I wish the rest of the staff at the Ottobar were Koala bears.


Pat Martin is ready to field your calls.


I was afraid that my recording blog was a little lacking in technical detail so I include, for those who care about these things, a picture of rack mounted objects with knobs and screens and needles that we probably used to make our album sound so much better.


I think what I really want to do is ONLY play tambourine in bands.  I guess I’ll need to go back in time and join the Shangri-Las… or the Feelies, they had a percussionist, right? Weirdos.


RATSIZE!  We needed gang vocals on one of our songs… so I found a gang called Ratsize. Noel Danger, Matt Gabs, Pat Martin (L-R).


Noel Danger does NOT fuck around when it comes to eating a sub.


I say, “Ok, so the part is ‘OH, YEAH’”. Ratsize says, “OH YEAH!” Easy enough…


Amplifiers for a more technically and electronically rounded experience.


This is how we mix the music in the new millennium.


Jim and Roman… corporate schills!


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Friday, Oct 24, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

Piano pop and rock music, under the singer-songwriter genre umbrella, took a blow to its reputation thanks to people like Daniel Powter—which is totally fine if you enjoy listening to music at the hair salon. Nobody takes it seriously anymore. But we owe a lot to the genre (i.e. Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel) and Nathan Angelo could provide a boost to its reputation. He boasted an incredibly clear and powerful voice: As malleable as a Jason Mraz but infinitely stronger, yet not as weightless as Jay Kay’s of Jamiroquai. With a backing band that included another pianist, playing mostly organ, he added subtle touches to his funk sound, like curious syncopations, accents, and stops. When he wanted to, he serenaded with American-Idol vigor, but he seems to have his head on straight, opting for the low road. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, played near the end of his set, was a simple reminder of why this genre is still so great and why it shouldn’t ignore people like Nathan Angelo.



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Friday, Jul 11, 2008
by Roman Kuebler
When the band announced that they were headed into the studio to begin work on their new record, having soldiered through personnel changes and struggles at their label, Lookout Records, it seemed like an excellent time to catch up and to allow them to speak for themselves by cataloging the happenings. Entries One through Four focused on the band in studio, laboring with overdubs and trying to catching lightning in a bottle, or at least on 2" tape. Entry Five has Oranges Band frontman Roman Kuebler exploring why exactly albums take so long to make, or at least why this album is taking so long. -- Jon Langmead


WHAT THE… ?!!


Alright seriously, why in the hell does this take so long? I mean writing, rehearsal, recording, mixing… it all takes a long time and I can’t figure out exactly why. Well, I guess I know but only because I do it. I think it’s me… drrf!?!


We started recording this album in late January. Aaaaand, that was five months ago. The only thing that is slightly more embarrassing than having only finished seven songs in that amount of time, is that this is just my fifth blog entry. Thanks to all the PopMatters readers and writers for being especially patient. But wait, why DOES this take so long?


Being in a semi-professional rock band is a full time hustle. Anyone out there drumming up shows and tours and trying to make albums and sell them knows that we are very tiny fish in a very large sea. Making ends meet as a band is difficult, well, I don’t know how difficult it is because, see, I have a job. I have always had jobs since I was 12 and started my paper route. I have been doing a lot of freelance and temporary jobs over the years to keep free enough so that when it’s time to get in the van… I can get in the van. Thing about doing temp jobs though is that when there is work you had better do it, cause it might not be there tomorrow. Anyways, reason (excuse) number one is… my work was, like, totally busy. I build architectural models for a living, and yes, it is an awesome job. Every once in a while though, for a couple weeks or sometimes a month or so, you can do nothing else. That’s the job. So for me this year, those months were April and May. Luckily, I get paid by the hour.


Somehow, somewhere in my life, i turned into a critical freak. I have always considered myself a reasonably laid back guy, but I think I might be wrong about that because I seem to be able to find fault with almost anything… anything I do that is. I am a little more lenient with other folks, though Dave might not agree (so don’t ask). Reason (excuse) two is… it takes me four hours to do one crappy lead vocal take. I don’t know how long Axl Rose takes, but it can’t be much longer than that.


Speaking earlier of being small fish in a large sea, we are not currently “enlabeled”. Our last record fulfilled our contract with our then label, Lookout Records. Since then we have been adrift in the sea of bands and music and albums and all that. It is a curious and uncertain place to be, but the upside is that no one is nagging at us about finishing this record. Wait, is that good or bad. I mean, five months?! We could certainly use a wee bit of nagging (from someone other than my father, that is) Anyways, Reason (excuse) three is… no one is knocking down our door to finish this thing.


But that is not such a bad thing. Because one thing that has been really cool about this process is that I have had opportunity to reflect and consider every stage in the process. It’s a luxury that will definitely result in a better product. I am sure of it! I mean it is a little bit torturous to constantly consider and conspire and create and re-create and tweak and change, but it seems to be for the best. Reason (excuse) four is… trust me, it’s for the best!


And instead of tweaking and considering and changing and altering this blog entry. I am just going to send it off. No pictures this time, cause what does a picture of me taking forever to do something look like? Wait, I have one of those….


Next time, guest players in the house. The all picture blog!


Roman Kuebler


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