The Schramms Look Back on "New England" (premiere + interview)
Smart, sophisticated songs from the Schramms populate new their LP, Omnidirectional, the group's first album in a decade. Hear "New England" now.
Omnidirectional is the seventh album from the Schramms and the veteran band's first release in a decade. Featuring drummer Ron Metz, bassist Al Greller and, of course, David Schramm, the record was produced by JD Foster (Lucinda Williams, Richard Buckner, Calexico, Marc Ribot). The group has just issued a new video for the song, "New England". Built upon gorgeous acoustic guitar work from Schramm, the song builds steadily to a dizzying and rewarding emotional climax that is perfectly understated and reminds us of the group's undeniable charms.
"Without dispelling too much of the mystery, which I like to keep, the song has to do with looking back and getting caught up in the past," Schramm says. "There is a remembrance of touring in the '90s with all the setlists. I thought of the imagery first, and it's not that I think it's 'the hit', but I had some cohesive ideas for it." As for the guitar playing, he adds, "It starts with a single guitar. But there are two guitars eventually. It's called rhythm guitar for a reason. It's driving the whole song. I like that both the guitars aren't playing the same thing. The electric guitar punctuates everything."
Omnidirectional is out 21 June via Bar/None Records.
This album had a longer gestation period than some of your others.
Sure did. [Laughs.]
When did you know you were going to make this album?
I started doing demos for the songs longer than 10 years ago. Probably 2006, which is crazy. We started recording at the end of the last decade. There was less urgency. The music industry had changed to such an extent that we were out of the flow of album-tour-album-tour. There was no deadline because we were working in a friend's studio during off hours. We didn't have that clock ticking all the time. There was room to experiment. There was no urgency.
Are there things from a decade or more ago that wound up on the album or did those things slowly disappear?
A lot of what we initially did is what you hear. There are some songs that had some re-thinks. "Hearts and Diamonds" had a different chorus originally. We liked the basic track but rebuilt the structure of the song by replacing chords and drums sounds but leaving most of it intact. As far as the process goes, it was organic.
I hear people talk about having deadlines and then, six months later, they say, "Oh, man. That bridge bugs me."
Sure, man. I'm pretty happy with how everything turned out this time because I had the time to make it all happen. At the same time, it's not like we were working so much that we went over things again and again and again. This album had a span of ten years from the last one but the actual time spent on it was maybe only two months.
[Laughs.] Everything was spaced apart so much. We would work and then we wouldn't be able to get back to the studio, for various reasons, for three or four months. We let it happen. Whether because of laziness or because we had a different attitude toward how we were making a record.
Why was JD Foster the right guy to produce this album?
I love working with JD. He's a master. We first worked together on the Richard Buckner record Since . Richard had heard some things I'd done and wanted me to play on the record. That led to JD producing our record 100 Questions. He'll probably do the next one too.
You all have a lot of experience behind you. Why continue to work with a producer?
We kind of did it backward. We produced our first records ourselves and 100 Questions was the first time we had a producer. Backward! [Laughs.]
So, what led to you not producing yourselves in the first place?
I wanted a different set of ears, a different mind. JD is also masterful at getting vocals out of people. He had a way of getting to make me sing better than I'd done.
Do you feel that there's a thematic connection to the songs?
They're from the same muse. I think that's discernable. I think you can hear it in the songs.