How Sweet It Is…

Greetings Native aficionados, and other strange creatures!

We’re back with another exciting go-round on the Native Vault merry-go-round, as trawl through the labyrinth of tapes with only our base instincts to guide us, and daft mixe-metaphors to express ourselves with.

As curator of said vault, I can avow to the difficulty sometimes encountered in this musty chamber of rusting relics, and mis-labeled tapes.

This week’s audio delights hail from a DAT tape that bequeathed far less than advertised on it’s front cover.

Brass Giraffe Logo

In the weeks and months that followed Native’s epic weekend at Brass Giraffe Studio, whenever there would transpire a session (like, say, when we brought in Catherine Russell for her mighty contribution to the background vocals) the effervescent and deranged Craig Randall would send us home with a tape of that night’s work, and other nifty mixes that he’d done.

The tape we are examining this week was filled with wonderful mixes from early sessions, and included things like Buddy Cage‘s additions to Outlaw, which weren’t used on the album, but would make for positively cracking bonus tracks (which is pretty much what these Nativology volumes amount to).

Alas, alack, and you gotta be kidding me! Having cued up the tape for transfer, it was a shock to hear, instead of those vaunted mixes, a crappily-recorded Native rehearsal from 1999.

Guess we never thought we’d ever be looking back in fondness of all the hard work that was invested in these sessions… live and learn.

NEVER RECORD OVER STUFF, people!

(Sorry for shouting….)

Anyway, here are two excellent Craig Randall rough mixes from early 1998.

The first one owes a lot to Chris Wyckoff, who goaded your humble narrator into one more take, when I was getting pretty pooped after a long first day. As it turned out, this was the only song from that day we kept. With that one gesture, Chris permanently certified his inclusion in our motley ranks.

The second one shares the distinction of having two keyboardists. On Sweet Intensity, John Watts returned for one last session – adding the tasteful piano part to a song he had done so much to bring to life. On Love Should Be Free, we had Pete Levin in the studio with us, tracking live, with Chris dubbing in organ later, and it’s as funky as you want to be!

Sweet Intensity (Alt. Mix)

Cornbread Wednesday

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Remembering Michael Jaimes (8/30/1967 – 10/13/2006)

Welcome to a special edition of our weekly Nativology blog.

Normally, we put up a song from our archives on Wednesdays, and, if you go to our Bandcamp page and see the albums-worth of gems from the Native Vault, you’ll see we did a lot of recording during our active years. Mainly, we endeavored to develop material for the band, but occasionally one of us took the step of working on tunes for strictly personal reasons.

Today’s tune is one Mike Jaimes started on in 1991, before Native was formed. Recorded in Dave Thomas’ room at The Clinton Arms Hotel (aka, The Hippie Hotel) on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, Mike was keen to make a demo of a song he’d written the music to, and which had beautiful, poignant lyrics by his good friend, Joe Rakha (5/2/1964 – 9/19/2002).

Years later, in 1998, Mike returned to the song. Dave did a really lousy mixdown from the 4-track to the 8-track Tascam that was used in all the recordings you hear in our weekly post. Mike then laid down a single vocal take, and there it remained in an unmixed state until today.

Dave has taken the instrument tracks from the earlier tape and combined them with the 1998 vocal to create a new mix.

We think it exemplifies a lot about Mike — his way with a melody, and his heartfelt delivery would be hard to match, even by the artists he admired the most.

We’ve long wrestled with the question of what to do with this singularity in our archive, and realized that today is the most fitting moment to share it.

We miss Mike more than could ever be expressed, but when October 13 rolls around it’s especially tough, and each of us finds that it’s been —

Rainin’ In My Heart

Digging Holes Again

Greetings Nativophiles! And, welcome back to our ongoing excursion through the musty corridors of the Native Tape Vault!`

Before we took a summer vacation (to work) we’d spent a year listening to the many splendid demos, rarities, and anomalies* found in our tape library, as curated, annotated, pixelated, and carbonated by our illustrious drummer, Dave Thomas, HBE**.

Back when Dave was what psychiatrists like to refer to, euphemistically, as “sane,” he undertook the massive task of going through the mountain of recordings we made in our salad years, when all we did was eat salad and make tapes in our studio that Woody built.Native Tapes Random

Under Dave HBE’s tyranny, Nativology has endured two iterations — Volumes 1 & 2. Now, the planet is faced with the even graver crisis of Vol. 3, and already the Untied Nations General Assembly has issued a statement saying, “Who needs salad when Nutella Hazlenut Spread can feed the world?”

Today’s example of John Fitzwater-engineered analogue-based goodness is a song we have visited already on Vol. 2, in a version from the John Epstein epoch which, much like the Jurassic era, ended in early 1995.

Following a brief, salad-munching summer, the effervescent John Watts joined the band, and a new round of demos were made on the trusty Tascam 8-track cassette recorder, which now sits enshrined in The Museum of Dave’s Storage Locker In Englewood, NJ.

Matt Hutt had come up with a dilly of a song that would eventually be the kick-off tune of our best-known album, Exhale On Spring Street. Woody collaborated on it, and Dave kicked in a line or two. Mike Jaimes and Matt Lyons kibutzed in the corner, and a landmark tune was regifted to the many varied nations of Midtown Manhattan, between Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, sorry, Clinton.

So, settle back with a quart of Sangria, a bowl of Nutella, and a big honking doobie! Click some keys on your favorite computer, and marvel at the majesty embodied in a little number called —

Digging Holes v.2

* A subtle reference to Dave’s current project, a graphic novel called ANOMALIES, which can be found here.

** Half-Baked Empire

Cornbread Wednesday

Older? Yes. Wiser? Perhaps. But, we’re all still kids in a Thunderstorm

Native was humming along on all cylinders in the fall of 1995.

We had endured the loss of keyboardist John Epstein, and a summer wherein we toured as a five-piece band. John Watts had come on board in the fall, and we hardly missed a beat — he assimilated our old material, even as we were coming up with enough new stuff to fill another two albums.

Speaking of albums, our first effort had floundered, due in no small part to a poor mastering job which nobody on our team recognized, but which kept radio from playing it.

We were hungry, hunkered-down, and humbled. We kept stumbling & rumbling along, oblivious to any muse but our own. The places we visited were farther-flung than ever, Buffalo, Rochester, all ports of call up the east coast, and of course — Bar Harbor, Maine. Aside from New York City, there was no place we visited more often, or felt more at home. The names of the bars there kept changing, but the faces of friends in that incredible place were as important to us as any we would ever know.

When we were back in NYC, our regularly-scheduled recording sessions kept us busy. The John Watts period saw us refining and improving songs we’d already demoed with the mercurial Mr. Epstein, and today’s song is among those on that list.

John Fitzwater, our erstwhile soundman, had developed a technique for recording the band on only eight-tracks. Since we were limited to that number on the Tascam Cassette recorder we were using in this project. Fitz would record the rhythm section of the band on DAT, and then transfer that to the first two tracks on the Tascam. We would then have six tracks left on which to overdub guitar, keys, and vocals. The hard part was getting a perfectly-balanced take of drums, bass, percussion, and rhythm guitar on the DAT. But, when we re-recorded today’s featured tune, an awful thing happened.

I was beginning to make demos of my own compositions on the same DAT machine, and one fateful day I accidentally recorded over a completed take of today’s song before it could be transferred to eight-track. The band was furious, Mat Hutt was ballistic (and, indeed, could not even talk to me for quite some time, such was his anger). I was devastated, and the event only made it harder for me to bring in material of my own creation.

Thunderstorm over NYC

source: imgur

For a time, I was quite isolated within the structure of the band, and a bit of a pariah. To make matters worse, when we re-re-recorded the song yet again — although it was a fine take, and the overdubs went well (with Mike surpassing himself on lead guitar), we did not take the care we had exhibited on all the other demos, and we found ourselves out of tracks and unable to do the harmony vocals.

At that point, lethargy and inertia set in. We took a break from recording, and the song languished, never getting a proper mix as all the other songs had done — which is too bad because it’s really quite splendid, as I think you’ll agree.

So, here it is — one of Native’s finest efforts, and a lost page from our playbook —

Thunderstorm v.2

Cornbread Wednesday

Barefoot Girls

Before Native, your humble narrator was in a band called Kitchen Ethics. Based in Hell’s Kitchen, and helmed by Joel Golden, Mick Ryall, and Ron Brice, we were lucky enough to play gigs with Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, God Street Wine, and were a part of the burgeoning New York Rock Club Scene in the pre-Wetlands days when small clubs like Nightingale’s, and McGovern’s ruled the roost.

It was during this period that I started to take up a guitar and attempt to write songs. As a drummer, I’ve always tried to play with really good songwriters, and the day came when I had collected enough influences and arrangement practices that I was compelled to take it a step further and write the darn thing myself.

I was like Candide, throwing myself into the role of writer and hoping that sheer luck and effort would make up for things like not knowing the names of the chords, or how to play the guitar.

But, I had one very good advantage, as a drummer I knew very clearly what the beat was, and how I wanted it played. This may not sound like much, but let me tell you something, most of the songwriters I worked with, as good as they were, usually had no idea what they wanted, beat-wise. Quite often, I’d be playing a song and wonder if I had it right, and I seldom found out!

So, I was motivated to write songs from the beat up, and with the encouragement of the Kitchen Ethics guys, I wrote a little ditty called The Better Part Of Valor. Good title, but that’s about all that’s good in it. Oh, the band plays it fine, it’s the lyrics and melody, and singing that makes me absolutely sure that I’ll not be playing it for anyone.

Kitchen Ethics broke up, sadly, and I was left with The Radon Room in Mott Street. Two years later, at the same location, Native was getting going, and I decided to dust off this tune and give it a revamp. Inspired by the intoxicating sight of beautiful girls dancing around an open fire after a Grateful Dead concert, (and with Something Worth Remembering already under my belt) I proceeded to work up a tune that worked out pretty well, and would stay in our setlists for the rest of Native’s touring days.

We never recorded an album version, other than the epic live version found on Native’s cd – Live From Marmfington Farm Vol. 1. But, we *did* tape a demo of it during the sessions from Fall 1995 that have made up a big part of Nativology Vol. 2

In my humble opinion, it’s one of the best things we did in these sessions. So, take a trip back in time, to a Grateful Dead parking lot bonfire, and the silhouetted dancers around it, those —

Barefoot Girls

Cornbread Wednesday

Fragile Clown

Welcome to the Native blog! If you are just joining us, this is a blog dedicated to the band Native. Each week, we post a rare song from our archives for free downloading or streaming. And the bonus (or the catch) is I get to walk us through a bit of background on what you are about to hear, and you have to read it or we send attack dogs to your door to relieve themselves on your welcome mat!!!

The period of 1995/96 was perhaps the bands’ strongest period; we were writing songs so fast we could barely keep up with ourselves. We managed to play and compose constantly for almost a decade, and much of that material never saw the light of day, or was played a few times in our shows and later dropped, and of course many songs went on to get re-recorded for our albums.

In our studio, Marmfington Farm, we were working on a Tascam eight-track cassette recorder, and our Producer/Engineer was John Fitzwater.

But, today’s track was overseen by Mat Hutt, and was a song that developed so quickly the band never did a full recording of it before it was thrust into our playlist for a hot minute at the tail end of  ’95.

Mat’s early demos, before forming the band, were done on the same set-up and he was quite familiar with how to demo a song quickly, using all the tracks as he does here. He laid down two guitars and three vocals over a stereo drum machine track. Matt Lyons provided the bass. No involvement from myself, Mike Jaimes, or John Watts — eight tracks done and dusted!

It was one of the few times that a song was demoed in order to show the band, as opposed to just running the chords at rehearsal and recording it later. And it worked!

It was so perfect for our sound that we were playing it on stage within days. Sadly, the song was dropped after a period of a few months and never received its due in the studio. But, I love it!

With this tune, Mat shows his continuing growth as our front man and main songwriter. His mastery of vocal-stacking is something I took note of as I got busy with the same kind of demos for the songs I was bringing in.

It’s also a very personal song for Mat. He was going through a lot of changes, growing up, getting tougher, and one thing was for sure: There would be no more —

Fragile Clown

Cornbread Wednesday

The Smallest Moon

Native’s chief songwriters are Mat Hutt and John Wood. Mike Jaimes wrote a few really good ones, and I was always champing at the bit with one of my little epics.

But, Matt Lyons very rarely brought in any compositions, being satisfied to contribute to the details of the various arrangements. However, there exists in the Native Vault one item that I’ve always loved — it’s a song that began life in the days when Anthony Ballsley was our singer, and we had a harder, more Rock sound.

It existed for a couple of years as an instrumental that only got played as we warmed-up during rehearsals, and was known informally as Ham & Eggs. It was never played at our gigs, but it was very strong, and we all thought it had promise.

Woody singingI asked Woody recently about the transformation the song underwent in the Summer months of 1995:

“The song, as I’m sure you’ll remember, was originally called Ham & Eggs. It predated me, and I don’t know if Matt Lyons wrote it, or if it was a collaboration. I always thought it would be a great song to try to write a melody for and I specifically wrote this song to go with the riff as opposed to how I usually write.

I had mostly always started with lyrics, then wrote the melody to fit. I learned a lot, writing that one. It was also very personal to me.”

When he brought the new lyrics in, renaming the song in the process, it was an immediate hit with the band, and for a brief time it enjoyed a regular place in our set lists. But, time and tide move on, and what was one day a sentimental favorite soon became a remembrance of pained separation and loss, and would be played nevermore.

Thus, the short lifespan of one of Woody’s all-time best lyrics, and Matt Lyons raging power chords was limited to a paltry few live tapes in our library. But, I cannot help feel a pang of nostalgia for those days, surely a golden period for Native, when the high point of our show would unquestionably be —

The Smallest Moon

Cornbread Wednesday