What is so excellent about The Orange Peels new album Begin The Begone is the superior songwriting. It really is a fantastic album, featuring brilliantly performed, diverse and intricate compositions candy-coated in a likable pop-rock wrapper. But these are no empty calories! There is a vast depth to the music here that had us listening to this album for weeks before we could even begin to find words for it. There’s just so much there – it’s really quite amazing.
This depth of creative vision is what sets The Orange Peels apart. Their songs go through real development and change. The ideas are unique and it’s supremely evident that the performers believe in what they’re doing and they’re fully invested in making the best music they can. There’s a braveness at work as well with a willingness to deviate from the predictable and to take the listener through new and unexpected paths.
Begin The Begone is the first album we’ve heard from the foursome of Allen Clapp, Jill Pries, John Moremen and Gabriel Coan, who have been making music both together and apart since their 1997 debut Square. Recent happenings in the band’s life have included a car accident as well as a rocky relocation, and these events seem to have given them fresh perspective and avenues of expression. Whatever the lifestyle circumstances, the music they have made here is a brilliant balance between classic Beatle-esque songwriting and individual conceptual exploration. It’s modern music free from category other than it’s excellence.
There is a strength in narrative at work here that truly moves the listener. A story is told. Like the parables of ancient times, there is infinite meaning and possibilities behind the lines on the page. Really, Begin The Begone is such a dense, thorough collection of ideas it takes quite a while to identify and appreciate all the things that are going on in the music. A song that might seem to be of a particular style changes again and again when you listen to it. Catchy pop moments subtly transition to complex narratives in songs like 9 and what seem like simple keyboard patterns turn into complex tapestries of sounds and ideas in songs like Tidepool.
The Orange Peels are making some excellent and timeless music, right now. Begin The Begone is a superb collection of ideas and expressions and it gets our most enthusiastic endorsement. This band is making fantastic musical statements that will remain relevant because of the merits of their skills, and this is both rare and admirable. Because this band is new to us, we were curious to hear what they thought about this moment and we reached out to Allen Clapp from the band to answer a few questions:
RUST: This is the first album we’ve heard from you – how would you say this album relates to your other works? What about this time in your life is different from those other creative periods?
AC: I think there are a few things usually happening on an album by The Orange Peels—including this one—and those include a sort of emotional empathy between the words, music, and production; a sense of melodic adventure, and a kind of melancholic optimism. Even though those elements are carried by different songs over the course of different albums, they’re definitely always present in some form. Also, our records usually occur pretty slowly—over the course of about 4 years.
Where things are different on Begin the Begone, they’re different because we did this record very quickly. Instead of the recording and writing being sprawled over a few years, most of these songs literally just flowed out within a four-day period last winter, and then we spent the next few months writing lyrics, finishing arrangements and mixing.
I think a major reason it happened like this was that half the band was in a near-fatal accident in late 2013 that we were lucky to walk away from. We were hit from a standstill by a drunk driver going 60 mph, and we literally walked away with no lasting injuries, which is amazing.
I think when something like that happens to you, all your filters are down for a while. It took several months for me to begin to feel kind of normal after that—everything was just out there on the surface, and it was strange. So making those songs in that frame of mind probably has something to do with how the record came together.
RUST: You have a living and recording compound – do you feel that having unlimited, or at least not “on the clock” time to work on your music has allowed you to take your music further than you would have had you been on a fixed budget or schedule?
AC: Absolutely. We made a couple of our albums in a really great commercial studio (The Terrarium in Minneapolis), and that was just the right thing to do for those albums (Square and Circling the Sun). Those records were rehearsed, arranged, and ready to go before we went into the studio.
Sometimes it’s nice to get together with a blank slate and just see what takes shape. That’s the kind of record Begin the Begone is. We just spent four days waking up every morning and trying out ideas and getting into sonic moods, and at the end of it, there were all these song ideas. So yeah, going into a situation like that with no clock running is crucial. We actually have a huge clock face with no hands on it, which sits outside the studio.
RUST: What was the vibe like during the recording period? Were ideas flowing fast and free or was it more of a slow and patient exploration process?
AC: Well, in that relatively short period of time we had both things happen. One of the tunes, “Embers,” just popped out of thin air. It was just literally there one moment where it hadn’t existed before. We worked on the chorus progression for maybe 5 minutes, and that was the most time consuming thing about it. Others were sprawling mood pieces like “New Moon” or “Fleeing the Scene” that ended up becoming shorter, connected pieces after lyrics were written. I think both of those were about 8 minutes long originally, so they were really shaped more during the overdub and mix sessions.
Funny thing about Embers though . . . the music and arrangement came so quickly and easily, but the lyrics and vocal melody took forever to come up with. It was one of the last songs we finished for the album. John Moremen has the best guitar line during the chorus, and I wanted to have the vocal say something important there while simultaneously staying out of the way of the guitar, so it turned into this call-and-response kind of vocal.
RUST: Tidepool is one of our favorite songs on the album, what can you tell us about it?
AC: Glad you like it! When I sit down at the piano, I tend to play these sort of spidery melodies that oscillate like that, and I never know what to do with them. Usually they turn into more straightforward arrangements, and the spidery playing goes into the background. This time, I just shared the idea with everyone, and Gabriel added this really nice electronic drum bed, and John added some cool sympathetic picking. It was also the first time I ever used an Eventide harmonizer. I’ve always wanted one, and so I started experimenting with running an electric guitar through it and just outputting the effected signal, and it just sounded really surreal. For some reason it reminded me of Anemones and starfish and urchins. So, halfway through the song after the first break, that’s what you’re hearing.
RUST: 9 is another favorite, is this song specific to the car accident? How did that event affect the direction of the music on the album?
AC: Definitely. 9 is the most specific to what happened to us—the accident, moving out of Silicon Valley, buying a house in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and finding a new life—it’s all there. It was the last song we fully wrote for the record, and the first one we recorded at the new mountain studio. As soon as we had that one down, it started feeling like we had a record almost done, because I think the album needed that piece to feel complete somehow.
RUST: Who are some of the people who have helped you make your music, but might not have gotten the recognition they deserve?
AC: All the people who have supported us over the years, whether they’re people who helped with recording or were boosters of our music, have been incredibly important. Early on, my friend Maz Kattuah really encouraged me to record my own stuff, and that was really important in the large scheme of things and is a big reason why we even have our own recording studio today. Dan Jewett and Larry Winther are high-school friends, and some of the first people I ever played music with. We played in our first band together and struggled through writing our first songs together. Brent Rademaker (from the Beachwood Sparks, and before that, Further) was a big supporter and friend early on, as were David Schelzel and Oed Ronne (both of The Ocean Blue). We ended up playing shows with those bands and struck up friendships at a time when the music industry was changing rapidly.
I could go on, because there are many others, and many who have already been credited officially . . . but I like that question and the opportunity to think about how these people really helped shape our music over the years.
RUST: Thanks so much for talking to us, last question. Is there a band out there doing great work right now (other than you) that you think people should know about?
AC: There are a handful of projects that my bandmates are involved in right now that are different than what we all do when we’re together as The Orange Peels, and I think they’re all great. Our drummer and co-producer Gabriel Coan is in a band called Carta, who released a beautiful and haunting album recently on Saint Marie Records called “The Faults Follow.” Our lead guitar player John Moremen has an instrumental side project called Flotation Device, who have a self-titled album and a new release coming out later this year on Mystery Lawn Music. Just last year, he and author-musician Paul Myers released a great pop album called “Inner Sunset,” also on Mystery Lawn. Former Orange Peels member Bob Vickers (not to be confused with Robert Vickers of the Go-Betweens who is also our publicist!) releases music under the name The Incredible Vickers Brothers. His first album, “Gallimaufry” is wonderful and orchestrated and eclectic, and he’s recording a follow-up as we speak.
Get more info at: http://www.theorangepeels.com/