Rotary Downs CD release with GIVERS
10 p.m. Fri., March 5
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net
Break out the stogies and balloons: Rotary Downs is expecting. After months of incubation, the New Orleans rock band's fourth LP, Cracked Maps & Blue Reports (Rookery), is set to be introduced Friday at One Eyed Jacks. That is, if a baby doesn't steal the spotlight.
Bassist Jason Rhein's first child is also due in March, says singer/guitarist James Marler. "I'm trying to encourage him to go old school and just light a cigar instead of going to the hospital," Marler jokes. "He's trying to be all sensitive, a modern man.
"No, that's a possibility," he adds, suddenly serious. Is there a backup bass player on his speed dial? Marler considers the question for a moment before answering: "No."
It's nothing new for Rotary Downs, which has been around long enough — 11 years — to see multiple cast changes and two current members become fathers (guitarist Chris Colombo has two children). Nonchalance, it seems, is both a byproduct of the sextet's longevity and a source of it.
"We all joke that it's an expensive hobby," Marler says. "If you can keep yourself excited, with new material or just new experiences, then it kind of sustains itself. But you also have to realize it can drop at any time for plenty of good reasons. And that would be fine. I don't think this band has ever been unpleasant enough, or stale enough, to want to drop it. I don't think anybody feels constrained by it or limited by it."
"Everybody has their thing that takes up most of the day," says drummer Zack Smith, who is also a professional photographer. "Playing music is the relaxing part of it."
Videos from the Cracked Maps recording sessions on the group's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/rotarydowns1) show the band in its element. Crammed into a booth and crowded around a microphone, a quintet of singers trades infectious grins and giggles between punctuating shouts of "Yeah," for the song "Random Digs."
"I love spending time in the studio," Marler says. "You have certain days that are frustrating, but it's one of my favorite parts of playing in a band. Especially if you're working with people who are really into it."
"It's always nice to have everybody there," Smith says. "There were a couple days where it was all four of us with (trumpeter) Mike (Girardot) and (singer) Tiff (Lamson)."
Tracking began last year at the Living Room in Algiers and Mike Napolitano's Nappy Dugout in New Orleans, before moving to Ivan Klisanin's Lafayette home studio for mixing, mastering and overdubbing. Talking about the album's sound — sinister guitar solos, throbbing bass lines and harmonized detours abound — Marler credits Klisanin, a producer/engineer who oversaw 2006's Chained to the Chariot, and Lamson, whose pop band GIVERS opens the release show.
"'Random Digs,' that song had nothing going on," Marler says. "[Klisanin] had some brilliant ideas for an arrangement change, and getting Tiff's vocals in there, it became one of our favorites ... She really came in at the end and added these vocal parts that made a huge difference on several songs. 'Drink From the Clouds,' with what she brought to it and getting the right mix, turned from one of my least favorites into one of my favorites."
Marler equates recording to an egg relay: "The egg is sort of the ideal version of the song, and you're trying not to f—k it up in the process. Which is really easy to do. It happens to musicians all the time; amazing musicians I've talked to have recordings that are total disappointments to them. That can drive you kind of nuts."
But sometimes, he says, "You end up with something that was even better than expected."