In the early years of the 21st century, Double Naught Spy Car caught the ear of the L.A. avant garde music community, and the American Composer's Forum gave us a grant to go into the studio with singer songwriter Stew.
Our proposal: to improvise songs and record them live as we made them up, no overdubs or second takes allowed. Not jamming, but instant song creation. What could possibly go wrong?
For three days we gathered at Chris Chandler's Autobahn Studios in scenic Panorama City (Van Nuys adjacent), took a deep breath, and rolled tape. Well, bits.
Stew presided from the vocal booth as Marcus Watkins and Paul Lacques on guitars, steel, and dobro, and Marc Doten and Joe Berardi on bass and drums, created grooves. When we hit upon something that sounded like music, however dissonant or obscure, Stew jumped in, singing instant melodies with lyrics from his thick ramshackle notebook.
Things went surprisingly right. Ambient folk, Beefheartesque atonal blues, funk/disco anthems, Stonesy rock emerged, with surreal free form lyrics unencumbered by pop ambitions. And it's hooky, dare we say?, pop.
The recording experience was more than a little mind altering. Our sense of time was warped by the intense concentration, the listening and interaction and surrender to instinct. After a take, we'd wager a guess: how long had we played? If we guessed 10 minutes, often it was 45 minutes. Time was indeed a magazine.
After three days we exchanged hugs all around, and went our separate ways. We did some rough edits/mixes, and then life pushed this music to the background.
Stew left L.A. for New York with Heidi Rodewalt and they took the world of theater by storm. Stew's wrenchingly personal Passing Strange toured the country, went to Broadway, received 4 Tony nominations, and was turned into a feature film by Spike Lee.
Double Naught Spy Car continues its loose but fertile association and deep ties to the Los Angeles on the edge musical tribe, backing up dozens of band, soundtrack and artist projects over the years, performing and recording their own unique music (new CD out next year).
In 2015 we revisited the Stew/Double Naught Spy Car tracks and they struck us as fresh and vital, and on time for the twenty teens. Here are 10 songs from the Autobahn sessions, mixed as performed, edited into CD length songs. The wanderings, wit, and fiery moments forged by fear and friendship, survived the editing process. These are musical brethren hitting on some deep and elevated levels. Stew's vocals are raw, vulnerable, bawdy, and direct. You've never heard him like this, or Double Naught Spy Car, for that matter.
released January 17, 2016
Stew, vocals, occasional guitar and melodica; Paul Lacques, electric guitar, steel guitar, dobro; Marcus Watkins, electric and acoustic guitar; Marc Doten, bass; Joe Berardi, drums, percussion.
Lyrics by Stew; music by Double Naught Spy Car and Stew
Produced by Double Naught Spy Car
Recorded by Chris Chandler at Autobahn Studios, assisted by Pete Magdaleno; edited and mixed by Marc Doten at Trend Coma Bootlegs; mastered by Paul Dugre; artwork by John Curry/Smartpill; project concept by Paul Lacques
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