Back in 2008, we had a brand new president, a once-unknown governor from Alaska was making the election – and "SNL" – significantly more entertaining and Aaron Rodgers was getting his first start under his now-famous belt. And amidst all that excitement, Quinn Scharber began recording a new album.
Five years and a quiet Bandcamp appearance later, the long-gestating album – titled "Every Other" – is finally getting a proper release, with a proper release show, tonight at The Hotel Foster. Scharber and his bandmates are celebrating the release with a limited amount of black and white vinyl copies.
OnMilwaukee caught up with the busy guitarist to find out about the album and why it was on the shelf for so long.
OnMilwaukee.com: I kind of want to go through this album’s life chronologically. Why did you decide to start recording this project five years ago?
Quinn Scharber: Well, we had come out with a record before that in 2008 ("Being Nice Won’t Save Milwaukee"). So this was the follow-up. I was trying to get something else out pretty quick, so we started recording really quick, and it went longer than anticipated. It was like 2008 to 2010, October to February. So well over a year.
We were doing it here and there when we had studio time. I think looking back on it, I probably should have planned more.
OMC: Is that basically why the album took so long?
QS: Yeah. And by that time, I had spent so much time listening to those songs, I would be like, "Man, I don’t know what sounds good anymore. I don’t know if I should add a guitar to this part or what." So certain tracks, I ended up with dozens of guitar parts on them. We kind of stripped it down in the mixing process to a point where hopefully it sounds cohesive.
OMC: Is that also why it took so long to get album out? Stripping down all this extra stuff that was on there?
QS: It was that, and it was the whole process of making the record that kind of wore me out. Just hearing those songs so many times was like … I can’t figure out if I’m over this project or if I still want to work on this. I became disillusioned a little bit.
At the same time, I just started playing with the Wildbirds, and we got really busy. Thom Geibel, the bass player who was playing for me, moved to Seattle. So my band was kind of disbanding, and I was taking on more sideman guitar player role, which I liked a lot actually.
On one hand, it was kind of like the record was taking so long, and I wasn’t sure I was really as passionate about it as when I started it. And then on the other hand, I slid into this sideman guitar-playing role that I think I was more comfortable with. And still am, I guess.
But at the urging of friends and bandmates, Thom the bass player was going to be back in town this summer, and Joe Kirschling, the drummer in my band, was saying maybe we should do like a one-off show. That kind of snowballed into, "Well, why don’t we just press that second record on vinyl and have a vinyl release show?" That was back in early June, and I said, "Yeah, what the hell."
OMC: What else was exhausting about the process?
QS: For me, recording is a really tedious process, and it takes a certain mind to do it. I think I’m just impatient and maybe ADD about it or something. Usually for me, if I can’t get something on the first couple of takes, it’s probably not going to be any better than that. I just think the more I do something, the more I try to focus in on it. Some people can sit there and do 45 takes on the same vocal phrase and be unphased by it. I start to lose my mind after a while.
OMC: Were you ever worried about the songs sounding dated, being released four or five years after recording?
QS: Yeah. Well, I worry about it now more I was at the time. Hopefully, it’s just in my head because when I hear those songs, I remember writing them, and it feels like a long time ago. So I think for me they’re probably dated, but hopefully they go over well for a new listener.
OMC: You were hinting before that you really enjoy being in a band and not having that pressure of being the lead or frontman. At the same time, though, how did it feel to put a frontman/solo career on hold like that?
QS: I’d become pretty comfortable with it. I still enjoy writing and singing and performing as a frontman, but it’s not something I’m most comfortable doing. I’m way more comfortable doing my guitar thing and being a sideman. I think that suits me best. I think I pull that off best.
OMC: In your words, how would you describe this album as different from what you’re doing right now?
QS: I think of it as kind of a bare-bones rock album or … I hate to use the term "power pop" because that implies something different these days than what I’m thinking. Whereas I played in Hugh Bob & the Hustle, which is a country rock band, and the Wildbirds were a pretty straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll band. I guess I heard a lot of comparisons to Wilco or the Replacements, but that could be my singing voice too.
OMC: Were those the inspirations you had in mind when you were putting the record together?
QS: I think at the time, yeah. But I think it’s a pretty eclectic album too, for better or worse. I always like records that all the songs sound different. It’s not a straight-ahead rock record, it’s not a country record, and it’s not a blues record. It’s got bits of all of that. I always liked those kind of sounds, as opposed to focusing in on "this record is going to sound like this, and that’s what we’re going for the whole time."
OMC: Is it hard to talk about an album that you recorded and wrote so long ago?
QS: It is. At the time, it was a very transitional time for me personally. It wasn’t the calmest of times in my life either. That may have had something to do with me shelving the record for so long because I didn’t really want to revisit the way I was feeling at the time.
But, you know, time passes, you move on and I think it’s a good thing to put it out there and celebrate making that record with my friends.
OMC: May I ask what was going on at that time?
QS: It was changes in the band lineup, and it was typical relationship issues. That kind of thing. There was some illness in my family, and at the time, it was like maybe being in a rock ‘n’ roll band isn’t the most important thing in life right now. That kind of played a part in it as well. I only had so much space in my head.
OMC: Now that this album’s being released, are you thinking about getting back into the studio to continue with this frontman project?
QS: I think about it more now as a side project idea, but it’s crossing my mind more and more, just to do it for fun. And that’s totally satisfying for me. If I just put records up online and people want to hear them, that’s great for me. I’m plenty busy.
Quinn Scharber plays at The Hotel Foster tonight, starting at 9 p.m.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.