[Ball of Wax 40, as we’ve mentioned, is a little different. Given the unique nature of each of the bands and songs on this collection, we decided to eschew our usual track-review format for the blog in favor of letting each of the bands speak for themselves about the songs they wrote and recorded in a day. Frank Buckles – the band I found myself in with Doug Arney, Shea Bliss, and Jake Uitti – were tasked with 2011). Bassist/journalist Jake interviewed the rest of us about our experiences creating this song.]
For the 10th anniversary of the quarterly Ball of Wax compilation series, Levi Fuller had an idea: create 10 new bands – bands that may only be around for a single day – out of 40 musicians in Seattle. After that, he didn’t know what would happen. I was one of those musicians – and I, along with Levi, Doug Arney, and Shea Bliss wrote a song, inspired by the year 2011 and one Frank Buckles. To bookend the process, I asked the band questions about the song we wrote, recorded, and is soon to be released. -Jake Uitti
Jake Uitti: Levi, you both organized this entire event and participated in it yourself with the band Frank Buckles – what was the most challenging aspect of the project for you?
Levi Fuller: The most challenging aspect was definitely the self-imposed element of trying to get exactly 40 musicians (no more, no less) to clear the same 24 hours of their schedule to take part in this crazy thing. I should have started by asking, I don’t know, 80 people on a first come first served basis, but at first I started by only asking 40. The last couple weeks until Harry Candy Day [when we recorded our songs] were a bit of a rollercoaster, where I’d hit 40 and then someone would have to bow out so I’d send out another flurry of emails, and then I’d hit 40 again . . . but somehow we made it! Once we got into my basement and started making noise together, that was the easy part.
JU: Doug, when you first walked down into the basement with the three of us and knew we had to come up with a song, what were you thinking?
Doug Arney: My first thought was about how nice and cozy Levi’s basement was. Then I wondered if there was going to be any coin tosses for decision making, or if one of us would be The Decider. But, we all just started playing our usual instruments (except Levi was on his Rhodes). We simply relied on the nature of the Great American Jam to guide us. Which was a good place to start.
JU: Shea, you took some time off between recording your drum parts and the over-dubs (you had some family errand, if I remember). What was your reaction when you came and heard the song near its completion?
Shea Bliss: Well I was relieved and not at all surprised that the finish line was so near. As a group we all pretty much went with the relatively foremost ideas that popped up, being under time constraints lent to that, but really it came down to four professional musicians internally editing and presenting what felt right for the moment. And the simplicity of quoting Frank Buckles for a solitary repeated lyric nailed the vibe and mirrored the tone. If I may be so indulged to explode the song structure–starts out shuffling with a kind of vibrato and builds in complexity throughout, concluding with a hard and self assured pounding–that instrumentation reflects the phrase “When you start to die . . . don’t.” I thought that was a genius move; not to try to write a whole lyrical story structure, but to just pick the most succinct message and convey it. I also got back in time for one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a while! So, food and good music, great companions.
JU: Levi, as the creator of the process, can you speak about your feelings having the 10-track record – full of 40 musicians – completed and ready to share?
LF: I feel proud to have been the reason these 40 people came together on this day to make these ten crazy-ass songs, and excited for the rest of the world to hear them. I think they all stand pretty strongly on their own as songs and recordings, and I really hope they are appreciated as such. I also feel privileged to have been the catalyst for some really special musical connections. I’ve heard rumblings of continued collaboration from some of the bands formed that day, which is just incredibly gratifying and thrilling.