A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN ANALOG SET
So it begins: 1995-1996.
Rising from the ashes of a previous living room band, which included, Kenny, Mark, and Lisa, what was to become The American Analog Set recruited friend Lee on bass and began in earnest in the spring of 1995.
Work was begun on what would eventually become “The Fun of Watching Fireworks” in the winter of ’95 at the Legend house in Ft. Worth TX. The record was comprised of songs we had been working on since our inception the previous spring. The majority of the record was done in about three weeks with a few overdubs and the vocals being done later. Recording this album was kind of like trial by fire as none of us, except for Ken, had the slightest idea how to record a song let alone an entire album. During the beginning stages of the band it is important to note that we were living in different cities. Kenny and Lee were living in the Ft. Worth area while Mark and Lisa lived in Austin. This definitely made practice, recording and playing shows much more challenging than it needed to be.
The pictures for the cover were taken in Kenny’s first apartment in Austin after he finally moved down shortly after completion of the album. They were taken by Lisa and a long time friend of the family, Adam, and the rest is history. Fireworks was released in the summer of 1996 on Trance Syndicate/Emperor Jones Records. Unfortunately, nothing more than Texas shows happened after the release of the record. We weren’t able to do any touring because we had kids in school, and we just couldn’t make the schedules work out. However we still managed some good shows and generally had a good time. Yeah!
The Living Room Years: Late 1996-1997
Kenny moved to Austin a few months after Fireworks was finished and Lee followed suit soon afterwards. So Mark, Kenny and Lee all got a house together with the intention of emulating The Monkees. A place to live, practice and record. The results were mixed but that’s another story. In the time since the first record was finished, we had been working on new stuff and with everyone now in A-Town this began in earnest. Mag 70’s had been kicking around for awhile and Blue Chaise was around as well, but the rest of the record as well as Waking Up Is Hard To Do, and the Darla E.P. pretty much came about in Austin. The dream of having a house which doubled as a place to practice and record was shattered rather quickly by our less than friendly new neighbors, who complained to our landlord. So as a result Living Room and Late One Sunday… were recorded under the threat of eviction. Fantastic! Perhaps someone should have told these people that they lived in (and I quote) “THE LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.”
We definitely had a better grasp of how to record this time (at least Kenny did,) which is evident by the performance and overall sound of Living Room. Kenny handled the album cover duties this time, making a 12 x 12 inch collage with stamps he had found working at a second hand bookstore in Austin. We were all really pleased with the results. The cover for Late One Sunday… was done using a photo from the Fireworks shoot. Another old friend Josh did the majority of work on this one. Living Room was released in the summer of 1997 on Trance/EJ, and Late One Sunday, came out in October of the same year as part of the Darla Records Bliss Out series. That same month we finally embarked on our first tour of the East coast, bringing Josh as a tour manager/merch kid and our fifth member for the next few years, Shawn O’Keefe. Mr. O’Keefe played second guitar and percussion for us in the live setting. Way to go Shawn!! Our first West coast tour followed in December.
The Golden Band : 1998-1999
After touring for much of the Fall, early 1998 found the Analog Set broke, homeless, and scattered over the state of Texas once again. Mark and Lee moved back to D/FW and saved money while Kenny and Lisa moped around Austin on their own. Rehearsals and shows were rare for a short while but a summer tour with the Magnetic Fields brought Mark and Lee back to the capital city to visit more often and eventually to live. Although the tour tour featured the Set’s first van breakdown (serious forshadowing here), it succeeded in bringing the kids back together. Work began on what was to become “The Golden Band” that Winter. The album was completed in February and released the following July. While “Danny Radnor” was an older song and “It’s All About Us” had been a live staple since 1997, the remaining songs were written in only a short perioud of time. Say what you will, it was the AmAnSet’s most consistent work to date.
In support of the new album, the band left Ausitn on July 9th on their most ambitious (read ill fated) tour to date. The kids wouldn’t see home until the last week in August. Don’t laugh. This wasn’t the Dandy Warhols in a giant tour bus complaining about only having six games for their on-board playstation system. This was a coast to coast endurance test with no A.C., a failing transmission, and wait for it… a show in Pittsburgh, PA. Needless to say, group morale was in the dumper. After returning home, the band took the Fall off from one another and left their van broken and abandoned in a parking lot near Lake Travis. As the heat subsided, the effects of the tour eventually faded as well. However, an Autumn’s distance couldn’t keep real life from moving forward and Lisa left the band at the end of 1999 to persue a career.
New Equation : 2000-2001
The AmAnSet existed for a few weeks in that creepy no man’s land common after a band member leaves. Shortly after New Year’s day, Kenny, Lee and Mark began rehearsing with Tom Hoff who joined the band a few hours later. Tom picked up the wicked back catalog fairly quickly and they rehearsed through the Spring as a four piece. The Set played all of two shows before Sean Ripple was asked to join the band as guitar & vibraphone player thereby completing the current lineup. Although they managed only one show all summer, they polished the material that would eventually become “Know By Heart”. The Analog Set came out of hibernation in November with an album’s worth of new material and a fresh spin on a few classics. New songs like “The Only One”, “Puck as Fuck”, and “Million Young” gave their live show a new energy and the addition of a permanent fifth member gave new life to older songs like “Don’t Wake Me” and “I Must Soon Quit The Scene”. Their show in November at the Mercury in Austin was followed by their first show overseas in Amsterdam the following week. The trip lit a fire under these kids and shortly after their return, they began recording “Know By Heart”.
The group set out to make their fourth record a departure from their pervious efforts and so the recording process drifted on for nearly two months. Whips were cracked, wills were broken, and a few of the members became intimately familiar with what’s called “the overdub of the overdub of the overdub [infinity]"
Prompted by their crippling laziness when it comes to recording, the band also took time away from the tape machine to put together a collection of 7” singles and unreleased material called “Through The 90’s”. How could Dr. Pepper pass on this jingle? Honestly. Makes me want to drink a Sprite.
In honor of their new record and new lineup, the band chose a new label to release “Know By Heart”. Tigerstyle began and ended the all out bidding war, offering four tigerstyle t-shirts and after tense negotiation upped their offer to five t-shirts.
We’re Computerizing : Late 2001
“Know By Heart” was released Sept 2nd, 2001. In the year that followed, the AmAnSet spent 6 months on the road in support of their latest creation. This year also marked the Set’s first extended tour in Europe and the UK. Know By Heart was well received in the US press, and the extensive touring earned the Set a larger following.
The Promise.: 2002
O.K. So we are in-between the Know by Heart tours and we know that Kenny is moving to the NYC when the second one is done. What is a band to do? Well make a record of course. So that’s what we did. In the month or so leading up to our second three month stint that year we recorded a number of songs which were to make up the 5th proper full-length album, “The Promise of Love.” These songs came together fairly quickly during our breaks from the road and were still very fresh when we recorded them. We finished the majority of the backing tracks and some of the bells and whistles, and left for tour not knowing when (or if) these recordings would be completed. A lot of these songs were debuted on this jaunt, which covered Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, and Europe. “Baby Julie,” “You Own Me,” “The Hatist,” and “Hard to Find,” among others were put to the test and came up road tested and ready for more. On the North American dates, we were accompanied by long time friends Her Space Holiday (AKA Space Pants,) and both bands played songs from the Updates EP.
Oh yeah,the Updates EP. So this is the obligatory remix EP. 6 songs of aural fuckery including two from Her Space, two from Belgium’s Stryofoam, and two from us, one of which is another look at our own “All I Want for Christmas” (is that legal?) A truly interesting listen if I do say myself, which I do! It was great fun to watch HSH every night and have Keely join us on stage for our version of Keystrokes.
So we returned to the ATX, after what was arguably our best tour to date, under a cloud of uncertainty. Three days later Kenny moved to NYC. Break-up rumors abound. We don’t say shit. We use the words “I don’t know,” and “hiatus,” more than usual. Kenny is working hard on his biochemistry PhD at Columbia University. Somehow through all of his studying, lab work, TA-ing, and impending alcoholism, he managed not only to kick some serious scholastic ass, but also records the vocals, and rest of the bells and whistles to complete “Promise.” Oh yeah and he also fell down some steps in front of Julia Stiles for good measure. Kenny is a very, very busy man.
New Goth : 2003
So we have a finished record and are thinking about a summer tour if Ken can get away. It is a distinct possibility, however he will have to take some serious flack from Professor So-and-So to do it. In the meantime, we are contacted by an English label called Wall of Sound. This is a massive dance label in England/Europe. They have an imprint called We Love You. They want to hear the new record. They say they might be interested. They say they really liked “Know By Heart.” We don’t believe them. We think this is one of our friends fucking with us. They insist. We say ok and send the record, thinking we will never hear from them again. They write back. They say they like the record. They say “I say old boy, topping record. Would you mind if, perchance, we put it out across the Great Empire and other foreign locales. Hurumpf, hurumpf, pip-pip, cheerio! Bob’s yer uncle!” and other shit like that. They also, it seems want to re-release “Know By Heart” and bring us over to some UK. We arrange a deal after much wrangling and reminding them about Our Glorious Revolution, and WWII several, several times. They do not think we are funny. So Ken mentions the magic word SABBATICAL to his Professor and is free to go for the summer with only a slight chaffing as opposed to a full on DP. We are free and clear with a UK/Ireland tour followed by the release of “Promise” and a North American tour. Perfect timing! Smooth sailing right? Well, no actually. It turns out, less than a month before leaving that our keyboard player, Tom finds out he cannot go on the tour. He has some pressing business at home that will not allow him to leave. We are sad. We do not know what to do. Enter the McCaff. That is one Craig McCaffery. Another long time friend Craig offers to learn the keyboard, and go on tour with us. You see Craig is a guitar player (you might recognize him from the great Paul Newman) and has never played the keyboards apart from learning that part from “The Final Countdown” to impress girls. So in about 3 and 1/2 weeks Craig came down to Austin (oh yeah he lives in Chicago) and learned how to play about 15 songs and off we go. Craig is a trooper and a fine person to boot. So the tour goes off without a hitch and a good time is had by all. The English label kids are fine and dandy and show us around and generally take good care of us.
They even forgave us for all the WWII comments. Sort of… The North American leg of the tour goes off just as smashingly (damn Brits.) In fact it goes so well, that it makes a hard decision for Ken even harder. What to do? Go back to school, or go back to making the hits? We finish the tour and Ken goes back to NY pondering his choices.
The vote is in! Ken fucked off school and here we come! A late Oct. tour is planned starting with CMJ in NY and continuing across to LA and All Tomorrow’s and all points in-between before finishing up in Austin Nov. 15. A short tour, the first two weeks of Dec. is also in the works with more to come. Some new songs should be in the mix as well as some old favorites. So that’s it for now and all. See you soon!