The American Epilogue Set

A "Cranky" called (?)

We spent the summer of 1995 camped out at my grandmother's house in SW Fort Worth where I was housesitting for a few months. We filled four reels of 1/2 inch tape with music and some almost music and a lot of someday-to-be music. At summer's end we put together a demo that we thought best represented our efforts and mailed copies away to our favorite record companies. We literally flipped our favorite records over and wrote down the addresses of our favorite labels directly onto some bubble mailers and mailed them to a dozen labels. Vernon Yard. Kranky. 4AD. I think there was a Simple Machines in there. Merge and Matador for sure. 

My Mom would come by from time to time and make us dinner. One morning we awoke to find this message from the night before.

Now... even then I would suspect that this was a bizarre conversation. Years later, and having had my own phone conversation with Joel in 2004, I can tell you that this was absolutely a bizarre conversation. Joel asking for our imaginary manager, "Guy". Joel talking to my Mom at all. Also, we didn't have the money to mail out all the demo tapes, so we took the suggestion of our friend, Josh, and mailed them with the phrase "Free Matter For The Blind" affixed to the mailers instead of postage. We then suggested that these record companies fax us. At a fax number. With a fax machine. What did these record companies think? You know... we got at least one fax I recall. I'll have to see who that was from. 

Ooo and by the way, this was the same demo that Robert Wilonski reviewed in a Dallas Observer article entitled "Blow Fi". Still steamed over that.

Here's a song from that demo


The Only Living Boy(s) Around?

This gem was recorded in late 2000 for inclusion on 2001's Know By Heart. There's an earlier version that was released on a 7" single in 1999, but I much prefer this later one. I thought it would've figured nicely onto an album that already had songs like "Kindness", "The Postman", and "Aaron & Maria". I also thought this version elegantly demonstrated how much our band had grown in such a short time. 

Once the first AmAnSet singles & unreleased compilation came together in early 2001, it was clear that "The Only Living Boy Around" had to be be yanked from the new album. New performance aside, releasing the same song in two years is pushing it. Releasing the same song twice in a summer is silly and so "Gone To Earth" took its place on Know By Heart.

This fancier version was given to the magazine Comes with a Smile #10 in 2002 and so it was also included on the second AmAnSet singles and unreleased compilation, Hard to Find, in 2009.  

"Gone To Earth" and "The Only Living Boy Around" are also tied together in AmAnSet recording lore as they sport the same mixing snafu. Both songs feature a second guitar recorded over a sloppily erased percussion track. "Gone To Earth" begins with a maracca being picked up and then disappears when the 2nd guitar was punched in. "The Only Living Boy Around" ends with the last gasp of a spirited tambourine performance that peeks through after the 2nd guitar was punched out. In both cases, I got used to hearing the errant percussion in the rough mixes and missed them when they were cleaned up. 

"That's pretty good... but can you turn up the mistakes? I need more mistakes."



The Fun of Mixing Fireworks

If you know anything at all about recording, please brace yourself. This is going to seem like a "How many [insert horrible stereotype here] does it take to mix an album?" joke. 

On our first three albums, each song overlaps with the next to create a seamless piece of music on each side of the record. In the 90's (and before), and certainly now, this is easily accomplished at mastering. In fact, the length of the gaps between songs (or their absence) is one of the many things that impact the flow of an album. And this is often addressed at the mastering session. 

Our first two albums were sent away for mastering and so we achieved the unbroken effect we wanted by recording the songs in order... on a single piece of tape... and mixing the side of an album in its entirety as one 20 minute piece of audio. Even though it was only 8 channels, it took the whole band clustered around the mixing board to address changes in level, eq, pan, etc. Imagine a game of Twister, but with arms only and on a much smaller mat.

If a mistake was made on "Gone To Earth", then brother we were all starting over at the beginning of "Diana". It was an inefficient way to create an album, but over the course of many attempts at an album side we all began to improve upon and finesse our "performances". I like to think of us working together and pouring creativity and love into the recordings right until the end. 

We all made notes for ourselves. Here are a few from the first record.


The American Epilogue Set

I've been putting this off for a long, long time. And every podcast I listen to reminds me just how lazy my lazy bone are. "This episode is sponsored by Squarespace" and, "Squarespace makes it fast and easy..." and so on and so on. Enough already. I signed us up. And in the coming weeks I'm going to be popping the collar on this site as best I can. Posting songs. Posting images. Sharing a few stories. 

I love the AmAnSet. I miss the AmAnSet. Come hang out me every now and again.


A Long Time Coming

In August of 2001, we packed up the van and set out on tour in support of our new album, Know By Heart. Over the next 3 months, we played our way around North America and Europe. It was the longest and best tour we'd ever done and we came home both exhausted and exhilarated. Over the course of that season, we could feel the effect that Know By Heart had on our audience. At the beginning of the tour, it was songs like Weather Report, It's All About Us, and Mag 70s that invited cheers. By the middle of October, it was Kindness of Strangers, Punk As Fuck, and Computerizing. It was the beginning of a different AmAnSet, and unfortunately, the end of the vinyl run for Know By Heart. Between 3 months of touring and lots of help from independent record shops across US and Europe, we slang every vinyl copy of this album that TigerStyle had pressed. Over the next few years, each of us found a copy in one way or another but we've always wanted the opportunity to make this record available again. 

On June 3rd, Barsuk will make this particular dream come true and we're pleased to announce that you can pre-order your copy starting today. This edition is gatefold with notes from yours truly. It's a 180 gram repressing of the original vinyl master. It also comes with a digital download of the album along with all 21 four-track demos for the album. Some of these songs haven't been heard outside the band until now and a few others were featured on later releases by The Wooden Birds.

I've seen the completed package and it's the absolute business. 

We hope you enjoy.

Thank you