Son, released March 24 on Kansas City's Anodyne Records, isn't your typical Little Brazil album. Lyrically, the CD strings together a series of rock anthems that trace a relationship from the first meeting, to falling in love, having a child, splitting up, and eventually suicide and remorse -- all sung in Hedges' bright, childlike warble soaring over a wall of shimmering guitars.
"The record came about from just writing songs about someone very close to me," Hedges explained. "Then somewhere we decided to do a concept album about a family."
With five songs completed, it was Edds -- who plays the "daddy" role in the band thanks to his clear-headed business acumen (and relative sobriety, at least compared to the rest of them) -- who noticed the thread running through the material.
"In preproduction, we talked about Landon's themes -- the dysfunctional family, the stages in the relationship," Edds said. "This record is about a son. We don’t know who that individual is. It could be any of us. It could be him, or his future son. Everything in the record reflects what's going on in our lives."
But having a theme doesn't necessarily make the writing process any easier. "I'd never written lyrics like that before, and it was tough," Hedges said. "I grew up among storyteller writers -- Simon Joyner and Ted Steven and Tim Kasher -- all are good at doing things like that. I never did it before. When we we're in the studio, there would be times when they were working on something and I just had to go off and write my lyrics around this concept. So yes, it was a pain in the ass."
The entire album was tracked and mixed in 10 days last October at ARC Studios with Engineer/Producer A.J. Mogis. "I don't want to work with anyone else," Hedges said. "He will tear your ass apart. He's a perfectionist. Vocalwise, I learned so much working with him about what I can do and how and when I should do it."
To break up the recording monotony, the band played Homerun Derby and tossed a football with Pete Yorn, who was at ARC working with Mike Mogis. "He's a lefty," Morgan said.
Even before stepping into the studio, Little Brazil already had signed with their new label, Anodyne. They got to know label chief John Hulston through his band, The Dark Circles. Morgan said the move from Mt. Fuji was a natural transition. "We just decided midway through the writing process -- around the time it became a concept album -- that we could not progress to the next level if we stayed with Fuji," he said.
Anondyne's roster includes The BellRays, Roman Numerals, Sirhan Sirhan and Meat Puppets. Distribution is handled through Koch Entertainment. As part of the deal, Anodyne also paid for Little Brazil's publicity through Reybee, who works with bands such as Electric Six, Less Than Jake and Meat Beat Manifesto. A separate radio campaign also is in the works, while booking is being handled by Eleven 11 (Ladyfinger, 1090 Club).
No one's happier about all the support than Edds, who used to bear the brunt of the work. "Before, we took on all the responsibility for everything. It was our job," he said. "This new team allows us to be artists and focus on performing our music."
Which is exactly what the band has been doing on tour with Cursive and Little Brazil. But don't go to those shows expecting them to perform Son as some sort of rock opera. As openers, they simply don't have that luxury.
"Playing with those guys, we want to put together the most dynamic rock set possible," Edds said. "We won't have enough time to play the whole record."
"We want to get in get out and get everyone pumped up, and set the bar for Cursive," Hedges said. "Our job is to set the bar."
I'll drink to that.
Published in The Omaha Reader March 25, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
Top photo by Bill Sitzmann, used with permission.