Available on vinyl only (a DVR is included with every purchase), Mattress in the Afternoon could have been tossed aside as just another run-of-the-mill low-fi indie folk collection if it weren’t for the songwriting, which has as much to do with old-school stuff like Simon and Garfunkel as new stuff by The Shins and Okkervil River. Then there are the multi-layered harmonies on tracks like “The Last Thing I Remember” and “North 40th St.,” which give the album a nostalgic, pop-'60s vibe.
There is a handmade charm to Mattress…, probably because it was recorded mostly in Mainelli’s former 40th and California apartment/studio using a Mackie 8-track monitor. Three songs were recorded at Bassline Studios by Kyle Petersen, though other than the drum parts, you can't tell the difference (thanks to Doug Van Sloun’s mastering).
The short story behind the band's origin is that Davis and Mainelli have played together in bands off and on since 2000. This latest version – whose name was once misinterpreted on a showbill as The Wee Bandits – formed shortly after Davis moved back from San Francisco in the summer of ’06. Their first gig as a duo was a benefit for a women’s self-defense class in January ’07.
“We played a few shows, and it was awkward and uncomfortable,” Davis said. “It’s hard to play this music as a two-piece.” So along came Detter, who Davis has known longer than anyone in the band, and Koster, formerly a member of Son Ambulance.
The debut features only Davis and Mainelli, who made the album over the past year. “These songs were written and recorded simultaneously,” Mainelli said. “It was an interesting experiment that we don’t need to do again.”
Sometimes the collaboration could be rather minimal. Take the song “String,” for example. “Bob said, ‘I’ll play it for you and we’ll record it and you can figure out what to do with it,’” Mainelli said. “So while he was playing I was folding laundry and walking around opening and closing doors and hitting stuff. That recording ended up being on the record.”
“It’s more fun recording songs like that than in a studio,” Davis said. “I liked recording in the studio, but there’s these time constraints and it’s expensive. If I went to take a crap, I figured that I just wasted $30 because I wasn’t recording.”
Mattress… also is the vinyl debut for the label releasing it. I’m Drinking This Records is known as a cassette-only label whose releases include cassettes by Flamboyant Gods, Flowers Forever, Capgun Coup and Talking Mountain.
And though the label's logo appears on the sleeve, it was the band that actually paid for the 250-run vinyl pressing that sports the I’m Drinking This catalog number IDT001. “It’s a good label with lots of good bands on it,” Davis said. “We’re all friends. So while we don’t run the label, we feel like we have as much at stake in it as they do. We want to see it succeed.”
Published in The Omaha Reader Dec. 18, 2008.
Copyright © 2008 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.