The truly incredible debut from The Pillbugs. Truly, one of the most forward reaching pop bands on the indie scene. As works they work their way through a long list of influences - The Zombies, Lefte Banke, The Who, The Move/ELO, The Monkees, XTC/Dukes Of Stratosphere, Syd Barrett, late 60`s Pretty Things -- it`s never a cliched, dredging up boring re-interpretation of those influences. More modern bands you`ll hear are Outrageous Cherry and The Resonars and the excellent Rainbow Quartz label. The debut has a strong progressive early 70`s slant with all these pop leanings, pushing song structure to new-minted pastures. Here`s what the bands own manifesto states beautifully and accurately, we might echo: "The Pillbugs are champions of psychedelia in it`s purest form. The goal of the band is to go forward by going backward and with the mindset that we will take psychedelic rock and roll to newer places. We indulge in many sounds and instruments while keeping the music fresh, fun and memorable. We like to take advantage of the fact that music is played primarily on 2 separate speakers. Along with incredible stereo separation, you`ll find songs with strings, horns, backwards guitars and sounds, sitars (all real, analogue and genuine) combined with the more traditional rock and roll instruments. All that genre stuff aside, we`d like to point out that SONGWRITING is king. Our main focus; to write great "gotta hear THAT again" songs." So many great sounds, melodies, hooks and amazing musicianship sprinkle the music here. A Nuggets experience for the 00`s, a new millenium. This tidbit was written about their latest album, but it all applies here nicely, as well: "Like The Beatles with attention deficit disorder, The Pillbugs cut, paste and spackle together a seemingly random starburs of symphonic, hallucinogenic and downright pop-tastic bits and pieces into one long, strange trip of a record. Though the song is paramount, and the hook reigns supreme, The Pillbugs lace each of their pop confections with enough backing harmonies, percussion, flutes and strings, sitars, and who-knows-what-else, that the 72 minute feast takes a few listens to properly absorb! Not that this will present a problem as it inspires all-day listening and singing along."- Toledo City Paper. Extremely Highly Recommended. You want something fresh, different but still wholly accesible for pop sensibilities, The Pillbugs (both of their CDs) are for you!
Mark Mikel on The first Pillbugs/History
Mark Mikel on The first Pillbugs/History
MARK MIKEL: I have an early childhood memory of listening to my parent's hi-fi console and the realization of "stereo". My dad had a pair of extension speakers that he'd wire up to play for his outside patio parties and he'd spread them like 20 feet apart. That was when I noticed that certain instruments were sitting next to me and others were coming from way over there. I remember it was Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. Man, that was unbelievably cool and I couldn't enjoy music on my littleportable monophonic record player anymore. When my parents weren't home I'd convince the babysitter that it was okay for me to wire up the stereo extensions, spread them miles apart and crank them to high heaven. Somehow it never took a lot of convincing for these teenagers to go along with the idea. I learned a lot about music just by listening intensely to only one sideof a stereo recording. Examining what was really "in there". Distinct stereo separation is one of the reasons I like recorded music. I like a left and a right. A good/bad, sun/rain or dark/light side to an album is essential to balance. I miss having "side 1" and "side 2" to artist's releases. That could be a reason a double CD would be much more appealing to me. It wasn't to be a double CD at first though. Things were just going so well. I think we all knew we were trying to make something really special. Our first album wasn't supposed to be just a collection of songs. It was supposed to be a journey into wonderland. Something you could never tire of. A fantasy album. You could say it was basically created as an artistic statement that would be our attempt to validate psychedelia as a vital part of our musical culture... or some crap like that. Really though, it's always seemed like that particular genre has never been respected out of the 1967-70 timeframe. That lways seemed a little narrow-minded to me. The mentality is that if something is really fun, it can't be taken seriously. It's really the same reason that comedies don't normally receive Oscars for "Best Picture".Production-wise it was as ambitious as I am capable of being. I wanted to include not only new techniques but also every sound or trick that I've used in the past. So it HAD to have sitars, phase-shifting, backwards everything, tremolo, strings, brass, recorders, moog synthesizers, 12 string guitars, distorted vocals, walls of guitars, walls of vocals, tape loops and echoed mayhem, along with the usual stuff.I personally wrote out the sheet music for the string parts to seven songs by hand. That's not an easy thing for me to do. I can't read music, but I can figure out how to write it. I just can't look at it and play it. It's more like "Oh, let's see now that's a B-flat quarter note and this is a C", and it takes me forever to get a clue. It was a labor of love though. I couldn't wait for it to be brought to life by the quartet.We made up a poster of all the new songs we had. Many more were written during the months of recording. A few of the songs seemed to write themselves. It seemed like we were unstoppable once we got past tough songs like Undecided or I Could Never Be A Bird. Everything else was pretty much all magically "first ake". The main rule we tried to keep was: Don't record anything the way it is normally done! If we could mic it differently, then we'd do it. If we could run the sound through Leslie speakers, vintage stompboxes or different amplifiers - yeah, baby! The hard way always won out over the easy way. Oh yeah, and absolutely nothing digital.Certain albums were guidelines like The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour, Zappa - We're Only In It For The Money, The Monkees - Head, The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds, Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Hendrix - Electric Ladyland, The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request and Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star. But the main thing about thosealbums to me was that there were really no guidelines. They were just saturated with pure inspiration, imagination and amazing sounds. The goal was to make an album that could fit snugly in that line-up.Randy Porter did the mastering. He'd been a longtime fan ever since he heard some of the songs from Sorghum Pudding on a Sandusky radio station. He has a great ear and he understood what we were going for. He acquired top of the line ompressors, EQs and analogue/digital converters. Yes, sadly it was going to have to end up digitally on CD in the end. I remember driving an hour every day to his studio in Milan and we'd work meticulously on the sequencing and segues. He had to edit togetherdifferent mixes because I might have liked certain sections of one over the other. I can't hear the edits at all. Great job, Randy. His studio services are very in demand, but he took a month or so of his time to dedicate to our album and he did it out of pure love.The photography was done by (none other than) Scott Hunt. Scotty had put forth many contributions to this album including playing, singing and writing. He wasn't a photographer, I just trusted his judgment as an artist. He took the first definitive photos of The Pillbugs. The CD design was done by my friends Libby and Larry Fish. Libby Koppinger-Fish is a very successful graphic designer and Larry's a talented musician and artist (his friends call him "Fish"). They asked us to pose with umbrellas. We didn't know why at the time. Fish played the piano on Meddle With Me. The tower in the background is part of a Toledo public elementary school called Harvard School. When the principal found out they made the cover of our CD, she brought us in to honor us and address an assembly of parents and teachers. The mayor of Toledo was there and he bought a copy of our disc. Then they asked me to sing some songs for the children. The kids were great. I'd give them a part to do like shouting "the kick-around boy" and they really delivered. The school really treated us like a big deal. None of The Pillbugs ever actually attended there.