Note: The below story was written by Cassandra Mullinix and appeared in today’s 72 Hours. You can check out all the great stuff she has going down on her Facebook page, or, if you’re so inclined, you could follow her on Twitter.
If you haven’t been introduced to the new and improved, bigger and badder Frederick music scene, at events such as the Flying Dog Summer Concert Series or the shows at the 200 East Art Haus, you might want to make Frederick Fall Fest on Oct. 10 your inaugural event. The collaboration between Flying Dog and Frederick Playlist will feature three prominent local bands — Old Indian, Heavy Lights and Seaknuckle — and Flying Dog concert favorite J Roddy Walston and the Business.
On top of live music outdoors, the event includes access to the indoor art gallery and tons of local vendors, but one of the coolest features is that with every ticket sale, guests will receive a free compilation CD produced by and featuring local Frederick musicians. Event proceeds will also benefit the Frederick Arts Council as a kick back to the community.
The compilation CD was quite an undertaking for the 15 local bands that contributed in the short few months between the album idea and its execution. In fact, the idea for a compilation has been tossed around before in the local music community but has never come to fruition quite like now (there was once a holiday compilation, a couple years back).
Whether the song was old or new, each band lovingly chose pieces that represent Frederick as much as their own individual style. The compilation spans diverse genres in the local music scene and was engineered by local artist Derek Salazar, of Heavy Lights.
“When I was approached about being the engineer and mixing the compilation, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to get to know more people in the area,” Salazar says, “and it sounded like it could be a very special thing.”
Typically a recording engineer or producer only has one band to work with, but in this case Salazar had 15. “It was nice because every day was something new. A lot of the time, it’s just about meeting new people, figuring out what they’re going for, then trying to dive right in.”
Salazar and Heavy Lights bandmate Ryan Nicholson pieced the studio together from scratch with a lot of help from local friends who let them borrow sound equipment. They used a space in 200 East Art Haus and completely transformed it into a working recording studio to help promote Frederick’s best new local bands at Frederick Fall Fest.
To give you an idea of how special the project was and why this freebie is actually priceless, it felt fitting to share the stories behind each artist and song.
In the order they will appear on the CD compilation:
OLD INDIAN, “TRI-DENIM.”
It’s a newer song and marks a transition in style for the heavy, skater-influenced rock band. The band says “it’s definitely our most rock ‘n’ roll song” and continues, “this song is actually one of our first songs with a cool chorus.” It’s a high-energy song full of guitar riffs connected by a melodic chorus. At their recent shows, they usually play it as the closer.
NEW GOD, “FRIENDS.”
This song was originally titled “I don’t want to be friends no more” — an indication that this song is a little different from the generally warm and happy themes of the duo’s layered harmonies and electronic sounds. New God dusted this track off the shelf because it was an odd-ball that hadn’t fit into any of their previous recordings and needed a home. New God says it’s about “that greater experience of having friends in your 20s and 30s and the funny signifiers that you start to see when you realize this relationship is winding down.”
J BERD, “TOAST.”
J Berd, one of the local hip-hop artists featured on the album, says, “The first verse is me walking into any random happy hour and the second verse is using all the names of Flying Dog beer.” He came up with this song just for the compilation and worked with two collaborators, DJ Blaze Daily, who made the hook, and Louis Luyo, who made the beats to the track.
GREG BENDER AND THE HI-TOPS, “RESTLESS.”
Although not a current resident of Frederick, Greg Bender is definitely part of Frederick’s music scene roots, having been a prominent figure at Café Nola and playing with beloved jangly folk band Cotton Jones. This track is a dreamy feeling groove with a Motown throwback vibe. There’s also lots of cowbell!
SILENT OLD MTNS, “TRENCHES.”
Frederick’s pioneer indie folk rock band is back to creating new music, but this track was actually a rarity that lead singer Andrew Brohmal would break out occasionally at open mics a while back. Silent Old Mtns’ Sam Whalen says, “While we were on hiatus for a spell, it was the song that would get stuck in my head the most.” The band is honored to be playing together again and to make it on the compilation. From the band perspective, Whalen says, “It’s been great to work on a song that’s been stewing for so long. Each of us in the band has more time and experience that we’ve put into the song.”
CHESHI, “TO LOSE.”
Cheshi is a nose bleeding new local rock band with fresh and powerful feminist vocals. This was the band’s first real recording session together. Ashli Cheshire says, “I honestly wasn’t even expecting to be a part of it so the sheer fact of that, I was like, we have to step it up.” The sound is different from Cheshire’s solo work under the same name. This track is more upbeat. As to the theme of the song, she says, “A lot of the song is about not being afraid of things behind you or in front of you, but to keep pushing on … to be the best that you can be and not worry about it.” It’s fitting for a compilation of up-and-coming artists.
HEAVY LIGHTS, “CYNICAL.”
It’s a newer song, but the indie pop band has performed it live for about a year now. The band originally recorded it with Kenny Eaton at Mystery Ton but for various reasons hadn’t really wrapped their heads around the track and how they wanted it to sound. So they decided to do it all over again from the top.
THE PLATE SCRAPERS, “ANCIENT MYSTERIES.”
The Plate Scrapers are a fun and spirited local bluegrass band, and the only bluegrass band to be featured on the compilation. They took this opportunity to record a song that lyrically was a bit of an odd ball. The song came about from spending so much time in a van over the past year, as the band has taken on a handful of East Coast tours. Derek Kretzer says, “We listen to a lot of alternative media, where there’s like, conspiracy theories and a lot of researchers searching all kinds of crazy stuff, so the song is about that infinite quest of knowledge.”
TIME COLUMNS, “BODY OF ASH.”
Frederick’s math rock band took this opportunity to be more free form than usual. The band says the song started with a jam and was written within an hour. The band has been working long and hard on their upcoming album, but when it came to this song, the band said, “Let’s just take a break and do a song as fast as we can and make it awesome.”
LIZZY SILARD, “FEVER DREAMS.”
Lizzy is a cellist originally from Frederick but who’s done some traveling and spent time collaborating with artists in San Francisco and Los Angeles. About five months ago, she collaborated with Derek Salazar in Heavy Lights and came up with the vocals for “Fever Dreams”; then they revisited the song for the compilation. She likes experimenting with sound. “It’s a lot less acoustic and a lot less folky than the other stuff that I’ve written. It’s a lot of synth and ambient, spacy stuff going on.”
SEAKNUCKLE, “CHOKE SLAM.”
The band says, “In a weird way, it was a special song because it was a song that we really never put a lot of intellectual work into — it was just a fun party song — but because it’s so fun and tight and simple, we started loving it, and once we heard about the compilation, it was a really easy decision as to which song to pick.” The high-octane pop rock band also warns: “Be prepared for the intro because the intro is all of us screaming the name of the song right before it starts playing. We made that up on the spot.”
BIG HOAX, “BIG JAY.”
This is kind of a sentimental song for the Americana band that spends a lot of time playing in Baltimore and D.C. It’s a song that was written for lead singer Luke Alexander’s little brother. Luke explains, “Jordan kind of looses his head a little bit at times and you have to tell him to wake up, so at the end of the song everyone joins in on the chant “Won’t you stay awake, Big J,” and it’s fun. It can definitely get to be a rowdy song, and we wanted to capture that live feel when we did the recording.” For this song, the band invited a bunch of friends, family and even random fans from their Carroll Creek show to join them in the recording studio. “We let people do their thing. There was some yipping and some hollering, and PBR cracking and the chant at the end.”
The four-piece jam band typically releases an album with songs by each member, to reflect all of them. To avoid the battle of whose song makes the cut on the compilation, everybody wrote a section in the nearly 4-minute song.
KATIE POWDERLY, “BENEATH BLUE LIGHT.”
The Americana artist moved to Frederick in 2013 and soon after wrote this song that she thought would be perfect for the compilation. “I was walking up Market Street right across from the Record Exchange and I just had a flash of inspiration for this song, and so I always say this song is about Market Street and downtown Frederick.” It’s her most requested live song, and she’s excited to release it in advance of her upcoming album.
RETRO RICOLE FEATURING ERIC FRENCH, “FAR BEAUTIFUL.”
Eric French brought the song to Ricole not too long ago, looking for some inspiration to complete it. It sat for a little while until the compilation opportunity came up. “I thought the music would sound great on this compilation, so I decided to write some lyrics and sent it back to him,” says Ricole, a hip-hop artist who’s collaborated with artists spanning lots of genres.