On April 15, 2018 Brian, Max, and I got together at Rub Wrongways Studios. We opened the curtain to let in the spring light so we could see the finally-winter’s-over green plants blossoming while we set up, tuned up, and started to tackle eleven new songs.
We hit the record button at 12:45 and didn’t stop until we made it through all the songs. A few of them we’d been playing a little bit at shows here and there, some of them Brian and Max had heard in demo form, and at least one of them they were introduced to just moments before recording.
It had been a wild and unsettling year since we finished up our previous album, Sneaking up on the Moon. The days had been flashing by in blurs of news stories, each more absurd and troubling than the last. Nights had been filled with concert-going and movies and binging tv shows and generally trying to keep some semblance of light and creativity in an increasingly cynical and upsetting atmosphere.
We dove into the songs like starving animals, giving in to the parts of our brains that thrive on creating and exploring and making sense of chaos. I’d written the eleven songs during this year of upheaval, there were no oldies being revisited. This was all new territory.
As it turns out, the songs fell into a few different genres of rock. It was unintended, I try not to plan too much. The songs know what they are supposed to sound like. The themes reflect the times. The overall push was a quest for kindness, a call for compassion and understanding. Thus the title of the record “Be Nice to Everyone”.
The listener might not find specifics in the lyrics to justify the album title, but I’m hoping that the overall feel of the collection is human, friendly, introspective, and caring. The songs themselves touch on various subjects. Snippets of lyrics jump out: it’s not wrong to long to belong | Jenny emulates a retro charm | the saddest part of town | you read the room wrong once again | the hours ignite in the clouds | grab the scissors, cut the string, and fly | lean, then catch your fall | the wind was like an uncle | they know better, they do worse | that was more than just a joke | arguments, there’s just no winning, the only way to end them is to not begin them.
Over the next few months, I added decorations and voices and snippets. Ken came in and plowed through a burst of inspired musicianship, painting with new colors, with perfect colors. Andrew Goulet set up his pedal steel and layered on a mournful sunset of sounds. We mixed things and then turned them over to Justin Pizzoferrato who deftly mixed them better. He passed the songs along to Mark Allen MIller who mastered them and made them ready so we could share them with whoever might want to listen.
I hope you enjoy this collection. I hope you feel the humanity in it, the rough edges, the sparkles of light, the personal weight. -Henning Ohlenbusch