Edsel’s “Detroit Folly” will be digitally reissued by Comedy Minus One on September 19, 2011. In celebration of this event we’ve asked the members of Edsel to provide you with more information on this release, from the history of its recording to stories behind some of these specific songs. For tales of “The Everlasting Belt Co.,” click here.
“Detroit Folly“ came out in 1994. It was the second of two albums we released on Grass Records. After some hilarious escapades attempting to keep things interesting, including playing naked and once only in tiger-striped Speedos, Nick was no longer drumming with us, so we recruited our friend John Dugan from Chisel to help.
In contrast to the more sprawling and studio-constructed atmosphere of “The Everlasting Belt Co.,“ this record was influenced by the desire to create something closer to our live show, which we felt was our greatest strength. The album that resulted is definitely the most unvarnished, sparse and intimate record we ever made, capturing us in a definable time and place.
We'd done a lot of touring by the time we showed up at my parents' cabin on Old Rag Mountain in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. So while the tunes weren't completely finished when we arrived at the makeshift studio, we were pretty tight. It was incredibly humid that summer and our friend Steve Palmieri, who we’d convinced to leave his fancy Baltimore recording facility to join us for a week in the woods with some portable equipment, struggled to keep everything in running order. Nonetheless, the session was incredibly relaxed. We stayed up late, drinking wine and jamming out riffs, took walks on the mountain, picked blackberries, watched old movies and generally enjoyed ourselves.
At some moth-eaten pawnshop in the Midwest we had bought a cheap Farfisa organ, which ended up on about half the songs. This was a slight nod to Stereolab, who we were listening to quite a bit then. We also had a keen interest in the Grifters, Red Red Meat and Pavement. We felt an affinity with bands that had clearly come from punk or arty roots, but were taking a stab at the classic rock 'n' roll of The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground. Things that felt familiar, if slightly bent. There had been a ton of funk in the van tape deck, too. James Brown, The Meters, more James Brown, and whatever compilations we could get our mitts on.
The lyrical themes on the record veered in every possible direction. One song was from the vantage point of an Arizona motorcycle cop ("Negative Wintergreen"), another from a WWII American soldier stationed in the UK ("Matchless"), and another still from the view of a British politician caught in a sordid sex scandal ("Draw Down The Moon"). There were also odes to dice games ("Another Go-Ahead") and Dayton, Ohio ("Monasterio").
On a technical note, a portable studio was a relatively new possibility for bands at our level in 1994. The fresh-to-the-market mixing board and digital audio tape we used were a newly affordable way to record outside of a traditional environment. Nonetheless, Steve Palmieri was unsatisfied with the sound of the 16-bit ADAT's, so he transferred everything to 2" tape, attempting to bring back some of the warmth he thought was missing from the digital format. Being ignorant of such things, we were all amazed to hear what a genuine difference it made.
Joe Lambert's newly remastered version of “Detroit Folly“ adds a depth that the original was missing. It's been 17 years since this first saw the light of day and I'm glad it's out in the world again.
NOTE: John Dugan returned to his regular gig drumming with Ted Leo in Chisel. Later he and Steve Raskin were in Piper Cub. John also played on records by hollAnd. He’s currently in Chicago, drumming for the Chicago Stone Lightning Band and writing for Time Out Chicago.
Steve Raskin put out a 7” on Sub Pop under the name Piper Cub, a group he briefly had with members of Velocity Girl, Tsunami and Chisel. Now he spends his time DJing, producing and doing remixes with the collectives Thunderball, Fort Knox Five and Liftoff.
After moving to NYC, Geoff Sanoff switched to the other side of the studio control booth. He has worked with everyone from Secret Machines and Nada Surf to Lloyd Cole, Keith Urban and Michael Stipe. He even received a Grammy for his contribution to Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special. When he’s not in the studio, he occasionally plays bass in Paramount Styles, the latest musical outlet for Girls Against Boys’ Scott McCloud.
Sohrab Habibion has been involved in music on and off since Edsel. He helped No Wave icon Arto Lindsay make two albums, contributed sound treatments to a record by French singer Alain Bashung and recorded Debbie Harry for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. These days he composes soundtracks with Michael Hampton for The Treasury Dept. and plays guitar and sings for Obits, a band from Brooklyn, NY with two LPs on Sub Pop Records.
Photo credit: Tim Owens