FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2015
DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR AND TONY-WINNER STEW
LEAP INTO IMPROV ABYSS,
RETURN WITH PANORAMA CITY,
A CALIFORNIA PSYCHEDELIC POP JOURNEY
11 Foot Pole Records to release ten-song CD plus four hours of
full-length improv studio recordings; April 14 street date
All-star band includes Stew (Negro Problem), Paul Lacques (I See Hawks in L.A.), Joe Berardi (Fibonaccis, Stan Ridgway), Marc Doten (Shelby Lynne), Marcus Watkins (Nina Hagen)
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A decade ago,spaghetti/jazz/prog/surf/twang instrumental quartet Double Naught Spy Car and singer-songwriter Stew, crown princes and king of Los Angeles' Silver Lake music scene, convinced the American Composer’s Forum to give them a recording grant.
The promise? To leap off a sonic cliff together and gather the shards into something that would resemble music. They convened at the small but killer Autobahn studio in the post-industrial crumble of the north San Fernando Valley.
For three mind-altering days these were the rules: roll tape, fire up a groove and get to it — create instant songs, no rehearsing, no second takes, no jamming. Free jazz with a pop goal. A reckless Wrecking Crew with no charts. This was terrifying at first, but the five musicians plunged ahead, summoning a group ESP that yielded hard funk, psychedelic blues rock, hypnotica à la Can, and even sweet acoustic textures reminiscent of Astral Weeks.
The intensity of making things up on the spot also yielded some of Stew’s most acerbic and unguarded lyrics of his acclaimed wordsmith career. Images of militant gardeners taking the Concorde to dine at the Chat Noir; a hipster couple quarreling over hipster memes in Paris; bumpin’ Morton Subotnick while cruising Moorpark St. in Van Nuys; a mythical Jackie Jackson solo album that made the caterers cringe; torture chambers, Batgirl, cuckolded truckers, and mysteries behind the Green Door — all add up to a surreal mirroring of modern minutiae-driven madness.
“OK, I cheated, as I had written down a few lyrical fragments that morning in a notebook which I sang from. But the best lines I promise you came to me via the spell the music cast that day in Panorama City, powered by G-d and conjured by the law firm of Lacques, Doten, Watkins and Berardi. I think the best compliment that we could be paid is by the people who don’t think it was all totally improvised. But it was. No stops and starts, no overdubs, no previously agreed upon anything. It’s a very Californian vibe, a nice combo of trust and confidence, old-heads, new strings, and damaged musical psyches with enough pop sensibility still left in their Don Kirshnerized-Aylerian DNA to party, a deeply satanic-Buddhist mushroom cult that exists only as long as the record button is depressed but seeking help. We let this music sorta hang out on a shelf for way too long and yet it seems like now is the perfect time to listen to it … from a safe distance. Releasing records is the best revenge and our mad way of loving you.”
Why the ten-year wait to put this out? Well, ya know . . . life, chaotic indie musician’s life.
Several years ago Stew and partner Heidi Rodewalt split L.A. to reinvent their breakthrough pop band The Negro Problem in New York City, where they took an unexpected left turn. Sponsored by the venerable Public Theater, Stew and Heidi created a groundbreaking musical, Passing Strange, journeying from the Public Theater to Broadway, where Passing Strange shook the stale musical theater scene to its foundation — garnering four Tony nominations, one win for Stew — and was turned into a feature film by Spike Lee.
Double Naught Spy Car, whose Panorama City album ships April 14, 2015, is best known for riveting live electric shows, their complex instrumental tunes a springboard for unhinged, unconventional guitar and steel, and muscular, complex bass/drum grooves. Launched from the punk/pop lairs of Al’s Bar, Spaceland, Knitting Factory, and Largo, SpyCar has shared stages with Pere Ubu, David Lindley, Jonathan Richman, Banyan, and every local band that mattered.
Double Naught Spy Car has released three CDs of original music, scored two films, and contributed to dozens of films and TV shows. Members are founders of I See Hawks In L.A., The Fibonaccis, and The Bastards of Belleville. A Wrecking Crew for cutting edge rock, the four multi-instrumentalists have done session work with Stan Ridgway, Robert Fripp, Rufus Wainwright, Donovan, Bo Diddley, Lydia Lunch, Nels Cline, Frank Black, Shelby Lynne, Taj Mahal, Dave Alvin, Nina Hagen, 311, The Dust Brothers, Johnny Halliday, Moris Tepper, Flea, John Doe, Poncho Sanchez, Marcy Levy, David Hidalgo, Polka Freakout, Peter Case, Tony Gilkyson, Josie Cotton, Kid Congo Powers, and Geza X.
A new SpyCar CD, Guitars of California, with guest axe-slingers Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Joe Gore, Joe Baiza, Joey Santiago, Elvis Kuehn (Fidlar), Ben Vaughn, Woody Aplanalp, and many more is scheduled for release in early 2016. These boys are busy.
A chance recent listening to the Stew tracks convinced the band that the music from Panorama City had to be put out into the world. The tracks sounded not just fresh but wild and almost feral in today’s autotuned musical landscape.
Panorama City, recorded by Flaming Lips engineer Chris Chandler, is a ten-song distillation on CD and vinyl. Cutting 17-minute voyages into four-minute songs with verses, choruses, and bridges was tricky, but the elements were there, and the result is pleasing and riveting pop—and retaining the fire and dementia of the full improv.
Panorama City Extended Tracks , a digital-only release of the full length unedited tracks, will follow on iTunes, Amazon, and all major digital download sites — almost four hours of the music as it went down in real time. The 20 songs and instrumentals are dramatic. The band was on a high wire, and the drama simmers and crackles in the tracks, with rapid-fire musical conversation, key changes and groove shifts that turn on a dime, and lots of laughs.
Here's a listening page with leadoff track Chat Noir:
Stew’s lyrics drip with sardonicism, but so do the guitars, steel, dobro, bass, keys, and drums. Stew, Marc Doten, Paul Lacques, Marcus Watkins, and Joe Berardi trade instruments and styles like a more avant garde and electrified Basement Tapes session. Mysterious. Rock.