Full Interview with Caitlyn Nelson

Below is our full email exchange with Caitlyn Nelson of The Crete News on August 10.

Caitlyn Nelson: You both are from Crete, correct?

Howie Howard: Yes. I was born here and lived here until I graduated from Doane in ’04. Scott, if I remember right, was born in David City but his family moved here while he very young; not sure of his exact age but before kindergarten I’m pretty sure, maybe even as an infant. 

Scott Morris: I was two when we moved to Crete.

CN: When did you and Scott start playing together?

Continue reading Full Interview with Caitlyn Nelson

V for Voice Writing

Writing the songs for V for Voice spanned a decade and a half, most of which was spent without any idea the record would ultimately happen.

The origins of several pieces on the album date back to 2002-04, after near and far and when I was writing the signs.comets material.  Following that I slowly accumulated song ideas here and there that never fit on other records I was doing.  At different times some of these songs had been penciled in for echoes, The Sleepover, and Sally Ride.

In 2014, as I prepared to pitch Scott on making an album, I went through my demos and notes like a curator, putting together what I thought would make a satisfying, diverse-yet-cohesive tracklist.  Little changed from then; one song was newly written and added (“Usually on a Battlefield”), and a couple “maybes” were affirmed or dropped along the way as we figured out what worked and what didn’t.

Looking back, writing can be divided into three phases:

  1. Ideas from 2002-04 that weren’t completed during our original h&s run (3-4 songs)
  2. Ideas from 2005-14 that weren’t composed specifically for h&s (8-9 songs)
  3. Arranging and writing lyrics for the ideas above after committing to the record, plus one new song, 2014-19
  Music Lyrics
When Breathing 2002-04 range, likely 2004; I have early lyrics on a page along with a to-do list for my visit home from Minnesota for Thanksgiving that year Started along with the music (opening “When breathing in…”, first verse and chorus rough ideas), added to and revised 2015-18, finished 2018
Gabriel Speaks 2002-04 range 2015-18 (though “Gabriel Speaks” was the working title from the start)
We Are 1nes Possibly as early as 2002, but I think more toward 04-06, echoes era.  But then, why didn’t I put it on one of those EPs?  So, could even be after Be A Ska Rat Same as music
Khreap Corbz Smarggh The first demo I have in iTunes was created March 21, 2012.  There’s a demo of the vocal melody from July 12, 2015.  The Sleepover recorded the Believe… EP in August 2011, and I remember after that Cory and James invited Scott and I to write new Sleepover material if we wanted.  This would have been my #1 choice to contribute if we’d stayed together.  I have a clear memory of demoing the drums in my old carriage house 2017-18
Traveling Mercies I’ve searched hard for this demo, and can’t find it.  An instrumental was there and ready when I set up the V for Voice recording sessions in February 2016; memory says it’s from several years prior to that Finished 2018, though the first verse is from earlier
Beams 2002-04 range Started along with the music (mostly scratched; the ending melody may be all that made it from the original vocal ideas); added to, revised, and finished 2018.  “Beams” was the working title from the start
Usually on a Battlefield 2016; Cari Ann gave me an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork pedal for Christmas 2015, and I wrote a ton of riffs in the weeks that followed. 2017-18
Let Them Land 2002-03 (I think 2002. I wrote the music and working title in Ghana – memory says on my first trip – but I’m not sure) 2016-17
After The Rain August 28, 2011 (I sent myself an email and printed it instead of handwriting the first page, so it’s date-stamped) 2018 (though “After The Rain” was the working title from the start)
When Breathing (Stops) I remember playing it at a St. Peter’s event the week I wrote it, so 2005-06ish Same as music; this one was written all at once
200Y The demo file in iTunes was created December 8, 2012 The phrase “In two hundred years…” and chorus melody came with the music; the rest of the lyrics are 2018.  Verse melody somewhere in between
Private Eisley iTunes demo file created October 9, 2011 (for all of these demos with iTunes dates, it’s possible the music was written months or even years prior) 2018
Stay In Time Fall 2004; I remember writing the melody and the rough lines of the chorus at Wayzata Community Church family camp.  The bulletin from the service I was in (and obviously not paying attention to) is in my notes somewhere, with the actual date.  Would have been Sept-Oct Started 2004; added to, revised, and finished 2018

The connections between “When Breathing,” “Gabriel Speaks,” and “Beams” and near and far/comets-era h&s are clear to my ears.  What’s interesting are the ways old ideas echo more subtly in much later stuff:

  • “Usually on a Battlefield” feels spiritually reminiscent of “After Hrs War” and “Mightier Than The Sword”
  • The free introduction of “Let Them Land” (an otherwise edge-pushing song for us) is straight off of something like “Under My Protection”
  • “200Y” reminds me of “Hymn for our T.M.D.” for more than its 6/8 time signature
  • The strum of “When Breathing (Stops)” hearkens back to “Nexus” and even “Spectrum”
  • “Private Eisley” is straight old-school genre exercise like “I’m So In Love”
  • The whole record has an end-of-Blues-Or-Astroblue everything-and-the-kitchen-sink quality, much more so than I planned, but welcome

The Setlist

Here’s my setlist, same for Lawrence and Crete. Most of the notes are guitar-related – which pickup, which effects – with a few arrangement notes.

Gabe / Staircase / I Would is the key transition, gear-wise. Everything before Gabe is in standard tuning, with my 6th and 5th strings running to the octave down amp. I Would and after is drop D (really drop C#, we tuned a half-step down) and only the 6th string running the octave down.

Gabe is in drop D, and also has a special delay setting. So I would tune down and set up the delay for Gabe, then quickly return the delay to normal for Staircase (first old tune of the set), then switch octave down cables for I Would. (Any song from the 2nd set could have gone in the space after Staircase.)

Encore wasn’t written, but it was Berlin and Stand By Me.

Subject: Re: Morning buddy

Scott found the email where I first pitched resuming h&s and working on what became V for Voice. The Mars Lights EP mentioned is Only Bang Is Bang. Here’s the email exchange.

On Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 9:38 AM, howie wrote:

Just checking in. How’s school / home?

I’ve been on a writing kick… picking away at demos for the next Sally Ride joint and Sneaky Sneaky Snakes… had a wild hair to listen to the set of demos I’ve kind of set aside for us this morning, and they’re sounding pretty good to me. They’re mostly instrumental, a few have vocal concepts laid down but not lyrics or anything.

IDK, I guess – what’s your capacity for a full-on collaboration, with no deadline? We’d figure out arrangements and instrumentation together. I’m imagining you’d bring everything you’ve got – sax, percussion, Sleepover-style key leads and textures, your Hush/mr|ten-style key textures – I’ll bring everything I’ve ever done, and we’ll slowly pick away at a spacy, jazzy, art-rock record.

I think I’ve mentioned it in the abstract to you before, but for some reason this morning it’s all just seeming more real and possible. I’m realizing that the demos won’t be as hard to finish as I might have thought, given my success writing some other stuff and figuring out a more regular writing process. And maybe with your new job and settling in to it, you have an idea of how interested you are. And I mean, this will probably take a couple or three years, and I’m OK with that, I’m just excited about the end product. For us and the people who care, I think we have an incredibly cool record in us.

Everything’s alright here, work’s fine, CA got a new job at KU about a month ago so she’s commuting (sort of bummer) but she loves the job (awesome). Mars Lights mixes our new EP at a pro studio here in town on Sunday (we recorded at home).

-h

On Nov 5, 2014 at 9:05 PM, Scott wrote:

a RESOUNDING YES to all sentences stated above. I am super pumped about this idea, and would really enjoy the project. I look forward to more ideas/brainstorms/music etc.!!! hope to catch up soon! -SM

h&s 8/3 Lawrence and 8/9 Crete show details

3 August 2019, Saturday – Lawrence, KS – howie&scott at Kaw Valley Public House with Wild Eye. No cover, 7:30 PM (Wild Eye) / 8:30 PM (h&s), no age restriction but someone in your party should be of age to buy drinks probably out of respect for KVPH’s hosting hospitality!

9 August 2019, Saturday – Crete, NE – howie&scott at The Brew House. No cover, two sets (7:30 & 8:30), all ages. FB event page.