Food & Drink

Ed Schrader Makes Normal Look Weird with Pop-up Restaurant

0 Written by: | Wednesday, May 29, 2013 11:00am

ed-schrader-ptg

 

When I first saw a “Pasta the Gathering” flier circulating the Internet, I was certain it was a joke. It promised a prix-fixe, three-course meal at Mt. Vernon’s Soup’s On featuring the “authentic Italian-American cooking of Utica, N.Y.” brought to you by local talk-show host and musician (and now, chef) Ed Schrader. Yeah right.

A few years back, Ed designed a flier for a similarly ludicrous event and posted it around town. It looked like this: Read More →

Culture, Featured, Hampden

Hampden’s Golden West Makes It onto “House of Cards” Shoot

0 Written by: | Wednesday, May 08, 2013 12:51pm

The Golden West Cafe all dressed up on the Avenue in Hampden

The Golden West Cafe all dressed up on the Avenue in Hampden. Photo via Mend Community Acupuncture.

The Netflix original series House of Cards can be hard for a Baltimorean to watch. The locations are so obviously Charm City that it’s easy to forget the show takes place in D.C. And it looks like we can count on another uncanny viewing experience soon, as quintessential Hampden haunt Golden West Cafe apparently played the role of “4th Street Cafe” in a shoot for the series last Wednesday. Read More →

Links

Chester Endersby Gwazda: Baltimore’s Underground Producer Embraces “Inner-Cheese” with New Album

0 Written by: | Thursday, Apr 26, 2012 8:08am

I first met Chester Gwazda when we were placed into the same on-campus suite (or, more accurately, when he was placed into the suite I was squatting) at a state school in Westchester County, New York, in 2003. At 18, he was an excitable, creative force of nature, prone to talking a mile a minute about antique stereopticons, Jonathan Richman, Lord of the Rings, and his Roland synthesizer with its various “problemos” (which, he was quick to add, were really “no problemo”).

Now, at 27, he’s mostly the same, except his hair’s a little longer, he prefers a Nord synth, and he’s recorded, produced, or mixed an impressive list of underground records — Dan Deacon’s Bromst, Future Islands’ In Evening Air, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s Jazz Mind among them — not just buzzworthy records, but real breakthrough moments for the artists. (Our own band Nuclear Power Pants’ Wicked Eats the Warrior excluded. View Raymond Cummings’s characteristically libelous review of that effort at City Paper‘s music blog.)

Last month, Chester finally released a name-your-price digital album of his own songs. It’s called Shroud, and it’s an album that benefits from his years spent on a recording sabbatical, full of the kind of tightly crafted pop you’re likely to get when the songwriter is also the arranger-producer — each song a vision fully realized.

The following are Chester’s answers to some of my questions about his production work as well as his new album.

Who are your production heroes?

Lately, I’ve been really psyched on pop music!  There are so many tricks!  Mostly in the arrangements.  Things are so calculated and precise, and I actually love that.  I’m talking about Beyoncé, Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey sorta pop. But also Prince and even Motown stuff.  I love hearing about the weird quality control meetings that Berry Gordy would hold weekly to ensure that all the Motown releases fit into the formula.  Although I don’t make music like Beyoncé, I think the techniques that are used to create those special moments in her songs can be applied to most music.

What’s it like being a producer in the indie/underground scene? I’m assuming that you “co-produce” with the bands, but is it always like that?

I still have a day job.  I think that’s a little peek into what it’s like, for me at least.  Much of my work is as an engineer, but I also have a hand in arrangement, and I do the mixing for everything I work on.  With Future Islands or Dan Deacon, they come to me with the electronic elements all laid out and ready to go (which is a big part of the sound, as a whole).  Most bands want to be involved in the production and they know the sound they’re going for.  I’m there to help them get that sound and fill in the gaps, when necessary.

What is your recording process?

I like to mix while I track.  I don’t want to record an instrument, then find out later that it doesn’t jibe when everything’s put together.  I try to get the tracking done fast, then spend a lot of time mixing and editing.  I do that alone, without the band around, then we make revisions together.  I experiment with the sounds and arrangement while I’m mixing, and it helps to not have someone looking over your shoulder while you’re trying something ridiculous!

On the recent Dan Deacon and Future Islands records, say, can you hear yourself on them? What of your own musical personality comes through?

I love hearing the rooms where things are recorded.  I’m super attached to these cheap omnidirectional mics which pick up a ton of room sound, and I use them on all sorts or stuff.  With Future Islands, you can hear it in Sam’s vocals or William’s bass.  I spend a lot of time working on drum sounds, and I think that’s something that comes through.

What made you take a break from promoting your own music and start recording in the first place? What brought you back?

I was always a pretty slow songwriter, so if I only worked on my own music I wouldn’t be keeping very busy!  The recording process is my favorite part of making music anyway (more than writing or performing), so I started working on other people’s songs because my own compositions were in such short supply.

I’m spending more time on my own music now because I just started writing more!  I relaxed my quality control a little bit and started having fun.  I was always afraid of making music that was simplistic or cheesy, but I realized how much I actually love those things!

When did you start writing the songs for Shroud?

For a long time I was just writing when it was convenient, between projects with other people.  Two of the songs (“Skewed” and “Debbie Drowner”) were written like that.  The other ones were written in the past year or so when I started devoting more time to my solo stuff and embracing my inner-cheese!

Anything coming up?

Going on tour in July!  All south of the Mason-Dixon line!  I love the south in the summer! More details on that soon.  I’ll be joined by Bamboo, a new-ish Baltimore duo. Possibly a seven-inch or something in the fall with a new label in the UK.

Also, I borrowed my parents’ canoe so I’m hoping to have some fun this summer on Prettyboy.  Lemme know if you wanna paddle around!

Culture

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat!

2 Written by: | Thursday, Dec 15, 2011 12:00am

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, a two-piece band of bass, a single drum, and equal parts tuneful singing and Aflac-Duck-style screaming, are fresh off a six-week tour as the support act for local rising stars Future Islands and are awaiting the release of their debut full-length album, Jazz Mind, on underground, avant-loud standard-bearers Load Records domestically and Upset the Rhythm in the UK.

Ed Schrader, who bangs the drum and sings, cites a coerced a cappella rendition of Montel Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” at a local rock show during his high school years in Utica, New York, as the moment he began his career as a performer. “The school bully was there, and he’d heard me sing the song in gym class,” Ed recalls. “He was like, ‘Get up there and sing it, or I’ll beat you up.’ Before that I hadn’t done any music or any performance or anything.” That night Ed was asked to join a Smashing Pumpkins tribute band, which he did. “But,” he adds, “they didn’t like me because I danced too much.”

To talk about the genesis of ESMB we have to start with Ed’s one-man, audio sitcom, “A Family Affair.” Let it be known that a great idea can strike anywhere.

In 2004, Ed was between semesters at SUNY Brockport and had recently decided to abandon an allegorical detective novel he had been piecing together during trips to Tim Hortons. In need of a new creative project, Ed bought a cheap audio recorder and began recording short episodes of a sitcom/soap opera based on the family problems of a hometown friend, Andy. “I would have a conversation with Andy that I was just using for new material, you know,” Ed says. “And then I would dramatize that conversation right afterward and add things — like David Bowie showing up.”

An uncomfortable living situation had Ed taking frequent and long walks around Brockport ad libbing episodes of “A Family Affair.” He eventually sought to expand the format of the show — to make it “more like an opera” — and episodes began to include songs sung from the point of view of the characters. This was the beginning of the body of work that was to become Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, and several current live staples made their debut on “A Family Affair,” including “I Think I’m A Ghost” and “Night Vision.” (I can’t imagine the teenagers and 20-somethings who sing along to these catchy songs would ever guess that they are about a mother’s struggle to come to terms with her new life as an empty-nester.)

Soon, Ed was recording songs independent of his sitcom. He remembers, “I would walk around, press record, and just let whatever crazy thing come out of my head. That’s how ‘Gas Station Attendant’ was written, just walking by a gas station and going, ‘Uhhhhh, gas station attendant!'” Guess where he was when he wrote his song about checking email.

So by the time Ed had moved to Baltimore in 2006 he had already amassed a huge catalogue of short, weird songs, but hadn’t yet considered playing them out. In fact, that idea didn’t occur until he was on tour with percussion-heavy instrumental jam group Teeth Mountain. The original plan was for Ed to open with a long improv comedy routine, but crowd reaction got worse and worse, until eventually it was just “this awkward thing every night.” When the group hit Iowa, Ed stole a drum from Teeth Mountain, and his comedy set was edged out by drum and voice renditions of his songs. Ed was able to learn how to play drums with practice and help. “By the time I got back home I had a full set I could play. I was like a musician,” Ed says.

2009 saw the release of Ed’s first solo 10-inch record, The Choir Inside, on the Wham City label. “That whole album was pretty raw,” Ed says. “The vocals I would record in the alley. Every night, when I first moved to Baltimore, I would go to the Dunkin’ Donuts near the CopyCat [in Station North], and on the trip there and from I would record a vocal track. And for some of the percussion I used a Starbucks cup, put a little reverb on it. I’ve always wanted people to be like, ‘Where’d you get that sound?’ But they’re not. They’re like, ‘You should have used a real drum.'”

Devlin Rice joined Ed on bass a year and a half ago, taking what was at best a compelling performance art project and making it something you could move to, something almost pop. “I want to be a pop musician; that’s always what I’ve wanted to do,” Ed says. “Most of the time [my solo performances] would go really great because people respond to, like, a drum and somebody yelling, but it didn’t have the focus and the structure that it has now. If I was solo it would be like Michael Stipe by himself, off in outer space. [Devlin] is like the rest of R.E.M.”

He’s not kidding about the R.E.M. comparison (they’re one of his favorite bands, alongside David Bowie and the Police), and he’s serious about wanting to reach the widest possible audience, too. It’s this potent mix of eccentricity and ambition that has gotten Ed so much attention in such a short time.

Last week, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat played to a sold out Ottobar, opening for Future Islands. The crowd reaction was priceless. Some were well aware of Ed’s music, others were new to it, but unfazed, and yet others, recently won over by Future Islands’ latest well promoted record of angsty, slowburning synthpop, On the Water, looked to each other for answers, confused as to whether these two well groomed guys vacillating between explosive screamfests and spare, melodious ballads were to be taken seriously. “Is this guy real?” I heard from behind me.

On stage, Ed didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy making jokey patter and walking like a chicken in slow circles around his drum, hamming it up for a hung jury. And that’s ESMB’s key ingredient: Ed’s bullet-proof self confidence. He doesn’t stumble over a crowd’s initial hesitation, and even as he’s given his music more structure, he’s never been tempted to compromise his vision. For Ed, it’s not about making concessions to the opposition; it’s about staying on message. And that message hasn’t changed since he began performing. Really. He’ll even occasionally still break into “This Is How We Do It.”

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