Home > Around Town > Streetlamps for Spotlights: A Conversation with Jason Davis
Streetlamps for Spotlights: A Conversation with Jason Davis
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Jason Davis has had a hand at helping to make some of the best local record releases Fort Wayne has seen(and heard.) Over the past few years Davis has been the owner/operator of Off The Cuff Sound, an all-analog recording studio located in the Fort. He's recorded albums by Sacred Broncos, House of Bread, TIMBER!!!(he was the drummer for them as well), Dwane Ferren, and Heaven's Gateway Drugs to name just a few. So sometimes it's easy to forget because of his prolific work with other bands that the main reason he opened a recording studio was to record his own music.
For the past several years Jason Davis has put out several 7" singles with his band Streetlamps for Spotlights. "Vultures," "Wake Up," "After The Bullfight" are a few SfS have put out, but never any full-length albums, until now. On April 19th, or as the vinyl community call it Record Store Day, Streetlamps for Spotlights will be releasing Sound and Color for the world to hear and having an album release show at CS3 with out-of-town guests The D-Rays and Weird Science.
EAP: It's great to finally be talking to you about this record. How does it feel to be releasing the first Streetlamps for Spotlights long player?
Jason Davis: My plan was for Streetlamps to only release 45 singles, so our history when it was all said and done could be compiled into a box set of 45s. With 6 singles in our past, it was time for a full length. It sort of aborts the plan but I think we may reach more people this way, as everyone seems to be finding the beauty of not only the fidelity but of the aesthetic tangibility of vinyl records again over the last few years. I still think it takes a special kind of junkie to flip the 45 bin in a record store. Although it may be where the most interesting gems are. The reason to release music on vinyl is that there are these places call record stores where music ends up and collects, new and used, where it waits to found again by someone in the search for something new, 5, 10, 20, even 50 years later.
EAP: With as much work as you do with other bands at Off The Cuff, was it difficult to fit time in to record SfS full-length?
Jason Davis: I love making records. I am very lucky to have worked with all the people I have worked with. Making my own records is how I got into to all this in the first place. Tracking sessions are always fun. Mixing sessions are always exciting. We divided this record into 4 sets of tracking sessions with three songs per session. There were a few reasons for this. One of which was so that I didn’t have a 12 song laundry list of things to finish. That can weigh pretty heavy on someone. It becomes all encompassing when you know there are all these things that aren’t done yet. Just ask any musician. We would work the three songs to completion. The drums, bass , and guitars would be done in a 2 day weekend session with vocals and overdubs being completed in smaller sessions over the next few weeks when the studio was free. While this was going on we would be rehearsing the next three songs so they were ready to be cut when the previous three were done. When all four sessions and all twelve songs were complete Ryan and I mixed the songs to _” tape in a number of days off and on. We just left the studio setup for our mix and worked when schedules allowed. The final mixes were sent to The Boiler Room in Chicago where Collin Jordan mastered them from the 1/4” tape. The masters were then sent to Musicol Vinyl Pressing in Columbus where John Hull cut our lacquers. This place has been making records since the 50’s. They made James Brown records back in the day. It is a small family owned shop.
EAP: Let's talk about the album. It's called Sound and Color. For those unaware, you released a solo album in 2012 called Flatline Movements which you played most of the parts on yourself. Streetlamps for Spotlights isn't that kind of situation. It's very much a band, right?
Jason Davis: Streetlamps is very much a band with Jay Hackbush on bass and Ryan Holquist on Drums. These guys are seasoned, tasteful players. The beautiful part of being in a band is what each member brings to the collective table no matter where the song originates…or at least it should be. We tracked this record together in the studio to 24 tracks of 2 inch tape. So performances were key. Human noise! We rehearse a lot and make demo recordings of those so we can listen to what we like and dislike. Sometimes what you think sounds good when your playing doesn’t sounds as good as you think it did.
EAP: Were you manning the board during these sessions as well?
Jason Davis: I love the recording process so working both sides of the glass doesn’t bother me. We are very lucky to have a handful of people that are willing to come in for a session and run buttons. Tape OPs! Everyone who has done this duty has actually made records at the studio so it is not a foreign process to them. What do they do or do not realize is that they become a de facto sounding board. Many times things will happen in the recording process that are spontaneous and unplanned and because of the tape medium you have to decided if it works and whether to keep it or not. I really appreciate having these people work through that process with us and would like to name these trusted associates: Ben Larson, Dwane Ferren, C. Ray Harvey, James Rude, Josh Estock, Atticus Sorrell. Thank You!
EAP: Can you talk a little about your songwriting process?
Jason Davis: Songs are strange creations. How and why someone writes them is terribly mysterious. A one liner lyric, a catchy riff…sometimes it is an instant creation, sometimes these things just hang around until they find a natural place, sometimes they are forgotten (so were they that great in the first place?), sometimes they are found again written down somewhere, spark something new, and live again. Those are the best!
When we decided to make this record we did some preproduction live to two track versions of all the songs. We choose 12 that worked well together. We took the rest and started a new list for the next record. While making this record we’ve been simultaneously writing, arranging, and rehearsing songs for the next record. We plan to start making the next record as soon we finish releasing this record.
EAP: The release date for Sound and Color is April 19th. For those not in the know this happens to be Christmas Day for vinyl lovers, aka Record Store Day. Was this in the works for some time, or just a happy accident?
Jason Davis: It just happened to line-up time wise. When you make a vinyl record you need to plan four months out. We sent the master to press right around New Years. So it seemed appropriate to link it up with RSD day. It’s become such a celebration of the medium that we are glad to a part of it locally. For the turntable disabled we also pressed Compact Discs and it will be available on itunes and other online distributors.
EAP: So after folks head to Neat Neat Neat Records the morning of April 19th and grab their copy of Sound and Color, they can head to CS3 that night and hear the album live at your album release show. You're bringing in Athens, OH bands The D-Rays and Weird Science as well. Sounds like a great time.
Jason Davis: We are very excited to have our friends The D-Rays in town to play this show. We play Athens quite a bit. Not just super great people, Erick, Missy, and Maceo are an amazing live show. http://draysathens.wordpress.com/ They are also Off the Cuff family as they have made both their first 45 and then their full length at the studio. Weird Science just happened to be touring the Midwest and are very excited to see them play Fort Wayne for the first time. We have just recently added Exterminate All Rational Thought to the bill. They have a new record coming out on April 19th as well. Being they have made records at Off the Cuff as well, we felt it was a fitting and fine addition to the show.
EAP: You do plenty to bring in great bands to Fort Wayne. The Hussy, D-Rays, Weird Science just to name a few. Do you think clubs and promoters are doing their part to bring in talent to the Fort?
Jason Davis: I think Fort Wayne is doing a great job keeping things moving forward and fresh. We get an amazing amount of diverse music coming through this place if you choose to be a part and experience it. This augmented with what we having going on locally! There are just some great bands here. Every town has them, and we have them too! Music is one of those things that is hard to find until know about it. So tell someone, tell three people.
EAP: Is there some touring planned?
Jason Davis: We do have some touring planned. Chicago and Madison, Ohio, Kentucky, Nashville, Asheville are all in the works. We submitted ourselves to a few festivals as well. We are all working guys with pretty great day jobs...so frequent weekend jaunts will have to do for now.
EAP: So what's next? Do you have any albums on the back burner?
Jason Davis: We are actually planning on following up this record pretty quickly with another as we have been doing double duty, recording one record while writing the next. Sounds a bit crazy but it has been working well. It has allowed us to have something to look forward to and work on as we finalized this record.
Mark your calendars, folks. April 19th is Record Store Day and it's also Streetlamps for Spotlights release day. Sound and Color is hitting your earholes. Be prepared for some music goodness. And even if you don't dig the vinyl, you can head out to CS3 that evening for what will be one hell of an album release show. Streetlamps for Spotlights, The D-Rays, and Weird Science will rock your socks off. Check these sites out:
Streetlamps for Spotlights will be doing an in-store performance the afternoon of April 19th at Neat Neat Neat Records.