On Deck: Whale Belly

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Last week we posted the delightful “Bubbles In My Blood,” the lead-off track from the forthcoming album I Once Was A Bird, by folksters Whale Belly. The band is a five piece from Brooklyn, that originally started as a duo and grew organically from there. With the addition of each new member the band had a new weapon in its arsenal to use in their unique and surprising music. Thought their music may be indebted to folk, Whale Belly do not adhere to any one style or genre, with their songs including turns and motifs that are as enjoyable as they are inspired.

Considering the sprawling and un-pin-downable nature of their sound, I asked the guys to contribute to our On Deck series so that I could get a better handle on where they get their inspiration from.

Whale Belly’s I Was Once A Bird will be out this fall, you can download their first album …The Smile At The End Of The Slope for free from their website.

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook

My mother was the youngest of 5 kids and I am her second of three children. Her mother, my grandmother, came from a much different and older world. She was born in 1924 from Jewish immigrants who escaped the old country to the golden happy streets of America, settling in Chicago, where I was born. In the late-1990s, when I was in Junior High my grandfather passed away, my grandmother decided to move to Florida and I had to help my grandmother clean out her apartment. In the back of a used cedar closet, the one I used to sneak into as a child just to smell the walls, was an old dusty cardboard box of mostly warped records. Classics from Harry Belafonte to Sinatra. The last one in the pile was Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook. I remember to this day, the jacket was so dusty it made me sneeze, it smelled of old spoiled water and the vinyl was bent and warped. It was unplayable. After telling me how Cole Porter was her favorite, my grandmother took me to a CD store in her leathery Lincoln Town Car that made cracking noises when you moved, and bought me the album. With that album as a soundtrack, she taught me how to dance in a classy way, and gave me a glimpse of an old school love and idea of what happiness and peacefulness can be. I find that in all of Cole Porter’s songs and am heavily influenced by his rhyme scheme, his way of infusing humor to even a serious subject matter and mostly, the chord changes. So classy, and American and perfect. On the new record the tracks “Selling Shit On Craigslist Just To Pay the Rent,” and “Where I’m Going,” are straight up influenced by Porter and his era.

I chose “I Get A Kick Out of You,” because of its intro and conclusion, its sense of story and wonderful romanticism that maybe never existed, but I like to believe it did and does within me and other people.

Todd Bogin (vocals, guitar)

“I Get A Kick Out Of You”:

warship the house floor

The House Floor – Warship

Warship, released in 2009, around the time I became friends with The House Floor, was their only official album at the time. It is a long poetic novel of raw insightful emotion sung over mathematically twisting music. The lyrics are this giant dissection on the realization that everything you were told to believe in as a child may not be true and those beliefs, although traditional and comforting, need to be questioned. And the discovery that now as an adult, you can choose your own beliefs, even if you still have anger towards falsehoods told to you, you have to find your way. It also explores emotions involving the Virginia Tech shootings (all of the members were students when the massacre happened). Alex Fox Tschan, the singer/guitarist has become one of my closest friends. After we recorded …The Smile at the End of the Slope he showed me many different alternate tunings, which greatly influenced the writing of I Was Once A Bird. All of their songs are long and sometimes never repeat a melodic phrase yet are so intriguing. I think about that all the time while writing. Choruses or verses are not the only way to write a good song. Alex released a solo album under the name All Fox called Peaceful Heart, which is beautiful. but I’m choosing this song because it is the one that introduced me to his brilliance and fearlessness. And how tight and magnificent the rhythm section of The House Floor was. They were a pleasure to see live and we played some of our first shows with them. Alex’s new band features Nick our drummer and Josh our violinist.

Todd Bogin (vocals, guitar)

“Christian Friends”:

Ladies_And_Gentlemen_We_Are_Floating_In_Space spiritualized

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Last September while we were in the middle of recording I Was Once A Bird, I took a month-long trip through Europe alone. I trained, planed and bussed through through Sweden, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark. I was fortunate enough to play some really cool acoustic sets and meet some amazing people. The one album that I listened to the most on that trip, during the hours and hours of sitting on a moving vessels transporting me through languages I do not know, and lands I’ve never seen was Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space. I had had a recent breakup and this is the perfect album for that. The thing that always gets me is the world it creates. You have one singular voice that seems simple and honest, then out of nowhere it will be supported by a baptist choir, or a 40 piece orchestra. If Pet Sounds is a teenage love letter to God, this is God’s response to the grown adult. The album sounds like it could have been written years ago, it’s a giant classical piece, a giant movement with little sense of break. So beautiful at every moment. It’s able to sound enormous and intimate all at once. I chose “I Think I’m In Love,” for its length changes and lyrics.

Todd Bogin (vocals, guitar)

“I Think I’m In Love”:

Hot Water Music – No Division

I absolutely loved this band and album in high school. Although I may not put it in rotation as much anymore, it’s an album that reminds me why I choose to spend my time playing music and recording. I can’t even count all of the times my friends and I would blast “At The End Of A Gun” in the car and throw out our vocal cords. Positive, fun, no-bullshit rock ‘n’ roll. And the energy at their shows was incredible.

Nick Smeraski (Drums/producer)

“At The End of a Gun”:

Deerhunter – Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter’s Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP is influential for me because it takes a lot of the ideas of Microcastle and puts them in the context of more traditional songwriting structure. The EP uses some unique sounds and samples and is also one of Deerhunter’s most poppy releases. It’s also worth mentioning that it came out one year before their next full length Halcyon Digest, which shows a massive leap in sound and experimentation.

Nick Werber (Guitar)

“Famous Last Words”: