The Quick & Easy Boys - Follow Us Overboard
On their fourth full-length, Portland, Oregon-based psychedelic rock/melodic-pop outfit The Quick & Easy Boys make a record you can shake your hips and move your feet to, all courtesy of Los Lobos keyboardist/horn player and producer Steve Berlin. Berlin recorded Follow Us Overboard at Modest Mouse mastermind Isaac Brock's private studio, where Modest Mouse has been recording their next record for the past two years; The Quick & Easy Boys the first outside band to record there.
Comprised of vocalist/bassist Sean Badders, guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Russell, and newcomer Casey Anthony on drums, The Quick & Easy Boys set out to make a record that sounds like "The Beach Boys meets The BeeGees meets The Flaming Lips" and feel they nailed it on Follow Us Overboard's fifteen songs.
"We gave Steve Berlin forty demo tracks that ranged from home demos done by Sean and I (some of which made it on the album), recordings of us practicing/improvising, and songs that we had previously worked out together," recalls Russell. "Steve whittled the list down to his favorite eighteen and we cut a few, and ended up with fifteen."
"A major factor in this album was the inclusion of Steve Berlin as producer," quickly confirms Badders. "In the past, the albums were produced by us and our engineers - and we love how those came out -but this was the first time we really let an outsider really shape what was happening, and honestly it made a lot of things way easier."
The title of the album comes for Berlin, who told the band a few times in the studio to "Follow Us Overboard" when adding a few extra vocal layers and guitar parts, and the name stuck.
But, as Badders states, it album sums up the album pretty well, as well as their approach to creating and playing music together.
"For this album we really went back to our roots and just said f**k it, lets just make the best album we can regardless of what the songs are or how it might be perceived," he says. "I joke that its like the first album we did, only fifty times better due to increased musicianship, songwriting, and the help of Steve Berlin producing. Along with the songs we did with Steve, we have five or six songs I composed by myself on a multitrack program on my iPad that we ended up using on the album, kind of like in an interlude sense like on great hip-hop albums we grew up listening to in the 90s, minus the comedic skits."
He pauses for a minute and continues, "We really wanted to make this a weird, psychedelic rock album that was consistent throughout, but also slightly off in a good way. We really spared no expense as far as keyboards, horns, backing vocals, or anything else."
"With Steve Berlin as the producer there was an attitude of exploration that allowed all members of the band to contribute their musical voice completely," furthers Russell. "In the process of recording we were not stifled by any thoughts of adding too much and thus we incorporated many vocal, guitar, keys, horns, and aux percussion that were contributed by some very talented friends, as well as ourselves."
One of the most existing moments for the band was using Modest Mouse's guitars and amps in their studio, which Isaac Brock personally OK'd.
"We couldn't have asked for a better environment," says Badders. "Isaac was kind enough to let us use all Modest Mouse's basses and guitars and pedals and whatever. It really was the most ideal situation for us."
He continues, "We haven't recorded in Portland in a few years, so it was nice to be in our home town and have friends and people stop by the studio. Isaac dropped by to say hello, and we even had Galactic, a New Orleans funk band, stop by before their gig at the Crystal Ballroom, so it really was just a great place to be and hangout."
Often commended for a mixture of sounds and styles, especially on their debut, Bad Decisions with Good People, the band's next two records - Red Light Rabbit and Make It Easy - were spent trying to fine-tune and refine their sound, focusing on a "sound" they were going for. Which was great rock with a pop appeal, but with Make It Easy they felt they took it a bit too far and got too clinical with their approach, losing the rawness and weirdness that has been their charm (and is prevalent live).
However, with Follow Us Overboard they didn't want to do that, so they set aside any pre-conceived notions of how the songs should be or any ideas of how things should turn out, and let Steve Berlin guide the ship.
One of the things Steve Berlin found in their demos was iPad recordings done by Badders that ranged from just vocal and guitar with tin whistle to over-produced lo-fi synth-pop with a variety of instruments. Deciding instead of having the band cut them all, he felt they worked better as they were initially recorded and the band agreed, including them directly on the album.
"We also each took on more musical responsibilities," recalls Badders on the making of the record. "With the iPad tracks included, I ended up singing lead on thirteen of the fifteen songs, so that was so much fun for me to really go for it and do the lead singer thing. I also did a majority of all the back-up and harmony vocals on this album, so vocally I really stepped my game up and took the load upon myself and I feel like I rose to the challenge. I got to channel my full Harry Nilsson and showcase my chops."
"Having said that," he says, "Jimmy and I also took on a wider range of instruments. I played guitar, bass, flute, percussion, keyboards, and synth, while Jimmy did all the lead guitar as well as keyboards, pianos, bass, and vocals as well. We really got to be free to try new things."
The result is a record that Russell says is different than their last albums in many ways.
"The lyrics, groove, arrangements, instrumentation, and dynamics are present in every song. All together the songs are a dynamic, psychedelic journey that embodies the attitude of Follow Us Overboard. I'm pretty sure none of us envisioned using demo tracks as part of the completed record, yet they turned out to be some of my favorite parts and added to the dynamic psychedelic journey of the whole record immensely."
Following up on Russell's thoughts on the completed record, Badders smiles and says, "We joked prior to the recording that the album would be the Beach Boys meets the BeeGees meets the Flaming Lips. We lost a lot of the disco BeeGees part, but I think it still holds to our original statement. When dealing with a band, nothing is ever exactly like you originally hear it because everyone has their own style and stamp they put on the track. For instance, the lead guitar melody in 'Die' is slightly different than what I came up with on my demo, but Jimmy's take on it ended up better than what I initially did."
Now, with the record coming out in October, the band is gearing up to tour the nation, sleep on fans' floors, and make beer-soaked music patrons dance and sweat to the music as everyone in attendance follows The Quick & Easy Boys overboard.