Interview Outtakes: Adam Levy and Jason Crigler of Lackawanna

July 20, 2009

ADAM LEVY AND JASON CRIGLER OF LACKAWANNA ARE TWO GUYS WHO KNOW how to go with the flow, whether it’s getting gigs, improvising solos, or recovering from injuries. These are some outtakes from their Sept. ’09 GP feature.

Even though this is your first release, this band has been around a while.
Levy: We would gig occasionally but not regularly. Then I found out around 2005 that Jason had had this brain hemorrhage. We were on hold then because his life was on hold. He recovered miraculously. When he was ready, we decided to make a record. The big difference is that we were originally a cover band. We were like an Americana Booker T—we would cover Gillian Welch tunes, Alt Americana, we did some soul tunes. When it came time to make this record, we realized that we wanted to include our own music. We each wrote a couple of songs, Jason brought in this song his wife Monica wrote, “Fast Train,” and our friend Alice Bierhorst wrote a song Swimmer Boy. We improvised and jammed a lot and, after the fact, our friend Todd Sickafoose offered to produce it. We had all these 15-minute jams and needed someone to turn them into something more coherent.

How else did the band evolve?

Crigler: If you’re a focused artist, as years go on you naturally change. Adam had been busy with Norah and that had an impact on his playing. I was performing and had a brain injury onstage. I remember being put in an ambulance and that’s the last thing I remember for a year and a half. I had an arterial venous malformation or AVM. I had to relearn how to walk and how to speak and obviously play guitar. Recording this record was a big deal for me. I started playing again in 2006 and it was really painful. I couldn’t play for more than ten minutes because of the pain. My hands were clenched up like claws from the bleed. I had to work a little each day and it was a painful, depressing process. Recovery from a brain injury is a very slow process—a year is nothing. So I wasn’t very far along when we recorded this but I was determined to do it. It was a huge deal for me to be able last through one of our sets.

This is a live record, but how did you track it? Are there discrete tracks for each instrument? Did you do any fixes?
Levy: We had discrete tracks. One of the coolest things about the Living Room is they’ve expanded since we started this project and they do live recording there. In the basement they have a full digital desk, they have mics set up all the time, they have a decca tree on the ceiling, five mics in a specific pattern, Neumanns in the sky, and all the cables running discretely. We miked our amps with 57s and there were mics on the drums, and we brought in a hard drive and we tracked to Pro Tools.
We didn’t do any fixes but there are edits. On “Humdinger” the songs starts with a bit of a jam before you hear the melody, and I’m pretty sure it happened the other way around. Todd moved that around. We edited some solos in terms of shortening them. Everything you hear happened in real time, though.

For an improvised record, there are a lot of parts, like in “Fast Train,” that sound very planned out.
Crigler: There are a bunch of moments on the record like that. There’s another one in “Coco Llama” at 5:30, which might be my favorite moment on the whole thing. It’s just luck, honestly. We’re both sort of the musicians you don’t really have to explain or talk to that much, they just sort of do enough of the right things where you get all these little goodies. That’s what we do for each other I think. We surprise each other and every now and then we land on something beautiful and that’s one of them. Ideally it would have been great if we could have had a week of gigs so we could have had more of those but we didn’t. We had two nights.

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