Now thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, their luxurious vocal blend will see the light of day on Tomorrow You’re Going, an album recorded under the name Pine Hill Project. Featuring a variety of essential cover songs reworked in down-home style, it was produced by Americana legend Larry Campbell and comes out March 17.
Listen to their rootsy interpretation of Nick Lowe’s “I Live on a Battlefield,” and enjoy a short Q & A with Shindell after the player.
CMT Edge: This is one of my favorite Nick Lowe songs – a cheerful melody but devastating lyrics. When you heard it, what sort of imagery popped into your mind?
Shindell: Nick Lowe is one of my favorite songwriters. Even when dealing with some pretty dark lyrical material, he always manages to offset it with some kind of levity – a little joke or a silly rhyme or (as is the case here) a ridiculously catchy musical setting.
When I imagine the “battlefield,” I see an apartment strewn with Chinese takeout, empty bottles and overflowing ashtrays – abject dissolution. It’s the same scene in another one of my favorites, “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide” (a kind of anthem for me!).
Where did you record the song, and what do you remember most about the day you recorded it? How would you describe that scene?
We recorded the song at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, New York. It’s an old house on a farm with pigs and dogs and goats and chickens. Although none of the farm animals was directly involved in the recording, a very large pig by the name of Donatello (good name for a pig) did make an incursion into the kitchen and almost made it into the studio in the middle of one of the takes.
Once Donatello was persuaded to leave (by means of a bribe), recording resumed. We got this one on the third take with Bryon Isaacs (bass), Dennis McDermott (drums) and me (electric rhythm guitar) playing all together in the big room, while Larry was in the control room with a mandolin. Later we added our vocals, including Larry and Bryon’s fabulous harmonies. Larry also added an electric guitar part.
I know you have recorded together before, and I’m sure a lot of things have changed since that time, but what would you say has remained the same?
Singing together live is every bit as pleasurable and gratifying as it ever was for us. (We’ve been singing together since the day we met, when Lucy sang harmonies on my first album.) When we sing together, there’s something pretty unusual that happens. It’s a combination of how our voices sound together – which is pretty unique – and that we have very similar musical instincts, not to mention that we love the same kind of songs.
We’ve sung together onstage many, many times, but have only had a few opportunities to record vocals together live. We recorded a lot of the vocals on Tomorrow You’re Going at the same time, facing each other in a room together. There’s nothing else like that. It’s not perfect. There ends up being small phrasing and pitch errors that you can’t correct because you’re both on the same track. But it’s very powerful emotionally. And of course really, really fun.