The Croatian and American supergroup’s Dalibor Pavičić and Chris Eckman give us an access-all-areas tour of their latest cinematic track
The Strange is a collaboration between Croatian surf-rockers The Bambi Molesters and American singer-songwriter Chris Eckman (best known for his work with The Walkabouts). Their inaugural outing together came way back in 2004, with debut album Nights Of Forgotten Films, and they have now finally returned with a follow-up, Echo Chamber.
Even though this union is of a wholly unique makeup, the songs on Echo Chamber have hints of Lee Hazlewood, Scott Walker and Van Dykes Parks in their timeless and cinematic nature. Curious to know more a little more about The Strange’s writing, we’ve asked them to deconstruct one of their tracks for us. Here, guitarist Dalibor Pavičić and vocalist Chris Eckman take us deep inside the Morricone-inspired Lonesome Rider…
Dalibor Pavičić: “From the very beginning I heard this song as something that could be a theme to an old fashioned western movie. Something that could be both Ennio Morricone and Dimitri Tiomkin at the same time. Considering my longtime involvement in instrumental music, I was mostly inspired by guitar players like Billy Strange or Bob Bain. Very old school. Reverb and melody. Basically, everything I do musically needs to have a melody. I strongly believe that song without melody is not a song. And it needs to have some dramatic feel to it. Even when playing as an instrumental it needs to tell the story.”
Chris Eckman: “I received the demo from Dalibor in my inbox with the working title ‘Ride Lonesome’. This already pointed in a certain lyrical direction. I immediately thought of Gene Pitney or the Morricone song, The Return Of Ringo. A widescreen narrative with the big themes included: love, commitment, escape. Of course, all of it would be done with a bit of a wink and an embrace of certain genre expectations. I fumbled around with the chorus at first, but nothing really happened until I changed the title to ‘Lonesome Rider’. Then I started to see the story. A love that didn’t last. The opening line, ‘Hell no, this won’t be the ending I’m sure,’ is a red herring of sorts because the song is very much about the end of a love and how the narrator chooses to let it go. His lover riding off into the dust and distance.”
Dalibor Pavičić: “I had an image, or better to say a feel, for the song in my head for a few months. It started with bits and pieces and simple melody that I was humming along while playing acoustic guitar. The first thing I actually wrote was a middle solo/melody part and the outro. And I had this idea of strings with orchestral break after second refrain. Then came the title which kind of reflected what I felt at the moment and what could also be a title of some imaginative western movie – Ride Lonesome.
“Verses and refrain came last. I remember sending a few demos to Chris with various melodies and chord changes for verse and refrain, until he found something that inspired him. He changed the original demo melody to better suit his style. Our keyboardist Luka Benčić also helped with some minor changes to the chord progression on the guitar solo/melody part. We spent some time arranging parts because it seemed too long at first listen. Later, we just did what the song asked for and I think we managed to keep it interesting right to the end. Story, drama, some climax and outro. Like a movie. All solo guitars were doubled with baritone guitar for a bigger sound. These were all choices that were done during the demo stage.”
In The Studio
Chris Eckman: “We recorded the basic tracks of the song live in a wonderful, large studio on the outskirts of Prague. It is called Sono. I have worked there a lot over the years and it is always a great experience. The strings were also recorded in that room a few months later, right before we started mixing. The album was produced by Antonio Gramentieri AKA Don Antonio who has worked with Alejandro Escovedo, Dan Stuart from Green On Red and many others. His personal projects – Sacri Cuori and Don Antonio – have a very Italian soundtrack vibe to them and we thought his approach would be perfect for Echo Chamber. The recording and mix engineer was the legendary Phill Brown who has worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones to late-period Talk Talk. The sounds that Phill gets are always 3D, warm and natural. He makes everything sit together in the right way.”
Dalibor Pavičić: “Vanni Crociani made a beautiful string arrangement for the song which has this old Hollywood movie quality to it, mixed with Italian soundtrack motifs. I would say that the song ended up being one of the rare and extraordinary moments for me as a composer since it sounds exactly as the song that I had in my mind from the very beginning. We were in good company for this one.”
Echo Chamber is out now. For all the latest info, take a look at thestrange.info