Kym Register, one of two of Midtown Dickens founders, talks about expanding the band and embedding subtle ideas into a great second album, Lanterns.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What was the most challenging aspect of finishing Lanterns?
KYM REGISTER: Making this record felt like birthing a child. I suppose finishing seems like the hardest part, what with the actual birth process and all, but carrying the growing person inside you around for months and months really took a lot of energy. We carried these songs around with us for years because, excuse me for sounding new age-y, they took a long time to reach musical maturity. Our band was going through several changes (quite a lot like hot flashes, I’ve been told), and we were recreating music that we had written together since 2007.
Will Hackney (of Trekky Records, Lost in the Trees and possibly 29 other musical projects) joined us in 2008, shortly after playing with us for a random but exciting Unchain the Dogs Benefit. He was definitely surprised when we told him months later that the songs we were playing hadn’t been recorded yet. When Ross Grady playfully dogged us for not making a record for 2 years, and when Will, Michelle Preslik, and Jonathan Henderson (our amazing friend and bass player who is rejoining the band in a few weeks!!!) added their musical brilliance, we realized it was time to finally get the tracks out to the world.
This was two years after Oh Yell!. Michelle, Catherine [Edgerton] and I had made a shoddy attempt at D.I.Y. recording months before we decided to record with Scott Solter, without whose expertise the record would not have happened. The recording process was like labor; a long, intensive five-day camp that required all of us to focus intently on the process of putting the last two years “on wax.” Intense! But the recording process, possibly like the birthing process, was actually a release. It was one of the most challenging parts of the record-making process, resulting in a final product in our hands and in our ears that represents a spattering of our growth over the past two years. Putting that into the world takes a lot of energy and confidence. And we named it Lanterns.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of finishing Lanterns, be it musical or through opportunities it’s afforded your band?
I know you don’t have to love your baby, but we do. We were definitely financially challenged in making this record. We’d decided to go it alone and learn all of the aspects of putting out a record from the ground up, so that we were fully involved in the process. We were lacking the financial backing that our previous awesome record label, 307 Knox, had given us for Oh Yell! (though we still had their emotional and statistical support), so we reached out to the community and they reached back with passion.
People invested and gifted like we never expected, which was rewarding in so, so many ways.
First, it got our record off the ground quickly and allowed us to record with someone we tremendously respected. Second, it proved that this community to whom we and other musicians are giving our hearts seriously appreciate the work that we all do, are there in times of artistic struggle, and are willing to go to great lengths to make art happen. Instant fulfillmentthank you, thank you, thank you.
If you could change one thing about the record, what would it be?
Every child is perfect in their own way. I thought about leaving the answer as the previous sentence, but figured Catherine might want me to dig a little deeper. (Hi!) One definite challenge about art is making it accessible. Lanterns has four components: A 12″ LP, a CD, a digital download and a 14-page booklet of art and lyrics created by the lovely Catherine. We’d like to be able to give the record away, but Uncle Sam is a mean, mean uncle and won’t allow us it. That said, share our music with your friends, and thank you for supporting us any way you can. Also, if you know a booking agent…
And what’s something about the record you find interesting that no one’s pointed out?
OK, this is geeking-out-on-your-own-art time. Our fourth song, “The Road Pt. 1” introduces a sound that we created with a lantern, trumpet, chimes and a singing bowl that plays throughout the rest of the record intermittently. The songs themselves get bigger in sound, too, sort of representing a growing dependence on an unnatural source of light, i.e. the lantern. The “sound” plays throughout the record and ceases at the beginning of “The Road Pt. ll,” representing our growing recognition of the natural light that surrounds us. We learned, through making this record, that we needed to let go of a dependence on arbitrary light. Yes.
Try to limit yourself to one answer: What’s your favorite local album of 2009, other than the one you made?
“Try” we will. In no particular order: Humble Tripe, Counting Stars; Megafaun, Gather, Form, & Fly; All Your Science, Volume 2; Invisible, Irresponsibly Electric.