Jason Kutchma, one of the four pieces of the stage-show machine Red Collar, talks about the band’s first LP, Pilgrim.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What was the most challenging aspect of finishing Pilgrim?

JASON KUTCHMA: Pilgrim was produced by Brian Paulson (Sorry About Dresden, Wilco, Beck). During production, Brian was working on a handful of albums from local, regional and national bands, all of which were at various stages of getting done. Red Collar was also doing two- and three-day weekend tours in addition to everyone working the 9 to 5. Logistically, it was challenging. We would set a date to work together, and if either party couldn’t meet that date due to sickness or exhaustion, it would be a month ’til we could get together again. Pilgrim was recorded over the course of nine months but the actual recording and mixing time was about nine days. Does that come across in the recordings? I’m not sure. I think so. Does it matter? Probably not.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of finishing Pilgrim, be it musical or through opportunities it’s afforded your band?

Everyone in the band was and is very proud of this album. Pilgrim gave us the confidence we needed to do a series of “half-national” tours. If we didn’t feel so strongly about the album, we wouldn’t have done it. 2009 was a year of immense challenges, more than any other year in my life. I don’t have any regretsmade it out alive, stronger and better, almost in one unbroken piece. And I have Pilgrim, my bandmates and their girlfriends to thank.

If you could change one thing about the record, what would it be?

After it was done, Mike [Jackson, Red Collar guitarist] asked if we thought it was too long and if there were too many songs. From a lyric standpoint, I didn’t think so, and I felt strongly about that. I thought the themes were all important to what I was trying to get across (at least lyrically).

Pilgrim was recently released on vinyl and because of the album’s length, we had to cut a few tunes to make sure everything would fit. I really struggled with what to do, but Mike’s solution was very easy: take out “Hands Up” and “Stay,” two songs which were already on the previous year’s EP.

I prefer the sequencing and songs on the vinyl album to what is on the CD. It feels better sonically. And lyrically? Well, it’s not like I’m telling some big epic story and not revealing who Luke’s father is with the songs we left out. I’m glad that the absent songs are available for download but wish that we would’ve initially kept them separate.

And what’s something about the record you find interesting that no one’s pointed out?

People have come to me asking if we plan on doing a live Pilgrim album. Some, maybe most, prefer the live versions of our songs. Although we pride ourselves in being a good live band, I was kind of offended at first when people talked to me honestly about this. Brian and the band worked really hard on the album, but I get what they mean. I thought on it a little more and after much, much more than a year of touring relatively heavily for these songs, you grow and get tighter and get more confidence and take chances and change a few things. You get better. You play the songs better.

But if we do a live album, do I have to buy a Peter Frampton Talk Box?

Try to limit yourself to one answer: What’s your favorite local album of 2009, other than the one you made?

Each individual in Red Collar probably has a different answer to this. My favorite is absolutely and definitely I Was Totally Destroying It’s Horror Vacui. Wait, shit, maybe it’s The Love Language? Damn, I know I’m going to list American Aquarium’s new one as the best of 2010 (which will be a tie with The Dirty Little Heaters), so should I not put Songs for the Lonely as 2009 so I can spread out the compliments?

OK, OK, can I change my answer? Is it too late? Hammer No More the Fingers Looking for Bruce. But Embarrassing Fruits album Community/ Exploitation was badass, too. No, no, no, hands down, it’s The Loners album. Without question it’s… Nope, I’m staying with I Was Totally Destroying It. Of course, that Megafaun album is a damn good album, too…