Over the course of 2013 and the spring of 2014 I was fortunate to record and co-produce Jonathan J. Bower‘s new album, Hope, Alaska. The batch of 10 songs starts off where his 2012 effort, But So Beautiful, left off. Only this time, J-Bow (as we affectionally call him) wanted to push himself artistically and explore new musical territory. I couldn’t have been happier with his decision.
Stand out tracks include ‘Nina Simone’, ‘Joan Didion’, and the title track, ‘Hope, AK’. In addition to the tracks Jonathan and I laid down, the album also features the talents of Alaska’s finest musicians including: Andy Tholberg, James Glaves, Martin Severin, Kat Moore, Aaron Benolkin. Bryan Daste (Portland, OR) also contributed some amazing pedal steel guitar.
The album was mixed by James Glaves and was mastered by Nashville, TN producer and recording engineer Patrick Damphier.
Hope, Alaska will be officially released on October 24, 2014.
In 2008, following the release of their debut album, One For The Ditch, Easton Stagger Phillips embarked on a European Tour. In order to maximize creativity during their time together, Easton brought along his portable recording studio-AKA a laptop and a Mojave microphone-and began recording the songs and White Album-esque snippets that were intended to be the bedrock for a second album.
Each member of ESP had new songs on deck and there was one -”The Road”- that was the trio’s first co-write (having been composed backstage at Paradiso in Amsterdam). Recording sessions were done wherever and whenever the band found time and space – a frigid sitting room in Dublin, a laundry room and apartment right on the Damrak in Amsterdam, a friend’s basement in Germany, and a hippodrome in southern Holland.
After the tour, Easton took the rough mixes to his studio in Joshua Tree where he added a few flourishes, built a few more sound collages, and sequenced a project he called Overseas. Soon thereafter, Phillips began physical therapy for a climbing injury and the boys put everything on hold. When the band re-surfaced 5 years later to make Resolution Road, they decided to start from scratch.
With the successful release of Resolution Road behind them, ESP would like to offer up this batch of tunes that defined a special and nostalgic time for the three friends and songwriters.
Photo: Carly Garay
I’ve produced a variety of records with different bands over the last few years. Every project I work on is distinctive and unique in some way, but my favorite part is that I get a firsthand glimpse of a bands inner-workings and dynamics. I get to see (and help capture) the good, bad, and ugly. And sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I get to be a part of something very special. This has been my experience working with The Super Saturated Sugar Stings .
In January 2014, we drove to Fairbanks and spent 10 days recording a new album. We immersed ourselves and worked long hours in the dead of the Alaskan winter. My good friends Tim and Karen Foote graciously provided their amazing ‘Roundhouse’ where we worked, lived, and cooked. It was exciting to be creating with the band again, and I really appreciated SSSS’s motivation and willingness to push themselves into a newer artistic direction.
Over the spring we continued working on the album in Anchorage, and enlisted the help of other Alaskan musicians including Kevin Worrell (upright bass) and Logan Bean (trumpet). In April the band finished overdubs, and we handed the tracks over to Anchorage-based mixing engineer James Glaves. Finally, the freshly mixed tracks were sent out to be mastered by Patrick Damphier (Nashville, TN).
The new album, Heart Shaped Leaves, is an emotional and heartfelt journey with a band that clearly wants to take listeners down a sonic rabbit hole. Theatrical, sorrowful, vivid, enchanting. These are some of the words that come to mind when losing myself in the band’s music. I suppose my feelings and imagination are aided by the fact that I was fortunate enough to be there when it all went down.
I once asked a famous songwriter what the trick to good songwriting is. He replied simply, “Just tell the truth”. I’ve also heard that the best artists are the one’s who constantly redefine themselves. I believe the Super Saturated Sugar Strings have accomplished both of these things, and in doing so made an album they’ll always remember and be proud of. – E.P.
Join SSSS to celebrate the release of Heart Shaped Leaves at Taproot, Saturday June 28. Early show 7-9pm Late show 10pm-1am. Tickets available HERE.
American Songwriter Magazine had some kind words about our new album saying, “With echoes of the sepia-toned late ’60s, early ’70s singer-songwriter sounds of Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jackson Browne and as well as the newer folk-rock of Dawes, Resolution Road may surprise you as one of the year’s best roots albums.” Read the full story here.
They also premiered our new video for Easton’s catchy number, ‘So Much In Tune’ (Below). Evan Phillips filmed, produced, and edited this fun piece on a sunny weekend in Anchorage a few weeks ago. The video stars Alaskan songwriter and artists Sophia Street, as well as a number of other local characters including the bands mixing engineer James Glaves, and americana folk singer Emma Hill.
My band Easton Stagger Phillips is releasing our new album Resolution Road on May 20. Last week the album got it’s first review and it’s a good one. Read the review at The Fire Note.
Photo: Brian Adams
The Whipsaws will be kicking the Alaskan summer into high gear with a show at Taproot Friday, May 2. Tickets are $11 and available at Northbound Productions. Get em’ while they’re hot.
Easton Stagger Phillips would like to announce the upcoming release of their sophomore LP, Resolution Road.
Resolution Road, which comes out on vinyl, cd, and digital formats on May 20th, is a genre-blending suitcase of 10 classic-sounding folk and rock songs. ESP’s evolution from their first to second album is notable as Resolution Road features layered vocal harmonies, drums, electric bass, piano, organ, and electric guitars. The outcome is a very nuanced and tastefully produced set of tunes that will have listeners hitting the repeat button.
ESP will reconvene for a summer tour that will culminate at Alaska’s Salmonstock Music Festival in August 2014.
“…a showcase of talented songwriting, sterling musicianship, and a not-so-subtle reminder that some of America’s best music is still being made on the margins.” – PopMatters
In January I headed north to Fairbanks, AK to make a record. My good friends Tim and Karen Foote had graciously offered their vibe-filled Roundhouse for the recording and production of the new Super Saturated Sugar Strings album. I’m not gonna lie: I was super stoked!
We departed Anchorage on January 16 (as the temperatures rose to 40+ degrees, turning the streets into ice skating rinks). After an eventful 8 hour drive, we arrived at The Roundhouse just in time for Carlyle to whip up an amazing meal. The band slept in rooms. I slept on the fireplace mantle. No internet. No distractions. Just the birch trees and northern lights. Perfect conditions to make magic.
We started the morning of the 17th and didn’t stop for 10 days. We worked 12+ hours a day…everyday. The songs were emotional and carried weight. Kat cried while she sang her heart out for friends lost. I cried too. Carlyle kept us going with the amazing meals he cooked every morning and evening. He also played some mean guitar solos. Theresa told silly jokes and made me laugh. She also played her cello thru a tube amp with an overdrive and delay pedal. Miriah made the fiddle sing, and sing, and sing. Did I mention sweet vocal harmonies happened? Basically, magic was made.
Let me tell you folks, this album is amazing, and I can’t wait for you all to hear it. We are in the process of doing some overdubs, and putting the final touches on before James Glaves mixes it. Stay tuned and stay excited. It will be worth the wait.