Over the five year history of The Builders and the Butchers – from their beginnings playing on rainy Portland, OR, streets for random passersby, to the early unplugged Mississippi Pizza and Valentines’ shows, to the last three years of endless touring – the band has lived and died for its connection with the audience. Whether playing bar gigs for 50 people or opening arena shows for 3000, the band strives to connect with the audience, and for the audience to connect with one another, every time they take the stage. It’s that beyond anything else that keeps the Builders going.
“In the studio, the most difficult element for a band to achieve is a fusion of the live performance with the recording. The act of recording is quiet, serene, and controlled – the opposite experience of a live show. Sound engineers, studio builders and audiophiles work their hardest to make a ‘dead room’ to record in,” says singer Ryan Sollee. “It’s no wonder so few records capture a band’s true identity.”
The Builders went into the studio with the idea of peeling back layers to where the essence of the song lies, and to try and finally fully encapsulate their raucous, impassioned live show. Joining up with Adam Selzer (The Decemberists, M. Ward, She & Him), who worked on their sophomore album Salvation is a Deep Dark Well, and engineer Dylan Magierek (Mark Kozelek, Starfucker, Thao Nguyen), the band created their third album Dead Reckoning using the recording style of the 1950s and 1960s, where the magic of a song was captured by the band playing together live and with minimal overdubbing. The Builders tracked almost all of Dead Reckoning in live takes, with Sollee handling vocals and guitar in one room and the rest of the band playing in the other. Only a few minor overdubs were allowed and they played all of the instruments on every song, save for two guest violin parts laid down by friends Amanda Lawrence and Zy Orange Lynn. With tracking and mixing taking a total of only eight days, the energy and intensity of time spent in the studio is immediately apparent on each song.
A dead reckoning is an age-old method of sea navigation that involves using past position, speed, and drift to calculate current and future location. Dead Reckoning, with its classic, timeless sound, is a measure of where the band and its music, as well as these times in which we live, have been, are now, and where it all might be going. “I thought it would be a perfect title for the album given its stripped down sound, and how most of these songs tell stories, many of which are set in the past, “ Sollee reveals. “Like our previous records, the settings of the songs follow a few main ideas: the father and the son, early 1900s America, absolute good and evil, addiction, and religion. On this album, I really thought a lot about the end of the world and the dark times we live in, how the feelings we feel and the world we experience is not that different from 1930s America, and I thought about the music that was created at that time. This is where the inspiration for these songs originated.”
The Builders and the Butchers have toured with Heartless Bastards, Portugal. The Man, Amanda Palmer, Brand New, and Murder By Death, to name a few. Their heavy tour schedule begins in January of 2011 and the band will likely perform at more than 250 venues this year.
The Builders and the Butchers are: Ryan Sollee (vocals, guitar), Brandon Hafer (drums, vocals, melodica), Willy Kunkle (bass, vocals), Ray Rude (organs, drums, vocals), and Harvey Tumbleson (banjo, mandolin, vocals). Former bassist Alex Ellis performed on the record as well.
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