Hits & Myths
THE OUTLYERS Biography • May 2006 'Hits & Myths is a beautiful record... [The Outlyers] have a streak of dignified individualism that should be treasured. This is a true 'Americana' band, and for my money, the equal of any similar outfit working in, living in, or even thinking about making the pilgrimage to Austin.' Jeff Miers - Buffalo News, May 2006 The Outlyers are an Americana rock'n'roll band from Buffalo, New York that mixes their own well-penned songs with a crowd-pleasing mix of cover tunes. The group shows a wide-ranging love of the roots/rock canon across the decades, playing well-known classics and hidden gems from the era of Elvis and Buddy Holly to anthems by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Steve Earle, and Bruce Springsteen, to name but a few. The band's original members, guitarists Dave Meinzer and Adam Gearing, bassist Tom Fischer, and drummer Jim Celeste - all mainstays of the Buffalo music scene, formed the Outlyers in 1998. They began slowly, with limited appearances at events such as a Gram Parsons Birthday Party at Buffalo's Mohawk Place. Encouraged by audiences' enthusiastic response, the Outlyers began playing venues from the Americanarama Festival in Buffalo to the Orange Bear in New York City's lower Manhattan. They have played a monthly Friday Happy Hour show at Nietzsche's in downtown Buffalo for almost four years. Keyboardist Cathy Carfagna started out as a guest performer with the group but became a full member a year or so after band's formation. The Outlyers released their first album - the 12-song American Songbook - in May 2002. Now, the Outlyers' second CD of original songs, Hits & Myths, offers loud abrasive rock, quiet folk, and covers a lot of territory in between. Twangy Fenders, warm Gibsons, vintage keyboard sounds, and acoustic guitars form the core of the band's sound, while pedal steel guitar, Memphis-style horns, accordion, castanets, and sleigh bells sweeten the recordings. With three vocalist/songwriters contributing to the proceedings, Hits & Myths demonstrates contrasting textures and moods - but lyrics that frequently express alienation and disaffection with the current American political climate provide a common thread. Due to out-of-town job responsibilities, Jim Celeste regretfully stepped out of the drummer's chair in late 2004, and Bob Chapman began playing drums with the Outlyers until he was beckoned to a job in Denver. Chapman continues to "commute" to gigs when he's available, and the Outlyers' old friend, John F. Brady III - versatile drummer for the Steam Donkeys and several other local bands - now fills in on drums as well. The Outlyers share some common traits: they all have day jobs, and none of them are expecting to get rich or famous from their music. As one member noted, "We just continue to play together because it's creatively satisfying, and because we enjoy it." The Recording of the Outlyers' Hits & Myths On May 8, 2003 the Outlyers gathered with engineer Dwane Hall at Sessions Recording Studio in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood to start recording their second album. At the time, they didn't plan on taking three years to complete the project, and certainly didn't expect the song they were recording - Adam Gearing's anthemic "Scatterplot" - to be one of the last ones finished. Indeed, the plan at the time was to do one song per session and try to complete each recording during a single studio date. A fine version of "Scatterplot" emerged from that first evening, and recordings of "The Truth," "Kisses," and "Stonehenge in a Texas Weedfield" were largely completed at Sessions Studio over the next few months. But looking through their catalog of unrecorded originals, the band found that they only had half an album's worth of good songs. So they started writing. Then, in December of 2003, drummer Jim Celeste took an out-of-town job and became a long distance commuter. This made it difficult for him to participate in the rehearsals where new arrangements were created, and the project slowed down. It was May 2004 before the band got back into the studio to record. That recording date included two new songs, Adam's "Everything but Time," and Dave Meinzer's "The View From My Window" - a song that had only been written a few days before. For the rest of 2004 the band worked on recordings in a home studio (Rancho Notorious), tracking new songs with a drum machine as time keeper, and building arrangements piece by piece. The studio versions of "Kisses" and "Stonehenge in a Texas Weedfield" were scrapped and new recordings assembled. New songs included "Sophia Dying" and "Persephone," a pair of Adam's compositions using mythological figures to express modern political themes, and Dave's deliberate political statement in "Criminal." Dave also wrote a southwestern styled melody and arrangement that he gave to bandmate Cathy Carfagna (also his wife) to add lyrics to. The song became "Loteria," which uses images from a Mexican children's game to weave another political statement. Once Adam contributed "State Street," a song about campaigning for John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election, the album had developed a theme. An older song of Cathy's, "Tumble Down," and a quiet folk number of Dave's, "Walk Around With You," were added to round out the album. Once the basic home studio recordings were ready, they were taken to both Sessions Studio and Soundscape Studio (Jim Calabrese, engineer) on Buffalo's lower West Side for overdubbing and mixing. Drums (played by Jim Celeste and replacement drummer Bob Chapman) were recorded, along with various vocal parts and keyboards not available in the home studio. Finally, the band spiced the arrangements with extras. Local violinist Michael Miskuly (Them Jazzbeards) played a dramatic part on "Loteria," Jim Bohm and Eric Wozniak played trumpet and saxophone on "Scatterplot" and "Tumble Down," and Jim Whitford added pedal steel to a pair of cuts and a fine lap steel to "Sophia Dying." Gretchen Schulz, Kevin McCue, and George Olmsted also made contributions. Cathy added expansive string parts to "Scatterplot" and "Kisses" using a digital string program. One of the more unusual sessions took place at Rancho Notorious on a steamy summer evening in 2005. Bassist Tom Fischer built a washtub bass and assembled a children's version of a telephone - two paper cups and about 10 feet of string. These were used to record the intro to "Persephone:" Tom plucked the washtub along with footstomps and handclaps and Adam sang into one paper cup with a microphone stuck in the other to get an other-worldly lo-fi sound. Other unusual sonic touches include the castanets that open "Loteria," and the sleigh bells that add a chill to the bridge of "The View from My Window." The beginning of the album's first song, "Criminal," features nasty crackling (produced with a cat toy borrowed from Rancho Notorious denizen Hobo) and the burglar alarm bell at Soundscape Studio. Among the last things recorded were fresh lead vocals to a few songs - including the first one started almost three years earlier, "Scatterplot." The album was completed in March of 2006, mastered in April by David St. Onge at the Digital Barn, and released in May. The Hits & Myths CD cover features a photo of a roadside attraction called Stonehenge II taken during a trip to Kerrville, Texas in 1997. A skyscape photo by Buffalo artist Mike Herbold was matted in behind the ersatz antiquity to create a striking photo collage.