Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Pleased to squeeze me: Accordion/banjo/tuba/drums quartet returns for more fun
One of those bands who demand the use of non-words like “funnest,” the satirically avant-garde Squeeze-bot are releasing their second studio album, Sweet Dreams Are Made of Squeeze, featuring versions of songs by Charles Mingus, The Beatles, Rufus Wainwright and more, as well as the theme for “The Price is Right.” LEO asked accordion-playing leader Todd Hildreth for some quasi-answers.
LEO: The first Squeeze-bot album came out five years ago. Why did you make fans wait?
Todd Hildreth: We have this perfectionism in the studio. Take after take, we record. No one can screw up, or we all do it over again. It took us three weeks just to lay the Jew’s harp part down on “Funky Town.” Then came the overdubs and numerous computer crashes due to information overload. Once, the power went out in the whole block as we were doubling the accordion solo on “White Rabbit” six octaves below middle C. Fires erupted in the neighborhood without explanation. A “punishment box” was designed for those who couldn’t get their part down quickly enough, followed by a staff therapist to undo the damage of having to go into the box.
The empty pizza boxes piled up to the point where we couldn’t see each other any more. Then, one night … well, let me just say that the answer to “What does this button do?” is best left rhetorical. We lost it all. Finally, someone suggested we just pretend it’s a live show and set up some mics and play like we always do. It seemed dumb at first, but it actually kind of worked well.
LEO: All of the songs on this collection are covers. Have any band members wanted, or tried, to write originals?
TH: So far, our interest has been in reinterpretation or, more specifically, playing tunes the way they should have been played in the first place but weren’t due to the original performer’s lack of accordion, banjo, tuba and tiny drum skills. There are just too many songs out there that just don’t sound right due to the insistence on electric guitars and synthesizers. And don’t get me started on vocals … The entire catalog of pop, rock and jazz has been sorely misrepresented. There’s a whole generation out there who seem to think a whammy bar is cooler than a bellow shake. It’s sad, really.
LEO: With a vast and diverse amount of songs from which to choose, how did you decide on these?
TH: Many times in the process of recording, someone would just put down their instrument and stop playing because they had to go to the bathroom or wanted another piece of pizza or something like that. Texting was a big problem as well. There were, however, about 11 takes that, for some reason, we were all able to stay in position from beginning to end. It was generally agreed upon that these 11 would best suit the needs of the album.
LEO: What does each member add to the musical chemistry? Will the sound, or vibe, change much with a new tuba man?
TH: The accordion takes the lead (as it should) on most parts, and the banjo takes the lead (as it should) on the others. We let the tuba and drums have solos sometimes, but they tend to get more applause than ours, which totally isn’t cool. So, I would look for less tuba and drum solos in the future.
Feb. 22: Meat
1076 E. Washington St.
Free; 11 p.m.
Feb. 24: Nachbar
969 Charles St.
Free; 8 p.m.
Photo by Andrew Raitz
c. 2013 LEO Weekly
at 8:59:00 PM