With his two fellow VOWS members now living in L.A., Luke Sweeney was forced to take matters into his own hands, and I mean that pretty literally – Sweeney recorded a solo album, the just-released Ether Ore, playing almost all of the instruments himself. Give it a listen:

Sweeney put together a band called Wet Dreams Dry Magic and played a string of shows throughout the fall, including a November residency at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. But don’t worry if you missed those shows, because you can catch them on January 17th at The Uptown in Oakland, or you can watch Sweeney all by himself tonight at San Francisco’s Verdi Club, playing with a ridiculous number of other Bay Area luminaries as part of The Outta Sight Holiday Spectacular.

I caught up with Sweeney and asked the tough questions about his new solo album. Well, okay, I just asked him some questions. That maybe weren’t all that tough. But his answers are still pretty illuminating.

This is your first album, right?

This is my first solo album. Though most of the songs are pretty old, the time was ripe for me to record them with the second of three Vows migrating to L.A.

Is there a theme or concept to the album at all?

There are a couple of songs on it that ended up sounding like “singles”…but for the most part the piece is a conceptual whole.

Where was it recorded?

Everything was recorded in the living room of a house at the base of the feral industrial hills of Hayward, California. I say feral because there’s literally feral cats living all around this neighborhood. The house belongs to the grandparents of my dear friend Lucas Boilon (of Faultline Studios and Golden Gate Studios), who engineered and produced the album.

Did it come out how you’d expected/hoped? Any surprises during the recording process?

We recorded on two recycled reels of 1/2-inch tape on this Otari mx5050 8-track reel-to-reel machine that engineer Kyle McGraw (also of Faultline Studios) lent for the purposes of this project and lugged over the Bay with me. The tunes were mixed directly onto computer from there (i.e. nothing’s been tweaked on ProTools). As you know, recording on tape means there’s a lot less double-takes, which by nature leads to a pretty off-the-cuff, imperfect feel. It’s a process where you have to either have a lot of tape and time, or you have to have a very clear vision of the songs and an inspired commitment to the sounds you want.

We recorded everything over the span of a few days in April 2012, so I think we pulled it off rather nicely. I play everything on this record except most drum tracks, which Brett Eastman contributed.

Surprises during the process: It was fun hearing ghosts of the old picking recordings on the tape reels when we finished a take…also, my pig ate some kind of pot butter cheese loaf that he discovered in the back yard and subsequently went into a Wonka daze that lasted almost 24 hours.

Is the title Ether Ore in any way a reference to Elliot Smith’s album Either/Or?

The album’s title – Ether Ore – is indeed an impressionistic pun that’s embedded in one of my songs (“Pleasures of Earth”), which symbolizes the human need to search for the satiation of love against a contrast of pettiness, cruelty, war, jealousy, loneliness, and fear. Initially it was conceived without reference to Elliot Smith’s album Either/Or, but I later realized that for some it might serve as a sort of nod to him, which is an appropriate coincidence since almost all these songs were written years ago in a period of isolation…and I do love a good pun.

Next live show? Tour plans?

Wet Dreams Dry Magic just finished a three-month fall residency at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, in addition to shows at Great American, Make-Out Room and The Knockout…so we’re taking a slight breather while my second album is being mixed in New York (by Robin MacMillan of Shalants and Persephone’s Bees), and I record solo album number three with Rob Easson in the hills of Mill Valley. We are plotting a small West Coast tour in early spring, and we’re working on a very special full-band four-song 7″ novella. I’m scouting labels for proper releases of these works before we plot any big tours.

The Outta Sight Holiday Spectacular
Verdi Club
December 19, 2012
8pm, $5 suggested donation

Luke Sweeney’s Wet Dreams Dry Magic
The Uptown
January 17, 2013
9pm

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