Many early reviews were like this. And Jenkins was the shizzle in D.C. We were grateful he wrote about us. We filled the Kazz Club. Like other groups, our sound changed from the first record to second generation of shows. Faster urban beats. Beats from Africa that could never be notated. Beats from the Caribbean. Beats where Bob told D "start the beat on the drum machine on 1." But D kept programming in real-time mode, and could not. We tried every sound the Yamaha had to offer.
There are three kinds of sounds for us, none better than another.
Number One: Sound made by objects
Listening to music, we ask often ourselves: Ooh, how did they do that? How did they make that sound? So almost anything goes. In the early shows, D would beat on old metal pipes we found buried in the yard. We sampled them and put them on Freshness Test on a song called Shake Your Jewelry. Sound is everywhere. Your neighborhood, Local animals. Recordings. Your neighbors, Effects boxes. Sample other artists (James Brown. Everyone likes the Godfather.) Gather them up and see how they fit together. Arpeggiate. Machines are useful. Your mobile phone is recorder of samples. The plough below is a generator of samples. Old metal things are the best. Samples become earworms. Put the sample in every measure like D.J. Muggs and Public Enemy.
Bob will often say "Give me a song that lets me use new sounds." So we wind up with songs and videos like State of Unease and Cobertura de Pasta. It's about clank, klunk, tone, resonance, natural sustain, effects in the mix. And always the beat.
We're tickled that Jenkins compared us to The Waitresses. Those time signatures! The delivery of the late Patricia Jean Donohue! There would be no Thrift Bakery if D had not seen The Waitresses perform in early 1982.
Number Two: Sounds made by the human voice or voicebox
Any producer, DJ, turntableist or cut creator can replicate the sound. But what about the feeling? Where does it come from? A segment of the voicebox? The diaphragm? The lungs? A pitch modulator? Sequencer? All of the above. One take, two takes, 20 takes, here's your pitch. You're not Stevie, you're not Aretha. And they want to get out of you, so let them! It's still better than almost everything else out there.
What Thrift Bakery gives you is a real tongue clicking on the palate, wind coming through the teeth and lips, human feelings. Reality on the mic.
Bob plays saxophone both on the records and at live shows. Stay out of his solos. Terrie plays harmonica.
Vocal accompaniment is an art to itself.. That means backing vocals. Bob Hair sings, mixes.
Some records now, the singers are talented, but their vocals are right on top of instrumentation with the same melody, leaving no space for the band.
Not Terrie Cloth. She fits the hook and chorus to Tranquility Base without crowding the players.
Number Three: Sounds of instruments
The group forever discusses the bottom.
Sharp? Fuzzy? That's Terrie Cloth's job. Listen to how her bass sets the mood in the first measures of Mediocre Criminal. Hear how sharp her bass is on Tranquility Base. She plays fiddle and banjo also.
Tater Totts is master of strings and sounds, electric and acoustic, effects or not. The only guitarist worth waiting 25 years for. The band does not worry if he goes incommunicado. He's working.
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Bob Hair knows more about keyboards and composition than a a classical conductor could finesse in a lifetime. The band leans on his encyclopedic knowledge of everything that has happened since rock died and was reborn several times over. If the band does not hear from him, he is woodshedding. Bob is an endless source of surprises. He says "here's the chart, send what you feel." Or "Give me something different." He's also responsible for Thrift Bakery's forays into videos of diverse types. Because you believe it more if you see it and hear it.
Chuck Bon Jovi played guitar with the group in the late 1980s in D.C. They love him. They can't find him.