It’s wild to imagine that indie imprint Shrimper Records is about to celebrate their 25 year anniversary. The Upland, California label has been responsible for giving the world releases from Lou Barlow, Amps For Christ, The Mountain Goats, Dump, Woods, etc, and are continuing to build up from where it all began back in 1990. And what better way to mark the ocassion than with a new album from the band that started it all, Refrigerator, premiering the single “This Woman Here” from their upcoming album, Temple City.
A group started by the label’s founder and operator, Dennis Callaci, the new album was made after singer Allen Callaci recovered from a heart transplant operation, working with Steve Folta to resurrect a tabernacle testament to the spaces that house the mysteries of the metaphysical notions and their connection to the human condition. With Allen heard recently recording with Adam Lipman, and Dennis’ work with Simon Joyner and Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere, Temple City follows up the band’s previous collection of demos, Dangerous, with a testimony of transcendence, and the tried and true spirit of perseverance. With the band playing select shows and Allen Callaci planning a book tour to promote Heart Like a Starfish in 2015, the Shrimper 25-year celebration begins now.
With sparse and somber notes, “This Woman Here” begins with the low rumbling drums and naked chords of a mournful procession. The trials of past-partings and present tribulations are sung with woe from the ravages of the worlds and wanton deeds of others. Refrigerator takes the ice cold freeze of a break-up ballad, and strips every individual element down to it’s maudlin core. Written by Dennis for a false started r&b project, a song centered around a difficult divorce and irreconcilable pasts are translated into tales of survivorship wrought with the heavy emotions of a literal heartbreak. Like the passion and intensity of a Nina Simone song covered by a skillful set of indie vets, every iota of sound from the performance expresses the realest of feelings as a collective body of connected instruments. The senses at times ache and are overwhelmed as Allen recites the emotion laden words of, “There is nothing, that hasn’t been done to me, there is nothing, that hasn’t been thrown at me.”
We had a chance to catch up with Dennis Callaci in our discussion that immediately follows the debut of, “This Woman Here”.
Looking back some 25 years, what do you all remember the most about putting out the first release for Shrimper?
This past summer I dubbed 200 cassettes for a cassette store day release on Shrimper, and it reminded me of all the juggling I would do early on while dubbing tapes. Flip the four cassettes in the bed of a shell, fold the coves, flip a record over while dubbing. I liked the connection to every cassette that I ever dubbed that went out to parts unknown. I like the physicality of all of it, even the drudgery of it all.
Flashing forward to 25 years later, what have you all found different about the writing and recording process that went into making the new Refrigerator album, Temple City?
What has changed or evolved in how you all practice, and compose songs together?
Allen and I work a bit less together when writing songs now, and Chris, the drummer (and sometime keyboardists, second guitarist) has written a number of songs on the new record, a few with Allen as well. With Chris writing music, not lyrics, Allen will sometimes come to him with thumbnails or ideas but will work lyrics around a melody with him. A lot of the songs for the first record were improvised in the studio, a couple on the new record still follow that path, as we record all of our records live as a four piece. We have a band for 25 years and there is so much we still want to do creatively with our limited musical vocabulary. We have already started piecing together songs for the next record, 20 or so deep to shed and sand with the idea of improvising more songs in the studio for the new one.
What is and where is this Temple City that lent inspiration for the title?
The record is so named for a myriad of reasons, but as an afterthought, I like to think it was the echo of John Coltrane’s Temple University show in ’68 where he pulled the sax out of his mouth, wrapped it around his shoulder & started singing while beating his heart to get the vibrato he was looking for that the horn didn’t deliver. I think about the mind & the spirit that the temple represents. The physical space that is supposed to house the soul. A number of songs on the record call out and answer to each other lyrically, I imagine a mass gone wrong, us playing these songs uninvited behind the last pew.
Can you share the story or allude to the identity of the woman behind the song, “This Woman Here”?
I wrote this song for an r&b singer that was a friend of Allen’s, as well as another song on the record. That project never got off of the ground, but the songs worked when we played them as a band. Lyrically, only a minor amount of songs I have written (and Allen too) are based on living beings or actual minute to minute experience. Often times, songs reveal themselves to he or I a few years after the case. This particular song, following Allen’s debilitating health issues, now only makes me think of him then. We rerecorded this one after his full recovery, adding more weight to it for me with a musical coda that was not planned but made in flight as we recorded this take.
Refrigerator’s new album, Temple City will be available February 17 from Shrimper Records.