Friday, September 2, 2011

Into It. Over It.

Singer and guitarist Evan Weiss seems to be an exceptionally organized thinker.

This is particularly apparent in the manner with which he structures his songwriting. On 52 Songs, for example, Weiss set out to write record a single song every week for an entire year. “Basically,” he explains, “I figured I'd start on my birthday, and do my entire twenty-third year, so I booked studio time every Wednesday night from the week of my birthday until the following year.” Each week, he posted the new song online for free. Naming this new project Into It. Over It. (a reference to a line of lyrics and the experiment's instantaneous turnaround), he released fifty-two songs as a double CD in the summer of 2009 with help from No Sleep Records.

Despite these self-imposed deadlines, which Weiss admits he occasionally came very close to crossing, he succeeded with this experiment and cites his urge to organize as a secret to his sucess. “I think if I didn't have that structure, I wouldn't get anything done,” he admits.

Burnt out by this songwriting streak, Weiss toured with Damiera for a year before he returned again to Into It. Over It. When he did, though, his organizational nature continued to dictate the way in which he wrote and, for his next batch of songs, Weiss decided to link his songs together lyrically. “Damiera had spent eight weeks on tour,” he explains. “We did all of the United States, and I had a bunch of stories about a bunch of different places that I was telling to a lot of my friends. I realized that I was telling these stories so much that I should just write songs about them.” Naming them after the towns in which these stories were set, he suddenly had a collection of tunes with a thoughtful thematic consistency.

These songs, which were written and recorded across a two-year span, appeared on splits alongside bands like CSTVT, Everyone Everywhere, Such Gold, Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), and others before being collected by Top Shelf Records and released as Twelve Towns. Like the locations that inspired them, each of these songs has a distinct character and sound—from the angular and agitated “Washington, DC”, on which Weiss belts, “We will stand your ground if you don't really know how,” to the acoustic “Cambridge, MA”, a song that sparkles delicately even as a percussive cadence pounds in its forefront.
It's probably the meticulous manner in which 52 Weeks and Twelve Towns were organized that prompted Weiss to write and record Proper without the previous restrictions.

The result is a record that feels whole; these twelve songs, rather than being tied together conceptually, are musically one. More importantly, their moods match. “Where Your Nights Often End” bounces soulfully. Driven by the click of drummer Nick Wakim's rim taps and a rubber band bass-line, Weiss' delicately distorted guitar slips into the background, becoming less a melody and more its echo. When Weiss sings, “You play the part of the thoughtless romantic / and your busy rotation of what goes wrong, / but I can't make the lines out to carry us along,” it becomes clear that this song, despite its bounce, is both sunny and somber.

Then there's “Connecticut Steps”, a stirring song with a soft, throbbing beat. On it, the quiet, incessant drone of feedback hangs like a haze above the song's quietly growling guitars and Weiss' lyrics, which describe the emotional moment that he learned that his friend Mitch Dubey was dead. “Mitch was a friend of ours who ran shows in Connecticut,” Weiss says. “We were playing in Brooklyn and we needed a place to stay in Connecticut where the next show was. Our friend Greg put us in touch with Mitch, but we had never spoke to him or before.

We ended up getting to his house at like 4 AM,” he continues. “He was totally accommodating from the second we met him. He even hung out with us and talked to us before we he went to bed, even though had to be at work at 9 AM the next day. When he finished work the next day, he came home and made coffee and food for us, and went out with us to go to the record store, and made sure we had dinner, and did the show really well. Ever since then, whenever I was going through Connecticut, we'd always hang out.
You know when people say, 'So and so is the best dude'?” he adds. “Mitch really was the best dude.”

Weiss was in Baton Rouge, LA when he received the text from Dubey's roommate. He later learned that Dubey had been murdered, shot in his home by an armed gunman in front of his roommates after trying to reason peacefully with the intruder. “It was just a bad day,” Weiss remembers. “I couldn't really relate to anybody about what had just happened or talk about it, or grieve with anybody. It was a really helpless situation—really, really rough.”

Despite its sad subject matter, “Connecticut Steps” is steeped in a strange sense of optimism and hope. The song sounds like a sunrise, not a sunset, and captures the conflicted mood that permeates throughout Proper.

To say there isn't some thematic thread in Proper is an incomplete assessment, though. “It's pretty much about the past year living in Chicago and all of the changes in my life,” Weiss explains. “I started seeing someone new, and moved into a new apartment. It's all very personal, and takes place in and around my home.” Weiss' home, in fact, serves the role of both a musical and visual muse; photographer Ryan Russell shot vivid black and white photographs of the aforementioned apartment for the album's artwork to encapsulate the personal nature of Proper.

The way in which Weiss organizes his songwriting is only part of the story, though. The music that Weiss composes—which is somehow hard and soft, catchy and complex, emotional and logical—speaks for itself. Though meaningful music is the outcome of his exceptionally organized thinking, Weiss would be the first to tell you that it helps him as a solo singer-songwriter. “With that comes a need to be organized,” he explains. “There's a lot going on and a lot to do.”

And when you've written and recorded ninety-some songs since 2007, there's certainly a lot to do.

Weiss recorded these tracks on one of the last evenings of the summer from his parents' kitchen in Philadelphia, PA. He performed the songs on his mother's guitar. Weiss took a picture of this makeshift studio (click on the thumbnail).

The day prior, he drove twelve hours from Chicago to Philadelphia, where is final destination was at Bookspace to see Everyone Everywhere, the Clippers, and Band Name perform. The day after, Weiss left for his European tour with Koji.

"The Frames That Used to Greet Me" appears on Into It. Over It.'s 2011 record titled Proper. "Augusta, GA" appears on Into It. Over It.'s 2011 record titled Twelve Towns, but originally appeared on a 2010 split with Everyone Everywhere. "Bustin' (Makes Me Feel Good)" is a Iron Chic cover; the song originally appeared on the 2010 album Not Like This; a live version of this cover is performed by Weiss on Top Shelf Records' Fuck Off All Nerds compilation.

Please consider purchasing Fuck Off All Nerds: A Benefit Compilation in Memory of Mitch Dubey from Top Shelf Records. The record features live tracks from Into It. Over It. as well as Algernon Cadwallader, Hostage Calm, the Book Slave, Slingshot Dakota, Jettison, Snowing, and My Heart to Joy (from the band's farewell show). All proceeds will benefit the Dubey family.

Visit the Weiss' Facebook page for more music.

Sorry, but these songs were taken down due to space constraints. Please download The Switchboard Sessions, Volume Two for a track from this and other sessions recorded in 2011. If you're desperate for a copy of these tracks, please see the "About the Switchboard Sessions" page for info on how to contact the author.