Somewhere in between Crystal Radio‘s last record (Some Low Beauty, which due to copyright concerns we released under the name Joran) and Stateside, Shawn Simmons and I spent a few weeks laying down quick recordings of the numerous odds and ends that made the final cut for neither. I vaguely recall some notion that these might serve as demos for the band’s musical future, but any optimism of that kind was probably more than a bit forced, as by then the writing was on the wall for the group.
Closer to the truth would be that, finding myself with an excess of songs as well as an unprecedented excess of recording funds, I decided that I might as well just change my address to that of the studio. Documenting a handful of new songs became an opportunity to further develop some experimental songwriting I had been working on.
During the band sessions experimentation had been approached as a drawn out, tedious investigation of possibilities through extensive trial and error, but for these songs we made the judgment calls quickly and spontaneously, leaping from one track to the next. Sometimes what came in as a half-baked musical idea left as a completed (though not necessarily fit for consumption) song.
But for every oddball, there were two more that were acoustic singer/songwriter fare of the most conventional order. I think we cut around thirty songs total, and from this lot culled about half that (essentially, all the ‘normal’ ones) to release as a sort of low-key companion to Stateside. It was dubbed Seatback Graffiti, after a line in “Black Coffee, White Christmas”, its last track.
While the left-field tracks were (wisely) omitted from the final running order, I still tend to think of this batch of songs in its entirety, larks and dead ends included. All of the unrestrained experimenting- with instruments, studio techniques, song structures, and even lyrics- was really satisfying at the time, and the experience confirmed for me that quickly recording new material is a great way to keep a creative streak alive.
That some folks occasionally report that Seatback Graffiti is their favorite record of mine makes the whole thing feel worthwhile to me.