Forget everything you thought you knew about supergroups, because The Fauntleroys aren’t that. The new combo features four seasoned, idiosyncratic talents — beloved troubadour Alejandro Escovedo, fabled axe hero Ivan Julian, eclectic tunesmith Nicholas Tremulis and propulsive percussive force Linda Pitmon — who’ve pooled their distinctive sensibilities into uniquely raucous, rousing rock ’n’ roll on their startling inaugural collaboration (and Plowboy Records debut) Below the Pink Pony, due outSeptember 16, 2014.
The raw-nerved six-song set — encompassing five new original tunes plus a pummeling, possessed reading of the Incredible String Band’s classic “Chinese White” — captures the powerful collective rapport and spontaneous spirit of invention that reigned when these kindred musical spirits convened for the first time at Julian’s East Village recording studio, NY HED, to write and record Below the Pink Pony in an adrenaline-charged marathon four-day session. The foursome shared songwriting and vocal duties, while introducing such unexpected elements as Escovedo’s hitherto-unrecorded bass-playing skills.
The Fauntleroys marks the convergence of four iconoclastic lifers, united by a shared sense of musical adventure and a mutual admiration for one another’s talents. Alejandro Escovedo’s early exploits — glam-punk progenitors Nuns and alt-country pioneers Rank and File — set the stage for his prolific and distinguished solo career. Ivan Julian’s notable musical achievements stretch back to his membership in ’70s punk icons Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and have continued through his work as a solo artist, producer and collaborator with the likes of The Clash, Shriekback and Matthew Sweet. Nicholas Tremulis has been making remarkably accomplished albums of his personally-charged rock-soul songcraft since the mid-’80s. Linda Pitmon’s powerful, inventive drumming first turned heads during her days with her ’90s combo Zuzu’s Petals, and subsequently in her work alongside husband/bandmate Steve Wynn in Wynn’s band the Miracle 3 as well as the all-star Baseball Project.
Despite the participants’ imposing individual resumes, no one was coasting when the nascent quartet gathered to record Below the Pink Pony.
“Alejandro, Ivan and I had talked for a good two years about getting together for a recording project,” Tremulis explains. “We knew that we wanted to record in Ivan’s studio, as we were digging the sound he got on his solo record Naked Flame. We also wanted to make something that felt a little more paved than what we usually do —something that felt like New York, the city that had shaped our idea of what rock and roll could be. When I asked Alejandro and Ivan who they thought we should approach to be the drummer, they both independently said Linda, and man, they were right.”
“I met Ivan when I lived in New York in 1978, and I’ve known Nick for a long time, and I’ve always been a fan of what those guys do,” Escovedo adds. “It was one of those things where we’d always talk about doing something together, and then finally Nick said, ‘Let’s go to New York and hang out for a few days and write and record some songs.’”
Christened the Fauntleroys in honor of the band members’ sartorial eloquence, the musicians gathered at Julian’s studio, putting their faith in each other’s abilities and in their budding interactive inspiration.
“We all came in with unfinished snippets of songs and finished them together as we recorded,” Tremulis says, adding, “I loved the spontaneity of writing and arranging everything together, following song and sound without knowing where it would lead. The whole thing felt like a long improvised solo.”
“Easiest birth ever,” asserts Pitmon. “No one cried!”
“Nick and Alejandro had written together before, so they came up with ‘Take You Far Away’ and ‘I’m in Love With Everything’ while we were in the studio,” Julian notes. “‘I’m in Love With Everything’ was originally titled ‘I’m in Love With Avery’ after Avery Allen, the bass player in my band. Nick already had the music for ‘Worry Doll,’ and he and Alejandro came up with the lyrics while crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. I had just written ‘(This Can’t Be) Julie’s Song,’ and ‘Suck My Heart Out With a Straw’ was something I had since myVoidoids days, but had never put lyrics to until now.”
The resulting recordings capture the exhilaration of the four collaborators’ combustible creative chemistry.
“Alejandro is a great vibemaker,” Tremulis observes. “You always feel you’re in the right place at the right time when you’re working with him, and his bass playing is really distinctive, more orchestral than riffy. Ivan’s way of playing, thinking and producing is unique — a sort of beautiful grotesque slice of sound and life, like a supermodel dismembered and put back together. And Linda’s got trainloads of soul, man; every beat hits you right in the gut. I’m a drummer snob and I’ve played with some of the best around, and she’s right up there with the best. Plus I love her voice; although she doesn’t have any lead vocals on the record per se, she does the most singing on it.”
For longtime solo artist Escovedo, working as part of a collective “was liberating. I’ve always loved just being part of a band, so being able to play bass and sing a few songs was really awesome for me. And to play with such a brilliant bunch of people was really exciting. Somehow we just found that lightning and created some magic. I woke up one day, got on a plane and went to New York, with no idea of what was gonna happen when I got there. But once we got in there and went to work, we all fell into our roles in the band, and once it started to roll there was no stopping it.”
“I think that we’re all pretty thrilled with the way this record turned out,” states Julian. “Although all of us have made our own records in the past, this is a record that none of us could have come up with individually. I think that there’s an unspoken sense that the four of us all come from slightly different musical worlds, but what we come up with collectively is something that’s distinct from what any of could do on our own.”
Indeed, the four new bandmates — who played their first shows together at Plowboy Records’ showcase at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2014 — are so excited about their new partnership that they’re planning to take the new band on the road, as well as hatching plans for the Fauntleroys’ first full album.
“These are some of my favorite people,” Pitmon says. “Outsized personalities, golden hearts, and the best wardrobes in this side of Willy DeVille’s closet. So, yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with next.”
“I love being in the Fauntleroys, and I’m really excited about this record and whatever comes next with this band,” Escovedo affirms. “Who knows what’s gonna happen, but I think it’s gonna be a fun ride.”
Hear a track: USA Today premiered “I’m in Love With Everything”: http://usat.ly/1pL2XSl