Ed Schrader's Music Beat

Orchestra Hits

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Aesthetically, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat hates to tread water. At the same time, the Baltimore-based two-piece of vocalist Ed Schrader and bassist Devlin Rice won’t force their songs to fit a preconceived style. “The next album’s always gotta be different from the last one. We’re different people from record to record. So, writing authentically to ourselves will always bring our work to a place that we haven’t been to yet,” Rice said. Schrader added, “We’re terrified of turning into AC/DC. We never want to be married to one scene or time or sound. We want to be the Boba Fett of bands! Constantly altering the way in which we make records has been pretty key in that process.”

For Orchestra Hits, the band’s latest, that alteration was welcoming longtime musical comrade Dylan Going into the fold as a co-writer and co-producer. A songwriter in his own right, a guitar sideman for ESMB on their last two tours, and a collaborator with Rice in the noise riffage band Mandate, Going had both a unique vision and an intimate familiarity with the ESMB vibe.

“Dylan came to every show we’ve ever played in New York—no matter how weird it was,” Schrader said. “He’d be standing there ready to move an amp or feed us barbecued cactus after the gig and toss on some Golden Girls so we could decompress. It felt like family as soon as we began working, but I honestly had no idea how damn good he was at tossing out these hooks.”

According to Schrader, the songs “just poured out of us” over the course of a highly caffeinated three-day weekend in a tiny room in Devlin’s house while his cat, Sandy Goose, screamed continually. “It was like three kids hiding from the world to get into some lovely mischief,” they said. The lack of external pressure in the process gives Orchestra Hits an almost paradoxical vibe. For all of the album’s layers, that mix live and sequenced instruments, it never loses the raw energy of a small handful of friends in the same room plugging in, cranking up, and playing until they pass out.

Lyrically, the album finds Schrader, now 45, meditating on experiences in their youth to make sense of the present moment. “We are not into the garden,” Schrader wails on the relentless “Roman Candle,” a song about the sad debacle of Woodstock ’99, and a direct response to Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” a utopian ode to hippie idealism. A 19-year-old Schrader, having snuck into Woodstock ’99 through a hole in the fence, was there the night members of the crowd used candles intended for a vigil for victims of the Columbine High School massacre to set fires all over the grounds. Even before the fires, Schrader remembered feeling disconnected from the music, the nostalgic cash grab, and the meatheads in the crowd. After watching a press tower collapse, they boarded a random shuttle bus and were dropped off near a Denny’s. “It was a far cry from the Garden of Eden,” Schrader said. “That experience defined what I didn’t want to be a part of, and yet America is more like Woodstock ’99 than ever.”

With percolating synthesizer arpeggios, and climbing bass grooves, “IDKS” is the album’s dance-floor slapper. “’IDKS’ is a funny one,” Schrader said. “We already had a pretty satisfying suite of songs when Dylan was packing up to head back to New York, but he missed the train because of a freak snowstorm. Realizing he’d be stuck in town another day, he says to me, ‘Here’s this other weird thing I have.’ It was ‘IDKS.’ The hooks were so good I felt like Homer Simpson at a free donut convention. I just dove right in, and we cranked that baby out in like 20 minutes.”

Lyrically, “IDKS” is a letter from the true self to public-facing self. “It’s an angry song,” Schrader said. “Because the public-facing self is always looking for an easy escape, but it forces the true self into a cage. I honestly thought my lyrics were corny and was about to change them, but Dylan was digging it just the way it was. So that’s what you hear.”

With the soaring “Daylight Commander,” the band went against all of their musty-basement-bred instincts. “I went full High School Musical with the vocals,” Schrader said. “At first it felt almost embarrassing, but I remember reading somewhere that Bowie recommended always floating a little bit above your comfort zone, and that’s what we did here.” The song is part exercise in absurdity and part pop Trojan horse. “If ever we had a ‘Shiny Happy People’ moment, I guess this is it,” Schrader said.

TRACK LISTING

01. Roman Candle
02. Into The Knotted Trees
03. IDKS
04. Blue Garden
05. I Turn The Ocean Blue
06. Waterfront
07. Daylight Commander
08. Silver
09. Noonday Sun

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