10 years ago this month, the Gardening In a Tornado album was released. My relationship with said album has become more complicated in the ensuing years, but I can say with great certainty I did my damnedest at the time to make it the best album I possibly could. Joshua Banner and Brian Bergman engineered it, Kendall Combes mixed it, Chris Freels mastered it, and Dean Brown, Dustin Ragland, Quint Anderson, K.C. Clifford and Jason Bondy played/sang/clapped on it.
A large portion of the years between releasing Feezle Day in 2000 and starting Gardening in 2005 had seen me “wandering in the wilderness,” so to speak. The final permutation of the “original” Dr. Pants lineup had splintered at the end of 2001, and barring a rare occasion where I managed to cobble together a one-off 4 piece band, I was playing a lot of solo shows/sets. Kenneth Murray did enter the picture in 2002, though, and having at least two thirds of a band that I could mostly count on (Dean Brown lent his drumming skills whenever he was available) meant that the idea of Dr. Pants as a “band” managed to stay alive. I did a lot of soul-searching, though, uncertain as to how I might make another record, who would play on it, who would record it, how I would pay them, what songs from my growing backlog would be on it, and whether, ultimately, anyone would care. Most people I spent time with socially during those years, quite frankly, seemed uninterested in my music, to the point that (especially given my spiritual bent at that time In my life) I felt led to question if music was even something I was supposed to be doing.
Some time in 2003 or 2004, though, I was at a coffeeshop with a friend who was helping me get a resume together to think about possibly switching jobs. She was one who had dreams, and who assigned meaning to the dreams she had. And she had a dream about me making music, and said that she thought I should feel okay about making music that was different from those around me. And hearing that was a big deal to me at the time.
Subsequently, in 2004 I finished the Werks 2 album (currently available on the Weird Files Bandcamp page) and set about trying to make a new “rock” record…cobbling little piles of money together wherever I could, having extremely intermittent recording sessions at (first) Josh’s house and (second) Brian’s house. They lived across the street from each other at the time, so in some ways it was like doing the whole album at one studio. It took a looooong time to actually get it finished, but we did. True story: “Donuts” was not recorded during the sessions for the album, but was recorded on 4-track cassette at my house. It is officially the last 4-track cassette recording I ever released. To this day, there’s probably a strong argument that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record at all…but it was getting such a good response at the shows I was doing at the time that I knew NOT releasing it would be unwise. We were still a number of years away from the practical reality of “digital singles.” So there it sits: track 13 on Gardening In A Tornado.
I worked hard to promote the record. I put up songs anywhere and everywhere online that I could. This is ultimately what led to the album being licensed by MTV/Viacom; the music supervisor who licensed it heard the songs on Unsigned.com.
It’s still a good-sounding record. Everyone involved worked hard and put their heart into it, even if they weren’t getting paid enough. Kendall mixed in the wee hours of the morning because he could get the studio for free during that time.
And the songs? Well…I played them live a lot of times, some more than others. Some are a bit more obvious in their makeup (lyrically more than musically) for my taste sometimes these days, but in terms of what I wanted the record to be at the time, I succeeded. It’s the most straightforward record I’ve ever made in terms of songwriting and style.
Here’s the Bandcamp link. Go take a listen, especially if you’ve never heard it or haven’t heard it in a while.