Berry’s Musical Vacation Brings Strange Writing Habits, Yields New Album
The band Berry has roots that stretch to virtually all corners of the United States. The band formed in Martha's Vineyard, spent time in Chicago, and has scattered members to New York, Arizona and even Wichita.
In some ways, Berry isn't as much a band as an ongoing friendship.
“It’s like our vacation,” says founding member Joey Lemon. “Once a year we get together and record or play a show, do something fun, musically, together. We also try to meet by phone once a week, which is just bizarre. We talk for about an hour. Sometimes it’s about music, sometimes it’s about who’s pregnant. Sometimes it’s about trying to plan the next gathering. Keep it rolling.”
Berry didn't exactly break up, but in 2010, when the group's Blue Sky, Raging Sun album appeared, there were no serious plans for the future. Occasional mentions would creep out via social media and one or two recordings followed in subsequent years. Any movement from the Berry camp was slow, including the process of making the new effort, Everything, Compromised.
“One of our musical vacations was about three years ago. I had a little recording studio on my father-in-laws property,” Lemon says. “I was actually moving to Arizona, so this was kind of the last hurrah: ‘We’re going to clean out the studio, we’re going to be done. But you guys should come and spend a few days and we’ll record something.’ We just planned for them to be here, we really only had four days. We camped out.
“We just did it in four days. Eleven songs. They have been just sitting around, ever since, waiting for me to finish lyrics. Waiting for me to sing and do overdubs and all these varieties of things that I felt a heavier responsibility for. That’s where the weekly meetings, we call them band practice, by phone, have really helped out in the last year. They started kicking my butt a little bit and we had a guy who stepped in to help produce the album, a longtime band friend. That kind of pushed things over the last year to really finish up.”
In writing the lyrics for the album, Joey Lemon took an approach that probably few other songwriters can claim.
“Matt, our keyboardist, is a very interesting, quirky character,” Lemon says. “The tag word we’d use today would be being a visual learner. When he plays music, he sees things. He sees images. So, from the very beginning, with each song, we’d stop at the end and say, ‘Matt, what do you see? What’s the image that you have?’ The images would come to him. We’d write down notes and try to make something of them. Here’s a funny one: The original image was a cartoon squirrel being squished by a boulder, then peeling himself off. From there? I was reading a lot of Thoreau at the time, I don’t know why, so I paired all of these with Thoreau quotes. So, the Thoreau quote for this was: ‘Opponents are merchants and farmers who are more interested in commerce and agriculture than humanity.’ We kind of expanded that slowly. It came about through phone calls and me begging them for assistance. It turned into a long story of this very kind squirrel who has a pearl. This record is way quirkier than anything I’ve ever written because it’s all based on bizarre images.”
Fans can hear the results on the new Berry album, Everything, Compromised. The band performs at Barleycorn's Friday evening.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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