While recording their new album, 10,000 Maniacs aren't trying to please anyone but themselves.
"You don't think about the audience," said Dennis Drew, keyboardist. "You might think about the audience when you sequence the record or make the cover, but not really. You just can't chase that tail. We've just got to do what we like. People want to hear us; they want to hear what we like. It's got to be from the heart."
Those who don't want to hear about how the band felt when founding guitarist Rob Buck passed away in 2000 shouldn't buy the record, according to Drew. Those who might find meaning or comfort in songs about Buck or who just want to hear a diverse record might find the new release interesting, however.
10,000 Maniacs are shown recording the basic tracks for their new album on the Scharmann Theatre stage at Jamestown Community College. Visit
pledgemusic.com/projects/10km for more information.
"We consider ourselves, in a way, folk artists," Drew said. "We're regular folk. Songs are about love, they're about death, they're about growing up and they're about growing old. We're just trying to be honest. We're not pretending anything. There's no pretending anymore. It's too much work to pretend. I'm not writing Broadway musicals about people I don't know and trying to tell a story that I wasn't living myself. Our stories are universal. It's not like we have these very specific lives that no one can relate to."
Guitarist Jeff Erickson wrote and sings some of the songs, and Drew sings a tune as well.
"I've written whole songs for the first time in 30 years," Drew said. "I've contributed some lines and titles in the past, but this is the first time I've written whole songs. A couple songs on here, I wrote the whole thing; a lot of it was around the time Rob passed away. There's a lot of very emotional material on there. I offered the songs to (vocalist) Mary (Ramsey) to write over the music, to do something different over it. She said, 'No. I like what you did. Just do it.' And, we did it that way, which was really cool."
On other songs, Ramsey took old music and added her own words.
For the first time, the band is recording an album without Buck, whose absence hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I think that the writing process was the part that was the most different, because we really leaned on Rob a lot to come up with another idea," Drew said. "We'd say, 'Come on Rob, where's the hit? Give us a hit, Rob.' ... He was really a steady influence on the band. He worked really hard. He practiced a lot. We'd get an awful lot out of him."
Although 10,000 Maniacs fans may have wanted a new record several years ago, that wasn't a possibility, according to Drew.
"Jeff hadn't been in the band long enough," he said. "He's the one who really absorbed our style and the way we play."
"(Jeff has) had to work the hardest," added bassist Steve Gustafson. "We knew the catalogue of songs. We all know them, but he had to learn them so we could take him out and play them on the road. He's had to sort of be his own guitar player and represent Rob with respect."
The band recorded the album's basic tracks on the Scharmann Theatre stage at Jamestown Community College. Due to their other jobs, there aren't many times throughout the year when the band members can get together to record, so they took advantage of a handful of days recently.
"We take advantage of them and work like hell to get stuff done," Gustafson said. "Then, it's just been overdubs whenever anyone is available. Now, it's a big push to get it done. We've been working on it a lot more because we've got a deadline to make."
10,000 Maniacs have moved their gear to their engineer's studio in Warren, where they've been mixing the record. The band hopes to master the record next month, and local resident Nate Arnone will handle the album artwork.
Drew felt the band has eased right back into the recording process, saying it has been like riding a bike. Gustafson agreed.
"Although it's taken a long time because of the way we work, it's been enjoyable to (make the record) because we had been away from it for so long," he said. "The whole process is very liberating and very natural. I don't feel any pressure to sell a lot of records. It would be great if we did. But if we don't, we're not going to be disappointed."