The Choir - The Loudest Sound Ever Heard
It's been said that in the music business, indie is the new major. Artists are experimenting with new models of funding, recording, touring and sharing their music in ways that confound many large labels, and give artists the freedom to forge new paths to connect their music to fans. It's within this landscape that iconic alternative rock band The Choir, alums of the major label system, returns with their latest full-length album, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, their 14th, on their own Galaxy 21 label.
Produced by the band's Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard is classically "The Choir" in its sonic textures. Long time bass player Tim Chandler delivers his trademark melodic yet off-kilter playing, while Dan Michaels adds sax and Lyricon flourishes that are complemented by Marc Byrd's shimmering guitar counterpoint. The album's closing track, "After All", features a stunning duet between Daugherty and Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Nash, in what will no doubt become a signature song for the band. The album also features some of Hindalong's most uplifting and direct lyrics in his nearly 30 years of writing with Daugherty.
Says Hindalong of this set of songs, "our time on this planet is very short, and that reminds us of the importance of life - to celebrate every breath we breathe. So there's a song called 'Learning To Fly' that makes a reference to the Krakatoa volcanic explosion - and in the context of that, we're here to learn to love, and we need to live everyday in the immediate. I really was trying to be more universal with the lyrics on this album - I wanted the songs to be such that everyone could own them. The last album, the songs were very specific - 'Old Man Byrd', 'Mr. Chandler', 'A Friend So Kind' (for Tom Howard), 'I'm Sorry I Laughed' (a song about Dan falling off the stage & breaking his sax). Those are very specific, personal songs, so on this album I made a deliberate attempt to go broader."
Musically, the band experimented in ways that they hadn’t in two decades. Says Chandler, “the four of us got in a room and just started playing together, and two songs came out of that (“Laughter Of Heaven” and “Takin’ The Universe In”). That's something we hadn't done since Chase The Kangaroo – just get in a room, start playing and see what happens.” Adds Daugherty, “at this point in our life as a band, we know each other so well and what we each do well. So every time we get an itch to make a record it's fun and new, and it's almost like we've got the excitement of being younger and wanting to make great music as well as experience to know how to do it.”
Part of the breadth of the lyrics on this album are couched in the language of recovery and the need to cede a sense of control, to be reliant on God and others, to live in the present, and to step into God's light and risk being known. "Cross That River", a song that wouldn't be out of place on the band's classic 1990 release, Circle Slide, is an anthemic ode to risk-taking and not remaining hidden or alone. The song's subject is encouraged to ford a rushing river a step at a time, despite rising tides, and culminates in a bridge whose lyrics read, "But you’re not gonna make it if you don’t take a chance / And there’s somebody on the shore holding out a branch."
In "The Laughter Of Heaven" (as sonically signature a song as there is for the band on this album), Hindalong urges listeners to embrace God's mystery, to unlearn and un-know what may have become a calcified way of living and being. "It takes courage to unlearn and un-know and embrace mystery. As a poet or songwriter, I think the best we can do is inspire people to think. We don't pretend to have it all figured out.
Elsewhere, "A World Away" and "The Forest" reveal a compelling transparency abut personal short-comings and the gratitude toward those who have never given up on each other. "O How", with it's echo-washed guitars and Daugherty's yearning vocal, recounts to joy and pain of parenthood, reminding listeners, all children of someone, that we are not alone as we walk through life. "Takin' The Universe In" is an anomaly in the band's catalog: a truly and completely happy love song. It features Chandler and Michaels' percussive bass and baritone sax interplay, as well as one of Hindalong's most unabashed romantic lyrics. "I'm glad it's so positive. In the past there was a lot of tension in the love songs; I called them twisted love songs. Nancy and I are coming up on 30 years of marriage, and the last 2 are some of the best years we've had. Marriage is a parallel experience, where, if I’m going to watch a movie, why would I want to do it alone? If I go camping, I want to sit by the fire with her - that's all you need. And that's where we're at right now and it’s gratifying to write a song like that."
As for the title, The Loudest Sound Ever Heard, Hindalong explains that he was reading about the infamous volcanic explosion on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa in the late 19th century that is referenced in the album's second track, "Learning To Fly". A quick Wikipedia search revealed that to this day the event is referred to as "the loudest sound ever heard." "I mentioned that to the guys and they said, 'that would be a good name for a record'. I thought, 'that's a little bombastic - maybe too literal.
“It's not the theme of the record, it's just a good phrase. Later on I wrote the lyric for ‘Melodious’, which I was writing to Tim, and I made the lyrical reference, 'a true friend's heart is the loudest sound ever heard.' So I have that as the figurative reference as well as the literal reference that I started with in ‘Learning To Fly’. But I think people are going to see the title, and think that we made this really over the top rock record! We just thought it was a compelling idea."
This subtle and often introspective band has built a loyal following in the course of its career, a following that has seen them through countless national and international tours, recording hiatuses, a Grammy nomination, a Dove award, and in the past two years, a rejuvenated recording and touring schedule that rivals the band's late '80s - mid '90s pace. Says Daugherty, “you get your second wind after a while - there's the appearance of success, and what an artist would consider real success, which is making great music and writing songs in the hope that people will want to listen for a lot of years. And we've never had big commercial success, but we feel like we've really had that kind of artistic success that is long term.”
Michaels, of whom Hindalong says, “we wouldn’t even be a band anymore if it weren’t for Dan,” enjoys a successful career as a music executive, and lends those talents, as well as his playing, to keeping The Choir visible, active and in touch with fans. “While I'm completely dedicated to my career working at a record label, I can't resist the pull to champion The Choir as my labor of love. Not only does it provide a creative outlet for me, it keeps me connected to these guys who played such a significant role in shaping my adult life. The band cleared a path for me that allowed many rewarding experiences and relationships for which I'm very grateful.”
The band's base is indeed, dedicated, and keenly aware of how self-referential Hindalong's lyrics can be, re-working lyrics from older songs into newer ones, and paying tribute to the band's members, as he does for Chandler on the song "Melodious". The Loudest Sound Ever Heard comes as Daugherty, Hindalong and Chandler are on the road playing their seminal 1987 release, Chase The Kangaroo, in its entirety to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that influential album.
With nearly 30 years together as a band, The Choir has found a resurgent fan base populated with long time fans, many of whom have literally grown up listening to the band's catalog. It's this connection that has also led the band to host their 2nd VIP get-together this summer at Nashville's Dark Horse Studios. Fans that have opted in to this event will get a chance to experience a special in-studio recording session by the band, as well as a private concert and cook out with the band and their families.
As for how the band feels at this point in their career? "I think we're better at what we do than we used to be, and I play better than I used to play. You make the record that you want to hear and we've always done that - not to meet peoples' expectations. Just to make music we're proud of." And indie or major, The Choir has a track record that any band can be envious of.
- Previous Bio / Reivew Quotes for Burning Like The Midnight Sun -
...an exceptional album...a late career triumph. 4 out of 4 Stars
-The Chicago Sun Times.
On this record, The Choir soars...
With its timeless sound and excellent songs, Burning Like the Midnight Sun is not only a striking return to form but also a fine entry point to newcomers.
The Choir Returns With 12th Studio Disc, Burning Like the Midnight Sun
Grammy Nominated Indie Rockers Deliver First Album In Five Years, Featuring Cover Artwork By Noted New Orleans Visual Artist
2010 - Nashville, TN – Making it an even dozen, iconic indie rock act The Choir announces the release of their 12th studio disc, Burning Like the Midnight Sun, on June 29th. Produced by band members Steve Hindalong and Derri Daughtery, the album was recorded and mixed at Daugherty’s Sled Dog Studio in Franklin, Tenn., and will be released on the band’s own Galaxy21 Music label.
Boasting a history that spans nearly three decades, The Choir features founders Hindalong and Daugherty along with long time members Dan Michaels and Tim Chandler, and once again Marc Byrd who produced the band’s ‘05 release O How the Mighty Have Fallen. This critically-acclaimed lineup continues to garner praise and accolades – including a Grammy nod -- long after most other bands have burned out or faded away.
“Perhaps more than any other album by The Choir, Burning Like the Midnight Sun integrates the musical personalities of all five individuals,” Hindalong says. “The recording process was smooth and satisfying. We’re thrilled to offer it to our listening friends.”
In recent months, the band has given fans a peek inside the recording process by releasing a series of “in the studio” videos online. The finished product, Burning Like the Midnight Sun, will be available physically online through www.thechoir.net and sold at live shows. It will also be available for download & streaming on iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster and other digital service providers.
Always the innovators, the band continues to find new ways to get their music to the masses. Their die-hard fan base has already responded enthusiastically to pre-order packages that include a "director's cut" audio interview CD, mix stems so fans can create their own productions of the songs that the band will post and share online, as well as a VIP gathering at Michaels’ Nashville home featuring an acoustic concert, swim party and barbecue.
Complementing this beautiful new music is a cover image by New Orleans-based visual artist R.R. Lyon, known for using salvaged or reclaimed pieces of his own art that he re-contextualizes to give new purpose.
Recent TV music placement includes the travel/reality show Into The Drink produced by Liquid Assets TV.
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