No doctrine or religious institution is exempt from hypocrisy, quite the contrary. Throughout history, ideologies and other faith-based belief systems, from Christianity to Islam, have been stained by crusading self-gratifyers, pontificating false prophets and silent, voyeuristic watch dogs. In 2017, those polluted underbellies are being exposed, blood-curdling tentacles detached, uprooting the establishment to not only exorcise the long-ignored demons but reexamine their entire structure. Austin, Texas singer, songwriter and musician Peter More experienced a disease-riddled episode, the details on which he remains quite tight-lipped, “that left me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding fundamentalist beliefs and the hypocrisy involved,” he tells B-Sides & Badlands. The incident propelled him to write “In the Basement,” a groovy funk tune possessing such incendiary lyrics as “so goodbye fundamentalist fiction / all the problems you cause as you corrupt our home” and “I’m tired of your words and your absolute tone and your sound / so get off your soap box and get your head back on the ground.”
The cathartic, pointed songwriting was the gasoline to his bonfire, fueling his forthcoming new EP, assisted by the apt playing of Jose Juan Poyatos on lead guitar, Diego Noyola on bass and Adrien Faunce on drums. More’s chip-toothed vocal served as the appropriate conduit of his stories, too, funneled through studios spanning San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, New York and Texas. The crisp studio gear heightened the uncertainty and inspired in distinctive ways, while keeping the music flexing as one. “Everything from the microphones and different equipment available to the landscape outside of the building” invigorated him. “There’s something cool about the chaos going on in the streets of Manhattan right outside of the studio,” he says. “Recording in Woodstock in the dead of winter was really special, too, always snowy and quiet out. I think those settings always contributed to the vibe and state of mind when we were recording.”
From blustering guitar riffs mimicking the uproarious windstorm sweeping the countryside or the babbling brooke rolling down the mountain’s edge or the booming purr of automobiles barreling down Park Avenue, the environment often became “very intertwined” with the music, he adds. “I notice it when I listen back to different songs written in different settings.”
Similarly, perhaps on a subconscious level, More finds his mind wandering to the local music scene. “I’m not sure how often I draw from it intentionally, but you never know when it’s having an influence,” he says.
Produced by Donald Fagen, one-half of Steely Dan and who wrote songs for Diana Ross, Minutemen, The Pointer Sisters and Linda Ronstadt (among countless more), the new project (set for early spring) shifts between dusty folk-rock, polished pop and Latin music, which developed rather unintentionally. “There wasn’t any concerted effort [to make Latin music], but I think being immersed in a culture for a couple years can have an effect on one’s creative direction,” More explains. “A lot of that had to do with Jose being from Spain and Diego being from Mexico. I think that fusion of Latin backgrounds came out on a few tracks.” He is, of course, referencing songs like “Caddis Moon,” which begins as a ghostly saloon ballad before he paints its mid-section with flecks of spicy Latin sauce.
On the back of his work as frontman of Oh Whitney, More was anxious to “record some songs we had been playing when we met Donald and started working together,” so he turned much of his musical ambition over to Fagen. “We had an idea of what we were going for but also wanted to let Donald do his thing producing and learn as much as we could in the studio,” he says. “We always tried to let things happen, organically, within the band and experiment with different arrangements.”
Fagen took to playing keys and mapping out the vocal harmonies, tricking up the production with his signature spins and shouts. “Donald has a very unique ear in the studio and puts a ton of thought and care into the recording process. He’s methodical in his approach and always striving to get the best live performance from everyone in the band before honing in on the details,” More remembers, situating exactly how vital Fagen’s producer role was to the album’s final arc. “I think all of our ears in the band became very sensitive listening for what Donald was hearing and building towards.”
The ultimate scope and tone of the record would not have been quite possible if it weren’t for More’s own personal revelations. “It was an amazing project to be a part, of and I think the whole band grew a lot. There was a lot of stop and start due to moving around, a couple Steely Dan tours, living in different countries, my computer getting stolen…but I’m glad we were patient and finished the album the way we did. I think the music reflects the peripatetic nature of the project.”