With new technology, songs can be recorded on smartphones and put on iTunes in a matter of hours. But back in the day, recording to analog tape (that’s reel to reel) was the norm.
Longtime Atlanta band Uncle Green (which also recorded under the name 3 lb. Thrill) recently discovered 30 analog reels of never-released music recorded 14 years ago that just might be some of their best work. The band had a cassette tape of the songs, but the original reels could not be located.
The band started clearing away the mental cobwebs and began checking with former managers, record labels, recording studios and anyone else who might help them track down the source tapes.
After frustrating dead ends and foggy leads, the tapes were located in a Sony warehouse in upstate New York. Sony, a previous label to the band, handed the tapes over and the ball was rolling.
“Although we technically retired in 1998, we felt like that collection was unfinished business that never got a chance,” said drummer Peter McDade.
Matt Brown, lead vocals/guitar/keyboards/songwriter added, “We always wanted to release it, and took various stabs at it over the years, but always ran into roadblocks and gave up.”
Local engineer Rob Gal (an Atlanta music scene icon) found a studio with equipment to playback the tapes and, in a hold your breath moment, discovered the analog tapes were in good condition. “The first time the tapes played again, to hear it in the studio, it was exciting. They sounded good.”
Brown agreed: “Even after 14 years, the album held up for all of us as unquestionably the work that’s truest to who we are.”
Once the tapes were declared viable, the band’s four members (McDade, Brown, Jeff Jensen and Bill Decker) met in Washington DC and decided to raise the near $10,000 needed to mix, master and make the CDs. The second hurdle was set. They decided to use funding site Kickstarter to leverage friend, family and fan support for micro donations toward the cause. The goal was to raise $4,000, about half of what they needed.
In one day, they $3,000 was donated and by the end of day two they had exceeded the goal and were ready to begin putting the album together.
“I really was doubtful that anyone beyond family and a couple of friends would put any money towards it,” Jensen said. “But it was like watching a telethon tote board in those 36 hours that we met our goal. To see all the names of old friends, and then names that none of us knew come in was just a load of fun.”
The band rented a house in Little Five Points to finish the recording process for the album, a 32-track double album called Rycopa. The title is that of a fictitious band from a dream one of the Uncle Green crew had while making the recordings. The name stuck.
As far as what they hope to get out of the project other than knotting up the loose ends, Brown said, “None of have high expectations for Rycopa to kick Maroon 5 off the top of the charts. We simply wanted to make our strongest effort available to people who like our music. We wanted the album out there in the wild, and now that it is, anything else is just gravy.”
A release party for Rycopa is set for Saturday, Feb. 25 at Decatur CD and a show the same night at Smith’s Olde Bar. To purchase tickets, visit smithsoldebar.com and be sure to visit the Uncle Green fan page on Facebook.