Paul Cary “Iryna” (Influenza)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa isn’t exactly perceived as a cultural hotbed teeming with artists on the verge of greatness. But nearly a decade before the city was tragically propelled into nationwide headlines due to severe flooding in 2008, a trio of musicians came together in the city under the banner of the Horrors, signing the great In The Rec Records label. Not to be confused with the English band of the same name which has since risen to prominence, the group’s brand of “obnoxious, intrusive rock n’ roll” would only make it through a pair of releases, but the music didn’t stop there. Frontman Paul Cary later moved to Chicago and by late-2007 he had set the gears in motion for what would become his debut solo album, Ghost of a Man. Finding time to produce a split-EP with San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees along the way, Cary’s sound does have its similarities to the John Dwyer-helmed group: dirty, raw, and undeniably enjoyable. The reception to the record has only gone to confirm the depth of Cary’s sound; in their review of the record earlier this year, One Thirty BPM focused on one of Ghost‘s standouts, “Iryna,” explaining its “blistered-fingers blues” as “all ruckus and drooling static.” For this edition of Influenza Cary focuses on this very track, revealing the details behind the recording process, Johnathan Crawford’s (Head of Femur, William Elliott Whitmore) production on the track, and the perils of using pawn shop amps in the search for the perfect sound.

I was listening to a lot of Chopin at the time while writing this song: “Nocturne No. 2 in E flat,” “Waltz No.3 in A minor,” “Prelude in D flat,” and “Raindrop” are a few of my favorites. It wasn’t completely intentional but I suppose the instrumental breakdown in the middle of the song is as close as I can get to giving him a nod. Originally, I was going to sing some kind of chorus with “Iryna” in it but the words just weren’t fitting right so I scratched the lyrics entirely and turned the vocal pattern I was working with into the opening guitar part. After doing so I wondered if I should even call the song “Iryna” any more. I remember the night the song all started coming together, sitting in my room of my third floor apartment overlooking the circus that is Division Street in Chicago, and the phone rings: After six months or so of not communicating at all, it was Iryna calling. I thought, “Well I guess the song is called ‘Iryna’ after all.” Not about her, but for her. It moves like she does.

“Iryna” was recorded live by Johnathan Crawford at Clown Town Studio, which is just the basement of John’s office. The actual recording did not take very long; I think we got it on the second take. We spent a couple hours setting up the vocal and guitar amps and microphoning the drums in a way to limit the amount of bleed. We use two tracks for the vocals: one directly in to manipulate and one through an old Amp G12 that I got from a pawn shop for 50 bucks that just needed a fuse. The guitar amp I was using was a solid state Sears and Roebuck, I’m guessing early 70s—its speaker was on its last leg and by the end of the session it was completely blown out. That session we just recorded drums, guitar and vocals. We added a bass later but it was cutting in and out when we played it back so we took it off completely and left it in its original form. As far as recording goes I cannot take any credit other than playing my guitar and singing. I am lost in a studio. Johnathan Crawford is the man that makes things sound the way we want.

[While released digitally earlier this year via Stankhouse Records, the vinyl release show for Paul Cary’s Ghost of a Man is set to take place this coming September 15 at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall. In addition to Paul Cary and the Small Scaries—the current incarnation of Cary’s band featuring a bevy of Chicago jazz players including Dave Rempis, Fred Longberg Holm, and Jason Stein—Cary’s Stankhouse label-mates Thee Oh Sees will also be performing.]

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]

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