is not your average debut release. Pop and classical music have
never been easy bedfellows (think Yes, or ELP) but Pale Boy dismiss
the fretwank tendencies and focus instead on the instrumentation,
winding minimal classical and jazz arrangements around a fragile
core. Talking Heads could've sounded like this any time they wanted
to, if David Byrne's muse had dictated it, and Geltman's songs have
a Brynian edge: tiny stories compacted into 3 minutes with real
melodies. Blomster brings his love of Beefheart to the party too,
though, often setting Geltman's growling vocal against tender, beautiful
backing as on Promise Me where he gargles "Promise me, obscurity"
sounding for all the world like Morrissey with flu.
of pasty boys, which of you is the pale one?
Seth is the Pale Boy. I liked the song title as the album name because
the lyrics for the song Pale Boy are so Seth - the cold, cruel,
honesty, the hopelessness of getting across his message.
More mess than message really. Or anti-message, the Pale Boy song
is about a boy who lectures people and ends up getting wrapped up
in a fence.
you set out to record the album, did you have a sound in your heads
for each song, or did the sound come from the musicians you used?
A couple of our ideas failed and we had to go back to the drawing
board. Many of the musicians did add something extra once they were
in the studio.
Like on Shy Beast. This guitarist Bill Kopper came in and changed
the feel of the tune with his Brazilian sound, and it worked.
The use of classical musicians was mostly dictated by ability on
the given instruments. I mean, how many jazz/rock tubists, French
hornists etc...do you know? Also, I prefer the sound of a well trained
musician in general, and they have an easier time understanding
Seth's harmonic language.
Although there was a stiffness that some of them had to work through.
Some musicians, like Jeana, who sings some lead vocals, had very
slight traces of stiffness that make the performance more appealing
She had the chops and intellect to bend and understand Seth's music.
you arranged the record - what did that involve?
Seth did have 4 track versions of all his songs that he recorded
at home on guitar, bass, keyboard, violin, percussion, and vocals.
He is very prolific, so first we had to decide what was making the
grade and what to reject.
the beginning, I told Seth that I would produce and arrange the
album if we could do something different than guitar, bass, drums.
My concept was to have a true 'group' of musicians, although we
did expand somewhat beyond our original boundaries. We would go
song by song and decide what the style/feel of a song should be
and then what the instrumentation/orchestration should be (this
involved two or three sessions - it was quite tiring, especially
with all the beer involved!).
some songs I wrote new material for the winds, on others Seth already
had all kinds of lines, so I simply orchestrated them. Sometimes
Seth had very specific ideas for the winds and percussion, so I
tried to follow his creations. Part of my job as producer was to
kill bad ideas (both his and mine). In general, Seth is a very introverted
and mellow person, although he can be quite intense when he is focused.
I'm surprised he never told me off during this project - he would've
had every right...There was a lot of give and take in this process,
it took a lot of patience, and huge amounts of time. Luckily, I
really love Seth as my compatriot and friend, so I suppose that
made it easier.
how did you feel about Thomas arranging your songs?
Delighted. We come from different places musically, and this could
have been a problem. But we can talk about music in a very free
and detailed way. I think the music on the album has a kind of push-pull
of different influences, and this comes from Thomas and my ideas
tugging at each other in a strangely comfortable way.
different were the songs recorded at home on the 4-track?
They're recorded with bass, guitar, violin, and some keys, so the
range of sound is more limited. Sometimes the vocals are less reserved,
the playing looser and chancier. So there are more spontaneous bursts
of inspiration and imbecility. Also, after they're recorded on 4-track,
we do some arranging, and this usually brings other layers of activity
of the song structures seem (broadly) pop-based.
I was actually unaware of song structure ideas (AABA, etc.) while
writing a lot of these tunes. I just went on what sounded right
for something like Just a Thought or All Were Left With. As I continued
writing tunes, I learned more about structure, but didn't want to
be too obedient to it. So some of the structures you're hearing
were planned, some were arrived at without much calculation. Commercial-types
I've played it for say the structures are too off-kilter.
you ever consider producing the record at home rather than in a
I just don't think for all the time and effort that the quality
level is worth it on a 4 track. Studios don't really cost that much
to rent, and they have fantastic equipment that we could never dream
of owning, much less learning how to operate.
Yeah, the 4-track wouldn't have been able to handle the French horn,
tuba, etc. But the problem with studio is that some people there
feel like they're at another day at the office. So its a trade-off.
Better machines, but a more cramped, on-the-clock ambience.
you ever consider giving up?
No, I rarely leave a project unfinished. If Seth hadn't come up
with the money to finish it, I would have. (I think I wrote a few
The only giving up question I ask myself now is on the promotion
end. There's a line on one of the Pale Boy tunes "Promise me obscurity."
It's been an extremely easy promise to keep.
record sounds very contemporary. Was than an aim?
For me, this wasn't a major objective. I was going for timelessness,
for music that wouldn't sound dated in a decade or two. Hopefully,
the real instruments (the flugelhorn, bass clarinet, etc.) will
help this happen.
We were just hearing a unique sound, combining different instruments
together to create something unique - combinations that one doesn't
much relation does Pale Boy bear to your school bands?
We improvised a lot in those bands, and I think that helped us come
to a sense of ease with each other and an interest in experimenting
I was much more into jazz/rock in high school - still am. I wanted
to play Herbie Hancock, Crusaders, Weather Report, some Zappa. Seth
was already writing songs in a singer/songwriter mode - I remember
he was a huge Springsteen fan, which I wasn't at the time. If Pale
Boy has influence from our former youth, it would be that we grew
up in an eclectic environment in the beautiful Republic of Boulder
(six square miles of city surrounded by mountains of reality!).
do you have any song-writing heroes?
Many: Robert Wyatt, Astor Piazolla, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison,
Burt Bacharach, Nick Drake, Byrds, Beatles, Serge Prokofiev, Dylan,
Jobim, Samuel Barber, Bill Evans, Cardinal. I'm pretty impressionable
and adopt new heroes all the time.
you tried playing live?
At this point, I'm more interested in writing tunes than in playing
live. I know that's going to keep Pale Boy in the shadows for a
while. I just find performing less compelling than sitting alone
patching together a tune. Maybe we'll get out and perform after
the next album.
there's going to be more from Pale Boy?
We have already started work on a new project. Also, Seth and I
are trying out a band with two other writer/players - a sort of
composers group, to see if we can find a common ground and create
together, somewhat as a unit or collective.
Boy is available to buy direct from www.kalemusic.com.
You can contact seth at firstname.lastname@example.org