Dave Shouse said he wanted closure.
The 41-year-old songwriter, vocalist and guitarist with Those Bastard Souls says the band's new album, Debt and Departure, is all about leaving the past behind and embracing a rosy future.
"I just wanted something that was reflective," Shouse said last month. "I think everyone in the band has had personal experiences over the years. The album made them think about their lives. Coming together like we did made us a stronger unit."
Debt and Departure comes out Tuesday (July 13). It was produced by John Hanlon, who engineered Neil Young's Ragged Glory and Sleeps With Angels. It's a pop record built on varying emotions, heard in the ache of the violin work on "Telegram"
Shouse called the album an anthology of material that dates to the days when Those Bastard Souls consisted of the singer and any other musicians he could find.
Debt and Departure was recorded last year at Longview Farms in North Brookfield, Mass. For the sessions, Shouse recruited a lineup he said has since solidified drummer Kevin March and violinist Joan Wasser, formerly of the Boston-area band the Dambuilders; bassist Matt Fields of the experimental rock group Red Red Meat; and guitarist Michael Tighe, who was Jeff Buckley's guitar player before the singer's accidental 1997 drowning in Memphis, Tenn.
Those Bastard Souls began as a Shouse side project, distinct from his work with the Grifters, the Memphis soul-rock band he also fronts. He released Twentieth Century Chemical (1996) under the Those Bastard Souls name on the independent Darla Records label. It included early versions of some of the liveliest rockers on Debt and Departure: "Train From Terminal Boredom," "Curious State," "Dirty Looks" and "Remembering Sophie Rhodes."
Tighe, 25, said working with Shouse and Hanlon presented a new musical challenge for him after the death of Buckley. The guitarist said Buckley was the only artist he had worked with intimately previous to his collaboration with Those Bastard Souls. Tighe doubles with Shouse on the midtempo bridge to "The Last Thing I Ever Wanted Was to Show Up and Blow Your Mind" (RealAudio excerpt), the album's dark lead track.
"We color the music along the edges, with strumming and rhythm as the core," Tighe said from his apartment in New York last week. "Before, with [Buckley], I was holding rhythm guitar. In this band it's more sparse, more musical. [Shouse] taught me a lot about being minimal, about doing a lot with a little. [Hanlon] was great for inspiring and helping us to let loose in performances."
Hanlon, whom Shouse asked to produce the album after rejecting a list of other producers provided by the label, said he recorded the album by asking the band to play sets of five songs at a time live in the studio.
Hanlon then took the best takes of songs from those sets and used them as basic tracks to mix and master, a technique he said he learned from Young. "I don't want something that is homogenized milk," said Hanlon, a 22-year studio veteran. "It's too pristine; it's too perfect. The best music comes from spontaneous collaborations, when people aren't conscious of recording."
The influence of Wasser and Tighe on Shouse's music and its arrangements in Those Bastards Souls comes through on "Spaced Out," originally released on the Grifters' 1997 album, Full Blown Possession. There, it's a three-guitar basher. Here, it's a piano ballad, with acoustic guitar and violin floating on the equivalent of a musical breeze.
Shouse said the collaborative sound on Debt and Departure bodes well for the band's future. "Everyone needs a fair shot to add to songs," he said, "so that it's not just me."