After an absence of nearly four years, Canadian melodic-pop collective Zumpano has returned to the studio to record its third album.
Since the release of the group's second LP, "Goin' Through Changes," on Sub Pop in 1996 and the band's subsequent tour, the Vancouver quartet's signature Burt Bacharach-meets-the Zombies sound has been missing in action. MTV News recently caught up with guitarist-keyboardist Mike Ledwidge and discussed the band's time-out, its new recordings, and unexpected windfalls that involved former members of Duran Duran.
"I don't know if 'breakup' is the right word. We kind of disintegrated a little bit," said Ledwidge of the band's lengthy absence. "People [in the band] got busy with other stuff they were doing, and we eventually kind of stopped practicing altogether for probably a year or so."
The group -- which also includes vocalist-guitarist Carl Newman, bassist Stephan Nieman, and the band's namesake, drummer Jason Zumpano
-- was motivated to reassemble itself thanks in part to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1999 Allison Anders-Kurt Voss movie "Sugar Town," which starred former Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, his Power Station mate Michael Des Barres, and X's John Doe, among others.
"Originally we were just one of the bands they were using a song from, which we got a bit of money for," Ledwidge said. "But then they wanted to use us in the trailer.
"For some weird reason, you get a whole lot more money if you are in the trailer," he continued. "At least that's how it worked for us. So because of the movie money, we had enough to start doing another record."
The band decided to use its own money to record in order to retain all creative control, Ledwidge said.
"Do we want to get into the whole [deal with] asking [the record label] for money and having them approve of demos and all that kind of stuff?" he said, explaining why the band decided to finance itself. "[We
felt] if we could just give them something finished, that would be such a better setup. So far, we have had the luxury to afford that."
Since Zumpano has been under no label deadlines, the band has been able to take its time recording the new album.
"We've probably been writing and practicing the songs for a year, I guess." Ledwidge said. "We had a few false starts -- I think four, actually -- before we started to get serious in May or so. Even then, we have been working in little blocks.
"Usually someone comes in with what Brian Wilson would call 'a feel,'" he offered. "Something without vocals or a melody, a thing with chords and maybe a rhythm. Then we usually kind of bash away on that, and try to arrange that.
"A lot of the time in the studio, we don't totally know how the song goes until Carl starts doing the vocals," he continued. "He never really sings in practice, or he might sing to himself. The actual melody, we aren't actually ever sure how it's
going to come out until he starts recording the vocals. I'm not sure if he knows, really. I think he changes his mind.
"Then it kind of works backwards once we've recorded it," he said, laughing. "Then we can actually go out and play it. We know how it goes, and Carl knows what he wants to do.
"When I tell people about it, it sounds really crazy and backward, but somehow it seems to work for us, I guess."
Zumpano has been recording with producer Darryl Neudorf (an engineer on the band's first album, 1995's "Look What The Rookie Did"), who has introduced new technology into the band's recording approach.
"He's super-into the kind of digital editing style of recording," Ledwidge said, "which was kind of scary at first. We've always used tape and punching in.
"His approach was more, 'Why don't you play the song five times, and I'll chop it into something good,'" Ledwidge recalled. "At first I was like, 'That's just wrong.' But after a few times of hearing
what he chops up, we were kind of sold on the idea. It works for us, because so often we go in not knowing exactly what we are going to play."
Ledwidge said that, although the album is in the mixing stage, the release date is hard to predict right now.
"Well, we were really hoping to be finished by September," he said with a long laugh. "We are mixing, and our producer is juggling the project with going back to school. I guess it depends on how successful he is on managing to find time to mix it.
"I would hope it's done this year," he offered. "As far as when it's coming out is concerned, I guess that's the next nightmare."
Despite the amorphous release date, the band has been tossing a title around.
"'Zumpano's Still Got It,'" Ledwidge said. "Another of our 'gag' album titles. I don't know if that one's going to hold up, though. It's a good working title."
Before the third Zumpano LP materializes, the band's cover of the Who's "Silas Stingy"
will be available on the tribute collection "The New Sell Out," which is due in stores before the end of the year (see [article id="1435211"]"'The Who Sell Out' Gets Tribute Makeover"[/article]).