'School Of Desire'

 by Johanna B. Bodde

'School Of Desire'
(BePop Records, 2015)

A new project, new music - ALECTRO. Who / what is Alectro? ALECTRO is a labor of love from Jeff Eyrich and Steve Kirkman, musical pardners and soul brothers (in the soulful sense). Both are music veterans, musician-producers, session men and fellow sidemen on lots of other people's gigs. Jeff and Steve share a passion for surf guitars, the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, Duane Eddy twang, old noisy amplifiers, distortion, weird-sounding strange-looking guitars, off-brand EFX pedals, antique rhythm boxes, echo-plexes, all influences evident in the music that they make.

After a few gigs and lots of sheddin' out at the Octagon, Jeff and Steve got intense about recording Alectro over the past year. The music flowed and 'School Of Desire' is the result - a set of songs and music the duo wrote, composed, arranged, performs and sings. There are a couple of covers in there and a few friends were invited to sit in. Got your curiosity up? Please, give Alectro a listen.

Jeff Eyrich's BIO:

Producer / Musician Jeff Eyrich began his career in the early 70's as an LA studio musician and touring sideman. He played bass and toured with Tim Buckley, Bette Midler, Tanya Tucker and Keith Carradine. His studio credits include Air Supply, Natalie Cole, John Cale, Tanya Tucker and the Surf Punks. Jeff Eyrich's career as a record producer started in the early 80's scoring success with his first major label project, 'A Million Miles Away' by the Plimsouls (Geffen).

Jeff went on to produce more than thirty major label projects both in the US and Europe including 'Hard Line' by the Blasters, 'Proof Through The Night' by T-Bone Burnett, 'The Las Vegas Story' by Gun Club, 'Long Gone Dead' by Rank and File, 'Get Outa My Room' by Cheech and Chong. In 1995 Jeff moved to New York City to become the US partner in an international music management company called GreenTeam.

Though Jeff excelled and garnered much experience working on the corporate side of the music business, his musician's heart and soul pulled him out of the suit, back onto the bass and back into the producer's chair. In 1998 Jeff became a full-time member of the New York City based jazz-pop group Dave's True Story. He is an in-demand sideman / session musician on the NYC scene. Jeff has most recently produced and played bass on CDs for Dave's True Story, Lipbone Redding, Kelly Flint, Elza and Bistro Blue - all for BePop Records, an independent record label he co-founded and manages.

Recent studio musician and / or recording projects include 'The Tiny Life' by Honor Finnegan, 'Lead Me Back' by the Melodic Miners, 'Esmeralda' by Lipbone Redding, and of course 'School of Desire' by Alectro.

Steve Kirkman's BIO:

Steve Kirkman's music clearly originates from the roots of the American Songbook. His childhood on a North Carolina farm was filled with the sounds of gospel, bluegrass, blues, country, and rock-n-roll. Recalling Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" as the first music he ever heard, the unique sound of the Jordanaires and Scotty Moore's guitar have remained a youthful reminder of where it all began.
In the early 80's Steve moved to Nashville to pursue life as a singer-songwriter. Desiring something other than that of the Nashville establishment, he slowly drifted to the underground music scene, eventually finding renewed inspiration in Memphis, the birthplace of that unique sound still resonating from so many years before.
In 1990, Steve moved to New York City playing solo or with his band The Mystery Train in and around the city and the all over the NorthEast. He has opened shows for Richard Thompson, Ritchie Havens, John Kay & Steppenwolf, Jefferson Starship, Procol Harum, Roger McGuinn and Grammy Award winner Bill Miller.
Moving North of the city into the Hudson Valley, he co-founded the band Hope Machine, playing the music of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger as well as their own original music. Steve is a sought-after guitarist, engineer, and producer and has worked with many artists both live and in his studio The Octagon. He has recorded two solo CDs - 'Searcher' and 'Roads', and recently produced the CD 'Out Here' for Don Lowe. His most recent project, with partner and bassist Jeff Eyrich, is Alectro's 'School Of Desire'.

Alectro's TRACKS:

1. "The Debt": Trumpet! Played by Tim Ouimette. Where are our heroes? Ah, there they come, singing in perfect harmony, about a big mistake and a plan to run for the border. "Shadows in the moonlight - Is it you, or just another long black coat?" A full theatrical sound, even with a choir showing up (Felicia Michael's overdubbed vocals), like a lost Sergio Leone score - indeed. Oh yes, I'm impressed, right away. My DJ friend Marthijn, who gave me this album ("Something you will like...") made a correct assumption.

2. "School Of Desire": The title track, obviously. A rhythmic rock song with some delicious heavy twang guitar. Something Duane Eddy would have played. Yes, slide, now my musical happiness is complete. One of the drummers featured on the record, Rich Zukor, keeps a perfect tight beat.

3. "Fork In The Road": Bass and more wonderful guitar. A song full of images, from a flying eagle up there to rhinestone shoes down here. Great remark & reply type of duet singing by the two gentlemen in the chorus.

4. "Hard Travelin'": One of the two covers, the Woody Guthrie classic. On a galloping tempo, with shakers, acoustic bass and guitars, impressive harmony singing. Then the surf guitar arrives and demands attention for a solo. Remarkable version of a very often covered song.

5. "Shining Star": A long (5m56s) track, slow at first with poignant speak-singing. Then the chorus surprises and the obvious wink at "House Of The Rising Sun" and woo-hooh, there's the chorus again... Did I mention the surf guitars throughout? Just pay attention to that solo at the end of the track!

6. "Sunset At County Line": No vocals here, just an impressive haunting guitar riff that echoes in our ear phones.
 I love this.

7. "Cross And The Switchblade": A fine story song in the traditional country ballad vein. These 'pardners' truly sing together like a brother duo! In the meantime, the musical arrangement creates effortlessly another movie soundtrack.

8. "Tobacco Road": Second of the covers, a song by pop hit songwriter John D. Loudermilk. A little bit of rockabilly with rumbling guitars, that repeating solo on the right blows me away - I want to know what effects are used here. Slide, but also some wah-wah pedal, that's how far I get by myself (and that calls herself a music writer...).

9. "Take Me To The Highway": Wide open roads, but also loneliness: "Let my spirit run!" I can see the imagines, easily, I wish I could see the music happening too. What is this now? Sounds like a bowed acoustic bass... The amazing echoing chorus adds more value to the urgent lead vocal.

10. "Whiskey Water": Are we going back to a ghost town in the Wild West for this story song? Haunting sounds of the exuberant surf guitar set the scene. A guitar that can talk, indeed.

11. "Sunrise At Faria": A slow instrumental track and a peaceful sunrise to close off this very impressive disc.


To make a long story short: if you love the so-called vintage spaghetti westerns, this is the album for you! The soundtrack to a new and exciting movie. There's mystery and danger and desolation. Empty dusty deserts in the hot Santa Ana winds and lonesome traveling on horseback and starlit nights by the campfire with coyotes howling at the moon. Maybe that mystery woman is still waiting in the old farmhouse, maybe she left with that tall dark stranger or maybe all they find are a couple of bloody corpses? Jeff and Steve are music bizz veterans who know exactly how to tell these tales and to dress them up to perfection with the music: surf and country and twang with the fuzz and distortion and the whole fitting 60s sound. Long story short I said: this is a unique project and I love it!

Interview from RUST Magazine:

: First Jeff, can you tell us, in the proverbial nutshell, what Steve does so uniquely that made your collaboration work so well on 'School Of Desire'?

: I love the grit and reality in Steve’s lyrics, the depth, the simplicity, the stories he tells. Musically Steve and I are on similar wavelengths, we compliment and balance each other perfectly. We don’t have similar backgrounds - he grew up on a farm out in the country in North Carolina and I’m a beach kid from Southern California - but we love those twangy guitars, roots music, and we’re puttin’ years and years of experience on the table.

: Steve, what is it about Jeff that impressed you the most during this album’s creative process?

: Well, aside from being a great and solid player, I think he’s very good at sizing up a song and knowing how to get it to its potential. He’ll try lots of different things and maneuver around in the rhythm section to change the feel of a song and make it more interesting to play. It was also him who fairly early in the process realized we could incorporate some of the sounds from the past that had so influenced both of us. Like Jeff said we come from different parts of the American landscape but he shares a love of our diverse American Songbook and that gives us a real connection to build on.

: What made the moment 'right' for each of you to do this project?

: It really wasn’t a conscious decision. Steve and I have shared a lot of stages together as sidemen, backing up different people, all kinds of music. I always loved the guitar sounds Steve would get, for me reminiscent of the instrumental surf music I played growing up. I was at Steve’s one day, putting some bass on a record he was producing. After the session we were messin’ around with one of Steve’s songs, “Take Me To the Highway”, just me, Steve and the rhythm box. The flow was so easy, natural, and fun - we just kept goin’.

: The sound of it. From the get go every song we played took on a unique sound and then almost anything we threw at it seemed to work. That made it something to look forward to each time we got together.

: You had some friends help out, can you tell us a little about them?

: Rich Zukor and Kevin Hupp (the drummers) are friends, and seasoned, working musicians. Both Steve and I have played many times with these guys - they’re solid, they groove, they’re both good in the studio and we wanted them to play on our record. Steve Rossiter (the mixer) is someone I’ve mixed many records with. He’s in-tune with his studio and the way the mix sounds in there is the way it sounds everywhere else. Scott Hull mastered the record. Scott’s depth of experience is what you want in a mastering engineer, somebody you can trust, easily communicate with… somebody that can take your record to the next level.

: Felicia Michaels who sang that almost operatic part at the end of "The Debt", she had been brought into my studio by another singer-songwriter for some backing vocals and one day after a session I asked her to take a pass at this song I had. She pretty much nailed it from the start. Tim Ouimette, is a great horn player I’ve known for years but never had the right thing to bring us together. Even though the song could have flown as it was I wanted to throw one more thing at "The Debt". I guess it was a 'Ring Of Fire' moment and even though we had to cut some stunning guitar, Jeff and I agreed that Tim’s mariachi-styled trumpet gave the song its unique voice, and even gave the whole project a benchmark for where we might begin next time. Steve Rossiter who did all the mixing for us, is someone Jeff had worked with on other projects. Steve I think tapped into the essence of these songs and highlighted their obvious strong points without loosing any of the subtleties and nuance. The mixes Steve did, I felt, could have been the record but knowing and having worked with Scott Hull in the past, we wanted to get his take on these songs. Scott amazingly pushed it even further and gave it yet another level of depth and personality. Scott and his team are just the best.

: Thanks guys, last question, are there any artists doing really exceptional work right now that people should know about - besides yourselves of course?

: Pretty much anything that Ry Cooder does; Tom Russell; Ray Bonneville. That new Neil Young book is really cool too.

: Daniel Lanois’s latest 'Flesh And Machine', Mark Ribot’s 'Ceramic Dog', anything Bill Frisell is doing, and John Trudell for reconnecting to humanity.
Written & compiled by Johanna J. Bodde - March 12th, 2015.