THE GRAND UNDOING
Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love
(Secret Candy Rock Records)

 

A game changing music masterpiece, Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love is the 2016 CD by Boston-area rockers The Grand Undoing. Throughout the ten track Sparks Rain Down CD, the central focus is on the songs and guitar work of composer / vocalist Seth Goodman. A range of musicians also appear—including the late, great guitarist Allen Devine, Andy Plaistad (drums), Kevin Mahoney (harmony vocals), Ian Kennedy (strings), Chris Nole (keys), pedal steel legend B.J. Cole and more. Speaking to mwe3.com about the Sparks album just prior to its September 2016 release, Seth Goodman explained, “I started writing Sparks Rain Down as soon as I finished with White Space Flavors. It really just came together one song at a time. Though in writing the next song, I was conscious of the record as a whole and trying to consider what would lend both expansiveness and balance to the finished product. Ultimately I was hoping to make an LP that managed to be more challenging, yet more infectious for the listener than the previous one.” With 2016’s Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love, Seth Goodman has established a new standard of pop-rock songwriter excellence that truly deserves a bigger audience. Speaking further about the trials of being a relatively unknown yet rising pop artist these days, Seth tells mwe3, “In some ways this is a great time to be making music. The accessibility of the technology, players, and other resources to be making adventurous music is really unparalleled. Conversely, there are a great many forms of entertainment out there now competing for people's attention.” Even in a crowded field of pop contenders, it’s nevertheless a sheer joy to behold Seth Goodman's latest pop epic with The Grand Undoing.




 


mwe3.com presents an interview with
Seth Goodman of The Grand Undoing


mwe3: You always come up with names for albums that are beyond unique. How did Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love take shape and what did you hope to achieve as a follow up to the critically acclaimed White Space Flavors And Parties On TV.

Seth Goodman: I started writing Sparks Rain Down as soon as I finished with White Space Flavors. It really just came together one song at a time. Though in writing the next song, I was conscious of the record as a whole and trying to consider what would lend both expansiveness and balance to the finished product. Ultimately I was hoping to make an LP that managed to be more challenging, yet more infectious for the listener than the previous one.

We tracked the drums at Andy Plaisted's studio, Electricandyland, about three songs a session as I came up with more material. Andy plays drums on the whole record and did an amazing job with some diverse material. Dave Westner, another integral Grand Undoing contributor, helped with engineering throughout, played percussion, and did his usual stellar job mixing the record.

mwe3: “Sing Yourself Home” is one of your best rock tracks. Does the song speak about the isolationism of the 21st century? Does the song also speak about a larger energy as the ending proclaims, “As the light reflects from his face, I am immune…” Potent stuff. Who’s playing the guitar solo?

Seth Goodman: Thanks. “Sing Yourself Home” is about modern isolationism juxtaposed against some larger notions of organicity and spirituality. I played all of the guitars on this.

mwe3: Tell us about your memories of “Key Biscayne”. Is the song autobiographical? The abrupt chorus “Wake up, the party’s over” is hilarious.

Seth Goodman: I used to go to Key Biscayne for school vacation with my parents. I actually had a great time there between the ages of 6 and 11 or so. There were lots of other kids there so I could kind of run free, have people to hang out with, a real treat for an only child, and all while my parents took care of everything. I think that particular time in life for me evolved as a metaphor for having a balance between connection and autonomy, a struggle that was somehow miraculously introduced and completely resolved for me during that fleeting time in childhood. A hunger for that resolution drives this song.

mwe3: The album Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love is dedicated to Allen Devine. When did Allen die, was it 2 years ago? What made him move to Germany and did he die there? I remember he had a great instrumental album called Hmmm... from 2003, and a pop vocal album called Poportunity, that were both featured on mwe3.com. When did Allen add his parts to “Key Biscayne”?

Seth Goodman: Allen passed away at home in Berlin in early September of 2015. He had moved to Germany as his wife, Janine, was originally from there. I was lucky to get him to track on “Key Biscayne” in the late Spring of 2014, when he was in Boston visiting. Allen's solo records are great. Poportunity and Thrillride are my favorites. Allen was also a big help in launching The Grand Undoing. He helped me demo songs in Berlin in 2010 for the first album, played on several tracks on the records, and was generally supportive of the whole project. It's still very hard to believe that he's not with us anymore.

mwe3: “Living In Amber” has a kind of subliminal Traffic / Procol Harum sound. Does that song flirt with ‘60s classic pop era? Who’s playing keys on that track? How was it recorded, how many vocal overdubs and is that a real mellotron effect?

Seth Goodman: That track does have a very 60's sound to it. I love the old Traffic and Procol Harum records. Chris Nole plays all of the keyboard parts on the record. He's a Nashville based session player who has played with many greats including John Denver, Emmylou Harris, Shelby Lynne, and Don Williams. No overdubs on the lead vocal track, and it's actually the scratch vocal track that I used as it had just the right laid back vibe that I was looking for.

The harmony vocal is sung by Kevin Mahoney, who I had a close harmony duet with for years, and is doubled. Other than that, it was recorded like all the others, drums first, then I would bring those home and meddle/experiment for many months. The keys and flute were tracked remotely. The mellotron is digital.

mwe3: Hearing “Let The Big Ball Go” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is that about your mom? Tell us about your mom. I was also very amused that you kind of took a little cue from “I’ve been Working On The Railroad”, (lol) but the shaking, racing, aching choruses are superb. Is that your after-life song or your “down below” song? lol

Seth Goodman: Ha! This song is a bit of an exorcist romp, and is, I suspect, about too many things to mention, though my mother is certainly in there. She was an eccentric character, smart, sensitive, and gentle, but with no shortage of demons that even to this day continue to stalk and hover in various dark corners despite her own passing several years ago.

mwe3: “Falling From A Plane” is a great way to follow “Let The Big Ball Go”. (lol) How did you get that title as it comes so late in the song? It sounds a little Bowie-esque. The song must have a deeper meaning. The instrumental violin break is great. You might consider an instrumental version. Have you thought a bit about Bowie these days?

Seth Goodman: "Falling From A Plane" is really about relinquishing control in the name of love and trust. Letting go. It is a bit Bowie-esque. I'm a huge Bowie fan and have been since I was 12. Bowie's passing was a massive artistic and cultural loss for so many, but I also found the extent to which his appeal ran through all walks of life, as evidenced by such a diverse outpouring of grief, rather touching. Ian Kennedy wrote and played the violin parts on this song. He always comes up with amazing stuff.

mwe3: “Most Of All We Just Go Around” is one of the more flip-pery songs on Sparks. It almost sounds like a Monkees pop track from the ‘60s. The song kind of speaks about road rage too. (lol) Is the title kind of metaphor for life itself? The song also mentions your dad, too right?

Seth Goodman: This one is a bit Monkees, isn't it? It also contrasts some existential notions with some more spiritual ones. My dad had just passed away when I was finishing the lyrics for this one, and having helped him through the last stage of his life, I noticed lots of dynamics intrinsic to the process of dying that related to where this song was going. Ironically, it's probably the most most upbeat song on the record.

mwe3: “Lady In Gray” is about a cat? I thought you said you were a cat person. The melody and string arrangement is fantastic. Again I hear that classic Traffic 1967 sound and the strings might as well be mellotrons. I know you were born in 1968 but just humor me! Besides Roy Wood would like this song!

Seth Goodman: Yes! I am a cat person, and this one I wrote for my 20 year old cat, Betty. I've had her since she was a few weeks old. She continues to do her job impeccably well. I was excited about doing a song with just piano and strings. Chris Nole wrote the string arrangements and played the piano. "Lady In Gray" definitely came out with a late 60's feel, which I really like. Long Live The Move!

mwe3: The title track “Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love” is the highlight of the album wouldn’t you think? Does that song kind of encapsulate your kinetic and animated sound? The string intro is brilliant. Does the song speak out about the existentialism of the universe in the internet era? Another great guitar solo!

Seth Goodman: I think this is my favorite track on the LP too. And it does seem to embody The Grand Undoing sound. While I do want to leave some space for people to interpret this song as they see fit, I will say that this one is largely fueled by both the trials and joys of true intimacy. And despite the strings, I hear some Slade and some Sex Pistols coming through pretty strong.

mwe3: The album ends with two kind of Jacques Brel kind of existential songs “The Winter” and “Anyway The Wind”. Those are the two tracks with BJ Cole on it. It’s amazing how BJ and his magical steel nails the spirit of the song. Tell us how BJ is doing or if you have some info on him to add. Were you going for a different sound and vision on those two final tracks? They seem more neoclassical but “Anyway The Wind” has a brilliant chord sequence. Going out on a wave of existentialism!

Seth Goodman: I wanted to close the record on a darker, more troubled opened ended note, rather than resolving it definitively. Maybe even, in part, to set the stage for the next record. BJ is amazing. He comes up with these really original and expansive parts that are always very much in the spirit of the song. He actually tracks remotely for me, which of course makes it really easy. I just send him a rough mix of the song and he sends me back his tracks. Dana Colley, from Morphine, really shines on this one too, on the clarinet and the baritone sax.

mwe3: The CD cover art for Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love is amazing. There’s got to be a great story behind the album art. Are you also releasing on Lp as the cover art kind of begs for a big gatefold. I wanted to write trendy notes like a famous radio DJ writing on the back of an 1960’s Lp jacket. I know a lot of artists are also starting to make vinyl and even cassette these days but the CD sound is still the best too. Sort of what goes around?

Seth Goodman: Sara Fuschetto, my lovely lady, did the CD layout and design and did an amazing job. The cover was shot at home in the yard just after a spring snowfall, accentuated by a candy and gold star spill. All of the images in the artwork are about unlikely contrasts, dissonance, decay and beauty, and are meant to parallel the spirit of the songs themselves. We experimented with lots of shots and stagings for several weeks. I love the liner notes that you wrote! They definitely harken back to the heyday of rock, which I also love. A big gatefold would look great, although no plans right now for vinyl. I like vinyl a lot and I still buy some, but out of convenience I'm more inclined to buy CDs.

mwe3: Any new developments on the gear side for you? Your lead guitar work on Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love is amazing. I thought you had another lead guitarist, maybe because the songs and vocals are the main attraction and everything else is the icing on the cake. You actually have a picture of a chocolate cheesecake on the CD booklet and a snow-cone on the picture tray? Lol Tell us something new about your guitars on Sparks.

Seth Goodman: Thank you! The only new piece of gear I got for this is an amazing tube pre-amp from D.W. Fearn. I ran all of the guitars and vocals through it. But I'm really not much of a gear person. For years now, most of my time playing music is spent with my same old acoustic guitar, trying to write songs. I only put my lead guitarist hat back on for a few months when I'm tracking guitars, but I find that electric guitar comes back to me pretty quickly. Ha! The chocolate cake is actually in the trash and the snow-cone is melting!

mwe3: I am so glad you printed the lyrics to let people know you’re a very good lyricist too. Are lyrics harder than tunes to write and which comes first? For instance, which songs on Sparks were the easiest and the most complicated to write and record? Are you offering a single to radio?

Seth Goodman: For me, the lyrics are more challenging to write than the music. Though for the most part, I'll only pursue a musical idea if some lyrical ideas pop up fairly soon. The real time is spent filling in and finishing lyrics once I commit to a song. If I remember right, "Lady In Gray", "Anyway The Wind", and "Key Biscayne" all happened pretty quickly. Everything else took longer. I'm finding that in the roughly two years that it's taking me to write and record a record, I'm still refining parts and changing lyrics right up until it's time to mix. "Most Of All We Just Go Around" will be the first release from the LP.

mwe3: In 1968 with a record as good as Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love, you’d be on tour with Jimi Hendrix or something. Is this a good time for you as an artist and are you confident your music will be heard with all the bells and whistles and background noise of the 21st century? You said you were planning a trilogy or albums, so is Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love the first? Same time next year?

Seth Goodman: Thank you! In some ways this is a great time to be making music. The accessibility of the technology, players, and other resources to be making adventurous music is really unparalleled. Conversely, there are a great many forms of entertainment out there now competing for people's attention. And unfortunately rock music, especially ambitious rock music, is no longer topping that list. However, because it is so difficult today, I think there are more people making music for themselves and for the Gods than ever before, which of course is ideal. Sparks is the third Grand Undoing record, of which there will be at least two more. See you in another two years!




 

 
   
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