The Lord Baltimores is the unlikely collaboration of its two members, R. Jason Vandygriff and David J. Pierce, and their very different musical backgrounds. Pierce, aka DeepEars, is a composer/arranger/trombonist with a degree in music from the University of North Texas while Vandygriff, aka RJ5, is a self-taught guitarist and producer that spent 15 years touring the US and Australia in a punk band. The two met when Pierce was hired to arrange a horn feature on a record that Vandygriff was producing. During the session they both expressed to one another their desire to do something unique. Vandygriff had already been looking for an opportunity to do a record that was a full horn feature and had an indie record label ready to back it. David, who usually writes for other artists, saw the opportunity to create something that was completely original on his terms. What they ended up creating was something that was neither imagined or intended.
“Initially, I thought we were going to make a funky, R&B and Soul record,” says Vandygriff. “It was a genre I wasn’t really seeing as a producer, but one I really loved and always wanted to explore.” During this time, Pierce was working constantly as a sought-after composer, arranger and session player in Texas in addition to his live gigs so his commitment was limited. Then came 2020 and the pandemic. And the direction of what would eventually become the Lord Baltimores changed.
In late 2019 Vandygriff began sending Pierce something more ambient with a cinematic feel. Some songs had a more complete form, but others were an incomplete collection of grooves and chords. This got Pierce’s attention. And when work stopped due to the pandemic of 2020, Pierce dove completely into the project. “I took “Corazon” and flushed out an entire song,” says Pierce. “Horns, strings, piano, synth, everything. I pasted in his drum/guitar/bass parts and Frankenstiened the whole thing.” Vandygriff loved it and gave Pierce carte blanche on the rest of the songs.
The two spent the next five months poring over the charts preparing for what would be quite the undertaking in the studio. There are so many layers to the music that it would require some of the most versatile musicians that they could find. They decided to record at the Echo Lab in Denton, Texas, a familiar place for both. This would give them access to a who’s who of talent that had come through the storied University of North Texas music program over the years, and Pierce knew them all. Players that have performed or recorded with an eclectic list of names including Norah Jones, Snarky Puppy, Lauren Hill, Elle King, Meshell Ndegoecello, Polyphonic Spree, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and so many more.
Acting as co-producers, Vandygriff mostly oversaw the rhythm section in the studio while Pierce’s focus was horns, strings and synths. The bulk of the record was record at the Echo Lab from July to September of 2020. Guitars and other final touches were completed at Vandygriff’s studio in Houston over the next few months. To mix the record, the guys brought in Grammy award winning engineer and long-time friend David Willingham.
What the Lord Baltimores became is hard to describe. It’s orchestral and cinematic with a familiar groove. Mostly instrumental with a plethora of instrumentation that will see synth solos transition to a jazzy saxophone complimented by strange guitars. There is a very “noir” feel at times that makes you think of a 70s detective movie or a blaxploitation score. Funky basslines and disco vibes with Latin percussion. While Vandygriff’s grooves may be hooky and more simplistic, Pierce’s composing is very detailed. Sweeping strings create a mood over the dominant and powerful horn section. The influence of an Ennio Morricone or a Bill Conti is hiding in plain sight. The Lord Baltimores deduce it to “stoner music…for music nerds.”
Today Glide is excited to premiere the band’s video for “Qualifier.” With a sleek groove that brings to mind trip hop as well as Afrobeat but with its own kind of gothic rock instrumentation, the song is an instrumental foray into a dark and mysterious world. The video of course complements this with a cast of oddball characters interacting as part of some scheme in a diner.
“The director captured a great visual representation of the cinematic, noir, and jazzy vibes of the music. And while this video is part of a much larger story, he did a great job of making it stand on its own.” – R. Jason Vandygriff