Last night Trey Anastasio premiered his new solo album, Traveler, on SiriusXM’s Jam_ON radio. Big Red offered a bit of insight on each of the LP’s 10 tracks before he played them. Anastasio hosted a radio show called Ambient Alarm Clock during his University of Vermont days and seemed at ease on the air as he waxed poetic on the Peter Katis-produced album.
When Trey reached out to Katis about producing his next album, the pair came up with a statement of purpose. They wanted to create an unapologetic studio record in which they used the studio as an instrument. The duo certainly succeeded on that end which gave Anastasio plenty to talk about last night. We’ve put together a list of ten cool facts/tidbits we learned from the broadcast…
1. Jennifer Hartswick nailed her part of Clint Eastwood in one take while sitting on the floor
Anastasio went on and on about JHA’s contributions to the Gorillaz cover and also called her the best person on earth, mentioning that anyone who has gotten to know her would agree. Hartswick took the mic for Clint Eastwood while sitting on the floor of the studio and nailed her rap/vocals in one track.
2. Corona features toy pianos and xylophones
The opening track of the album is what Anastasio called “a nod to Brian Wilson” thanks to the use of xylophones and toy pianos in Corona. Trey expressed how much fun he had playing xylophone and in reference to the Beach Boy said, “Brian Wilson was a genius of sonic arrangement and hopefully we dipped our toes in that water.”
3. Ray Paczkowski recorded the organ found on Frost in a big empty room
You’ll notice a crazy tone to the organ sound on Traveler’s third track – Frost. Turns out keyboardist Ray Paczkowski recorded the track in a big empty room. According to Trey, Ray’s organ track sounds like “outer space music.” Anastasio also mentioned that he took Tom Marshall’s original lyrics for Frost and ended up changing some of the words to fit his vision of the tune.
4. Trey went right to work on Farmhouse at The Barn after Story of the Ghost was completed because he felt songs like Farmhouse, Dirt and Bug deserved another shot
When Big Red was discussing Pigtail he talked about how it wasn’t a great fit for Phish the one time they played it but that he didn’t want to give up on the tune. He likened it to a situation with Phish in the late ’90s when Trey brought a number of songs to the recording sessions for the album that turned out to be Story of the Ghost such as Farmhouse, Dirt and Bug. When those tunes didn’t make the album, he was so fond of them he started recording them on his own at The Barn. Eventually, with contributions from his Phish band mates, many of those songs wound up on 2000’s Farmhouse LP.
5. Land Of Nod is “an easy place to get to and a really tough place to get home from”
We love Trey’s description of the mostly instrumental, horn-driven Land Of Nod. He mentioned that he wrote the tune himself and that most of the songs he writes himself tend to be “weird.”
6. Big Red thinks Phish played Pigtail in Connecticut
It’s almost a relief that Trey isn’t as big a Phish dork as we are. In his rap about Pigtail, Anastasio mentioned Phish played the tune once in Connecticut. In fact, the Phish performance of Pigtail took place in Worcester, Mass. on December 28th, 2010.
7. Scabbard was written by Trey quickly at 5AM in his living room
Considering how complex Traveler’s first single Scabbard is, it’s crazy to find out it was written really quickly by Trey. He woke up one morning and the weird melodies just flowed out of his head. Anastasio really likes the tune as it “sounds old and new at the same time.”
8. Trey and Peter made the chorus of Architect sound huge by splitting the bass
Big Red gave away a “trade secret” about the way he and Katis recorded Architect which was co-written with Steve “Dude of Life” Pollak. They created the huge-sounding chorus by splitting the bass line into hard stereo during the chorus. It’s a mono bass line that splits hard left and right, with two notes creating a sub-harmonic low. This was one of the more technical discussions during Trey’s hosting gig, but if you listen to the track on a good stereo you can make out what’s going on.
9. Trey’s favorite line on the album is found in the song Traveler
Anastasio mentioned that his favorite line on the album was written by Tom Marshall for the title track – “If you stand still you’re traveling too.”
10. Valentine contains a “happy accident”
When TAB horn players Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman were preparing to record the horn lines for Valentine, they sang the melodies to each other in an attempt to work them out. Anastasio and Katis overheard the interaction and loved it so much they asked the ladies to record a track of them singing the horn lines. The resulting track, which Trey referred to as a “happy accident,” sounded so good it was added to the version of Valentine that made the album.
You can hear rebroadcasts of the entire Traveler premiere, complete with Anastasio’s commentary, on SiriusXM’s Jam_ON radio on October 10 at 12PM ET, October 12 at 9AM ET, October 13 at 4PM ET, October 14 at 12AM ET and October 15 at 9PM ET. Stream the whole album over at Rolling Stone.