Initially, Meg Remy began to put the songs together for a new U.S. Girls album the way she always does. She began assembling a seemingly random collection of tunes until she had enough for a full-length.
“People send me musical ideas, or I ask them, or I write something lyrically that I have someone transpose to piano or guitar,” she says in a recent phone interview when asked about the songwriting process that led to the band’s latest release, In a Poem Unlimited
. U.S. Girls performs with the terrific indie pop band Tune-Yards at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Beachland Ballroom
. “It didn’t start as a conscious album. I’m always making stuff. There comes a point when you have enough things for an album. It was more natural in that way.”
Remy intended to record with Michael Rault, a Canadian singer-songwriter capable of playing a variety of instruments.
“He was going to track the album, and we were going to have him do everything,” says Remy. “We demoed it that way. It quickly became apparent how long it would take to do it that way.”
Remy knew she hit a roadblock. She also knew that her husband’s band, the Cosmic Range, had just gone into the studio to record some tunes written by her singer-songwriter husband Max "Slim Twig" Turnbull.
“He took them into the studio to do his own compositions, and they charted them out and knocked them out,” says Remy. “Him going through that process and me witnessing it made it apparent to me that we should use his band instead of having one guy do everything. It would take less time. The people in his band have played together since high school.”
Once the band laid down the basic tracks, the real work began. Previous U.S. Girls had been lo-fi productions. Remy wanted to take things up a notch.
“The vocals took the longest time,” she says. “We wanted to make sure we used the right mic. We did them painstaking. We made sure to use the mics and decide whether to leave breaths in or leave them out. It was a very long process. And then, there was the editing. We had eight musicians playing at the same time on each track, and it was too much. We had to carve everything out. We listened to it, and it sounded like shit because there was too much stuff in it. There was a long editing process, and as we took things out, we realized we needed a trumpet here and something else there. We were striving for perfection. We wanted a very produced sound, and we achieved it. I think it takes less work for people who have a lot of money. We did it on a cheap budget. You can achieve so much. The less money you have, the more time it takes. It was actually really fun.”
A song like “Incidental Boogie” shows just how much all the hard work paid off. Rattling percussion, a funky bass riff and bursts of guitars/vocals/synths turn the track into a terrific jam that represents how adventurous the band’s approach is on the album.
“That song is an old song of mine that was more beat-oriented,” Remy explains. “Originally, it was a beat and I sang over it and released it in 2013. It’s always been a favorite of mine. Since we had the band, we wanted to revisit the song. The band elevated it and gave it a new level of drama.”
While not necessarily an album highlight, “Why Do I Lose My Voice When I Have Something to Say?” finds Remy speaking in a hoarse voice that makes her sound like she’s possessed. It’s a nod to her experimental sensibilities.
“I was sick in a hotel room, and I had lost my voice,” she says when asked about the tune. “It was the beginning of the U.S. election season, and the Republicans were having their first debate with all their candidates. I had watched it in an airport and got very upset. I got sick as a result. I had to cancel the show. I wanted to perform and get a dialogue going about the shit that was going on. I lost my voice, and it made me think you either lose your voice or something silences you when you have something important to say. I make weird recordings like that all the time and send them to people. That was one I saved.”
Expect the Beachland show to be off the rails; Remy says she has a 9-piece band on tour with her, and you can expect the crew will tear the roof off the sucker.
“We play almost the whole album, and it’s a big band,” she says. “It’s the only way to do the album justice. We’re not half-assing it or paring it down to save money. We are going for it, and it’s really effective. I can tell that people haven’t seen a big rock band in a long time, at least not in small clubs. People see us setting up and think, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I think [touring with a large ensemble] was more common back in the day. It’s a real fun band. It’s high energy theatrics, and we really get people dancing.”
Tune-Yards, U.S. Girls, 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $22.50 ADV, $25 DOS, beachlandballroom.com.