It has been a little while, but Fayetteville-based punk band The Inner Party is back.
The band, led by local songwriters Keith Miller and Dave Morris, will perform for the first time in about 18 months this weekend, when they’ll also be celebrating the release of a brand new record Saturday night at Ryleigh’s.
CD copies of the new 16-track album, titled The Inner Party Makes a Mess will be available at the show, and the record is also already streaming on their Bandcamp page.
Admission to the show is $5, and locals The Good Fear will also perform.
We got in touch with Morris from the band to talk about the new album, the recording process, and the latest musicians to join he and Miller in the lineup, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
It’s been a while since we checked in with you guys. What have you been doing for the past couple years?
Squandering what’s left of our prime? Trying to outdo Spinal Tap in terms of drummer turnover? I believe the last time we checked in was before the release of our “Degenerate Era” EP and unfortunately we lost our drummer shortly after it was released.
For whatever reason, this band has been absolutely cursed from day one on the drum throne. Counting our drum machine days and people who have just recorded with us, we’re currently on our 8th drummer. We’ve struggled with this enough to know that this area has a strikingly low number of drummers for some reason. On top of that, whenever we do find one they are without fail always heavily involved in at least one other band and we’re always like the mistress they never leave their wife for.
We’ve at least been fortunate in that the guys we’ve played with have all been great and we don’t have hard feelings with any of them, but this has been the Achilles heel of our career, such as it is. The new guy’s working out so far so hopefully he’ll stick around for a while.
Anyway, we’ve been doing as much as we can in spite of being hamstrung by all of that. We played our last “regular” show here in November 2013 and after that we spent a solid nine months doing the one thing we could do – writing, demoing, and polishing up songs. It’s something that somehow always seems frowned upon for “local” bands to admit, but we’ve always had a lot of ambition for this band. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to play around town and have fun but that’s never been our thing. Of course we do like to have fun and we certainly don’t harbor any delusions, especially at this point, but we’re still striving to make some sort of larger impact.
We love playing live and we still want to do that as much as possible, but at this stage in the game our main goal is essentially documenting our existence by doing high quality “professional” recordings and releasing them on as large a scale as possible. Shows can come and go with virtually no evidence they took place, even when they’re really good. LPs and EPs are forever and we want to live forever in that sense.
I remember hearing you were in Nebraska working on the new record. Where did you guys record and how’d you choose the studio?
We recorded at FUSE Recording in Lincoln with Matt Sanders. Matty’s been a friend of mine for about 10 years or so. He’s played in a bunch of bands, most notably the JV All-Stars. As previously stated, we’ve had a “thing” with drummers and in addition to being a hell of an engineer he’s also a world class drummer and he was gracious enough to offer his services in that capacity as well for free so in a way he was kind of our only option. But beyond that, we are also trying to expand our scope and scale as much as possible and going to an excellent out-of-state studio seemed like a more big league type move that we could actually pull off so we did it.
How was the recording process up there different from your previous recording experiences?
Well the only other proper studio we’ve worked in is East Hall here in Fayetteville and we had wonderful experiences there. Chris (Moore, owner and operator of East Hall) is great and East Hall is a fantastic studio, but his specialty is tracking live to tape. Back in 2012 we were lucky enough to be one of the bands that got to record there for free thanks to a mysterious benefactor (again, thank you, whomever you are) and at the time we had a solid gigging line-up so it was easy to take that approach. However, since this time around our live operations were non-existent we had to go with the more common practice of tracking everything individually. In a lot of ways that was more comfortable for us since we’ve done extensive home recording over the years. So really it was similar to what we’re most accustomed to, except of course it was in a drastically nicer setting. FUSE really is a marvelous studio and I really can’t say enough good things about Matty as an engineer. We knocked out 18 tracks in 6 days and we wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if he wasn’t very, very good at his job.
Fortunately for us we’ve had basically nothing but good experiences with professional recording, and since we had a great experience last time around, we actually had the album mastered by Chris at East Hall.
Is the ‘Minimum Wage’ single on your Bandcamp page from that recording session? (It sounds great)
Yep. We were extremely excited when we finally got the final, mastered album in our grubby little paws so we popped that up on ye olde ‘net more or less as soon as we got it. The original plan was to release it as a flexi-disc in advance of the record, but in the Inner Party tradition finances of course got in the way. We still want to do that though and hopefully it will happen later this year.
Anyway, we chose this one as our opening salvo because it’s been a live favorite of the few fans we’re lucky to have. It’s also a very straightforward song and it felt more appropriate to go with it, especially given the subject matter.
There are a few songs on the record that are a bit of a departure for us in that they’re storytelling type songs about fictional characters rather than being about one of us in some way, but this one is very much my hopefully humorous take on my whole life, really. (And thanks.)
You guys have some new players on the latest album. Who played on the record, and what does the Inner Party live lineup look like for the release show this month?
Probably the greatest tragedy of this record is that Jimmy Holloway, who’s been playing guitar for us since late 2011, wasn’t able to go to Lincoln with us. So for this recording the band was really just Keith (Miller, IP frontman) and me, and since we were multi-tracking that was feasible, and thanks to the magic of Pro-Tools Matty was able to actually make us sound good! (That’s one of those self-deprecating little japes I like to make that for some reason people never seem to take as such.)
Anyway, I digress. As I said before Matty was nice enough to track some drums for us, but another friend of mine named Ian Francis also did a lot of drumming on the record. He’s an absolutely killer player. He’s played in a lot of bands, most notably Beep Beep who were on Saddle Creek Records and who played a show here with Lucero at the Dickson Theater back in like 2004.
He also played in this crazy prog band called The Machete Archive and they came through Fayettenam a few times on tour.
We also got some backing vocal variety from my friends Nick Tarlowski and Christina Hatcher, both of whom were in this awesome band called The Heat Machine who also came through here many times during their career. Other than all of them though, all the tracking was done by Keith and me.
Our live line-up is a whole other story. We actually did a gig in Lincoln with the recording line-up the last day we were in town, and I’d really like to experiment with something like that again if it’s at all possible.
For this show at least and hopefully for the foreseeable future, it will be Keith and me in our normal roles of guitarist and bassist, respectively. Thankfully we will be rejoined by Jimmy on guitar and with Derek Faires holding it down for us on drums.
Derek’s done a bit of session work around here and he was in a band called Hustles the Hall that had some decent success here a while back. He also currently plays bass in a band called Atomic Hi-Five. We’ve also been trying to find an auxiliary member for some time now to do some guitar work so Keith can play keyboards on some songs live. We have been talking with someone whom I’m really stoked about but I don’t know if things are going to work out with them for this show. Hopefully we’ll be making an exciting announcement in that regard for our next gig, whenever that is.
In the meantime, Derek actually plays to a click track so we’re experimenting with triggers and such to round out our live sound.
Tell us a bit more about the release show. Will you guys have any CDs or vinyl available that evening? Where else will folks be able to get their hands on the record?
This release and also the release show are like the mirage I’ve been stumbling through the desert towards for forever it seems. It’s kind of like that feeling I always got at the end of a semester where even though everything was done I couldn’t relax because I was so used to feeling like I had a paper to write or something. Sadly we won’t have any vinyl but we are trying to work out a vinyl run for this record as well as our “Degenerate Era” EP. We WILL have CDs on hand though, so please buy one!
The record will also be available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify, and all of that kind of stuff. It probably won’t be on Pandora until this summer because they have a whole different process, but we do already have a channel on there so it will be there eventually. We also hope to have a cassette version available in the very near future, but sadly we won’t have those at this show. Hopefully people don’t mind settling for a CD while we work on releasing the album on a hipper medium.
If we’d been paying a bit more attention, we would have booked this show on Friday, March 13. Not only is it Friday the 13th and I’ve always loved playing shows then, but March 13 will also be the seventh anniversary of our very first show as the Inner Party, which incidentally also took place at Ryleigh’s. For whatever reason we haven’t played there since, so in a way it’s like everything is coming back around.
We are also very, very excited about playing with The Good Fear, whom we haven’t played with since our early days. The Good Fear is in a perpetual tie with American Princes and The Paper Hearts for my all-time favorite Arkansas band, so this show is also special to me on a fanboy/geek level.
What’s next for you guys?
I’d like to say fortune and fame but I will gladly settle for being able to play a lot of shows and record one more album relatively soon. We’re certainly going to try to play a lot more shows this year to promote the record and after we focus on that for a while we’ll work on getting back in the studio.
We already have enough material for another record but we’re going to take some time to revise the existing material as well as write some more songs. If we can pull that off and assuming we don’t finally fall ass backwards into some kind of great success, we’ll probably call it a day and put this band to bed. Nothing lasts forever and I’ve always thought it is unfortunate when people carry on well past their prime and I think there’s some dignity in knowing when it’s time to stop.
Whether we’ve ever done anything at all worthwhile is certainly debatable and we’ve never had any shortage of naysayers and haters, but I personally am extremely proud of what we’ve managed to do. If we can just get the rest of these songs out and done and released then I will feel like we gave it our best shot and we at least have something to show for it. I have about 25 “solo” songs I’ve been sitting on for years and after the IP is done I will work on getting them recorded and released as well.
Beyond that it will probably be time to finally let the dream die and move on to something else and trying to have a worthwhile life outside of music. Despite our lack of any kind of big success I’ve always had a hard time focusing on anything outside of this band because it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. Still, you have to face facts sooner or later and I believe we’ve set some realistic, attainable goals and once we achieve them I think I can make peace with things not working out exactly the way I’ve always wanted them to and move on.
Then again maybe we’ll finally get lucky and be inspired to keep going for many more years.