From The Horse's Mouth: Jesse Remnant of Human Cannonball on Let's Be Friends

Let’s Be Friends

In October, Dayton Ohio quintet Human Cannonball released Let’s Be Friends, an album that Dayton Daily News writer Don Thrasher (who has spent time behind the skins in a little band you may have heard of, Guided By Voices) called an “instant classic.”  It’s easy to see how the stellar melodies and musicianship struck a chord with him. 
For those not in the know, Human Cannonball’s latest is the follow up to frontman Jesse Remnant’s (who plays bass in Misra Record’s Southeast Engine) 2008 solo album The Human Cannonball.  For his debut, Remnant wrote and arranged all his own songs and played all the instruments.  For this outing, he enlisted a band of seasoned local players – including Eric Cassidy (guitar), Ken Hall (keyboards), Bryan Lakatos (bass) and Dan Stahl (drums) – and the recording expertise of Josh Antonuccio (the engineer behind the last four Southeast Engine records).
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Remnant to discuss Let’s Be Friends.  This is what he had to say about it…
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
Well, the album was recorded in July of 2010. A few of the songs were probably a couple of years old even at that point. So some of these songs are probably about five years old. But the thing with this album is that a few of the songs were written as we were recording. We went into the studio with about 14 songs and ended up recording 19. I’m a firm believer in the flow of creative juices. We were already in a very creative mindset with the recording of the album and so I would get home over the next couple of weeks and just write and write. And with a few of those songs, I just called up Josh Antonnucio, (our producer for this record) and said ‘I’ve got something new,’ and I would go in and record it.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
The most difficult song to get to where it is was “overtime.” That was a song that I wrote probably a year before the recording of the album and I had recorded a demo of it on a 4-track cassette recorder. When I wrote it, I didn’t really think much of it. I kind of felt that it was sort of a rip-off. Then a few months later, my brother, Adam Remnant got a hold of a few of the tapes I had been demoing on and listened through some of them. He had pointed out that song as one that I should work on. So I sent the demo out to the guys in the band and to Josh Antonuccio. The arrangement was really the hardest thing to get down. There were suggestions that we try to do it in a sort of up-beat Beach Boys style. I liked the idea of that so we threw together an arrangement in that style for the studio. When we got into the studio, it just didn’t work. We tried a few other arrangements with drums and other full band instrumentation and nothing seemed to work. So we ended up going back to my original idea for the song which was just acoustic guitar and bass. From there we added a few things like another guitar and organ and some percussion. It just took a long time for us to figure out, the simpler the better.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
The song “Annalucia” is probably the most different from how it originally was in my head. When I first wrote it, I kind of thought it sounded like the band. Now I have no idea how I ever heard that. But I wanted to do a sort of band-esque arrangement of it. But again, it came down to the simpler the better
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Josh Antonnucio, the engineer/producer for this record appears on the track ‘alley cat’ playing guitar and Caitlin Krauss-Torres sings harmony vocal on the last track, ‘arrows.’
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
The record was produced and engineered by Josh Antonuccio at 3 Elliott studios in Athens, OH. I had worked with Josh on two Southeast Engine records previous to recording of our record. Josh is one of my favorite people to work with when it comes to collaborating on songs. He actually helped me finish some lyrics and write a few parts to some of the songs for this record. Josh really helped pump some excitement into the recording of these tracks.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
The album was originally titled “the barber and His Son” which is a lyric from “Annalucia.” I liked that title but felt that it really had nothing to do with the whole feel of the album. Let’s Be Friends kind of seemed to encompass the concept of the album. I wouldn’t say there is an overarching theme to this album but I do think Let’s Be Friends could be taken a couple of different ways and kind of ties all of the themes together.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction?
We play most of the songs on this album live at this point. I believe “stop Crying” was the first song we started playing from this album which was at our second show as a band in July of 2009! The stronger rockers are always the songs that go over best in a live setting. “Classic Freak” has become our go-to show closer.