For his follow up to the acclaimed Lightning Strikes EP, Pete RG once again recorded in his personal Santa Monica studio. This time, though, RG found himself working even closer with multi-instrumentalist/co-producer Brina Kabler, bassist Adam Kury, guitarist Kevin Haaland and drummer Dave Krusen (an original member of Pearl Jam), all of whom he toured the better part of the year with.
RG and his band kicked off an extensive tour in support of Reaching For The Moon this month, which includes a residency at New York City’s Piano’s. Upcoming dates can be found below.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Pete RG to discuss the record. This is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for Reaching For The Moon?
I began writing the songs for RFTM at the beginning of this year, shortly before we began our spring tour in support of the Lightning Strikes EP. I’d had the main guitar riff for “Our Escape” sitting around for several months. I was messing with it at rehearsal one afternoon. The band liked it and pushed me to finish it up ASAP so we could play it on the tour. Frankly, the reason the riff had sat around for a while was because I didn’t know what to do with it. So in trying to rise up to the band’s challenge, I began busting out idea after idea. A number of those ideas became the rest of the songs on the EP. As a consequence of being conceived from the same spark, they have a cohesive quality which I’m really happy with.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Without a doubt, “Our Escape” was the most difficult. As I mentioned, the main guitar riff was the spark for all of the songs on the EP. But as a song itself, it took me several weeks to write. The troubles continued during recording. Our first tracking session went well. We got the drums and bass in a few hours. But Kevin [Haaland, guitarist], Brina [Kabler, multi-instrumentalist/co-producer] and I recorded and re-recorded the guitars at least 4 different times. And those were long days, lots of hair pulling. Add to that the lead vocal cost me a set of headphones. Brina and I were working 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to meet our 6 week deadline. I sang most of the lead vocal to “Our Escape” in one afternoon, saving the high stuff in the last chorus for another day.
Unfortunately, a day or two later, my voice began to crap out on me due to fatigue. We only had a few days left before our deadline. We moved on to mixing. Those lines were still missing. It was time to sing them. I got behind the mic and my voice wouldn’t go there. Arrrrgh!! The headphones I had on were smashed. I’d never done that before. Brina sat me down, told me to go home and take a day off. When I returned the next day, my voice was good and the singing smooth. Kind of silly looking back on it, but I just wanted to get it done and put it behind me.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Fighting Fires” is the most different. I thought it was going to be an uptempo tune, but when the story within the lyrics was getting lost at the faster pace, Brina and I decided to slow it down. However, we were uncertain of what groove we wanted from the band and weren’t having much luck in solving the problem. Fortunately, we stumbled upon the percussion loop while recording the arpeggiated keyboard. A studio glitch caused a drum machine to be triggered by the keyboard I was using to play the arp. At first we were like, “WTF, where’s that loop coming from?” Once we realized what was happening, we were like, “Yes, that’s the missing groove!” When we played it for the band, Dave [Krusen, drummer] was particularly inspired. He immediately swapped out his rack tom for a second snare drum. Hence the two, swinging snare drums. He’s hitting his main snare for the backbeat and the second snare for the off beats. So cool. The band did a few extended takes. That’s when Kevin and I came up with our guitar parts and Adam [Kury, bassist] with his bass. We just kept going and left the heavy lifting to Brina to sort through everything for the best stuff. She’s great at that.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
No, we didn’t have any guest musicians. It’s Brina and I on vocals, guitars and keys. Kevin Haaland on guitars, Adam Kury on bass and Dave Krusen on drums. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of guest musicians on my stuff or anyone else’s. I find them to be a distraction from the essence of the song and the artist. Kind of like when an ensemble cast in a film distracts the viewer from its story.
Who produced the EP? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Brina and I produced it. We’ve done a lot of producing and engineering of other artists and we’ve produced all of my stuff. Why pass off the most fun part to someone else? Plus, while I’ve had the good fortune to work with some very big name producers in the past, both as an artist and as a co-producer, I can say without hesitation that Brina’s better than anyone of them. She’s a great musician in her own right as well as an excellent engineer. She has a fantastic sense of melody. For instance, she “sang” several of the key guitar parts on the EP for Kevin or myself to play. Add to that, she’s really good at bringing together many seemingly disparate pieces. Most importantly, she and I really enjoy working together.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new EP that ties it together?
There wasn’t an overarching concept to begin with, but what emerged was a thematic sense of redemption, optimism and a feeling of coming to peace with the past. In a musical sense, what’s interesting is that all of the songs are in the same key, the key of C, because they all began within the attempt to finish the same song, “Our Escape.”
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We’ve just begun touring in advance of the EP’s release on October 9. As of now, “Our Escape,” “Divine,” “True Love” and “Fighting Fires” kick off our set in that order (“Magic” is in our acoustic set). Quite promisingly, they’ve all elicited a strong response. For me, though, my faves are “Divine” and “Fighting Fires,” especially the latter. We’ve begun exploring new and exciting places with it within just a few shows. No ideas of recording it again, though!
(Pete RG’s Upcoming Tour Dates:
Sept 19 – New York, NY – Piano?s (Residency Show #2)
Sept 22 – Brooklyn, NY – King?s County Saloon
Sept 23 – Binghamton, NY – Cyber West Cafe
Sept 24 – Oneonta, NY – Black Oak Tavern
Sept 25 – Mt. Kisco, NY – MTK Tavern
Sept 26 – New York, NY – Piano?s (Residency Show #3)
Oct 29 – Eugene, OR – Sam Bond’s Garage
Oct 30 – Seattle, WA – Rendezvous
Oct 31 – Greenville, MS – Harrow Casino (opening for Candlebox)
Nov 06 – San Antonio, TX – 502 Bar
Nov 07 – Tucson, AZ – Flycatcher
Nov 11 – Indianapolis, IN – Melody Inn
Nov 12 – Chicago, IL – The Abbey Pub
Nov 14 – Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Cafe)