A good part of '95 was spent touring. The year began in Australia with REM. Later we would join the Cranberries in America. Yet the longer we spent out on the road, the more we missed the studio. I had continued to write while on tour and occasionally the three of us would find a moment to work through new material. Playing short concise sets as an opener left us with little time to experiment onstage. The general feeling was that if we were to create a third album of substance, it would require time to gestate, and a much needed period of grounding back at home. In the summer of that year we finally unpacked our bags in LA, and I soon began to write for the next album with a daily attitude of discipline. Having developed an obsession with The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds around this time, the piano was beginning to play a role in much of my writing. Ironically the three of us would one day find ourselves in the home of Brian Wilson, as he listened to our cover of "In My Room", which was featured on the TV show, "Friends" and it's soundtrack that year.
     The new arrangements were becoming more ambitious and the lyrics often more meticulous. In retrospect I've come to accept the album's accomplishments as well as it's shortcomings. At the time, the album seemed to demand hard labor. I recorded home demos on my 4 track for Joey and Paul to absorb throughout the summer and fall. After a few weeks of rehearsals, recording finally commenced in November 1995. While at Hollywood's Cherokee Studios, I began searching for a title that might compliment the tone of childhood memories that had evolved in the lyrics. I recalled a long stretch of road where I grew up which led to a nearby copper town, it was called Copperopolis. The word itself had a mythical ring to it, which also suited the visual art that I was creating, images that would become the album art. In keeping with the sweeping breadth of Fuzzy and Mighty Joe Moon, Copperopolis aimed for a similar diversity. "Arousing Thunder", one of my favorites, hovers in a kind of beautiful fog, while "Homespun" conjures the violence and terrorism that had reared it's head months earlier in the Oklahoma City bombing. There's a strange juxtaposition of songs rooted in the very personal and also those that are entirely public. One of the album's finest moments, is arguably "Bethlehem Steel". Inspired by the legendary steel town of Bethlehem, PA, and in more general terms, the theme of human aspiration. The lyric is set against a dark and grinding soul groove. It's admittedly an odd amalgam yet probably one of the album's most unconscious efforts. Although there was a growing concern within the label that more attention needed to be paid to producing a radio single, it's fair to say that the greatest achievements of Copperopolis are to be found in it's most subtle gestures like "Hyperion and Sunset", "All That I Have", and "The Only Way Down". Those who express appreciation of this album in particular seem to key into the theme of hope in the face of adversity.
     Perhaps this album, more than the others, is unconsciously preoccupied with endings and the pain of transition. There is a melancholia that looms over Copperopolis, something I've come to accredit to the fracturing of the group's morale in late '95. The demands, the sacrifices, and the expectations which the three heaved upon ourselves both on tour and in the studio would soon collect it's tax. During an interview in Brussels for our third album "Copperopolis", a journalist asked innocently, "How long with Grant Lee Buffalo continue?" Ironically, Paul Kimble responded with "Seven years... give or take, we burn pretty brightly." Within three years of that interview Paul and I parted ways. Paul was invaluable, both as a musician and as the producer of Fuzzy, Mighty Joe Moon, and Copperopolis, but the price of success was paid for in our relationship at the time.
proceed to PART 5: TRULY JUBILEE
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