Joey Peters and I continued onward for a fourth and final Grant Lee Buffalo album, "Jubilee." Producer, Paul Fox who had worked with XTC, Robyn Hitchcock and Victoria Williams was brought on board to produce the album that also featured a host of guest musicians, all of them friends like Hitchcock, Jon Brion, Michael Stipe and others. I had spent some time that year jammin' off and on with bassist Dan Rothchild (originally of "Tonic" and the son of legendary Doors producer, Paul Rothchild) at an LA club called Largo. Joey and I asked Dan to help us fill out the basic tracks for the record.
Meanwhile, Grant Lee Buffalo grew to a mighty four piece on the road with the inclusion of Bill Bonk and Phil Parlapiano who had previously recorded for Geffen Records as The Brothers Figaro. These two played anything you threw into their hands. The sound of Jubilee was rollicking, stomping, and by far the most uplifting of all the albums in the Grant Lee Buffalo catalogue. I've often felt that some of this could be traced to Velvet Goldmine, the Todd Hanes film that I had written songs for leading up to Jubilee. We had recorded these songs in a carefree live fashion at Cherokee Studios. Paul Kimble had produced them before going on to produce the lion's share of the soundtrack in London. Collaborating with members of Radiohead, Roxy Music, and others, Paul was beginning to become appreciated for his talents as a producer in his own right, just as we were going our own ways. Although there was a huge loss in the absence of Paul Kimble on Jubilee, there was a sense of challenge. Joey and I knew we had to swim or sink. In truth, the old ways no longer seemed to apply, this was creatively freeing. For both Joey Peters and I it was an album that allowed us both to explore, and reinvent our approach. Touring also brought our music to new heights. As a four-piece, the songs became open to an even richer interpretation live. Along with the velvet curtains, golden cherubs were now hoisted above the stage, while a bubble machine belched fizzy lifting gas over Bonk's bass cabinet. It was a fun show, with all the goofy props and the circus atmosphere. All of this was coinciding with my own desire to make peace with myself as a performer at the time.
The celebrational spirit of Jubilee actually brought a renewed optimism to me personally. The album was well received and understandably the expectations at the label were high, probably too high. Although the highly refined Jubilee had brought the band considerable success at radio with "Truly, Truly," a shift within the industry was well underway. The label's constant nagging about "Call-out Response" was both a new term and a bewildering concept to our ears. The basic strategy: a radio station arranges to call up a listerner who is asked to consume about 30 songs over the phone, perhaps 20 seconds of each. From this remote encounter, the listener will then proceed to judge the material. Insufficient call-out response was a big reason that Jubilee hardly got a shot at Warners. Grant Lee Buffalo tunes are often like an old car or an old amp that needs a few seconds to get warmed up, but when it does... look out! Meanwhile, a new crop of young record buyers, the largest since the Baby Boomer era, were now being targeted to the exclusion of Gen-Xers, like myself, still waiting for the Pixies to reform.
As for Grant Lee Buffalo, I sensed they were beginning to wonder if we'd ever get through finishing school. Before that could happen, band and label parted as did Peters and myself. The scenery was changing and I was looking for new explorations. I'm sure we all were. Perhaps we always will be.
proceed to PART 6: TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
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