(a portion of this piece was published by Planet JH Weekly)
Dusty Nichols-Schmolze and Bo Elledge (formerly of Elk Attack) are collectively known as Canyon Kids. Along with The Flannel Attractions singer-songwriter, Pat Chadwick, the trio has embarked on a DIY recording project housed at Teton Artlab. The album is being engineered and produced by Nichols, with songs written by Elledge and Chadwick.
The Canyon Kids’s “Double EP,” released Valentine’s Day 2014, was a project in which each songwriter contributed four songs of their own. The result was a harmony centric style, rooted in folk, though blended with rock, electronica, soul, and psychedelia. Though the album large flew under-the-radar in the local music scene, it’s my favorite local release of the year thus far, and embodies a production aesthetic rare to the regional scene.
As for Chadwick, his efforts as bandleader and primary songwriter for The Flannel Attractions earned recognition in September from Paste Magazine, which highlighted two Jackson Hole bands in naming “nine impressive musical discoveries” in Wyoming as a part of its 50 States Project.
Aaron Davis: How did the residency at Teton Artlab come about? When did the residency start and when does it end?
Dusty Nichols-Schmolze: Bo was the one who secured the Artlab space. He was playing at an event sponsored by Slow Food in the Tetons. He sparked up a conversation with Travis Walker about a space to record in, and Travis very generously offered up a room for us to use at the Artlab. His artist residency program is starting on the first of the New Year, so until then the space is available. We moved in there and set up my equipment a few weeks ago.
Aaron: What are the pros/cons to the recording space at the Artlab?
Dusty: I think the environment has a big effect on how recordings come out. If the artist is feeling comfortable, and the vibe is good, you don’t need the fanciest equipment to get a great recording. At the end of the day it comes down to good songs, good performances and good vibe. And the Artlab is such a great vibe. We’re surrounded by talented painters and sculptors. Travis grabs a painting from his trunk, a canvas showing a cow on fire, and puts it up in our room. We really feel supported there, and it’s awesome! It’s such a blessing to have a space in town where you’re free to be creative and work on your craft, and the Artlab is just that. The space itself, it’s not a professional recording space by any means. With those concrete walls it certainly has some roominess to it, but I like that. I like the idea of the album existing in that space, and not some sterile environment. It’s unique.
Aaron: What’s one of your favorite tunes that you’ve written for this project? What’s the feel/vibe of the music, and lyrically, what’s it about?
Pat Chadwick: “Love Won’t Grow.” It’s a favorite because it switches between three different feels—soft guitar fingerpicking, swampy rock and a bluegrass vibe of sorts—and I think that they work really well together. Lyrically, it suggests that there isn’t “the one” romantically, but instead many potential “ones,” and that convenient timing is a bigger part of a relationship than we like to think.
Bo Elledge: My favorite song I’ve written for this project is a tune called “Valley of the Snake.” It’s sort of a nostalgic song about love and loss. I moved back to South Carolina this past winter and couldn’t get Wyoming out of my mind. It’s funny how living here for a couple years can fundamentally change you. One day this past winter I found a black-and-white photo of my old 1985 Suburban I had named “Bessie” (RIP). She was parked up in Curtis Canyon with a PBR on the hood and the snowcapped Tetons in the background. I sat down and instantly wrote “Valley of the Snake.” At the peak of the song I scream, “Had an old Chevrolet/Had a cowboy on her plate/She took me places I’d never been.” The lyrics are pretty straightforward but the truck is sort of an analogy about loving a town and a girl and just giving up on both. I wrote the majority of these songs this past winter in Charleston and they are mostly inspired by my experience in Jackson: “Valley of the Snake,” “Osprey Eyes,” and “Embers.”
Aaron: What will be the album title?
Dusty: Teton Artlab Sessions by Canyon Kids and Pat Chadwick.
Aaron: Who has played/tracked on the album thus far?
Dusty: Right now only four of us have been tracking. Jake Green has been tracking drums, and he’s doing a fantastic job. So far I’ve tracked bass, some electric guitar, and percussion. Bo and Pat have been laying down acoustic guitar.
Aaron: What three albums have you guys been listening to lately?
Bo: Shovels & Rope: Swimmin’ Time, the new Shakey Graves album, the new Blitzen Trapper album, Jack White: Lazaretto, and Bob Dylan’s new Basement Tapes.
Pat: Shovels & Rope: Swimmin’ Time, The National: High Violet, The Walkmen: Heaven.
Dusty: Spoon: They Want My Soul, Jack White: Lazaretto, and I think my favorite record of the year is Sun Structures by Temples.
Aaron: Pat—With The Flannel Attractions playing less live shows, have you had more time to focus on songwriting? How is this batch of songs different from your previous originals?
Pat: The Flannel Attractions haven’t been creating new original music, but members of the band have still been gigging together occasionally, and I could see some of them recording on this project before it’s complete. Still, that free time has helped inspire an influx of new songs. The main difference is that I’ve developed these songs with the help of rock and soul musicians instead of bluegrass musicians, and that has opened up a more dynamic range of options when it comes to rhythm and color.
Aaron: Pat—Is this your 2nd recording project in Jackson? How has this experience been different?
Pat: Yes, that’s correct. With The Flannel Attractions, I was heavily involved in producing our EP, and I would obsess over certain things. This time, there have already been several occasions where Dusty has stepped in to say that a take was actually good when I wanted to keep recording, so I’ve been trying to sit back and trust another set of ears to naturally capture these songs.
Aaron: Bo–How does this project compare in scope to previous Canyon Kids and Elk Attack recordings?
Bo: Dusty and I have collaborated on recording projects every October since 2011. We have an EP and two full-length records under our belts from our past and present bands: Elk Attack and Canyon Kids. That said, we’ve learned a whole lot about what works and what doesn’t. We recorded our first full-length Elk Attack album in 2012 at Ben Winship’s Hen House studio in Victor. It was an incredible place to record but we had to finish nine songs in four days. The record turned out awesome but it was a tad rushed. Post Elk Attack disbandment, Canyon Kids was recorded at the Pink Garter Theater this time last year over a period of two months. It was also a great place to record and we weren’t as rushed to meet a deadline. We also had a ton of incredible local Jackson musicians involved. We felt that effort was a success and decided to do it again this year except no fancy studio and on the cheap.
We used Kickstarter.com to group-fund a total of $10K over these past two projects. They were massive ordeals that involved a ton of people helping out. For this project I think our budget is $1,200 and that’s just for mixing/mastering. We have a free creative space thanks to the Teton Artlab and a free producer (Dusty), and that’s the main difference with this project—it’s DIY and stripped down. It’s taking us back to our roots of bedroom recording and making demos. It’s like we are trying to catch lightning in a bottle. For our song, “Embers,” we are going to do a 100% live recording with a campfire sing-a-long to an acoustic guitar.
Aaron: Dusty—What projects have you engineered/produced in JH?
Dusty: I’ve produced a few local bands, starting with Sneaky Pete & the Secret Weapons a couple years back. I then worked with Black Mother Jones and we recorded their full-length record at the studio in the Pink Garter Theatre. I produced my Canyon Kids project at the Pink Garter as well. The following winter I began producing out of Ben Winship’s studio in Victor, the Henhouse. I did an A/B side single release with Maddy and the Groove spots there, and most recently I engineered and produced Sneaky Pete’s full-length record, which will be released in December.