Ludo's second major-label album, Prepare the Preparations, is in stores this week. Like 2005's Broken Bride EP, the collection has grandiose, theatrical arrangements: Pirate-themed instrumentation (think Gilbert & Sullivan) drives several songs, while '50s-sock-hop slow dances ("I'll Never Be Lonely Again") coexist with glam-jams scarred with epic guitar solos ("Battle Cry"). But other Preparations songs (the robo-funked, cybernetic highlight "Cyborgs vs. Robots," the Guster-like "Manta Rays") find the group stretching its songwriting legs. On a recent afternoon, the core quartet — vocalist/guitarist Andrew Volpe, Moog player Tim Convy, guitarist Tim Ferrell and drummer Matt Palermo — met at Blueberry Hill to discuss working on Preparations with producer Matt Wallace (who also produced its major-label debut, You're Awful, I Love You). For more from Ludo, head to www.rftmusic.com.
B-Sides: How was it different being in the studio this time around? You were in the same place with the same producer.
Tim Convy: We felt like we belonged there a little bit more. Last time it was like, "Oh my God, we talked somebody into giving us a record deal and spending all this money. Can we pull this off?" You know, "We have to make a record good enough that they actually put it out, we have to do this, we're [on] a major label." Also, at that point I think there was still a lot of, "What is it that Ludo does?" We had made two records that were so incredibly different from each other. It's a whole lot of, "Who are we, what do we do, what the hell are we doing here?" This time it was way more like, "We belong here. Our last record was mildly successful. We are supposed to make records like this." We knew a little bit more about what it was that Ludo did and did well. It was more comfortable. Matt Wallace is more of a friend and stuff now.
We also had our friend Mark McClusky there, who we have worked with for a long time on demos and different things. He definitely made a difference. He did a lot of the demos with Andrew [Volpe] when they were working in Chicago. [He] came out [to the studio with us] and brought something else to it — and again, just made it more comfortable and felt more like we belonged. It was us and friends.
How was the writing process different this time?
Andrew Volpe: In the past, I would sort of come up with an idea on an acoustic, and we would iron things out as a full band. I was always frustrated with the process, because...on GarageBand or in a studio where you can just take things and move them, you can take an idea and just intellectually try something, and you can hear it and be like, "Oh, OK." Particularly with drums and stuff like that — poor Matt [Palermo, drummer], I would always be like, "Could you try something that sounds more like...purple?"
For me, being able to draw up notions on GarageBand instead and then be able to make demos with Mark in Chicago, I was able to get all of my ideas on one piece of paper, sort of, and be like, "This is what I'm thinking." [Car starts in the background; conversation pauses] And then from there, they took it and ran with it, and everybody added what they do and shaped the songs.
So many times I'd have something in my head that I couldn't communicate to people, and I couldn't tell them the right thing so we could hear it as a full band. I'd play something, and people would be like, "Ehh, I don't know." [I'd be like], "If I could just present it the way I hear it...." It was easier for me this time to get it all out in one piece. — Annie Zaleski