How did you two (Preston and Mark) get together originally?
MW: We’ve actually known each other since we were in grade school, but we
started playing music together in our senior year of high school. We were
both stealing time from the high school band’s practice rooms to play piano
and someone suggested that we try to write something together. So we got
together and wrote this really bizarre rock opera about a rat that becomes
the emperor of Rome.
PP: Kind of our Decemberists period. If I recall, things did not end well in
What brought you back into the recording studio after so many years?
MW: Our friend Matt Allison who’s produced all the Webstirs albums asked us
to do it. After "Radio Racket", the band went separate ways, but we kept
writing together off and on. We weren’t really writing an album – just
getting together to work on stuff whenever we had a few ideas. Without a
band or a specific goal – it made for a pretty relaxed and fun way of
working. We could just write whatever the hell we wanted because we weren’tgoing to try to pull it off live or anything. So when Matt suggested a new album, we went back and listened to all these demos and bits and pieces we’d been accumulating and found that there was some cool stuff in there. Some crap, too. But enough cool bits to get us excited about making another album.
PP: Yeah, Matt really threw down the gauntlet. Mark and I had played some
acoustic shows together, but there was no "band." During the course of
making this album, we really reinvented ourselves. It’s amazing that the
record sounds so cohesive, considering it was recorded over several years at
different studios with rotating lineups.
In the years prior to "So Long" what other projects did you do?
PP: I built a couple of bookshelves — oh, you mean musically? I played for a
while in Big Hello, which was originally Brad Elvis’ side project from the
Elvis Brothers. That’s where we hooked up with our bass player
extraordinaire Charlie. Mark was in Dad Factory, and now plays with This
Magazine is Haunted, which is kind of a Ginger Records "supergroup" with
members of Swinger and Love Kit (as well as Doug Bobenhouse from The Sun
Sawed in Half). They rock!
Hearing some of the guitar work, you get such a great sound. What type of guitar do you use?
PP: Anything and everything! I don¹t have the big Rick Neilson-esque guitar
collection, so I called in some favors with friends and we did a lot of
layering and experimenting with whatever was lying around the studio. (I
even snuck in my ukulele on "What Do You Believe.") Although, we relied a
lot on my Japanese Les Paul clone (made by Edwards). They¹re such good LP
copies that you can¹t even buy them here (I had to order it directly from
Japan) because they¹d put Gibson out of business.
MW: I have a vague recollection of a Flying V being played on "Big Break",
though I don’t think anyone was wearing spandex at the time.
PP: Spandex? No. Acid-washed jeans? No comment…
Are any of these songs left over from the before 2000, or are they
MW: They were all written after Radio Racket. There were a few new songs
that we were playing around that time that we tried to record, but when we
were deciding which songs to put on the album we all felt that the newer
songs had a certain vibe together so we didn’t end up using any of them (yet).
PP: Yeah, and we¹ve got some unreleased orphans going all the way back to
the early days. I love a lot of those tunes, too. Did someone say "Webstirs
So is "Malaise" really a thinly veiled reference to Brian Wilson?
MW: Isn’t everything?
What do you find works best for your creative process when bringing a
song together? Does it evolve from jams, riffs, lyrics?
MW: It just depends on the song. But it mostly entails the two of us sitting
in a room and tossing around ideas until we stumble on something we like. On
the new album Big Break evolved from a jam. In fact the original (4-track)
demo was built off the original take we did. We just kept adding stuff until
it worked. Still Drowning was a different song all together than what’s on
the album. It was more of a slow monotone thing, but we had this bigger pop
song we’d written that didn’t have lyrics. We tried singing the melody and
words over the new song and it became something that was better than either
of the tunes we’d started with. We usually start writing when one of us has an idea and then just see where it goes. It really helps to have someone else to bounce ideas off – and to be able to hear something and suggest something that you would never have thought of by yourself.
PP: And it helps to have alcohol too.
You’ve started playing some shows in support of this great album, any
stories from the road you’d like to talk about? Best experience so far?
PP: Right now, we¹ve just been playing around Chicago, but hopefully that
will change. And if anybody wants us to play, just let us know. We¹re pretty
easy to please: Four bottles of Cristal in the dressing room; organic kosher
free-range carb-free pasta; six midget bowlers and a tap-dancing goat. You
know, the usual stuff.
You guys are hilarious. But don’t quit the day job playing great music!