Tortoise Tackling Two New Albums, Tour
Chicago instrumental rock act Tortoise tackles material by some unlikely sources on "The Brave and the Bold," a collaborative album with indie rock icon Will Oldham.Chicago instrumental rock act Tortoise tackles material by some unlikely sources on "The Brave and the Bold," a collaborative album with indie rock icon Will Oldham. The 10-track set is due early next year via Overcoat Recordings, which recently issued a collaborative EP from Iron & Wine and Calexico.
Among the surprising selections on "The Brave and the Bold" are Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," Elton John's "Daniel" and Richard and Linda Thompson's "Cavalry Cross." The album is rounded out by material originally recorded by Devo ("That's Pep"), the Minutemen ("It's Expected I'm Gone"), Milton Nascimento, Lungfish, Quixotic, Melanie and Don Williams.
"We started off intending to do a four-song EP with Will, with the idea that they'd all be cover songs," Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs tells Billboard.com. "We did four songs in four days, which is pretty much the quickest Tortoise has ever done anything. It was such a pleasant experience and so much fun, and the results were really great. So we thought, we should do some more."
Guitarist Jeff Parker is particularly enthused about the "Thunder Road" cover. "Just in terms of the way that song is constructed, it's like a movie," he says. "I think the version we did is epic in the same way, but it has a downtempo, almost R. Kelly/Isley Brothers kind of feel."
As for "Daniel," Parker reveals, "There are casual allusions to the harmonic progression. But other than that, it's just a drone with a stagnant guitar part underneath. It's pretty haunting and dark."
McCombs says a Tortoise/Oldham tour was in the planning stages for this fall but Oldham needed more time to regroup after an unusually long road trip with his latest project, Superwolf. "We'll talk about the possibility of maybe doing a tour early next year," McCombs says.
Meanwhile, Tortoise is gearing up for its fall tour backing artist/producer Daniel Lanois, which begins Oct. 6 in Los Angeles. The parties have yet to rehearse together, but McCombs says the "idea is that we can be interpretive, like using his songs as a jumping-off point to do whatever seems natural. Most of the stuff he sent us is really open-ended."
Tortoise will also test out some new material during its own sets, with an eye on returning to the studio by the end of the year and a hopeful fall 2006 release date for its next Thrill Jockey album. It will be the follow-up to 2004's "It's All Around You," which debuted at No. 13 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums tally.
"Our last album was kind of crammed full of melodies, and for whatever reason, we felt like every song we wrote for it, the natural thing was to try and put a melody on top to make it real concrete," McCombs says. "We've kind of been shying away from that. A few things we've been working on, we've left them in a more open area where they could be flexible. They don't have to be so grounded in a strict melodic structure."