Syntax and Semantics marks a posthumous return of sorts for Burnside Project, the group’s first release in 11 years. Burnside Project was the electronic-leaning, indie-pop brainchild of Richard Jankovich, and was active in the NYC music scene from 1999 to 2006. Originating as a one-man band, Jankovich would soon be joined by permanent members Gerald Hammill in 2001 and Paul Searing two years later. Working out of their digital studio in Hoboken, NJ, Burnside Project released a handful of albums on Bar/None Records that combined their love of new wave, ‘90s-era indie rock, bedroom pop, and electronic dance music into a unique sound all its own.
With the release of 2003's The Networks, the Circuits, the Streams, the Harmonies, Burnside Project charted on college radio throughout the US (including heavy rotation on Seattle’s KEXP) and received high praise in mainstream publications, earning an A- in SPIN and placement on Rolling Stone’s “Hot List.” Their single, “Cue the Pulse to Begin,” would also bring the band licensing deals via a major motion picture (The Medallion) and as the theme song to Showtime’s Queer As Folk. The song became a top 40 hit on Japanese radio and in March of 2004, Burnside Project flew to the island nation for a promotional tour that triumphantly concluded with the group headlining a sold-out performance at Tokyo’s Astro Hall. The Networks’ follow-up, 2005's The Finest Example Is You, showed Hammill and Searing even more integral in Burnside’s songwriting process, fully contributing to the melodies and arrangements. The group expanded its live line-up, supporting the record as a five-piece until disbanding in 2006 when Jankovich moved to the West Coast.
The decade since has found the three members focused on their own creative pursuits. Jankovich released remixes and songs with the likes of Robyn Hitchcock and Tanya Donelly under his Pocket alias, as well as a double-length album as Mon Draggor. In 2013, he founded music promotion company Shoplifter and published a book on music branding. Hammill was a longtime associate of NYC’s renowned Other Music until its recent closing this past summer, but continues as a consultant for the company’s record label. He can also be found DJing throughout the city and playing guitar in the band 178 Product alongside Liquid Liquid’s Sal Principato. Searing turned to his love of photography, pointing his lens at rock legends like Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Neil Young, and more. His work can be seen across various media outlets and is also featured in the Museum of the City of New York’s permanent collection.
Although no longer making music together, Jankovich, Hammill and Searing have remained in close contact and recently revisited the long-shelved Syntax and Semantics. “At the time of its recording, we just couldn’t finish the concept so we held off on releasing it,” recalls Jankovich. Listening back to the sessions, however, they realized that the songs had aged quite well and, returning to their previous home at Bar/None Records, decided it was time to share this lost album. Syntax and Semantics is the group’s most engaging and diverse collection, with some songs aimed straight at the dance floor and others offering a swirling brew of modern psychedelia, electronica, and dub. With a bulk of the sessions recorded in 2004, Syntax and Semantics features guest spots from then-touring members Michael Lerner (The Antlers) and Anna Bohichik, along with cellist Molly Schnick (Out Hud, Jean on Jean), percussionist Dennis Young (Liquid Liquid), and others. The album is mixed by Paul Mahajan, whose production credits include TV on the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.