WHAT'S HIS NAME
What's-His-Name is the sophomore effort from a band that knows how to put together a great song. Singer/songwriter Bob Carr and the group have been working on this album with producer Gene Holder (Yo La Tengo, Freedy Johnston) for the last two years polishing What's-His-Name into a fine collection of rockin' pop songs loaded with soul.
Since the release of their debut Pleasureland the group has slowly evolved into its current lineup. It was a painful transition. Original drummer Eric Harris left to join Chocolate USA and was replaced by Ken Tondre. Just prior to recording the new album, bass player, Larry Bonforte decided to become a full-time carpenter (perhaps the inspiration for the song "On Your Side"?) and guitarist Rich Weiner left right in the middle of the recording. Mike Santoro of New Jersey legends The Selves joined up on bass, and after a long search, Mike Daly signed on to play lead guitar. Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Freedy Johnston) also helped out on the recording adding his guitar wizardry.
Almost two albums worth of tunes were cut. One day, Swales looked up and realized they had exhausted their hefty Bar/None recording advance. In order to finish the album the group helped to finish building a new studio room and isolation booth at Water Music in Hoboken in exchange for more studio time.
What's-His-Name is loaded with great simple story songs about American life, proof that there is plenty of inspiration right in your own back yard. Check out the mini teen movie of "One More Mistake", the drinkin' buddies dancing in the above-ground pool in order to keep the gin cold ("Tanqueray Tango") and the ornery older guy begrudgingly teaching a youngster the ways of the road ("Teach You To Drive").
So give a listen, let these seamless tunes crawl into your skull. We guarantee you'll know What's-His-Name.
What the hell is a Swale? We first became aware of the band through a tape in the mail; the cover had a reproduction of some Olde English style non-terrestrial creature on it, and that is where the name speculation stops. That tape, Heartbroke and Bummin', was no demo. It was a fully conceived and flawless album on cassette. It was initially difficult to reach them to profess our love for it 'cuz there was no return address or phone number (no phone at all we found out later). In retrospect, it can be seen that the first Swales tape was a blessing, rich in mystery and deep in soul.
Swales shortly before we got turned on were actually just Bob (former U.S. Marine) and Larry (former skate punk). They lived in a red house on a rural Jersey hillside (still do) along with a guitar, a bass, and their own revolutionary 4-track cassette machine. Bob had a bunch of songs, and the two of them proceeded to embrace the living room-as-recording studio aesthetic. These bare-boned tunes were gradually embellished by musical friends who stopped by, were treated to a listen, and invited to contribute. Tablas, trumpet, and voice here; harmonica, flute and pedal steel there. Eric the drummer, who was running a homemade cassettes catalog called Sonic Delights at the time, joined the band full-time during this experience. Guitarist Rich was found through a want ad and dutifully rescued from cover-band hell (i.e. Greased Wheezer). Swales were a band!
As their catalogue of creations built up, so did the necessity to capture these genuine homeboys in a 'real' studio to properly capture a full frequency range recording of their vibrant material. Noted pop song aficionado Gene Holder was mutually recruited as producer to help sculpt what would become Pleasureland. His articulate touch graced the last three albums by Yo La Tengo in the same capacity. Additional guest emotions were provided this time around by the masterful Tony Trischka (banjo whiz and Rounder recording artist, ), Janet Wygal (The Wygals, The Individuals) and Bob's siblings, Paula and Mike Carino.
We will not compare them to anybody because, "Goddammit, why?!" Weighty melodies and words. Punch, pull, kick, and whisper. Listen, and try to remember when the last time was that a collection of songs made you free-associate with your own past and possible futures, all the while singing along. Swales are the genuine article, and Pleasureland is a treasure. Testament to the beauty you can find growing in your own backyard.
Bob Carr - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Lawrence Bonforte - bass, bongos, vocals
Eric Harris - drums, congas, keyboards, vocals
Rich Weiner - lead and rhythm guitar, vocals
1990 - Heartbroke & Bummin' *
1991 - "On Your Side" b/w "Dude Rocker" (Bar/None 7")
1991 - Moya Krova *
1992 - Nightlife EP *
1992 - Pleasureland (Bar/None CD/CS)
1995 - What's-His-Name (Bar/None CD)
* These are all Sonic Delights cassettes, and the Bar/None 7" is two songs from Heartbroke and Bummin'.