Grace Basement
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Grace Basement

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | INDIE

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | INDIE
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"from A to Z"

“Fiddler Kevin Buckley (who lists Magnolia Summer and Tim Easton as collaborators) is the man behind Grace Basement, a harmony-drenched (duh) outfit that's a welcome addition to the local scene. A demo passed along to A to Z contains songs indebted to: the Beatles' melodic smarts; Guided by Voices' songwriting quirks; Superchunk's sunny, grungy riffs; and, yup, Magnolia Summer's faint twang.”
-Annie Zaleski, Riverfront Times, Nov. 15, 2006
- Riverfront Times


"Pro/File: New Sense from Old Ideas"

By Diane Gershuny

Grace Basement's CD evolved from 4-track beginnings.
The creative spark comes in many ways. For renowned fiddler Kevin Buckley, it started innocently enough with a project recorded on a Tascam 424 mkII 4-track cassette machine in his parents' basement and ended up as New Sense (Dren Records, 2007), a full-length CD recorded in Adobe Audition that blended power pop and Americana rock and was released under the moniker Grace Basement. Buckley played all the instruments on the project.

In 2005 the family home in St. Louis was bought out by Lambert Airport for a runway expansion. After his parents moved out, Buckley squatted in the abandoned house — which had at that point become airport property — for three months while working on the recordings. He then found an apartment in the city and finished the CD there and at his parents' new house.

During the songwriting and preproduction phases, Buckley moved from the original 4-track cassette machine to a Tascam TSR-8 reel-to-reel. When that recorder died, he switched full-time to Adobe Audition, on which he recorded the CD's “keeper” tracks. “I'm not an analog snob, but I could hear a difference,” he said of comparing the analog and computer-recorded tracks. “However, recording is also a matter of utility, so I opted to use the computer. To make up for the potential loss in fidelity, I started collecting better outboard gear: a Sytek MPX-4Aii preamp; a couple of Shure SM57s, Oktava MC319s, and MK012s; and a Marshall MXL V69 tube mic, the latter of which I tried to use on most things. The signal then ran through my Alesis Studio 24 [console] into my M-Audio Delta 1010 [sound card] — nothing to write home about, but good enough to record a rock record.”

Once he'd switched to Audition, Buckley still tried to keep an analog mind-set. Most of the songs on New Sense are the original tracks, written and recorded spontaneously. “I didn't use any triggers or samples; all the instrumentation is live and fairly unprocessed — lots of doubling and panning techniques. ‘Santa Fe’ in particular is probably the best recording on the album. I started with a click track and an acoustic guitar and built it up from there. The only thing that comes close to sampling is at the end of ‘She's a Dream,’ where I used some mellotron samples to give the end a nice psychedelic swell. All the other strings I played myself, incorporating a ‘fake string quartet’ technique I've developed using two violins and two violas.”

When he finished tracking, Buckley took the files to Matt DeWine at Pieholden Suite Sounds in Champaign, Illinois. The studio is owned by Jay Bennett (of Wilco fame) and houses a collection of vintage gear, much of which was used on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002). DeWine ran Buckley's multitrack files through an analog tape machine and selected analog outboard gear. “All that reamplification served to color and tighten up the sound and give the record a lot more warmth,” says Buckley. “Matt and I both saw that process as another creative stage, besides just being a way to clean up the frequencies. When you record solo, it's easy to get lost in what you're doing. Having a second party is crucial for editing and creative input.

“I attempted to record with a certain level of integrity for the performances,” Buckley says of the project overall. “It's important to put limits on yourself when technology allows you to do nearly everything.”

- Electronic Musician Magazine


"Grace Basement "New Sense""

Grace Basement "New Sense"


Grace Basement is a pretty cool band from St. Louis. And this is a real awesome debut CD.The same kind of enthusiasm that emerged from the first Johnny Polonsky album "Hi My Name is Johnny" is here. However, the best comparison I can come up with on the fly is The Mother Hips. The excellent opening single "BBP (Ball Point Pepper)" is about as sticky a hook as you can get in a song. It has dreamy background choral florishes to a constant rhythmic guitar strum. What follows is "Green Machine" a pretty good Teenage Fanclub styled mid-tempo rocker. Then it gets even better with the melodic opus "Orphan Annie & The Dump Truck" which recalls the best of Camper Van Beethoven. The following track "On The Plane" borrows a bit of laid back Beach Boys harmony with piano and acoustic guitars and is also really good. About mid-way through the album it slows down considerably with several Wilco-like ballads. The remaining ballad tracks are very good, but don't approach the greatness of the albums first half. It picks up again with "You Must Go Home," a bouncy rocker and the excellent "She's a Dream" round out this album. After a few listens, this one really sticks with you and the song melodies grows like a weed garden in your brain. That makes it a top ten contender in my book. So far I see it available on Amazon or you can contact Dren Records for a copy. - Powerpopaholic


"Grace Basement "New Sense""

Grace Basement
New Sense
(Dren)
Kevin Buckley (with a few strategically-placed friends) is Grace Basement. He does a more-than-passable version of the pop one-man band.

Not one of those emo things, either. I've got nothing against that sort of thing, really, but this is really straight pop, with just a hint of roots. Pretty hooks, jaunty verses, slightly-raggedy vocals. All that good stuff.

This album begins nicely, but it really takes off after a couple songs. Kinda like Buckley wanted to warm up the room first, so that his manic energy wouldn't scare folks off. The whole frogs-in-boiling-water thing--even if that's a myth.

Buckley, however, is anything but a myth. He's got real skill as a writer, and he imbues his songs with just enough of an off-kilter perspective to shear off the sharp edges of craft. Ease in and let Buckley take the reins. He'll steer you right.

Contact:
- A & A (Aiding and Abetting)


"Grace Basement Review"


Reminds me a combination of early Wilco, Pernice Brothers, Camper Van Beethoven, XTC, GBV, Easterly and a whole other tasty good bands; it's obvious the band has good taste in music, but they are going for something something a bit different than any everyday band here, the band calls it 'genre-skipping' and I like that. Bottom Line: It's a sublime delight, start to finish. "Fiddler Kevin Buckley (who lists Magnolia Summer and Tim Easton as collaborators) is the man behind Grace Basement, a harmony-drenched outfit with songs indebted to: the Beatles' melodic smarts; Guided by Voices' songwriting quirks; Superchunk's sunny, grungy riffs."- Riverfront Times.
The sound is crisp, lush and ever-flowing streams of stellar guitar work and earth fiddle make "New Sense" a wonderfully arranged, smoothly harmonized and accomplished display of what song-craft should be about. "Delicious Pop! New Sense is one of the few great comfort albums! I've listened to it a hundred times and it sounds better with each listen!"-KDHX. VERY Highly Recommended.
- Not Lame Recordings


"If I Should Fall From Grace"

Of all the local albums to be released in the past year — hell, the past five years — one of the best is Grace Basement's New Sense. The music is smart, and the tone is varied without being scattered; specifically, it's a genre-hop through alt-country, basement pop, fuzzy rock and acoustic folk. More surprising is the source, 27-year-old Kevin Buckley, who plays every instrument on the record and who is primarily known for his mastery of the fiddle. Buckley performs traditional Irish music — frequently at McGurk's in Soulard and Llywelyn's in Webster Groves — but he's just coming into his own as the leader of a rock band. (Having recently settled on the moniker Grace Basement, Buckley performed under the title Harmony Band for much of the past year.)

Perhaps it's not surprising that Buckley chose a band name with "basement" in the title, as the songs on New Sense began there. "Everything on there is just stuff that was done with no album in mind — they were all recordings that I was just making and doing for fun, " Buckley says. His home recordings were passed around to friends, many of whom encouraged Buckley to formally release the tracks. Soon enough, the project began to take shape and the best songs revealed themselves over time. "The further along I got in the whole thing the more it became clearer which ones to do. Like 'Santa Fe' — I made a conscious effort to record that song. That's the best recording I've done; it's really crafted and clean."

"Santa Fe" is one of the standouts on New Sense, and its deceptively simple structure and sucker-punch lyrics are emblematic of many Grace Basement songs. It begins almost like an Eagles song, with a simple acoustic guitar strumming over a loping beat. Little by little, the instrumental elements reveal their intentions: Double-tracked vocals provide a kind of Greek chorus, and a slippery Telecaster meanders over the tracks. A once-bubbly organ begins to growl and spit as the song's bridge begins, with the lyrics presaging a darkness on the edge of town: "I fear the new dark age is coming/I've seen the billboards on the highway." It's a heavy couplet for such an unassuming song, a sleight of hand that Buckley pulls throughout the record.

"Honestly, I like the bummer lyrics mixed with poppy, accessible music. I think that's what rock is good at," Buckley explains. "There's always a problem in each song — it's like a story. There's gotta be some sort of conflict — or who cares? You're not sitting down with a guitar singing about stuff unless something is causing you to do that. It's not just for music's sake."

Most of Buckley's musical life has revolved around the fiddle, and his involvement in the Irish music scene in St. Louis has made him something of a pillar in that community. While there is nothing resembling a reel or a jig on New Sense, Buckley sees a kinship between Irish folk music and the rock-oriented songs he writes.

"Irish music is my foundation, it's my musical bed," he says. "It's all melodies. That's all Irish music is — melodies — and then you improvise on them. And that's a good place to start with anything."

His ear for melody is unmistakable; New Sense is packed with simple harmonic riffs, complex vocal harmonies, and tossed-off lyrics that spring to life in the record's joyful atmosphere. "Green Machine" begins with a self-harmonizing Buckley singing "When guys see you, they like what they see," a lyric as brilliant as it is dumb. In the context of a Guided by Voices-like basher, it comes off as catchy and universal as the Beatles singing "She was just seventeen/you know what I mean."

Having settled on a four-piece band for live shows, Buckley forsees keeping the recording process a solo endeavor. And while he's more comfortable moving from the relative anonymity of his Irish music gigs to take center-stage with Grace Basement, Buckley hopes to get back to the basement soon. "That's what means the most to me — having a really cool record. And it's shitty because no one really buys records anymore and they're so expensive to make," he says with a laugh.

- The Riverfront Times


Discography

New Sense (2007)
Gunmetal Gray (2009)

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Bio

St. Louis’ Grace Basement returns with their latest effort, Gunmetal Gray. Led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Kevin Buckley, Gunmetal Gray restates Buckley’s knack for creating intensely crafted power pop anthems. Each song is a portrait of Kevin’s 15-year music career playing Irish fiddle, producing records, backing country singers and playing in punk bands.

Lifting melodies immersed in harmony, guitar, trumpet, violin, and even
uilleann pipes are featured throughout the record. Think a more land-locked Pet Sounds. From the dissonant strings and Beatles-like harmonies of the opener There He Goes, to the dance hall influenced melody of Tilly Lingers, the record is a synthesis of marking new musical teritory through the ground laid by the past.

Gunmetal Gray also marks the first official ‘band’ recording for Grace Basement. With a line up that includes friends, Ben Phillips, Sean Price and Mike Zapf the musicians help propel the songs with a new sense of urgency and focus.