Michael Hearst's Songs for Ice Cream Trucks
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Michael Hearst's Songs for Ice Cream Trucks


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The best kept secret in music


"Songs for Ice Cream Trucks Serves Novelties for the Ears"

Despite a serious degree in music composition, Michael Hearst isn't too worried about his latest work getting the surround-sound treatment. In fact, his self-explanatory new solo release, Songs for Ice Cream Trucks, was recorded specifically to sound good coming from the beat-up tweeters of popsicle pushers' rolling stock.

"I talked in-depth with drivers," Hearst says, "and was told to take into consideration the speakers the music would be played through. In other words, no crazy bass and drums. Ice cream truck music has always used high-end chimes because those sounds carry better through air."

Hearst, who collects bizarro instruments the way others collect MySpace friend requests, jammed everything from claviola, bass, guitar and melodicas to theremin, glockenspiel, percussive toys and even a vintage Casio keyboard into his Ice Cream playhouse.

"Especially the glockenspiel and Casio," he says. "The Casio might have some of the worst drum-machine and keyboard sounds known to mankind. It's really fantastic! Theremin is one of the last instruments you'd think would work with ice cream trucks, but I have three. I mostly play the Moog Etherwave. Unfortunately, there's only so much you can do with it without driving people insane."

Hearst's nerd cred doesn't begin or end with Songs for Ice Cream Trucks. He and Joshua Camp, his partner in the musical duo One Ring Zero, are about as brainy as rockers get. They still chart their compositions before performing them at Hearst's aptly named Urban Geek studio, also known as his apartment, in Brooklyn, New York.
Listen: "Where Does Ice Cream Go in the Winter?"

They're bookworms as well: One Ring Zero's As Smart as We Are features lyrics donated by literary titans like Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, Neil Gaiman and more, put to the sounds of toy pianos, metallophones, loops, samples and sundry other sonic oddities. It's the kind of work that practically begs for buzzwords.

For the purposes of this article, let's call it "booktronica."

"Make sure Wikipedia gives you full credit for that term," he suggests. "For other albums, we were called 'acid-klezmer,' 'ethno-hipster' and 'Fellini-esque circus flea music.' I'm glad we're so indefinable. Nothing labels a band better than an actual label."

But Hearst's childlike new release has done the opposite. In fact, ice cream trucks around the nation have started ditching their glockenspiel nightmares, adopting his soundtrack for a refreshing change of sonic scenery.

"I first heard Michael's music on MySpace about a year and a half ago," explains Matt Allen, also known as the Ice Cream Man in Los Angeles. "Since then, I've played it from my truck Bessie. It sounds like something you'd hear in a movie about ice cream."

Allen isn't alone. Vendors from California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and other states have played Hearst's fugues full of diminished chords and chord organs while they've handed out cones, popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Which is a blessing and a curse for Hearst, who's a self-described "food snob."

"A lot of the ice cream on those trucks is pretty nasty," he confides. "But who am I to tell people what they should and shouldn't eat? I'm not a dietician; I'm a guy who wrote silly songs for ice cream trucks. I just wish that they'd sell homemade gelato made from organic cream instead. I'd pay the extra buck for that, wouldn't you?" - Wired Magazine

"Songs For Ice Cream Trucks"

The best way hear Michael Hearst's latest musical compositions is blaring from an ice cream truck as it pulls around the corner. His album, Songs For Ice Cream Trucks, is just that, new music for ice cream trucks recorded with a delightful array of instruments, from glockenspiel to Theremin to an old Casio keyboard. While Songs For Ice Cream Trucks is a novel idea for a novelty record, it transcends the gimmick. Like old circus and carousel music, I found the melodies on Songs For Ice Cream Trucks to be hauntingly beautiful, sometimes sickeningly sweet, and often eerily familiar. I hope my neighborhood ice cream man gets turned on to this new sound of summer. - bOING bOING

"Songwriter serves up ice-cream truck alternative"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Ears weary of "Pop Goes the Weasel" and the Mister Softee theme during these hot summer months now have an alternative: Michael Hearst's album "Songs for Ice Cream Trucks."

The Brooklyn-based songwriter set out to change the musical landscape for mobile frozen treat purveyors with new tunes -- and ringtones -- like "Ice Cream Yo!" and "Where Do Ice Cream Trucks Go in the Winter?"

Independent ice cream vendors across the country are already taking notice. Before it hits stores Tuesday (June 12), the Bar None album has been available for purchase through Hearst's Web site songsforicecreamtrucks.com and iTunes.

"I had no hard and fast rules as to how to make an ice cream truck song," said Hearst, who also plays in indie duo One Ring Zero. "They had just better make people want to buy ice cream." And Hearst's 13 tracks -- short, whimsical tunes that use melodica, organ, theremin, guitar, keyboards and a children's choir -- appear to be doing just that.

"Having something other than a nursery rhyme makes grown-ups not mind approaching the truck as much," said John Thibodeau, owner of single-truck operation Thibby's Ice Cream in Green Bay, Wis.

"You can't blast low-end music coming from a horn speaker, so the music has to have a certain tone. Michael nailed these great mid- and high-level sounds. Lots of people ask me about it, where I got it," said Matt Allen, popularly known as the Ice Cream Man, who gives out free ice cream at major music festivals across the country. Other vendors -- from a startup in Southern Pines, North Carolina, to a small fleet in Portland, Oregon -- are catching on as well. - Billboard / Reuters

"Michael Hearst - Songs For Ice Cream Trucks"

Do you ever approach random trucks and give them your cd?
Actually, I have on a few occasions, but it usually turns out to be fruitless. For some reason I tend to be drawn to the least likely candidates—disenchanted old men who barely speak English and stare at me with utter confusion as I hand them my CD. "Seriously, you can play this on your truck. I'm giving it to you for free. It'll sound good, I promise!" For the most part, the ice cream trucks that have been using my music have all approached me, and very few of them are in New York. It seems Mr. Softee has a bit of a stronghold here, with their trademarked jingle. But that's fine, the album wasn't really written for just ice cream trucks. It's also supposed to be a fun album for anybody to listen to at home, in their car, at the office, wherever. It works especially well as a children's record.

What instrument do you think is best for an ice cream truck song?
In my opinion, for both practical and aesthetical reasons, I'd say high-end instruments seem to work best for ice cream truck music; things like the glockenspiel, accordion, various chimes, bells, etc. The speakers on most ice cream trucks are generally quite small, therefore it's important not have music that's going to sound distorted when played. Also, high-end sounds carry much better through the air and can be heard for several blocks, which is sort of the whole point, right? It was also my intention to write songs that were in the vein of what we already think of as ice cream truck music. I didn't want to totally go off the deep end and write a bunch of music that wouldn't make any sense coming from an ice cream truck, ie. heavy metal, rap, punk-rock. That said, I did write some fairly complex songs that have several key changes, diminished chords, and other geeky elements. I also used some rather unusual instruments
like the Claviola and theremin—instruments that I use quite often with my regular band, One Ring Zero. In fact, the music is not all that unsimilar to the stuff you would hear on an ORZ record. It's just a bit dumbed-down, perhaps, simpler and not as poppy.

Are you doing any collaborating with Matt Allen, the Ice Cream Man?
Yes, Matt has become a really great ally in this whole ice cream adventure. He first contacted me about a year or two ago after seeing my myspace page. I sent him some of the early demos, which he began using on his truck. Whenever he's in New York, we team-up on things: giving away free ice cream, and promoting "Songs For Ice Cream Trucks." Good times!

2007_07_arts_michael.jpgDo you have a favorite treat to buy from the truck?
When I was kid, growing up in Virginia Beach, I used to run after the truck with two fists full of change, and I'd buy as much as I could afford. Aside from ice cream, the trucks down there also sold candy. I remember buying things like jawbreakers, lollypop rings, and Fun Dip. I'd bring it to school the next day and compare with my friend's stash. Truth be told, at this point, I rarely buy anything from ice cream trucks. I've become too much of a food snob. The ice cream that is generally being sold from trucks is stuff that I really don't want to eat too often. Not sure what that stuff is, but I'm fairly
certain it's not really ice cream. We need people like 5 Boroughs Ice Cream or Ciao Bella to start selling from ice cream trucks. Then I'll be happy.

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story.
Well, I don't know if this is an "only in New York" story, but here goes: I actually work one day a week at a small pasty shop in Park Slope called Colson Patisserie. It allows me to get away from my computer and music for a little while. Plus, they sell homemade gelato… and copies of my CD. Anyway, one afternoon it was really crowded, and there was this long line of people waiting to get coffees. As I approached the next lady in line, I noticed she was staring at my "Songs For Ice Cream Trucks" CD, which was on display by the register. She looked up at me and said, "You know, I was stuck in
traffic the other day and was listening to the radio, and I happened to hear the guy who made this CD being interviewed. And I was thinking to myself, 'what kind of person has the time to sit around and write an entire album of songs for ice cream truck??'" I shook my head at her and said, "Man, whoever that is must be a complete moron!" She rolled her eyes in agreement. I then took her order, and went off to make her a double latte, or whatever.

Which New Yorker do you most admire?
I think I mostly admire New Yorkers who have achieved some great level of success, but still live their lives just like the rest of us. It always makes me happy to see David Byrne fly by on his bicycle, or hear about John Turturro shopping at the food coop, or even Mayor Bloomberg riding the subway for that matter. But I'm not sure who I admire the most. Right now I'm reading a book about Abraham Lincoln. We need a New Yorker like him. - Gothamist

"Michael Hearst - Songs For Ice Cream Trucks"

Michael Hearst
"Songs for Ice Cream Trucks" Playing everything from glockenspiel to theremin (and featuring guest vocals from Rick Moody, Claudia Gonson, and others), Hearst has reenvisioned the typical jingle for ice - cream trucks, creating what might just be the ultimate twinkling summer soundtrack. Spoons sold separately. - Boston Globe


Michael Hearst "Songs For Ice Cream Trucks" (CD) 2007 Bar-None Records


Feeling a bit camera shy


Michael Hearst grew up in Virginia Beach, VA. After eating lots of ice cream, he moved to Richmond, VA and earned a degree in music composition from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been a founding member of the bands Schwa, Fashion Central, Maud Gonne, Anon, and One Ring Zero. Hearst also established Urban Geek Studios, where he has produced, recorded, eaten ice cream with, and worked on post production for a number of bands and projects including Robert Creeley, Guided By Voices, Kansas, The Griefbirds, and The Ululating Mummies. Now living in Brooklyn, Hearst spends the majority of his time promoting One Ring Zero and Songs For Ice Cream Trucks. He has given lectures at Tufts University, San Francisco Art Institute, and taught at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has appeared on such shows at NPR's Fresh Air, A+E's Breakfast With The Arts, and NBC's The Today Show.