Satellite Lot
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Satellite Lot

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The best kept secret in music

Press


From the opening guitar riff on their album Second Summer, Portland's Satellite Lot seem like they are transmitting straight into people's brains. With a keen pop sensibility that draws influence from such wide and varied sources as Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, the Blade Runner soundtrack, Sonic Youth, and Ween, the band's songs immediately engage the most jaded ears. They defy being pigeonholed, instead mixing signals and sounds with an acute sense of melody.

Aaron Hautala, Casey McCurry, and William Fernald form the core trio of Satellite Lot. While Fernald spends most of the time reigning over the drum kit, Hautala and McCurry share the rest of the musical responsibilites. “We really concentrate on vocal harmonies,” Hautala says. “We like to record five-part vocal harmonies and just hear the genius we bring to the table. Harmony is key in this band.”

Portland's Satellite Lot spent years perfecting their songs and harmonies in the privacy of their practice space before unveiling their sound to the world. The band recorded in the seclusion of that space as they gradually polished each track. In order to complete the record, they created a self-imposed deadline by scheduling time at Portland's Gateway Mastering last summer.

Satisfied by the results and looking to spur interest, Satellite Lot made their entire album available on their website as a free download before its initial release, just to “get it out there, and get it heard,” according to McCurry.

“You know, there isn't a whole lot of money to be made off of a band's records anyhow,” says Hautala. “We're all about touring. We want to go somewhere. We want to go everywhere. Frankly, that's where the money is made.”

McCurry adds, “We have the potential to fulfill our goal, and that is to be a successful touring band.”

Their first live effort found the band adding to its ranks in order to replicate the sound of the album; 11 musicians were on stage at their record release show at Portland's Space Gallery. While their lineup fluctuates in size, background vocalist Sydney Bourke, heard on Second Summer, has cracked the triumvirate. “She's amazing,” Hautala says. “We definitely plan on using her a lot more on the next record.”

Satellite Lot realizes that the only way to send their band into orbit involves gathering enough groundspeed so that they can lift off. “Realistically I'd like to play seven nights a week for six to eight hours,” McCurry says. “If we're playing out three or four nights and jam the last half of the week, then we're all set. However, that little thing called money always throws a bit of a curveball our way.”

Satellite Lot's members have all been seen playing in numerous other bands to keep busy, but they see those efforts as merely gaining experience for Satellite Lot. “We're all now at the point where we want to take this band and make it our main priority,” McCurry says.

Adds Hautala, “We just want to play amazing fucking shows.” - Northeast Performer


Speaking of finely nuanced production, far and away the best sound on any release from 2005 is to be found on Satellite Lot's long-awaited debut, Second Summer . Every sonic frequency on this dense album is perfectly mixed; each settled into its right place. Casey McCurry and Aaron Hautula labored for an almost immeasurable duration on this gem, and their efforts are plainly visible. Add to that the extra polish of Gateway Mastering and you get one of the strongest releases in recent memory.

The songs on Second Summer are all across the board. Sounding at times like a parallel-universe version of the E-Street Band, at others like some strange mutation of the indie-rock genome, Satellite Lot deliver luminously beautiful tunes with remarkably sophisticated melodies. You can track the progress of your involvement with this album by noting how your favorite track shifts from song to song. As you delve deeper and spend more time with each one, the songs take on new significances. Having by now decided that almost every track on Second Summer is the best one, my current favorite is the last, "By Lantern Light," which features transcendent vocals by Sydney Bourke. - The Bollard (www.thebollard.com)


" Catchin' a ride from a band,
I sat in the back of the van,
They tried to make me understand.
‘Cause if I'm not in a band, don't mean I'm square.
And if I am, well then I don't care."

-- Mercury Rev, "Car Wash Hair"

Satellite Lot bring this lyric to mind for more reasons than one. When Mercury Rev, a group that clearly influence Satellite Lot's sound and approach, recorded "Car Wash Hair" in the early '90s, they weren't a band so much as a collection of musicians who got together to make a brilliant debut.

Likewise Satellite Lot and their stellar album, Second Summer . This catchy, unpredictable pop record is one of the strongest releases any band in Portland has yet produced – assuming Satellite Lot can be called a band. Some incarnation of Satellite Lot has been kicking around town for five years or so – the last time I saw them was at Zootz – but the group seems to expand and contract, appear and disappear, pretty much randomly.

According to their Web site, where the entire album can be heard and downloaded for free, Satellite Lot is Aaron Hautala and Casey McCurry. Most of the drums are played by William Fernald, but this apparently doesn't make them a trio.

Rather, there's a "Satellite Lot Recording Team" that includes over a dozen musicians, most of whom drop in to contribute one part – a guitar or flute solo, some bass, some vocal harmonies, piano – to one of the 11 tracks. Hautala's bandmates in The Funeral, formerly Extendo Ride, are among the locals who make appearances.

[News flash: Fernald, The Bollard just learned, is now a full member of the band, and will listed as such on the album the trio will record this winter.]

Hautala and McCurry (who recorded most of the songs) use their friends' contributions to excellent effect throughout this collection of songs. It's hard to say what instruments the pair themselves did or didn't play on Second Summer (it sounds like there's half an orchestra here), but as Mercury Rev might say, who cares?

The album is full of richly textured compositions that jump genres track by track. The jangly, two-minute pop ditty that opens the record, "That Wasn't Me," could be on an NRBQ album. Two songs later, Hautala (at least, I think he's the singer) is doing an indie-Springsteen impression ("Hold Your Fire"), and two songs after that he's channeling Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters ("First Day").

There's a jumpy rock number, "Blessed With a Curse," and a techno trip, "Double Yellow Lines." But the icing on the cake are the two haunting songs that close the album, "In Protest" and "By Lantern Light." Coming as they do after nine songs all about the love, sadness and anger in personal relationships, these last two political pieces are all the more powerful.

"I sold my gun but the fight lingers on," Hautala (?) sings in "Protest." "And I hate myself for what I let them do to you."

"By Lantern Light" envisions dead soldiers returning to "haunt the men that spilled their blood on battlefields they should have won." Sydney Bourke's ethereal vocals give this song a beautiful resonance.

Second Summer is a finely crafted record from beginning to end – a real accomplishment and a true pleasure to hear. Here's hoping Satellite Lot will be the kind of non-band, like Mercury Rev, that keeps releasing masterworks like this at least every few years or so. - The Bollard (www.thebollard.com)


The exuberance of the opening guitar lick (and I do mean lick) on Satellite Lot's Second Summer is like a cool blast of water hitting your face unexpectedly in the middle of the dog days of summer. Its presence sets "That Wasn't Me" soaring into the pop-rock stratosphere. It's a pure moment, but a deceptive one to be sure. For when one delves more deeply into Second Summer , there's little of that unbridled joy to be found, and instead two young songwriters with a touch of lovesickness are hiding there, slyly attempting to bare their confused souls to the willing listener.

Of course, it's never as easy as that. There's a lot of ground covered over the course of 11 songs, from the jazzed-out sad-sac balladry of "The First Day" to the rip-snortin' Springsteenisms of "Hold Your Fire." Yet, underlying every stylistic shift, grunt, and croon are the travails of youthful longing being snuffed out -- the realization that love and creativity won't flow as easily as one might have hoped it could. Lucky for us that Satellite Lot are incredibly talented at conveying such emotions and that the chameleon-like shells of the compositions are always crafted with the utmost care. These are songs that almost make one yearn for the pangs of unrequited or failed love. A line like "May I propose a toast to those who love too much/ You'll destroy everything you touch" snuck in at the end of "Battle to Be One," the album's heartfelt paean to the competitive undercurrents that can devour relationships, will have you wanting to raise a glass to celebrate the sorry state of adult affairs.

But lingering on only the anguish of the lyrics doesn't do service to the music. So much ground is covered, though not in an overreaching manner. While these boys and their cadre of musicians have the chops to pull off just about anything they set their mind to, it never feels forced or out of place. The throbbing down tempo dance feel to "Double Yellow Lines" seemingly comes out of nowhere among the largely rock-oriented material, but it breathes itself so organically into the flow of the album that only the most curmudgeonly of rock purists would begrudge its dark-tinged synth pop. The only moment on the album that falls out of step is the somewhat awkwardly mixed intro to "In Protest" where the sweeping, and mildly intrusive, drum-led intro pulls one out of the flow, but then only slightly, as it quickly settles into an epic and spacey folk song. Even this does little to tarnish the luminosity of the debut effort by Satellite Lot, an effort that triumphantly heralds the coming of age of a great pop-rock band yearning for an even mix of honest lyrical expression and unbounded musical curiosity. - Tinymixtapes.com


For watchers of Portland's indie-rock community, Satellite Lot were in danger of becoming more myth than reality. There have been whispers for years, promises of an album from a band than many pegged as one of the scene's most interesting and inventive. They were part Devo, part Mr. Bungle, part Beatles, with a feel as much for songwriting as performance and entertainment, and in love with their keyboards and computers.

Things, as they say, never really seemed to come together, though. Band members came and went. Most people forgot about Satellite Lot, other than to remember a Skinny show they once did — when was that, again?

The Lot ended up as just two, Casey McCurry and Aaron Hautala, and they toiled away, recording and writing in their practice space and homes, at one point reimagining themselves as an all-vocals pop outfit, by one rumor. Samples of their work would be issued, the album would be discussed, they would go back underground (or, rather, people would stop paying attention).

In the last three months, however, things seem almost magically to have come together in indie-pop perfection. They've completed, mastered, and shipped their debut album, Second Summer , and it is a veritable masterpiece, full of melancholy-pop, ethereal song constructions and arrangements, honest soul, and a little bit of fun.

I was totally hooked from the first few bars. "That Wasn't Me" opens the album with a guitar piece like a kid practicing the coolest riff he ever thought up, in his bedroom, just slightly lo-fi. Then we enter into the song proper, with Hautala coining a wavering country pop, "I let me pride get carried away," slow and chill, full of real regret, then bursting into a rocking "until it strangled everything/ Whether you liked me or not (ot-ot) these days [complete with indie-rock warble]/ I pretend that wasn't me."

A commentary on Satellite Lot past? Did they spend too much time on their arrangements and constructions and miss the songs for the grand plan? It's unclear. So much else on Second Summer is straight-ahead broken heart that this opener could easily just be one of many love songs that populate a nostalgic album of girlfriends past.

At least the breakup with Satellite Lot members past was an amiable one. Members Chris Burns, Travis Bernier, and Jason Ingalls all make contributions to the album, along with what seems like half of the Portland music scene. Ingalls and Burns play drums and bass, respectively, on "Blessed with a Curse," which features a mockingly high-voiced opening, sarcastic and cutting: "You don't need to tell me how intelligent you are." The tune continues, alternately sweet and bitter, desperate and angry, and features a cool "oh, oh, oh-ah-ohhhhh" segue that easily could have come off Pet Sounds . Later, "your lies (hah)/ disgrace (hah)" features yells from audioblacK's Jason Beal and Jason Leone, as they lend their heavy aesthetic to the song — Ingalls matches them, drums just heavy-handedly pounding, like someone punching the heavy bag to relieve stress and frustration.

Bernier chimes in later by providing the acoustic-guitar foundation to "In Protest," an ethereal tune that seems more like the old Lot, though infused with some of the same melancholy sentiment as the newer stuff. A descending keyboard line drops in from the sky, a bass drum booms in (William Fernald), ghostly vocals fade to back and rise to front over a military drum-roll on the snare and a flute (or something), also old-timey military — then, is that an accordion? Why not? The song screams soundscape, like what you hear when epic movies are panning over great plains full of buffalo.

McCurry and Hautala don't always need help, though. They play parts aplenty on "All Defenses Down," riffing off echoed vocals by the crystal-voiced Sydney Bourke, "rising from the water." The soft pop of the chorus, particularly the delivery on "so feel your insides out for a while," is so delicious you can taste it, as is the vampy indie/country/pop construction that follows a line like "two strangers pass on a dusty road."

Bourke also stands out on the album's finisher, "By Lantern Light," a crushing heartbreaker that gets you from note one. Bourke's ultra-high soprano cuts like an icy wind coming off the water in January before Hautala joins her like a warm embrace for the second half of each of the first two verses. It's a song for ghosts and spirits, piano and drums building and joined by keyboards that depart — cymbals crash, melodies build and repeat, the song hypnotizes.

What a contrast to the album's other real ear-catcher, "Hold Your Fire," like Bruce Springsteen covered by Meatloaf on an album produced by Prince. It's the little things that will win you over here: a light children's xylophone plucking out notes in the background; the boy's longing that comes with "oh, I was so crazy about you"; the fuzzed-out guitar solo paired with the clean drum sound they note was captured by Mark Bartholomew at Tsunami Sound.

Every detail is attended to here, yet the album never feels less than organic and evolving. The piano ballads shimmer, the Depeche Mode homages drive and burn, a dirge like "Keepin' You" comes complete with vocals affected and deep in the background, behind appropriate organs to open, before stepping up into an '80s synth number in half-time. What makes it all work? Maybe it's the bass drum calling out like a heartbeat, "thump, thump-thump."

Oh yeah, there's plenty of heart on this record. - The Portland Phoenix


1. Satellite Lot, Second Summer — An album with heart, creativity, and plenty of singalongs, but it’s depth of feeling and thoughtfulness that sets this apart. - The Portland Phoenix


Discography

Their debut album, Second Summer, was released in 2005. You can hear almost the entire album at the website:

http://www.satellitelot.com/secondsummer.htm

We have received local radio airplay on WCYY, WCLZ, WMPG out of Portland, Maine.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

For watchers of Portland's indie-rock community, Satellite Lot were in danger of becoming more myth than reality. There have been whispers for years, promises of an album from a band than many pegged as one of the scene's most interesting and inventive. They were part Devo, part Mr. Bungle, part Beatles, with a feel as much for songwriting as performance and entertainment, and in love with their keyboards and computers.

Things, as they say, never really seemed to come together, though. Band members came and went. Most people forgot about Satellite Lot, other than to remember Skinny shows they once did — when was that, again?

Satellite Lot ended up as just two, Casey McCurry and Aaron Hautala, and they toiled away, recording and writing in their practice space and homes, at one point reimagining themselves as an all-vocals pop outfit, by one rumor. Samples of their work would be issued, the album would be discussed, they would go back underground.

In the last three months, however, things seem almost magically to have come together in indie-pop perfection. They've completed, mastered, and shipped their debut album, Second Summer , and it is a veritable masterpiece, full of melancholy-pop, ethereal song constructions and arrangements, and honest soul.

I was totally hooked from the first few bars. "That Wasn't Me" opens the album with a guitar piece like a kid practicing the coolest riff he ever thought up, in his bedroom, just slightly lo-fi. Then we enter into the song proper, with Hautala coining a wavering country pop, "I let me pride get carried away," slow and chill, full of real regret, then bursting into a rocking "until it strangled everything/ Whether you liked me or not (ot-ot) these days [complete with indie-rock warble]/ I pretend that wasn't me."

They chime in later by providing the acoustic-guitar foundation to "In Protest," an ethereal tune that seems more like the old Lot, though infused with some of the same melancholy sentiment as the newer stuff. A descending keyboard line drops in from the sky, a bass drum booms in (William Fernald), ghostly vocals fade to back and rise to front over a military drum-roll on the snare and a flute (or something), also old-timey military — then, is that an accordion? Why not? The song screams soundscape, like what you hear when epic movies are panning over great plains full of buffalo.

On "All Defenses Down," they riff off echoed vocals by the crystal-voiced Sydney Bourke, "rising from the water." The soft pop of the chorus, particularly the delivery on "so feel your insides out for a while," is so delicious you can taste it, as is the vampy indie/country/pop construction that follows a line like "two strangers pass on a dusty road."

Bourke also stands out on the album's finisher, "By Lantern Light," a crushing heartbreaker that gets you from note one. Bourke's ultra-high soprano cuts like an icy wind coming off the water in January before Hautala joins her like a warm embrace for the second half of each of the first two verses. It's a song for ghosts and spirits, piano and drums building and joined by keyboards that depart — cymbals crash, melodies build and repeat, the song hypnotizes.

What a contrast to the album's other real ear-catcher, "Hold Your Fire," like Bruce Springsteen covered by Meatloaf on an album produced by Prince. It's the little things that will win you over here: a light children's xylophone plucking out notes in the background; the boy's longing that comes with "oh, I was so crazy about you"; the fuzzed-out guitar solo paired with the clean drum sound they note was captured by Mark Bartholomew at Tsunami Sound.

Every detail is attended to here, yet the album never feels less than organic and evolving. The piano ballads shimmer, the Depeche Mode homages drive and burn, a dirge like "Keepin' You" comes complete with vocals affected and deep in the background, behind appropriate organs to open, before stepping up into an '80s synth number in half-time. What makes it all work? Maybe it's the bass drum calling out like a heartbeat, "thump, thump-thump."

Oh yeah, there's plenty of heart on this record.