The Weeping Willards
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The Weeping Willards

Ithaca, New York, United States | SELF

Ithaca, New York, United States | SELF
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"The Weeping Willards' eclectic debut CD draws on jazz, pop and rock influences"

Jim Catalano
Arts Editor

The Weeping Willards, an Ithaca band whose members have been playing together for seven years, have just completed their first full-length CD, "Timothy Toker and Others Short Stories," and they'll be playing a release show at Castaways on Thursday, Dec. 30.

The trio of Isaac Schwartz, Danny Abowd and Jesse Gottlieb first teamed in the ska-rock band Chester several years ago. After they graduated from Ithaca High School in 2007, they continued to play together in the Weeping Willards, whose name pays tribute to their former high band teacher Willard Lloyd.

Despite attending different colleges -- Schwartz goes to Lawrence University in Wisconsin, Gottlieb attends the Berklee School of Music in Boston and Abowd goes to Cornell -- the three have continued to work together when they can.

The trio rented the top floor of a house in Collegetown last summer, where they laid down the basic tracks for "Timothy Toker" with the help of drummer Dana Billings and a few other guest musicians. Gottlieb took the tracks back to Boston, where he did various mixes on the songs and sent the results to his bandmates via DropBox. They continued working on it through this month, when they finally completed the tracks to their satisfaction.

"It sort has to be this way logistically, because during the school year, he's in Wisconsin, he's in Boston, and I'm in Ithaca," said Abowd. "The only way we can be an operational band is to be multitasking, so we're each writing our songs and sending demos to each other. Then when we get together we don't have much time to screw around, so we have to get to work."

The band members are all gifted horn players (they contributed to Alan Rose's recent CD "American Hands," with Schwartz doing the bulk of that album's horn arrangements), but in the Weeping Willards, Schwartz also plays guitar, Gottlieb plays bass and Abowd handles keyboards. They all write and sing.

"Typically, one of us will write the song on our own then bring it to the band once we've got a pretty good idea how its going to go," Schwartz explained. "Together we fill out the arrangement and add the extra stuff. So a lot takes place separately, but then when we get together is when it fills in."

Musically, the band draws on all sorts of influences, ranging from pop and jazz to the Beatles and Cake. "We're big fans of melody among the three of us," notes Abowd.

The album's title, "Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories," implies an underlying theme, but the members claim it's NOT a concept album.

"We were thinking, how can we tie it together?" Gottlieb said. "We realized all these songs are narratives, so we could call them stories."

Adds Abowd: "There's an email thread where were having a conversation about if there was any theme that unifies this. What we came up with was every song that we picked was very personal. 'Teacher School' is about a conversation between a teacher and a student. My songs are me singing to some girl who's broke my heart. But it's not these vast metaphors, it's very personal. And every song seems to have a beginning, middle and end."

The band members are pleased with the results.

"It just really captures our personalities," noted Schwartz.

"It's the most honest statement of these three friends that I could imagine," Abowd added.

"We tried really hard not to worry about what other people would want to hear," Schwartz continued. "We tried to ask, what do we want to hear?

"Again, we have eclectic interests, so if I can write something if they like, there's a decent chance that other people will like it, too," Abowd concluded.

The three are now in their senior years of college. Abowd is majoring in economics and music at Cornell, while the other two are majoring in music education at their respective schools.

"I'm about to lean on the economic half of my degree," said Abowd."

"I'm about to sink into poverty," said Schwartz.

"You can live in my house," offered Abowd.

Kidding aside, do the three hope to keep the band going after they graduate?

"Yeah," said Gottlieb.

"I guess," said Schwartz.

"I really hope so," said Abowd.

"Wait, was that three different answers?" said Gottlieb.

"It's such a big effort for us to do something like this when we all have a summer together," noted Schwartz.

"And that's with our parents still supporting us," added Gottlieb.

"After school ends, who know where we'll end up, or if we'll be able to do another record or play some shows," Abowd said. "But working on this project and some of the other stuff we've done together has been some of the most gratifying and enjoyable work that I've done, so I really hope we can keep going.

"This album feels like it has validated my life," Gottlieb added. "Because what have I done with myself and my life? I go to school like everyone else does. But this was actually a significant project, the biggest thing I've ever worked on."

"It's very gratifying," Abowd said. "Maybe a lot of people will hear it, maybe just a few. But these are two of my best friends in the world and they have been for some time, and even if no one else hears me, they hear me, and I hear them, and it's cool."
- The Ithaca Times


"The Weeping Willards branch out on diverse new album"

The songs on "Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories" are lush and often heavily influenced by the group's background in jazz, ska and classical music. Though packed with parts, the set seems surprisingly effortless; perhaps this is a hallmark of extremely talented musicians who are very comfortable working together. - The Lawrentian


Discography

Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories (LP) - December 2010
Where There's A Willard (EP) - June 2010

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Bio

The Weeping Willards - first, foremost and forever - are three friends. Danny Abowd, Jesse Gottlieb and Isaac Schwartz have been playing music together since 2003, when they bumped into each other in the brass section of the Ithaca High School band. Since then, they’ve added shapelier and less metallic instruments to their arsenal; they juggle trombones, trumpets, recorders, ukuleles, and auxiliary percussion alongside a more traditional instrumentation. Using pop and rock as their canvas, the Willards explore an enormous spectrum of colors, including jazz, dixie, folk, classical, impressionist, classic rock, ska and reggae. They love variety. So do their audiences.
Danny is the resident keyboardist, trombonist, and Beatles fanatic. His songs are easily recognizable by their vintage tones, smooth melodies and adventurous chord progressions. Isaac is the primary guitarist and CAKE-lover. His tunes feature quirky riffs, driving rock beats, and lyrics centered around social commentary.  As the bass player with a side of trumpet, Jesse adds a funky, but ever-humble, flair to the musical creations of the other two. Holding it all together is a tight, rhythmic integrity, imaginative three-part harmonies, and a keen aptitude for songwriting and arranging.
In December of 2010 The Weeping Willards released their first full-length album, “Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories.” With a dilapidated college town house in Ithaca, NY as headquarters, they recorded and produced “TTOSS,” which has become a great source of pride for all of them.

“The songs on "Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories" are lush and often heavily influenced by the group's background in jazz, ska and classical music. Though packed with parts, the set seems surprisingly effortless; perhaps this is a hallmark of extremely talented musicians who are very comfortable working together."
                     -Peter Boyle, The Lawrentian

You can find “Timothy Toker and Other Short Stories” on most of the major online music retailers including Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp. Preview it for free at www.weepingwillards.com.
Currently, The Weeping Willards are taking ambitious steps to heighten their Internet presence, including a recent acceptance to Pandora and the Music Genome Project - go ahead, make a Weeping Willards radio station! Their plans for Summer 2011 include recording a brand new EP as well as a short tour of the Northeast with their friends, Moss Points North.

All three Willards are 2011 college graduates with degrees in music - Danny from Cornell University, Jesse and Isaac from Berklee College of Music, and Lawrence University, respectively. They share a love for ping-pong and Arrested Development.