Thursday, June 13, 2013

Drinking in the sunshine with The Bamboo Trading Company!

The last couple of years have proved to be a goldmine for fans of The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, etc. In case you missed it, The Beach Boys released their long lost album SMiLE, released a new project That’s Why God Made The Radio and embarked on a 50th Anniversary tour that was captured on film for a couple of live DVD releases as well as the recently released 2 disc set- The Beach Boys Live: The 50th Anniversary Tour. We even got a great new compilation of hits from Jan & Dean titled, Surfs Up last year. Quick side note, this July marks the 50th anniversary of Jan & Dean’s signature tune, “Surf City” as it topped the charts for them for 2 weeks!!

If you’re wondering what will be the new summer album of choice for 2013, then look no further to The Bamboo Trading Co with their self titled release. I bring up The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean influence because if you’re fans of these great artists you’ll most likely recognize many of the names involved with this project. Dean Torrence himself guests on five tracks. Gary Griffin, Randell Kirsch, Matt Jardine (Al’s son), Philip Bardowell, Chris English and Miami Dan Yoe are all involved. David Beard serves as executive producer and the brainchild behind the project. If you read Endless Summer Quarterly, you’ll recognize David as editor and publisher of that great publication.  "Drinkin' In The Sunshine" is not only one of the highlights from this project, but it says all that you need to know of what to expect musically.  Close your eyes and escape to a tropical paradise with The Bamboo Trading Company!

Front L-R: Chris English, Gary Griffin, Miami Dan Yoe, Philip Bardowell, Matt Jardine
Back: Randell Kirsch

This project has been described as a musical journey from coast to coast so I wanted to delve into each track by the people involved. First, it would be good to get a little back story and the concept for this project. David Beard explains how this came about:

In early 2011 film writer and director Steve Latshaw approached me with the idea of providing film music for “Return Of The Killer Shrews” (a film starring James Best and John Schneider… both of “Dukes Of Hazzard” fame),
after he had listened to a demo of the Beach Boys-esque “Don’t Say It’s Over.” The new film, a send-up/sequel to the 1959 cult classic “Killer Shrews” (also featuring Best), called for Exotica music with a Martin Denny twist. I suggested Gary Griffin, because he’s everyone’s go-to-guy (including Brian Wilson’s), and his musical touch is unsurpassed. After reaching out to Gary to gauge his interest, and putting together an idea of what we wanted to do, Steve commissioned us to write two new tracks for the film. After the remainder of 2011 went by, and I had time to really listen to the completed tracks, it was pretty clear that we had caught lightening in a bottle. As fate would have it, Randell Kirsch was not touring with The Beach Boys for their 50th anniversary tour. He was asked to join in on the fun, and he said, “Yes.”

David also explains how the group name evolved:

Several group names were tossed around, but we all seemed to like The Bamboo Trading Company the most. The name was inspired by Torrence’s Jan & Dean memorabilia company. The album concept, from the beginning, was always going to be a road trip. Initially titled, Coast To Coast, and then From Kitty Hawk To Surf City, we decided on a self-titled collection. “Kitty Hawk Graphics” was the name of Dean’s Grammy Award-winning graphic arts company, and “Surf City,” Jan & Dean’s only number one hit, was co-written with Brian Wilson. While these obvious homages exist in name and content, there was no attempt to replicate or re-record anything that had been done before. It was my way of saying, “Thanks for the inspiration.”

Now, let’s take this journey with The Bamboo Trading Company and examine each of the tracks.


David Beard: The track is so perfectly “airy” that the lyrics came instantaneously. Gary had suggested breaking the song into two parts earlier in the year, which lent itself to lyrics about taking off and landing. There it was, right in front of us, a lighthearted concept album that takes the listener from coast to coast.

Chris English: “Airborne” started out as an experiment to take a simple melodic piano line and create a lush cascade of non-lyrical vocals over the piano; kind of a Coldplay meets Brian Wilson thing.

Philip Bardowell: We just got around the microphone and improvised. Since we’re old friends, the dialogue just flowed out naturally among us. The hard part was getting us to shut up!

Miami Dan Yoe: “Airborne” has a very airy type of feel to it. David Beard had the idea of using it at the beginning and end of the album and adding some chanted lyrics over Chris’s wordless vocals that went along with the album’s theme of taking off in Kitty Hawk and landing in Surf City. I thought it worked out great, and it brings the album full circle.

Kitty Hawk 

David Beard: Randell (Kirsch) and I discussed a few song ideas that I had, and decided to
Chris English
pursue “Kitty Hawk.” Along with Miami Dan and Gary, we wrote it 30 minutes. I attribute the incredible sound of this song to Randell. In my humble opinion, he is in a league all his own. “Kitty Hawk” is pure power pop at its best.

Gary Griffin: I love working with Randell. We don’t get the opportunity to do this near as often as in the past. He actually used to live right down the street from me back in the 80’s, so it was easy to collaborate on things. We fell right back into our musical groove on this project and came up with some very cool ideas. He and I work very well together, very quickly – which I love!

Chris English: “Kitty Hawk” is where the journey really begins for the listener. I was really inspired as I worked on this piece.

Philip Bardowell: I love the song and I have an affinity for the Kitty Hawk story, because of Dean.  I just tried to use my “sweet” voice and give the song some air and a feeling lightness-of being airborne. I like how it turned out.

Miami Dan Yoe: “Kitty Hawk” turned out to be a really nice track. David Beard had a set of lyrics he had written for it. While Gary was inside the studio working on one of the mixes, David, Randell and I were enjoying the weather on the deck outside the studio, and Dave suggested that we take a stab at finishing the writing of “Kitty Hawk.” He put the lyric sheet down on a little table and we all looked at it for a few seconds. Then, Randell picked up his acoustic guitar and started singing the words, “Won’t you come with me…” to a melody line. Within a couple of minutes he had the entire chorus melody line. Dave and I came up with the verse melody line then we made a couple of minor adjustments to the lyrics to make them more easily singable. We went back into the studio to record a demo version of the song. The entire process, from first sitting down at the table to beginning the recording of the demo, took about 30 minutes. I think the final track was recorded a half scale up from the demo, and Randell’s idea of using the electric sitar came a few days later. The lead vocal was pretty much a group effort.

Randell Kirsch: Writing “Kitty Hawk” with David was like riding a bucking bronco in a rodeo. (There were) so many ideas and lyrics flying out of him, all I had to do was hang on, slow him down and sing a little, “Won’t You Come With Me.” Easy as pie. David is very visual – which is a perspective we share. I like visual lyrics. Philip, Gary and Miami Dan really deliver the vocal on the verses on that song.

Tweet (Don’t Talk Anymore)
David Beard: At its essence, “Tweet (Don’t Talk Anymore)” is as much a dialogue on our society as the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was in 1967. The emboldening of online statements without remorse is slowly chipping away at our society’s soul, ability to communicate with one another, and our desire to treat one another with respect. While quirky and fun in its presentation, “Tweet” has a deeper message. Jez Graham had approached me about writing lyrics for this track in 2009, and the words came to me in a flash… it was hard to keep up when writing it. It was Wednesday, March 21, when Dean dropped in and recorded his lead vocal for “Tweet (Don’t Talk Anymore),” and his backing falsetto for “Drinkin’ In The Sunshine.” It was memorable to watch him sing in his old vocal range so effortlessly. He really knocked it out of the park for us.
Dean Torrence: I don’t appreciate social media. As a matter of fact, if I had my way, all the Smartphones and stuff would be taken away from young people. From my perspective, it has hurt them in so many ways with texting, emailing and all that shit. Anybody that wastes his or her time reading what someone else is doing is pathetic. Pathetic. I’m just opposed to the whole thing. Musically, I suppose that if Jan and I had been approached in the 1960’s, and say tweeting was something that was popular at that time, were always reactionaries to cultural stuff, I suppose we would have given it a good look. 

Gary Griffin: Well, I’m as guilty as anyone, I suppose. Sticking my face in my iPhone way too much. I don’t tweet but I’m always checking sports scores or whatever. Everybody seems to be somewhere else these days. 

Chris English: "Tweet"...says it all, doesn't it; the loss of physical community to technology. But it does it in a really lighthearted and playful way. I love that song. Dean is a living legend. He didn't have to do that song but he did. That says a lot about the character and spirit of the man.

Philip Bardowell: I love it. I just got off Twitter and Facebook because I agree wholeheartedly!

Miami Dan Yoe: It’s definitely a modern day pop culture statement. The original concept of the song was Jez Graham’s.  Beard wrote a set of lyrics around Jez’s idea. Like many of the songs on the album, the basic track was started at another studio (Jez’s home studio in Stone Mountain, Georgia) and finished beautifully at the Supreme Hall of Sound (Gary Griffin’s studio in Panorama City, CA). The track contains one of my favorite vocal moments on the album at around the 1:29 mark, channeling the Sunflower era Beach Boys sound perfectly.

Drinkin’ In The Sunshine

Gary Griffin: I love this song. Dean has a unique tone – we were actually able to get him back up there singing in his high register, that classic falsetto sound from the old J&D days. I had originally wanted to use Peter Lacey’s track as a backing, but decided to re-cut everything – I did use his guitar track. I used “beachy” sounding accompaniment with ukulele and marimba and lots of percussion. Phil does a great vocal on this and, yes, it does feel like Harry Nilsson to me.

Chris English: "Drinkin' in the Sunshine"? That's a great analogy. It's what made so much of the music from the mid-60s to mid-70s so wonderful: the absolute dedication to melody and harmony. Great stuff!

Miami Dan Yoe: Dean can be heard doing his classic falsetto on this track. Phil Bardowell does a wonderful job on the lead. One of my favorite lyrics on the tune is, “Like a cool glass of shade…” That lyric creates a very soothing image, and I really dug the way Phil sang it. The track has a definite Nilsson vibe to it.

Star Of The Beach
Miami Dan Yoe

Gary Griffin: Miami Dan is great at capturing the feel of the “maturing” male! He writes very insightful, reflective lyrics. Probyn Gregory cut a very tight track and then Matt did a great lead vocal.

Chris English: First of all, Dan Yoe is a dear friend, and a fellow Carolinian. And, as a child of the seventies I can certainly relate to the aging protagonist. I love that song. Hopefully I can be a mentor to my younger peers as well...Just not a surfing mentor.

Miami Dan Yoe: I had never deliberately attempted to write a Beach Boys styled song before, but in writing “Star” that’s exactly what I set out to try to do. I wrote the music to “Star” in one sitting, but the lyrics were initially just a single verse and a chorus, and I got stuck writing additional lyrics for the tune. Jemi Blue wrote two additional verses, which originally had the song’s character getting married and having children. I liked the flow of the lyrics Jemi had written, but not so much the course that they had his life taking, since my vision of the character was that of an aging loner who was wedded only to surfing and the thrills it brought him. I made a couple of changes to the lyrics to the second verse she had written to more closely reflect the way I saw his life developing, and decided to drop the third verse altogether in favor of repeating the first one. The song was very loosely based on the life of Dennis Wilson, and was initially intended to be an unauthorized follow-up to the Beach Boys' song “Still Surfin’,” from their much maligned album, Summer In Paradise. In order to bring as much authenticity as possible to the song's Beach Boys connection, I asked David Marks and Probyn Gregory to play and sing on it, and was thrilled when they agreed to do it. Probyn also produced the song, and understanding my desire to give the song a 60’s type sound, he fashioned the song’s baseline after Phil Spector’s, “Then He Kissed Me,” gave a nod to Brian Wilson with the tune’s backing vocals, and paid respect to the Ventures by playing the guitar solo in their style. All the other final guitar parts on the track were played by David Marks. The original track was recorded in a 24-track studio so we were limited on how many vocal parts could be done. In fact, David and Probyn sang their backing parts together on one microphone to save tracks.

The Bamboo Trading Company version of the song uses most of the basic track, but the production and vocals are quite different from the original recording in several respects. When the track was re-worked for the Bamboo Trading Company album, Matt Jardine and Gary Griffin re-cut the lead vocal, and Alan Boyd and Dean added additional vocals. Gary also added some percussion and piano that weren’t in the original track to give it a little fatter sound. Some of the original lyrics were also revised by David Beard to better fit the “Return Of The Killer Shrews” film and Bamboo Trading Company concept. Beard’s lyrical changes included having the choruses sung in the first person, while leaving the verses in the third person. The ending of the song (a capella, with Matt sustaining the word “hell”) is also dramatically different from the original track.

Haulin’ Cargo

Gary Griffin: This piece was based on something I wrote with electronic percussion wizard
Gary Griffin
Taso Kotsos for a movie soundtrack we worked on together about 20 years ago. It’s a little high tech number written in 7/4 (time), which keeps the listener on edge a little bit, never settles down where you want it to. Much like life itself, yes?

Chris English: "Haulin' Cargo" is pure Gary Griffin magic. I never cease to be amazed and inspired by the guy...and, as it turns out, my dad and his flew the same aircraft in WWII, for the same commanding officer but at different periods during the war.

Philip Bardowell: Gary is a wonderful composer and arranger. I’ve been a fan of his work for years. I think it really adds to the temperament and landscape of the album. It adds some nice tension and really paints a picture of movement and action. He’s really good at that.

Shrewd Awakening
Dean Torrence

David Beard: With “Shrewd Awakening” Gary had a flash of brilliance and sent me the title. We discussed Exotica: mysterious music with obscure lyrics. Steve Latshaw perfectly cast the imagery, and Gary ran with it. Lyrically speaking, the songs wrote themselves. After watching a CGI-less version of the film (viewing for pacing of the film), the lyrics, “Shrewd a-wakening, pain-stake-enly done… Shrewd a-wakening, now they’re chewin’ for fun…” crept out. Then, “The calamity, of monstrosities… A cacophony, of altered humanity…” Then, “They go out for a bite in the dark…” Next, the bridge: In this jungle of life, they go to attack… A human smorgasbord… Their late night snack… With their razor sharp teeth… They’re having a feast… Seems it’s the only way to tame the beast.” Now, it was fun and easy. The imagery was coming to life with Gary’s music. His music captures the sensibilities of the tongue-in-cheek humor.

Gary Griffin: This is probably my favorite track. Dave wrote some odd lyrics about the hungry vicious shrews. The title just came to me in a serendipitous flash of lyrical brilliance! Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village” was a major influence for the bass figure and the percussion. My lovely wife Elizabeth provided the seductive intro lines for each chorus and with the release of the video she has now become widely known as the, “‘You’re in for a’ Girl.” 

Talk about how you got involved with the music for “Return Of The Killer Shrews.”

Dean Torrence: Songwriter / producer David approached me about recording a song for “Return of The Killer Shrews.” David, and film writer & director Steve Latshaw are both Jan & Dean fans, and they laid out the idea of what they wanted to do, which included me working on a new recording with Gary Griffin and my daughters Katie and Jillian.

David Beard:  It was on Wednesday, Oct. 5, that Dean, Katie and Jillian, recorded vocals for “Shrewd Awakening” and “Tonga Hut. Footage of these recording sessions was filmed and later used for the “Shrewd Awakening” music video (now online). 

What was it like for you to reconnect with Bruce Davison after all the years for the making of the “Shrewd Awakening” music video?

Dean Torrence: It was fun to see him in person. It’s kind of odd when you don’t particularly miss a person when they continue to be in the media (somehow). So, it wasn’t as though I hadn’t seen him in 30 years. It felt as though I was still connected to him after all these years. It was great to see him, great to catch up… He looked healthy and happy, and that made me feel good.

Dean Torrence, David Beard, Bruce Davison
photo by Steve Latshaw

During the shooting of the music video, when he spontaneously leapt over and attacked your neck, you two were totally in sync with one another’s comic sensibilities.

Dean Torrence: That’s probably one of the reasons Bruce was chosen to portray me in “Deadman’s Curve,” because he was a good spontaneous actor. I don’t think Richard Hatch quite was as spontaneous as Bruce was, but it was more important for Bruce to be the spontaneous / comedic character when needed. I wasn’t surprised that he would do something like that. It just seemed perfectly in character to me after all these years. Some stuff never changes.

Tonga Hut

David Beard: “Tonga Hut” was written from inspiration provided by the bar of the same name
Philip Bardowell
located at 12808 Victory Blvd in North Hollywood, CA. Full of Tiki charm, the lyrics are what you might expect to experience if you were sitting inside enjoying a cocktail. Towards the end of the song you hear, “Dottie needs her Brandy Alexander.” The line was added to honor one of the Tonga Hut’s very special patrons, Dottie, who patronized the bar six days a week taking only Sundays and the occasional rainy day off. Dottie was known for her fondness for Brandy Alexanders.

Gary Griffin: Another piece using Martin Denny and Esquivel as influences. Dave and I wrote some lyrics that include many of the unique names of the cocktails from the Tonga Hut menu – or the “Grog Log” as they call it. Phil’s last verse is truly inspired. I simply told him to improvise away from the melody and one take later we had this incredible verse. This guy can sing, I tell ya!!

Philip Bardowell: That was fun. I enjoyed “letting my hair down” on that one. That Island feel comes naturally to me being born in Jamaica and all. I tried channeling Sting at that tag! Fun tune…

Chris English: Same thing goes for "Tonga Hut." It's kind of a period piece-and a location piece-that really draws the listener into an intriguing story.

Miami Dan Yoe: “Tonga Hut” to my ear has a bit of a Jimmy Buffett vibe to it; a really fun track that showcases Phil Bardowell’s vocal chops.


Gary Griffin: Another glimpse into the world of Miami Dan! He has created a musical mystery right up there with “What did Billie Joe McAllister throw off the Tallahatchee Bridge?” What really went on in Jericho that changed him so very much?? We may never know. I’m sure Dan doesn’t remember anyway. Too bad.

Chris English: "Jericho" is one of my favorite songs on the record. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Dan is singing it. Great voice and delivery on that guy.

I’ve Always Loved The Ocean
Matt Jardine

Miami Dan Yoe: I originally wrote that song in the late 70’s and when I would sing it I always made a conscious effort to sound like Alan Jardine in my vocal. I never dreamed that over 30 years later Al’s son would be recording a vocal for it. I’m a long time fan of Matt’s and couldn’t be happier that he does the vocal on both “I’ve Always Loved the Ocean” and “Star Of The Beach.”

Gary Griffin: Great vocal by Matty – another great track that Probyn cut and we sweetened here in L.A.

Chris English: Matt brings a lot to the table on everything he's a part of. I really loved working with him. "I've Always Loved The Ocean" highlights his incredible vocal skills.

Philip Bardowell: For me, the song should be called “I’ve Always Loved Matt’s Voice.” His performance is stellar; it’s such a sweet tone.

Don’t Say It’s Over

Gary Griffin: Randell did a marvelous vocal on this and great harmonies with Matt on the
Randell Kirsch
choruses and tag (with Chris). I love the 007 reference in verse 2 of Oddjob and Sean Connery playing Frisbee with Oddjob’s deadly hat. A funny image. Dave initially wrote this song a few years back.

Chris English: Randell really brought his A-Game to "Don't Say it's Over." He has a gift for performance that more people should be aware of.

Philip Bardowell: Randell is one of the most gifted vocalists and songwriters I know. Everything he sings sounds great. He’s a complete natural.

Miami Dan Yoe: “Don’t Say It’s Over” is my favorite track on the album. Randell nailed the lead. Chris, Matt and Randell all did fabulous jobs on the backing vocals. I think Dan Houck played the instruments on the basic track and did a great job, and Gary’s sweetening of the track took it up a notch as well. It was a home run all around. It’s a perfect summer song.

The Bamboo Trading Company (Theme)

David Beard: The last song written for the collection was, “The Bamboo Trading Company (Theme).” The track is a rollicking cross-hybrid of the Monkees, Dave Clark Five and the Traveling Wilburys, which was perfect. The vision for The Bamboo Trading Company had always been a surf pop genre hybrid of a bunch of friends gathered around a microphone, cracking jokes, making it look effortless, hanging out together and just having a great time. We believe we captured that ambiance.

Gary Griffin: Dave had written some “theme song” lyrics and had a rough idea for the melody. I wrote a snappy little piece to accompany it. I think it took about 45 seconds to write. Cute. I wanted to do one of those crazy chaotic tags like something from a Beatles record from the late 60’s – in fact there’s a Beatles musical “quote” in there. Did anyone hear it? Randell simply showed up at the session with his baritone electric sitar. How could I say no? I love it!!

Airborne (Reentry)

Chris English: The musical journey from coast to coast brings so many memories for me, literally. I've lived in SoCal and, for the most part, on the southern east coast. I know the journey by air and by road. I hope the listener will get the sense of joy that the imaginary trip (and recording process) conjures up.

Philip Bardowell: It conjures up a journey-like a short film without dialogue. I like the conceptual approach this album embraces.

Miami Dan Yoe: For me, listening to this album will always bring back the memories of being in the Supreme Hall of Harmony working on the tracks. The studio is located in Southern California, so the weather was always sunny and warm. Using the “Airborne” track to bookend the other songs was the perfect way to begin and end the record.

How would you describe The Bamboo Trading Company CD to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?

Gary Griffin: Reckless abandon. Fun. Just following wherever the music takes you. A musical potpourri… Impossible to pigeonhole. I suppose there are “summertime” influences there which make it easy to describe as a “BeachBoys-ish” type record. I don’t really hear that though. 

Matt Jardine: David and Gary did a fine job putting it all together. I would describe it as a throwback kind of project. It has a lot of 70’s feel to it… A few tracks sound quasi Beach Boys. I think that fans who like that era of music will probably enjoy it. 

Philip Bardowell: It is very unique, fresh, adventurous, brave…and yet still very palatable. 

Randell Kirsch: It is written in the scriptures that Rock and Roll came from the Blues, the saddest of all music (especially if it’s in D minor), but all we did was laugh our butts off making this record. It was really fun. … David Beard is just brimming with ideas, concepts, plans for World Domination, etc. If only .0001% get done, we’ll be busy every summer for the rest of our lives. 

Chris English: The Bamboo Trading Company IS the consummate summer record, and was (and remains for me) a labor of love. It will always hold a special place in my heart. The individual and collective songwriting on this album is some of the best pop songsmithing I’ve ever been a part of. 

Miami Dan Yoe: Well, it’s for sure a summer album and I’ve seen a couple of reviewers call it that. I think if it were to catch on and get enough airplay and other exposure it could become the soundtrack album of the summer. Much of the album is pure, summertime pop, but several of the songs, primarily in the middle section of the record, are a little darker in their sound and a little more mysterious in their lyrical approach. Production and performance account for much of the success or lack of success for any song, but if a tune is going to have any chance at being successful, it has to have good bones. To my ear, there’s not a throwaway track on the album, which is a tribute to the strength of the songwriting. 

Dean Torrence: From an “old school” perspective, the CD has enough good music on it, so I’m very proud. The packaging was dead on… Absolutely perfect! Overall, as a complete package, it’s pretty darn good. If enough people say they are good with it, then I’m good with it.

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"Shrewd Awakening" music video

"Return Of The Killer Shrews" movie trailer