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THICK AS THIEVES:
SCOTT WEDDLE OF AMELIA TALKS TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT THE BAND'S NEW CD 'A LONG LOVELY LIST OF REPAIRS', WORKING WITH PRODUCER MARK ORTON, AND BEING AT PEACE WITH THE WHOLE RECORD
(READ MORE)


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ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS AMELIA

THICK AS THIEVES
SCOTT WEDDLE
OF AMELIA
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED

ABOUT THE BAND'S NEW CD 'A LONG LOVELY LIST OF REPAIRS'
WORKING WITH PRODUCER MARK ORTON
AND BEING AT PEACE WITH THE WHOLE RECORD
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INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
While I don't want to say something as cliched as 'there must be something in the water' in regard to the city of Portland, Oregon and its burgeoning music scene, I must concede that this is the only way I can explain it. In this year alone, ROCKWIRED has showcased CHINA FORBES (of PINK MARTINI), THE CHERRY POPPIN' DADDIES, CASEY NEILL, and THE SLANTS; all of them goonies, hailing from the Beaver State, and lets not forget the current indie-rock darlings, THE DECEMBERISTS. Now, I'm going to have to add folk-rock trio AMELIA to this list of incredible artists."There is a lot of music going on here right now." says AMELIA's guitarist SCOTT WEDDLE of the band's hometown. "It's heated up in the last two or three years with a lot of high profile bands moving here. It's still pretty affordable. It's not too expensive to be a musician in Portland yet. It's not the Bay Area or something like that".

'A LONG LOVELY LIST OF REPAIRS' is AMELIA's third release and with a little help from producer MARK ORTON, the band has released some of the moodiest roots music since the COWBOY JUNKIES released THE TRINITY SESSION twenty years ago. Lead vocalist and percussionist, TEISHA HELGERSON breathes an irresistibly soulful whisper into the band's melancholic prose, while band mates SCOTT WEDDLE and JESSE EMERSON provide a sparse yet compelling soundscape.

ROCKWIRED spoke with SCOTT WEDDLE over the the phone. Here is how it went.

'A LONG LOVELY LIST OF REPAIRS' is lovely CD!
Thanks! Thank you very much!

This is the third release?
This is the third studio album. We put out a live one in between the second and third one.

Well now that it's out there for everybody to hear, what's going through your head?
I feel really good about it. It's one of the only records that took us a really long time to make. The fact that I can still listen to it after working on it for as long as we did is a good thing. It wasn't sustained work because we started ans stopped a bunch because we were working with a producer that was really busy and it was the first time we had ever turned the whole project over to a producer. we were really tied to his schedule so the record took along time to record. Even by the end of it, I wasn't sick of it. I didn't hate every song and I didn't wince when things that come up about the album that I didn't like happened. I sort of feel that I 'm very at peace with the record which is an odd sensation. It's weird sensation when you put out a record. You read what people think of it and you're excited to hear it, and then you sort of  realize that a lot of the good things that people say as well as the bad tings that people have to say don't really reflect your feelings about it. Even the flattering stuff sort of misses what you think you're doing. Right now, I'm at the place where I didn't read reviews any more. Good or bad. I'm at peace with the whole record.

I just read a really good review of your album on PASTE MAGAZINE.
Actually I knew about that one. A friend of mine called me and told me that he was reading it. From what I hear, a lot of the reviews are very flattering.

How did this group of people get together and decide to become a band?
I was in a band called the FLAT IRONS which was sort of a moody rock-a-billy band with the bass player JESSE who is now in AMELIA. That band broke up and then I was looking for my next musical project and I ran into TEISHA at a bar. I heard her sing and I loved the way she sang so I approached her about working with me. I played some of old FLAT IRONS stuff and she was excited about it. She started singing the songs that I was writing. When it was time to start playing shows, I went and grabbed the rhythm section from my old band. I got JESSE EMERSON on bass and I got RICHARD CUELLAR on drums. So the four of us became the band and it was those four people that recorded the first two records. After record two, RICHARD the drummer left While there was a little bit of shuffling around at that time, we tried a different bass player and a different drummer and we moved JESSE to keyboards for a little while. It's sort of insignificant to the story because basically TEISHA started playing drums, JESSE went back to playing bass. Basically, we had just lost a member. Now we are a trio and we use other musicians when we play live sometimes.

Is the partnership between you and TEISHA a romantic one as well or is it strictly music?
It is. It hasn't been that forever. It just started being that a couple of years ago.

Is it easy or difficult?
Have you ever been a relationship with anyone that you've worked with?

Hell no!
It's kind of hard. It's hard for people who aren't together to make music. Somethings are easier about it. Because we're together all of the time, it's easier to work stuff out. We're really good friends. We've always been really good friends so our friendship just got a little upgrade. It feels about the same as it always has to be honest.

Explain, if you can explain it, the whole creative process. How do songs get written for this band?
For the first record, I wrote all of the songs and then taught them to people and played them and recorded them. That was just off the first record,  because JESSE is a really good songwriter. On the second record we unleashed JESSE. TEISHA also started writing songs. Now that we're on this new CD, it's gotten to where people will write songs and then show them to people. Sometimes there will be a significant part of a song will be finished and someone will help the song over the hump by adding something here or changing something there. Sometimes, someone will write the lyrics and someone will write music, but that rarely happens. On the new record, it's mostly people writing their own songs with the other people helping with the arrangements. The producer on this album, helped us all with our arrangements. We put the songs in his hands before we let anyone else weigh in. He was really a member of the band during the recording and we had never let anyone have that kind of access to the creative. MARK ORTON is a musician and he's in this band called the TIN HAT TRIO. They're a San Francisco based classical Americana band. They're these fantastic musicians that play with WILLIE NELSON. They're all fantastic in their own right. MARK is the leader of that band and if you do any sort of a google search for MARK you'll read his resume. He writes movies music. He's a heavy-hitter kind of guy that we turned our music over to. His band is about all antique instruments and other-worldly sounds.

Was it his reputation alone that made it easier for you guys to trust him or-
He was a guest musician on our first record and he played a couple keyboard parts. When we saw him doing his thing, we were like 'Wow! Why don't we have this guy?' After our first two records we decided that we wanted to take the music to a place where  we had never been before. We wanted a person who could arrange strings and could look at the songs, step back from them in a way and not do a rock band running through the songs live. We wanted the music built from the ground up in a way that we hadn't done before. We couldn't do that. I couldn't arrange a string part that could carry a whole song. When you do something like that you need to find someone that is from that world. MARK is from the classical world but he;s also pop and Americana. He was approachable. He understood our music and could help us get to something that was out of our reach.

Why the name AMELIA?
The band name sort of came from the idea that we wanted to name the band as if it was a person or a character because the songs that I was writing weren't necessarily personal songs for me. Some of them were, but TEISHA was singing them and we wanted it to be a character that we could all write for and be.

Talk about the cover art and its assortment of negatives. It's pretty interesting.
We've always used found stuff for our cover art. For the first two records we used wallpaper that had been found. There are a lot of old houses around Portland and there were chunks of wallpaper that we found that we used as the cover art. For the new album, we were looking around for something to use and a friend of mine bought a house in Portland. When he went on a tour of the house he found out that the house had been a dance studio since the fifties. The elderly woman who had own the house died and her family was selling the house. In the basement, there were all of these bars and mirrors and hundreds and hundreds of pictures of generations of dancers. All of these photo shoots of recitals that had been going on for years. So my friend bought the house he told the family that they absolutely want you to include these photos n the sale of this house. The album cover is just one series of photos that was part of these recital picture of this old dance studio. Based on the glasses that the girl is wearing (on the cover) I would say the pictures are from the early sixties. You have a guess?

I'd say the same. Mid-sixties.
The pictures are old-fashioned and found. That' kind of what we imply in our art.

From A LONG LOVELY LIST OF REPAIRS, are there any songs that sort of stand out for you at the moment and if so why?
There are musical parts that stand out and that I'm proud of. There are lyrical things that I like. I like the song FAREWELL which was written by JESSE. It's the second song  on the record and one of the things I like about that song is the low tympani that we're using throughout it. There a mallets on big drums kind of holding the thing together. I don't know if you know what an e-bow is but it's a magnetic thing that you hold over the strings of a guitar and it makes strings resonate without having to pick them. We're using one of those on a lap dobro. That's the sound that you hear at the beginning of the track. At the end of that song we have this treated piano and that was MARK ORTON's idea. By 'treating' a piano, that means that MARK put chains or silly putty on the strings of the piano so that when you play it doesn't make the normal sound that a piano makes. It makes either a thudding version of a piano sound or a chain bouncing on the strings of a piano sound. At the close of FAREWELL, you hear the silly putty on the strings. it almost sounds like marimba. Lastly, what I like about that song is that JESSE has a line where he sings 'ELVIS on the record player' and I sing 'It's Costello that I speak of / Not the King." JESSE is  a huge ELVIS COSTELLO fan and I love that he's talking about ELVIS COSTELLO in a song.

Too many people talk about the other ELVIS in songs anyway.
Exactly.

Talk about your other band mates. What do you think that each of them sort of brings to the table musically, creatively and personality-wise.
TEISHA brings the sexiness and the soulfulness and she's our drummer now. One of the things that she does which is just fantastic is really lazy drums - these kind of behind-the-beat soulful drums and shes also a wonderful singer and JESS and I  write our songs, make demos and we give them to TEISHA and it's like putting our songs into this great voice machine. JESSE is sort of the SYD BARRETT of our band.

So he's the crazy one?
Yes, he's pretty nuts. He's pushing that boundaries of the band all of the time in terms of lyrics and ideas. He sort of challenges me lyrically to be zanier and his poetry is pretty wild sometimes. Of the three of us, he os our most trained musician and he understands music in a way that I'm still working on. I use him alot to help me to come up with better changes. So those are my band mates.

What do you want someone to come away with after they've heard this CD?
I would want people to sort of get lost in it. I would love for them to enjoy the sounds and prettiness of the arrangements and the instruments and let it wash over them. I think out there somewhere are people who will hear the music and appreciate the way we put that record together and I hope that we reach those people.