Pale Young Gentlemen (BSS #242)

Pale Young Gentlemen is a band from Madison, Wisconsin that is currently touring across the United States, and has just released its second album, Black Forest (tra la la).

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contending with unexpected discrimination during the economic crisis.

Guest: Michael Reisenauer (of Pale Young Gentlemen)

Subjects Discussed: The benefits of “Pale Young Gentlemen” as a collective noun, musical arrangement and incorporating all members of the band into a song, input on specific sounds, divine acts of percussive serendipity, the troubling connections between the lyrics of “Our History” and the relationship between the Reisenauer brothers, observing strangers who are hit by cars, Beau Sorenson’s involvement, taking time off work to write music, balancing multiple forms of employment, the band acquiring a full string quartet, the cabaret-based music of the first album vs. the string-based approach of the second, the pros and cons of taking music seriously, mixing an album in two weeks, playing with seven members vs. touring with five, Ray Davies, being specific about falsettos and slurring vocals, word mashups, vocal sweetening, Billy Joel’s AutoTuning at the Super Bowl, Bret Randall, Jackie, touring and recognition, the ratio between writing music and performing, selling CDs, relying on word-of-mouth and the Internet, and having Matthew Reisenauer handle the business end of things.


Reisenauer: We’ll actually write through entire songs and entire arrangements, and then cast them away and then start over.

Correspondent: Really?

Reisenauer: That happened a lot with this album. As the songs started fitting together, certain things didn’t work at all anymore, didn’t work for the mood of the entire album anymore. So we had to change the arrangement so it fit better. Drums are one of the things that I have absolutely no knowledge about.

Correspondent: So you defer to Matt.

Reisenauer: I can’t play them. So he’ll play things. And he’ll do things. “Don’t do that anymore.” “That’s bad.” “That’s great.” Or “do that again.” You know, that kind of stuff.

Correspondent: I’m curious. Do you have any input on specific sounds? Or is that all Matthew? I note, for example, there’s that sound during “The Crook of My Good Arm,” where you have something that sounds between a cowbell and a gas station bell.

Reisenauer: Yeah, I can tell you what that is. I was having trouble with that song, and so I decided I’d just demo it in my apartment on an eight-track. So I just had the guitar line. And I was just messing around. And I was headed at a table. And at the table was a Pottery Barn-like fruit bowl. And so I just took the end of a handle on some scissors and banged on the inside of it.

Correspondent: Really?

Reisenauer: We used that on the record too. We brought that bowl into the studio.

Correspondent: It was that bowl.

Reisenauer: With the back of the scissors.

Correspondent: Did you try any other bowls out?

Reisenauer: No! It was the perfect sound right away.

Correspondent: It was one bowl and it worked out.

Reisenauer: Yeah, we didn’t mess with it at all.

Correspondent: Are there any other percussive scenarios like that? Where you banged on something and it turned out to be just that particular one? A divine act of serendipity?

Reisenauer: (laughs) Nothing like that on the album. We tried other various things. Matt had an idea for a song using a wrench. A ratchet wrench going KWHLEKT. Like that. That kind of stuff. But it didn’t end up fitting well for the album.

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