This feature was initially posted in a local Midwest magazine in August of 2018. There is some dated material here, but also some great info that was edited out for publication. I felt it was a great piece about an amazing band. Enjoy. -J. Hubner
Fort Wayne has plenty of guys and gals that work behind the scenes to help make the community the thriving creative space it has become. From business owners to creative minds to tastemakers, there’s always a handful of folks that work behind the scenes making sure the clocks keep ticking and the trains run on time, so to speak. One of those people is musician, studio runner, and pretty much jack of all trades(and master of many) Jason Davis.
Davis has been the owner/operator of Off The Cuff Sound in Fort Wayne for years. He keeps things analog with everything recorded to tape(he does do Pro Tools, if that’s your thing.) Through Off The Cuff, Jason has made many of Fort Wayne’s finest musicians sound even finer. Offering sage advice, as well as his musical talents, and working the board like some sort of sonic wizard. Artists as diverse as Legendary Trainhoppers, Addison Agen, Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, Water Witches, the D-Rays, and James and the Drifters have passed thru the studio doors to make analog magic with Jason.
But when Jason Davis isn’t recording other artists, he’s booking studio time for his own band, Streetlamps For Spotlights. According to Davis, “Streetlamps formed around 2004 as a way for me to escape the confines of the studio I had built. Initially a 2 piece we put out a couple singles and toured around the Midwest. When the original drummer left I decided it was a perfect time to add a bass player. I always liked 3-piece rock bands and figured if 764-Hero had done it so could we.” The band has always had one constant, Jason Davis. But bass player Jay Hackbush isn’t far behind when it comes to band seniority. “The band has changed members a few times over the years. For nearly a decade Jay Hackbush has been my right hand man and 4 string melodic wizard. Bands are perfect melting pots. I love the collaboration”, say Davis from the Off The Cuff studios.
The goal for most bands is to gig, gig, and gig. And when you can, you write songs in-between those gigs so you can record an album. Davis had a different aesthetic in mind when it came to recording. “I wanted the band to only put out 7inch 45rpm records so that when it was all said and done it would be an amazing historical box set. Sound and Color(Streetlamps For Spotlights’ debut full-length from 2014) changed the plan. Eventually you write too many songs to only release 2 at a time. So we made a full length…and now an EP.”
That EP Davis is referring to is SfS’s excellent new release that will be dropping on August 10th. It’s called Millenium Summer and it’s yet another shot of hard-edged jangle rock in the vein of Television, The Feelies, and the lighter side of Sonic Youth. In regards to Millenium Summer, Davis had this to say about his newest sonic baby. “I’m very excited about the new record. I don’t know if there was anything intentionally different about how the record was made. I feel good songs develop and ask for what they want. Or quite possibly present the parts. When recording the songs I like to think I made more out of less.”
So in other words, the Queen method of recording was not engaged for this recording process. To that Davis replied, “There are not 96 tracks or 15 synth parts. Vocals weren’t comp’d from 8 takes and then tuned. Drums not quantized or pocked. Nor are there stacks of guitar tracks. There are keyboards, Hammond organ, electric piano, and baby grand piano on the record. I like to think tastefully sprinkled where appropriate. Just because the studio has an arsenal of instruments doesn’t mean we have to use them all. The everything and the kitchen sink method is not always asked for, needed, and many times is just damaging to a song. I talk a lot about musical restraint. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should or need to. Performance is always key. We may have been more deliberate with this one”, says Davis.
So there’s the technical aspect of recording an album; the nuts and bolts of pressing record, setting up mics, and turning things up to 11. But what about inspiration? What about that internal push of a button that engages an artist to pick up an instrument and write? What was the inspiration behind Streetlamp’s newest release? A random conversation about love and relationships sparked that inspiration. According to Davis, “Songs are strange creatures. Millennium Summer was spawned out of a conversation I had with our previous drummer Ryan Holquist(Holquist left SfS to form the post-rock band March On, Comrade. Millenium Summer is his final recording with SfS.) We were talking about young love and how silly relationships are when you are kids. He told me a story about this girl he “dated” whose name was Laura Lapinski. What a ring to it right? Instantly we compared it to Winnie Cooper in the ‘Wonder Years’ and all things you love as a kid. We had a good laugh. The next day I couldn’t get Laura Lapinski out of my head. The double L thing was contagious. We tried changing it to protect the innocent, but it was just too good. Soon enough a song of summer love had been born out of a cent of truth, some sarcasm, and amazing name. On that same note the middle rant in ‘Long Distance’ is a true story. John Ptak can attest. A lady came up to me and told me it verbatim. I laughed and the next rehearsal it found a nice place to exist.”
With every album release must come an album release show. Millenium Summer is no different. I asked Jason when this show was happening. “The record comes out Aug 10”, says Jason. “We will be playing an All Ages in-store at Neat Neat Neat Records at 7pm. And then a late night show at The Brass Rail with March On, Comrade.”
Can’t make either of those gigs, but you still want a copy of the album? No problem. You can pre-order the 12” vinyl ( first 100 on White vinyl),CD, and download through Streetlamps for Spotlights’ Bandcamp page over at http://www.streetlampsforspotlights.com. It will be available for preorder at iTunes and other online music distribution sites Aug 3, for you digital-only folks.
To close, I asked Jason where he finds the time to write and record; as well as run a constant flow of artists thru the studio, give music lessons, repair instruments, take care of studio, home, and van maintenance, and still get some sleep. His answer is humbling. ” I love what I do. I feel very lucky to work with the people I work with and to have carved out a little space in this world. Songs come when they come. You never know when they may strike. They may keep you up all night or just one piece keeps you reeling all week. Sometimes it’s a catch phrase, sometimes a guitar riff, other times they come fully formed. I love to rehearse, develop and work an idea into something bigger. Off the Cuff is a very busy place. Although I own the studio we do book time to record. The studio needs a tape operator as I can’t do both. Off the Cuff is just not that kind of place. And honestly it’s nice to concentrate on the playing aspect. So I like to bring in people who have made records here to lend a hand, an ear and be a sounding board. Music is a collaborative process. I would like to take this opportunity thank these trusted associates: Javier Bayouth, Dwane Ferren, Bart Helms, John Ptak, Dan Smyth, and Atticus Sorrell. Thank you!”
Hit up Streetlamps For Spotlights on their Bandcamp page here. Listen to Millennium Summer below, and support great artists.