a weird ballet (jenifer, part ii).

I was engaged in a weird ballet with Jenifer Convertible.

Jim and I would email frequently.  Being fairly familiar with the indie music scene in New York, I thought Jenifer Convertible was the best indie band in the city.  Lenny was (and still is, I’m discovering) a spectacular songwriter, and Jim’s contributions were equally strong.  Their styles of guitar playing were different from each other, combining to be equally melodic and noisy, and James’ bass playing was an outstanding complement.  Although their drummer Andy had left the band, Jim kept me apprised on the quick replacement of a louder, more aggressive drummer that was adding some heavier edges to the band’s sound.

I would make occasional hints at my interest in working with them, and Jim would respond in what seemed like a favorable way.  It got to the point where the ballet was making me crazy; the band had an incredible full-length CD’s worth of material that I was completely head over heels in love with, and it was just sitting there, waiting to come out on Dromedary.

The best part about Jenifer Convertible was that Jim and I had known each other peripherally for years.  Not only did he make promo calls to me when I was working at WSAM, but I scoured his demo tapes column in Alternative Press when Dromedary was first starting, looking for up-and-coming indie bands who needed a label to release their stuff.  I was working with Rich on Indier Than Thou! when Jenifer was self-releasing their singles, and Jim was working at AP when we were trying to increase our profile.  He was aware of all our warts.

He was also aware of how difficult it was for an indie band to break through the clutter of bands trying to make an impact.  Jim took music seriously – he was an outstanding musician – but his expectations were not unrealistic.  He didn’t expect Dromedary to become Touch And Go, and he empathized with my situation when we emailed about the quality of our distribution (or lack thereof).

The first time I decided to just suck it up and ask him, he didn’t respond to my email.

That freaked me out.  It reminded me of way back when, when I was offered a job at a record label in south Jersey, and I messed up the interview so badly that they gave the job to someone else.  I wrote Jim a blathering email and he didn’t respond.

This was 1995, though, so the “I’ve been having trouble with my email” story was still a plausible one, so I tried a second time.  You know, “I sent you this email a week or so ago, but I’ve been having trouble with my email, and I’m not sure if you received it.”

I think everyone has used that at least once, and I don’t think it’s ever been true.

This time, Jim responded.

Yes.

We’d love to.  We’re flattered.  And we’re going to do one better – we’re going into the studio to record all new tracks.

I don’t want new tracks, I thought.  I want “Watertower.”  I want “St. Peter,” “Rewind,” and “Speedracer.”  I want the “Pretty Ballerina” cover.  They’re all recorded already.  Just send me the tape.

So I said that.  And then he told me that they weren’t just going into any studio, they were going into the studio with Wharton Tiers.

Wharton Tiers was (still is) a well-known producer who had produced and/or engineered records by the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Helmet – some of my favorite bands.  How he wound up agreeing to record Jenifer Convertible when he was just a year or two removed from receiving a gold record for Helmet’s Meantime, I’ll never know.

“We just harassed him until he said yes,” Jim explained.

I didn’t want to sound desperate, but I wanted that record recorded, like, now.  I couldn’t wait to hear it.  I was thrilled.

We were going to have a Jenifer Convertible CD recorded by Wharton Tiers, and a Footstone CD recorded by Rob Grenoble.  They were both going to sound great.  I just had to figure out a way to sell them.

And pay for them.

~ by Al on October 13, 2009.

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