Featured Music: Wednesday, December 12, 2002
Peeling Out

Piano-based rockers Camino haven’t been together long,but they’re already aheadof the pack.


Eric Dodson, drummer with the band Camino, was a little overwhelmed in the recording studio. “I am nothing in a big pool of everything,” he said.

He needn’t have worried. With only half a dozen gigs to its name, Camino was already embarking on its second recording session, at Artisan Recording Studios in Farmers Branch. The plan was to record basic tracks and overdubs for two songs — “Too High” and “Later On.” In preparation, the band focused on fine-tuning parts and arrangements for the songs. “Woodshedding by yourself sucks,” said Camino singer and keyboardist Scott Everett. “But this was good, because when you do it as a band, a lot of ideas come out that wouldn’t otherwise.”

Watching this young band fine-tune its material in the studio, it’s revealing to see the tradeoffs that are often made between musicianship and songcraft to create an artifact that you, the listener, will want to have tickling your cochlea. The band members all have impressive jazz chops, but unlike a lot of jazzers (like those who think that “crossing over” means dumbing down jazz), these guys don’t try to overwhelm the listener with merely flashy displays of instrumental technique. Rather, they make their considerable abilities serve the needs of the song — and first-time singer-songwriter Everett (trained as a jazz drummer and symphony percussionist) writes some great ones, with memorable melodies and hooks. Not exactly what you’d expect from a slumming jazzbo.

In the studio, engineers Dan Schulz and Brian Nesbitt took a few minutes to get levels right and work out some bugs on some new equipment. Then Schulz departed and Nesbitt guided the band through the session. For the basic tracks, the band played together in the studio for a “live” feel while only tracking the bass and drums for the final recording. Vocals, keyboards, and guitar were recorded as “scratch” tracks only; Everett and guitarist Dave Randolph overdubbed their parts later.

“It’s like Las Vegas in here,” said bassist Jeremy Hull, referring to the fact that, like gambling casinos, recording studios tend not to have clocks on the wall. Hull’s a TCU alumnus who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday by playing an early evening gig with a country band followed by a Camino show at the Aardvark. He also plays with jazz bands in addition to being a first-year teacher in Arlington, a fact that was highlighted by the woman who came up to him at the end of the Aardvark gig and greeted him with, “Great work, Mr. Hull!”

Hull has spent years in harness with his rhythm partner Dodson, most recently in the band Circle Theory. In the studio, their section work was supple, grooving, elastic, and fluid, and they nailed their parts in a couple of takes, even though “Later On,” which features a lengthy jam section in the middle à la Steely Dan or Phish, required a click track (an electronic reference tone) to help the musicians keep their beat consistent.

The first run-through of “Too High” had an almost arena-rock feel, but the second time through, the tune felt more intimate. And during the intro, Dodson played a snare roll that sounded like the tide rushing in and out. Once their parts were done, Hull and Dodson lounged in the break room with Hull’s younger brother, who’s also a guitarist (it must run in the family). The rhythm team periodically emerged to offer comments and suggestions on Everett and Randolph’s overdubs. Dodson kept everyone in stitches with an endless stream of one-liners, mostly of a scatological kind.

Guitarist Dave Randolph’s playing adds a unique chaos factor to Camino’s meticulously arranged music. “At first,” said Randolph, “Scott was so used to playing piano ballads that he just wanted to hear guitar. He made me keep turning up until my amp was ready to blow up. That’s when I started messing with feedback — I’d never used it before in my life, but I figured if I was going to be playing so loud, it’d be there anyway, so I might as well learn how to use it.” His solo on “Too High” includes a section that sounds as if it was played backwards. And he’s the only musician you’ll ever see on a Metroplex stage who always performs in his bare feet.

Back in the studio, it was agreed that Everett should re-record his scratch piano part for “Too High,” so he banged it out and overdubbed it with an effect-laden patch (or analog sample) on the bridge to complement Randolph’s feedback washes. Then, after nearly 10 hours in the studio (during which Everett refrained from smoking or drinking coffee, to protect his voice), it was time to record his vocals, following his bandmates’ sniggering exhortations to “be the storyteller.”

“Later On” proved as challenging for its composer to sing as it was for the rhythm section to play. Finally, the third take met everyone’s satisfaction. Then Everett hit the lead vocal on “Too High” on the first take and then added two overdubs, one to strengthen the melody on the damn-near-irresistible last chorus, one to add a harmony part. Even the momentary appearance of Satan’s face in a lava lamp couldn’t throw the singer off his game. (I didn’t see it, but Randolph swears it happened.) The end result: two completed tracks in just under 12 hours.

Everett said that Camino aims to capture “the college audience” and fellow musicians, from whom they’ve already received positive feedback. But they’re much too good to remain a “musicians’ band.” Their brand of intelligent, hook-laden melodic rock is unique on the local scene.

At the end of the session, when the members gathered in the alley behind Artisan before scattering to their homes in Fort Worth and Denton, you could see they were satisfied with their day’s work. Even Eric Dodson was beaming.

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