The Badlees Archives

The Badlees in Bearsville (October 1997)

by Alan K. Stout
102.3-FM, The Mountain

May 9, 2012

If you listen to my Sunday night radio show, you may know that I usually like to close the program with a Badlees song. I started the tradition back in 2004 when we first launched "Music On The Menu Live," and I've done it ever since. I've been an admirer of the band since the early '90s, and while helping cover rock music for The Times Leader and The Weekender for the past 20 years, I've written more articles about them than any other artists. And that's simply because of their talent and because they've always had something interesting going on. The music was fabulous. And there was always a good story.

As a journalist, I've been fortunate enough to have been along for most of the ride as The Badlees have continued to move forward with their music. I recall talking with them back in 1994 about winning The Times Leader's "Sound Choice" readers' poll and being voted NEPA's best band, and about their trip to China. In the spring of 1995, with the release of "River Songs," the band was clearly on its way to a national record deal, and that summer, I talked with them on the very day they were signed. Later, when they opened for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the newspaper sent me out to cover the show. It was an incredibly exciting time for everybody who followed the band because we were all seeing good things happen to a band that we really believed in.

In October of 1997, the band was in Bearsville, New York, recording its follow-up to "River Songs." And once again, the newspaper sent me on the road to write about it. In addition to myself, the arts and entertainment editor at the newspaper also saw the importance and significance of what was happening with The Badlees, and I appreciated the fact that he allowed me the time and gave me the resources to cover them so well. Simply put: we were on it. And so, off to Bearsville I went ...

Now, 15 years later, things like websites and blogs allow writers to share some of these types of experiences in a little more detail. And here on this little Mountain blog, I'm sharing some of the many photos that I took at the Bearsville Recording Studios during the "Up There Down Here" sessions. Only four of these photos appeared in the newspaper, but on the above slideshow you can view a few dozen pictures. I figured with the band's new "See Me As A Picture - The Best, So Far: 1990-2012" album doing so well on the local charts, and with The Mountain spinning the lead single, "Promises," the time was right to dig into my Badlees vaults and put them out there.

The above slideshow photos were taken on October 14 and October 15 of 1997. (Suggestion: watch 'em in full screen.) You can read the article that I wrote about my time there in the archives linked above, but here, for the first time, are a few other things that I remember about the sessions:

1) The setting was perfect. Bearsville is near the fabled Woodstock. It's in the Catskills. And it was October. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I sometimes felt that the surrounding atmosphere and ambiance actually bled into recordings and into some of the tracks on the "Up There Down Here" album. Yes, the record has some great rockers such as "Don't Let Me Hide," "Middle of The Busiest Road," "Luther's Windows" and "Silly Little Man," but when I hear the softer tracks, such as "Thinking In Ways" and "Running Up That Hill," I can actually hear the Catskills in the fall.

2) While there, I lodged with the band, and I was told that the house where we stayed, or cottage, was owned by Robbie Robertson. Or, maybe it used to be owned by Robbie Robertson. Didn't matter. Either way, it was cool. It was adjacent to the studio, and The Badlees were huge fans of The Band, so the connection felt right. I've posted a photo of the place at the end of the slideshow.

3) By the time I got to Bearsville, the band had been working on the album for a while and most of the rhythm tracks had already been completed. Thus, you don't see as many studio shots of drummer Ron Simasek, bassist Paul Smith and rhythm guitarist Jeff Feltenberger. The whole band, however, was present and was very engaged in the recording. Paul engineered the vocal tracks on "Middle of The Busiest Road," which were not done in the actual studio, but in vocalist Pete Palladino's room at the cottage. Jeff was still laying down some guitar tracks on "Silly Little Man" and Bret Alexander was adding some texture to "Thinking In Ways."

4) Though the setting was rustic and, from the outside, the studio looked almost like a big barn, the inside was state-of-the-art. At the time of the "Up There Down Here" sessions, The Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M. and Blues Traveler had all recently done some fine records there.

5) Late in the studio one night, Bret played me a completed track. If I recall, it was "Running Up That Hill," which even the band realized was a very special number. It sounded wonderful, and to this day, it is probably my favorite Badlees song. As it played through the speakers in the studio on that cool October night, I asked Bret, "So, is this your favorite part of this process? When a song is completed - when it's mixed and mastered and all of the instruments are there, and you can just sit back and listen to it - is that your favorite part?" He said, "No, not really. My favorite part is the moment I write the song. My favorite part is when you're sitting on the coach with your guitar, and you know you've got a good tune. All of the other instrumentation, I can sort of hear that in my head when I write it, and I know we can do that later. The best part is when you first get the song."

Interesting answer. And perhaps one I should have expected from such a creative band.

Hope you enjoy the photos from Bearsville. They really were some of the most interesting days I've ever had, and I'm glad, after all of these years, to finally share them.