By SCOTT WEISSER firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GOSHEN — “Travelers” is the name of the album. Musically speaking, the principal songwriter behind it has been on a journey himself.
This year marks Nathan Butler’s 25th playing music. He started out in churches. At age 15, he was the drummer in a thrash-metal outfit, and from there proceeded to play more thrash. Then he played with singer-songwriter Jonathan Ruell, and was a member of the Americana/roots music group The Steel Wheels for about a year. His stints also included a Nine Inch Nails-styled pop-industrial band.
“I’ve been all over the place, genre-wise,” said the Goshen-based musician.
These days, the place is Shiny Shiny Black.
Butler handles vocal and lead guitar duties in the group. Anna Pasquarello Sherck is on guitar, backing vocals and occasional flute. Bryan Chris is the bass player and other backing vocalist.
Shiny Shiny Black’s debut studio album “Travelers” will be officially released Saturday. That day, the full band is scheduled to be at downtown Goshen’s Ignition Music Garage — on Record Store Day, no less — from 10 to 11 a.m.
Broadly speaking, “Travelers” is muscular Americana/indie rock, with shades of Wilco, Tom Petty, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and a hint of The Decemberists. It boasts an enviable big-room, expansive sound.
Going into the “Travelers” project, Butler had an idea for its sound/feel/aesthetic framework.
“I basically wanted to make a bunch of songs that could end up in a Quentin Tarantino film, was my initial premise,” he said. (Listener’s note: The spaghetti Western soundtrack by way of Neil Young intro to lead-off track “Look Me in the Eyes” is an example of hitting that mark.)
Butler indicated that as the track list was being put together, a sort of continuity developed with certain concepts and range of emotions. He sees “Travelers” as being split into sections.
The first three songs involve a solitary character walking through their life on Earth, seeing things that are happening and experiencing life with a distant view — “kind of more of an arch view,” Butler said.
The next several tunes offer a different take. Standout track “Lights On,” for example, is sung from the vantage point of someone being frustrated with people who make mistakes and hurt him — and realizing, over time, that he does a lot of the same things.
The three songs at the end of the album, “Love Like That,” “Simple Love” and “The Prisoner,” make up what Butler terms a personal-relationship trilogy, his thoughts and feelings about his relationship with his wife and daughter.
“Travelers” was engineered, mixed and produced by Butler and Tim Bushong. The drums, played by Butler, were recorded at The Goshen Theater, and the rest of the album recorded at T-Bush Record Farm. To say Butler was enthused to record with Bushong is true, and understatement.
“He is the shredder of all shredders,” Butler said, referring to Bushong’s guitar prowess. “He was a hero of mine when I was a kid.” At age 19, Butler made his first record with Bushong in 1996.
“He was good then, and he’s gotten a lot better since then as a record producer and as an engineer,” Butler said.
Shiny Shiny Black plans to take its music on the road. Butler said the group will be working with a couple of different drummers this summer for the live show. That will cut down on multi-tasking by the three principal members; Butler, Sherck and Chris have been splitting percussion duties onstage.
“We have always kind of played the drums as a group, which is cool but also has some limitations that I’m ready to move beyond,” Butler said. “You can’t move around at all on the stage. It makes it hard to push that effect on your guitar pedal or those kinds of things because your feet are already tied — you’re standing on one and hitting the bass drum with the other.”
Discussing his creative process, Butler said he finds it easier to write songs in Shiny Shiny Black’s genre than craft industrial-style music.
“Something seems to work a lot better when I sit down with an acoustic guitar and start playing and then sing along to it,” he said. “...That was a conscious choice with this project, was to always start from that point. I think if there’s any continuity to the songs, that’s where it’s coming from is that all of them started from just playing on a real instrument and then developing a melody and then singing along to it. Which is a pretty different approach to the stuff that I had personally done before.
“It seems to have worked out pretty well.”
“Travelers” will be available at Ignition Music Garage. It can be ordered in advance at the website www.shinyshinyblack.com.