Free to listen, $8 to pre-order vinyl, $2 to buy digital
Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends is, as always, Conan Neutron on Vocals and guitar, Tony Ash on bass and Dale Crover on drums. This time we are joined by Sean Kirkpatrick of the pAperchAse and Nervous Curtains on synth, piano, keys, etc, and Josh Hensley of the rutabega on harmony vocals.
It’s a lot more low key than a lot of our stuff and is directly written about the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel in Death Valley Junction California.
There is a stunning documentary on it called Amargosa.
Here’s what that link says:
“In the ghost town of Death Valley Junction stands the Amargosa Opera House, where for the past 33 years former New York dancer and artist Marta Becket has performed her own ballets in the theater she spent seven years handpainting with stunning murals.”
Yup. I (Conan) consider Marta Becket to be a personal inspiration and the Amargosa Opera House to be a paragon of DIY attitude and uncompromising vision. This song is meant to honor her achievements and memory, and to celebrate the idea that empty spaces are places to paint, what is possible.
If you’ve ever seen Lost Highway, it’s the hotel at the end.
It’s an incredible place in the middle of absolutely NOWHERE and Marta Becket was an American treasure.
On the other side is the incredible Maple Stave, Chris does time as second guitar for us quite a bit and does a LOT of our art. Evan has sat in as well, on guitar and drums. They are a hell of a band.
Let me just quote what Chris wrote about their song:
“The short version: the Maple Stave split with Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends is out today. We recorded it in November with the great Nick Petersen, and it was mastered by the great Bob Weston. It is the first Maple Stave recording since 2006 (I believe) to include bass guitar.
It is available for download here:
The long version:
Back in summer of 1998 things were weird for me. I had started listening to stuff like Polvo and June of 44, which skewed my songwriting, pushing it away from the more traditional likes of Sebadoh and Guided By Voices. It was also weird because I was about to start college, and I was scared to some degree. As far as a band went, I knew I’d start from scratch, and, with that, could do whatever.
On August 5th 1998, I went to the Lizard & Snake (long, long gone Chapel Hill cafe/club), probably on the suggestion of a friend. The show I went to see featured two bands I knew nothing about. They were Bicentennial Quarters (local opener; about 20 years gone as of this writing) and U.S. Maple. Like hearing “Enemy Insects,” “My Black Ass” or “Of Information & Belief” for the first time in my car, on Jefferson Road, not long before, these bands blew me away. (note: I first heard “My Black Ass” in a friend’s car in an Amoco parking lot in Boone, NC somewhere in 97/98) I didn’t understand what was happening, but knew it was good. It gave me a much greater understanding of how much you could play with song structure, and though I’d say that I likely lean more toward traditional styles when writing, it broadened my horizons enough to understand that pushing things further than I had been was absolutely ok to do.
I left that show and came up with the name Maple Stave as a nod of appreciation. I wrote it down in a notebook in case I ever needed it.
I moved to Boone, started college, but caught up with Bicentennial Quarters a couple months later at Carrboro Elementary, opening for Shellac. It was a big deal to see Shellac. A growing number of albums in my collection featured at least one of the band members’ names and I had a quickly growing appreciation for their work (which still carries on; I’ll still sometimes think how good something sounds only to find one of their names in the liner notes). I wasn’t in a good band, we had nothing that was worthy of recording or mastering, but I knew one day it would happen. Despite how angular and aggressive the music is, Shellac proved to be perfect gentlemen. After the show, I approached Bob and asked if he would work with my band. He said he would, told me he had a day rate and if he had to fly anywhere we’d have to cover expenses and gave me his phone number. That number remained on the wall of my apartments for years, in case I ever felt like I needed it.
So then, 2018 rolls around, 20 years down the line from all this, and Conan asks us to record something to be a part of his seven inch series. We go out and record with our buddy, Nick Petersen, send it off to Conan, feeling really good about what we’ve done (Nick is great guy, does great work, and always makes us feel at home). Conan sent the file off to be mastered, and, not long after, I got the file back. It was from Chicago Mastering, it was from Bob Weston, and it was one of the happiest moments I’ve had out of a quarter century of playing music.
I wasn’t in a happy spot toward the end of last year. I wrote an angry song, while trying to be diplomatic. Evan helped me a lot with whittling down and rephrasing, as per usual, all for the best. It’s about trying to be honest with yourself and someone else. And it has one of best titles we’ve probably ever slapped on a song.”