So here's how "Leftoverwhelming" came to be. Short story. It's Summer of 2002. I'm out of songs for "The vonHummer Hour," my bi-weekly cable access series, and so I reached back to the tunes that were leftovers from my first record, 2000's "That Which Does Not Smash." I re-did the vocals, mixed it, burned it, done.
So the story of "Leftoverwhelming" is really the story of "That Which Does Not Smash," which, again, I'll tell you in short order, (as the cook said.) I had 24 swell songs written. I'd invented a drum guitar. I'd converted an acoustic Applause bass into a drone bass, to play alongside a matching high drone guitar. This would come to be my "Classic vonHummer Sound:" three guitars that take equal share in the rhythm and melody.
All 24 songs were recorded in a large orange Volkswagen camper tent that I had set up in the garage of the apartment on Barnes Road, from Fall 1999 through Spring of 2000. A single Vornado space heater ran nonstop to heat the tent, on the dime of the unwitting management company. These twelve "leftover" songs were passed over by Ann Hammer, who I considered to have a "golden ear" for music at the time, in favor of the twelve that went on "That Which Does Not Smash."
For a couple of years I considered these twelve complete catastrophes and banished them to the box of dusty cassette masters until the first few seasons of the show aired and "Flip a BItch" became a favorite among fans. This was significant because it was a song Ann Hammer didn't like. I included that one on the first album over her good judgement because I thought it was a masterpiece.
The popularity of "Flip a Bitch" had me realizing that—duh—even a golden ear can miss a good song. Sometimes a song will just speak to some people and leave everyone else cold. So if there's a beauty to releasing an album with too many tracks, that's it: more chances for the idiosyncrats to find a rare gem.
If memory serves, three of the songs in this collection became top twenty downloads from the website: "Time to Discover," "Prove That Child," and "Crunchy Lil' Numbers." The rest have been more or less ignored, although that's a very anecdotal judgement. It just means nobody has written in or told me personally, "Hey, 'Humidity' is my favorite song!"
This was my first solo recording on the trusty Tascam 420 4-track cassette recorder. I did my best all around to get a good sound and a good performance. I think I got very entranced doing so, because I have memories of recording and re-recording under the little white Xmas lights I strung along the roof of the tent. I can still see that peculiar orange atmosphere inside, an eternal night no matter what time of day it was outside. I remember having to turn off the heater during a take in the winter and feeling the temperature drop as I played. But when I hear these back, it's like somebody else played the whole album.
This sound, the classic vonHummer sound, was exactly the music I'd always dreamed of making: folky and rhythmic with rock sensibility. "Solisbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel and "Cecelia" by Simon & Garfunkel were my guiding lights. To this day, I'd still be happy make song after song trying to sound like those two songs.
On "Leftoverwhelming," I feel like that's what I've done. To my own ears these songs sound like Solisbury Cecelia songs. If you don't hear that, then I've succeeded in more than I'd dreamed. The sweetest success for an artist is when others mistake your stolen style for an original one. It's like inheriting a fortune.
A note about the cover art: the photos are by Jason Kaplan (jekphoto.com
), taken at Newspace Photography. Jason was a fan who contacted me one fine day and offered to take a boatload of photos, free, and I've reaped the benefits of his talent and hard work for years now. He's a true mensch, that Jason, and I thank him for helping crystallize my visual stylistics or something quite like it.