Blackberry Belle Preview
Dulli Reveals Details of Second Twilight Singers LP
Dickbrain not so invasive since the Paxil kicked in
– Marnie Christenson
While looking for hints as to what Greg Dulli and his Twilight Singers are up to, one gets the sense that a wave of nostalgia is building a legacy for The Afghan Whigs. As the years continue to pass since the release of their final record, perhaps our troubled minds are just longing for a little of that rawer passion. But just as a Whigs legacy is beginning to take shape, a new era is already underway for Dulli, as his side-project-turned-band, The Twilight Singers, prepares to release its second album, Blackberry Belle, in October. The long-awaited follow-up to 2000’s Twilight as Played by The Twilight Singers has found a home with Birdman Records, after Columbia turned it down.
As for the creative process, the record has apparently been in the works for some time and has followed Dulli through some personal and stylistic changes. When asked about his thoughts on the new record, he said, “As always, I’d never put out a song collection unless I thought I had something to say and had said it well. This album is a pretty honest and harrowing account of what I saw, heard, and felt over the last coupla years.” As for the personal changes, the sudden death of a close friend apparently affected the direction of the record, which took on a darker tone in its later developmental stages.
The Twilight Singers came into existence while the Whigs were still together, the result of a vocal collaboration between Dulli, Howlin’ Maggie’s Harold Chichester, and Pigeonhed/Satchel/Brad vocalist Shawn Smith. The project was more or less complete before the release of the Whigs’ swan song, 1965, but was shelved when that band was dumped by Elektra. Both the Twilight Singers project and The Afghan Whigs were subsequently picked up by Columbia with the stipulation that 1965 be released before Twilight. By the time Twilight finally saw release in 2000, the record had gone through a variety of changes, the final version incorporating the talents of British acid-jazz duo Fila Brazillia, thus injecting hints of electronica and beat to the already diverse sound.
The writing process for what would become Blackberry Belle began even before the official breakup of the Whigs in 2001. Afterwards, Dulli decided to devote himself full-time to The Twilight Singers. For the next two years, he split time between the L.A. and New Orleans’ French Quarter, picking up musicians along the way. Thus, the roster is fat (sporting about 25 performers in all), and even if many aren’t household names, who else can boast an appearance by former Prince protégé Apollonia Kotero on their record?
We’re told we can expect an album that is “as sad as it is triumphant,” influenced by music ranging from hip-hop to Pink Floyd, from Big Star to Nina Simone, while incorporating the signature dramatic, bare-all lyricism that we’ve come to expect from Dulli. Here’s the tracklist:
01 Martin Eden
02 Esta Noche
03 Teenage Wristband
04 St. Gregory
05 The Killer
06 Decatur St.
08 Follow You Down
10 Fat City (Slight Return)
11 Number Nine
There will be a tour in support of Blackberry Belle later this fall, and we’ll bring you those dates when it’s announced. Suffice it to say, the touring version of the project will be a bit leaner. “As a free man in the studio, I was able to have countless and random musical partners,” says Dulli, “As a live curiosity, we will number five and will be ravenous in our quest for power.”
In the meantime, SoCal readers should mark their calendars for Los Angeles’ Sunset Junction Street Fair on August 23rd, when The Twilight Singers will take the stage along with bands like Guided by Voices, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Rilo Kiley, and others.
Aside from work on the new record, Dulli has kept busy helping friends with various projects; he provided vocals for two tracks on the newest Mark Lanegan record (which Lanegan reciprocates on Blackberry Belle), and also wrote and sang on Muggs’ (as in “Cypress Hill DJ”) latest album in a track called “Fat City”– an alternate version of which will appear on Belle. Dulli also hints that there may be more to look forward to: “I have more songs than I know what to do with and those judged worthy of public infliction will be aimed and fired.” This can only be good news to those of us still clinging to a legacy.