Red Heart the Ticker was conceived in the woods of Vermont in the hand built cabin of Robin and Ty during cold winter nights a by a sputtering birch log wood fire. When they felt an album was ready to be born, they moved their instruments into a post and beam barn down the road and started recording their songs with one microphone and one laptop. (One prairie and one bee/ and reverie.) Friends arrived: an amazing guitar player from New York showed up with six guitars, a pedal steel and a Casio keyboard in tow. A facile drummer from Boston arrived. An electronica artist came and wandered around amongst the trees. These musicians slept on the screen porch of the cabin and ate burritos and worked hard and made beautiful, awe-inspiring sounds. Then Robin and Ty took their laptop and their microphone to Boston and New York and more friends added more sounds; trombone, rhodes, synth, accordion, piano. This went on for six months. They lived on popcorn and raw vegetables. They drank excessive amounts of scotch. They kept all the neighbors awake. By May of 2005 they were done recording; their hard-drives were full, their voices were tired and their backs were kinked. They took a mountain of sounds to their friend Bill down the road and said, “Help!” Bill helped. He chiseled and carved and blew air into and subtracted the shape of each song until something tangible could be heard. In the off hours they went to a nearby pond with Bill and swam. They drank beers. They blasted the rough mix’s out of the window of their car on the way to South Pond and re-awakened all the neighbors. When it was finished, they packed their bags, their hard-drives, and their instruments into their station-wagon, waved goodbye to their loved ones, and moved to Philadelphia, where they started playing out…playing in…and writing more songs.
But who are they?
Robin grew up on 250 acres of woods inhabited only by other wild family members; folk singers and guitar builders and goat raisers and maple sugar makers. She often slept on the corner of stages while her family played or at the edge of campfires in her aunt’s upright fiddle case. Her dreams incorporated the sounds of banjo’s and fiddles and guitars and voices. She was fed on long ballads and fiddle tunes. When she was eight she discovered a neighbors vinyl collection, and in it her next musical food: Emmylou, Linda Ronstadt, Maria Muldaur. At rummage sales she started collecting old country albums: Dolly, Tammy Wynette, Loretta, Buck Owens. She sat on the floor and listened to “Ode to Billie Joe” over and over and over. She sang loud and secretively. She wrote sad songs on the piano that no one ever heard. She taught herself to play guitar on her dad’s old Martin. She wrote songs on that too.
When Ty was born his parents took him straight from the hospital to a concert in a barn. They were playing Mozart that night, and he closed his little wandering eyes and began to learn his first language. When he was three he started taking violin lessons. He was studious and intuitive. When he was 12 he refused to take another lesson and said he wanted to play the bass instead. He wanted to play music where mistakes are a good thing. He had discovered Mingus and the Rolling Stones. He started a band with his three best friends in middle school. They called themselves Tragic Magic. They played Led Zeppelin and Van Morrison. When they got to high school they changed their name to Piraeus (Ty was in love with Homer) and they played at The Common Ground and all the girls swooned. He played in jazz combos and rock bands and an orchestra. In college his band The Humming bought a van and played all over the East Coast. Then he started writing sad, dark songs that none of the band members especially wanted to play, and no one enjoyed dancing to. They disbanded. Robin said to him, "That's okay. I'll sing."
Robin and Ty went to public high school together. They took art classes together. When they were eighteen they broke free of their small town and went away to colleges in cities. They found other people who listened to the music they listened to. They found other people who were obsessed with writing songs, and novels, and comic books. When they were both finished with college they moved to New York City together and started a band called “Mildew and Star.” It would have been a good name except that everyone said, “which one is mildew, and which one is star?”, which wasn’t the point. Plus they hated New York—their apartment had roaches and rats and they were broke. They moved back to Vermont and started cutting trees and had them milled into 2x4’s and started building a cabin. It had no running water, just a woodstove, and a telephone line for an internet connection. They lived there for three years, and recorded “For the Wicked,” and showered infrequently, and then moved to Philadelphia, and then moved back to their cabin for the summer.
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