Established in 1999, The Anderson Council is the brainchild of singer and songwriter Peter Horvath, whose love affair with late 60’s pop informs and inspires both the band’s sound and direction. The quartet of Horvath, guitarist Dave Whitehead, drummer Chris Ryan and bassist Christopher Rousseau enthralls listeners with irresistible hooks and captivates them with intelligent layers of sound. This New Jersey quartet are easily one of the best things going – and it’s high time more people got to know about them, hear them and see them.
I had the chance for a sit-down with Mr. Horvath, a very astute and funny man who has some damned fine taste in music – anyone who worships Syd Barrett and Andy Partridge is more than alright with me and here’s the fruits of that conversation. Special thanks to Marty Scott of Jem Records for the connection:
The Anderson Council has been around for what – 17 years? For those who aren’t aware, please give us a genesis of the band and how you came together and developed this very ’60’s sound crossed with the likes of The Jam, Time U.K., etc.
The Anderson Council played our first show in September of 1999, after being together since June of 1999. Our first drummer and I came from our previous band, called Seething Grey. We were very of the “Angsty 90’s”, and while the band was enjoyable, the angsty bits started to tire me, and so I needed to remove myself from that atmosphere. I quit my own band in April of 1999. I had played our drummer some of the 60’s influenced demos I had written, and he was on board… We found 2 other guys to complete the lineup, and we were off!
Is it a conscious Mod influence, by any chance? Were you part of the New Jersey Mod revival?
There was no conscious decision on our part to be Mod. We definitely aren’t / weren’t! Nothing personal, but I’d rather spend money on guitars than the right clothes. Besides, I prefer the mix & match aspect of Psychedelic clothing… Oh who am I kidding? I dress like a gas station attendant – that’s my biggest holdover from the 90’s…
There are a lot of obvious (and maybe not so obvious except to the trained eye!) Syd Barrett-era Floyd references – would it be a fair presumption that he’s one of the key influences in what you do, aside from the nods to The Beatles, The Who, The Creation and so on?
I love Syd-era Floyd. My son’s middle name is Barrett… That being said, I really love ALL of those bands who dressed in orange and purple, and managed to eke out one single that was a total kitchen sink production masterpiece before they imploded; before reappearing in late ’69 as a bunch of greasy longhaired blues rockers who dressed all in denim, you know? I’m looking at YOU, Status Quo! I’ve also gone through multiple copies of Vernon Joynson’s incredible tome, The Tapestry of Delights. If you don’t know it, find it, buy it, read it. It’s an incredible wealth of info about bands that you’ve never heard of. I gave my first copy to our drummer Chris, so he’d better understand where I was coming from. Then I lent him all my XTC and 60’s era Bee Gees records, and he got it…
What led to the signing of Jem Records – certainly, it now puts you on a much broader map?
I asked! Seriously, JEM put out records by our pals The Grip Weeds, and The Weeklings, so I wrote Marty Scott (THE LABEL) a very nice email, explaining who I was, who the band was, what we were all about, and finally, would he be interested in putting out a record by a bunch of dads in their mid-40’s? Somehow, that selling point gets overlooked in our press… In any case, the songs must’ve been pretty good, because he said yes, and here we are, FINALLY properly releasing a record, after years of self-releasing stuff. It’s like using a firehose instead of a watering can; the differences in the release “style”. Beyond the massive(for us) press and radio play for this release, Marty (THE LABEL) just seems to know EVERYONE, which is great. He is always hitting us with various ideas, or emailing me and telling me to contact so-and-so. He’s constantly ON.
As the main songwriter of the Council, what’s your standard approach to writing – do you write, demo and then present to the band or just bring an idea in?
I used to write all the songs and record the demos all by myself, then present them to the band in an essentially finished form. This changed when we were demoing songs for the record that the 4 new songs on Assorted Colours came from. Our drummer Chris expressed interest in helping me flesh out the demos, which was wonderful. He IS a much better drummer than I am! I would send him a rough guitar and vocal demo on Monday, and we’d record it on Wednesday, which is our usual day to get together. Sometimes, the lyrics wouldn’t be entirely done, so we’d work on those together.
Our lyric sessions went thusly:
Peter: I need 7 syllables, ending in “ery”, and 11 syllables, starting with “Lord” and ending however you like.
Chris: What? What’s the song about?
Peter: No idea, but don’t worry about that. I have the 7 syllables, just give me the 11.
Chris: What do you mean don’t worry about it? You’re insane!
Peter: Look dude, I’m done writing songs about specific stuff. Even when I do, folks get it wrong anyway. You thought my song that referenced a walk around my neighborhood during July 4th fireworks was about alien invasion(the song is “Park The Car”, on our album Looking at the Stars). The listener hears gets whatever meaning out of it that they want…
Chris: Whatever works. You’re still insane.
Peter: Thanks. And don’t worry about the 11 syllables. I got them.
Anyway, we not only got to work on our songwriting process, but our recording process as well. We gradually bought more and better recording gear, and learned how to use it!
(laughing) Assorted Colours is a compilation, yet it feels like a coherent piece – who’s idea was it to release the album in this fashion? A tip of the hat to them, certainly!
That was Marty’s idea. This goes back to the point that none of our records was ever released with much push behind them, so we took all the songs that Little Steven deemed “Coolest Song In The World”, selected album tracks, 4 new songs, and a B-side, and called it Assorted Colours. It makes sense in the scheme of things. Added bonus: my kids painted the guitar on the cover! They were very psyched to see their handiwork on the CD. In addition, we’re getting renewed demand for our back catalog as a result, which is always cool.
How much of a difference is there in an Anderson Council track from the studio to the live forum? Do you flesh the songs out to a greater degree on stage or do you prefer replication faithful to the recorded track?
The live songs are LOUDER! Well, they are… We may extend a solo section to give our guitar player Dave a workout, but we don’t “jam” on things. I’d rather play more songs than play a 17 minute version of “Never Stop Being ’67”! Sometimes, I threaten that Dave is going to have to play his keyboard parts live, but it never comes to fruition…
What are the live plans coming up for The Anderson Council? Is there a tour in the works on a large scale or staying close to the New York/New Jersey area?
We play as many shows as we can in the area, and do the occasional long weekend, but those darn day jobs tend to keep us from, say, a month long tour of the States and a jaunt to the UK, unfortunately. Luckily, we’re playing somewhat bigger shows in addition to our usual bar and club fare. Go to http://www.theandersoncouncil.org/shows for the latest.
“Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours” – they were the band that became The Flying Machine, weren’t they? “Smile A Little Smile For Me, Rosemarie” – or am I slipping in my old age? A lot of Floyd in this track – UFO, “Paintbox”, Alexandra Palace, “See Emily Play”, etc. – very clever. You’re quite deft with the wordplay – very few writers can pull that off without sounding forced. Well done, sir.
I’m no Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus or Andrew John Partridge, but I have the occasional moment of lyrical goodness, so thanks! “Never Stop Being ’67” references All Saint’s Hall, which was an early Floyd venue, as well as Happening, and Underground, and that’s just the first verse. The second references when Dylan met The Fabs and Bob got the lyric to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” wrong.
And yes, you are correct about Pinkerton’s. They were a cool band. Tom Long, who was their guitar player, is fully aware of, and digs the song!
Between “Pinkerton…” and “Girl On The Northern Line”, that’s two radio “hits” right there – (which I’ve heard for ages on “Underground Garage”) – any push to radio or other broadcast outlets?
We’ve been pushing Assorted Colours to various local college radio stations, the mighty WFMU, and various stations, both terrestrial and web-based, that have supported us in the past. On the satellite side, we’ve started getting spun on The Loft on Sirius/XM, which is in addition to our long time association with Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Both are very cool.
The other great thing about all the songs – old and new – is the production quality. Who produced the older tracks? I know Kurt from The Grip Weeds worked on the new material – which again, all the sounds simply magnificent.
Kurt and I produced all the tracks, mostly without yelling at each other! We’ve recorded everything we’ve released at House of Vibes, except for the EP we released in Summer ’15, which we recorded at our rehearsal space.
The 4 new songs that were released on Assorted Colours were actually initially going to be part of our 4th new album. We started recording it in May of ’15. 16 songs, 4 of which ended up on Assorted Colours. Now that AC is released and working, we can get back to finishing up the other 12 songs. We’ll probably record a few more as well. There’s always new songs in the hopper…
Assorted Colours is available now