The Curiously Strong Peppermints
jesse’s recording journal - 10/24/12 & 10/25/12

finally got back to working on the new album after a pretty turbulent autumn.  we’d all been so busy—ben was sick, mason and i playing in awkward bodies and sean playing in both under the old sky and 5am blue—and then i just moved, so that was of course a top priority.  i was glad to just sit back and and try to finish off the songs we started this summer.

as luck would have it, i got back my old tascam 414 4-track that i had recorded endless fields of poppy on back between 2004-2006.  for some reason, it had a different sound than the other 4-tracks had, especially the yamaha i used to record some miscellaneous tracks in 2010 and even my larger tascam 424 mki which i recorded echoes from the ultraviolet fuzz on.  hard to describe but it is a happier 4-track.  very warm and friendly.  it soudns like it loves me, rather than the 424 who simply tolerated me and the yamaha who secretly loathed me.  i recorded a demo for under the old sky a few weeks ago on my 414 and she’s still got the magic.  this will be the center of recording for the new curiously strong peppermints album, placed in the basement of my new house, which will be our ramshackle as-yet-unnamed recording studio.  if you have a good name for the studio, let us know!

mason came over to lay some things down…  we start by putting some finishing touches on “how to navigate a space ship through a black hole”, which was really things we forgot to track this summer.  mason throws on his backing vocals and then we add a guitar overdub, utilizing my beloved tascam’s overdriven fuzz sound (that is how we got the fuzz bass on endless fields of poppy, this 4-track) to get a mean guitar tone that will be hard to replicate.  love it.  and now this song is done.  spend a while mixing it, which is what i have been slowly doing over the last few months—tweeking this mix every week.  i think i’ve found the final one.  it’s labeled “mix 10” but in reality it’s more like mix 27. so everything was pretty much alreday balanced in the mix before we even added those final two elements. 

of all my songs, i think i hold this one dearest to my heart.  it literally is about wishing your own destruction because your life is so inescapably miserable, and in the case of this song, a death by singularity: by crashing dead center into a black hole.  not only are you destroyed, but you could escape your present time due to the effects of time dilation as you approach the event horizon of a black hole.  time itself is warped, and you can escape from your life—and then be stretched into infinitely long spaghetti of course.  “hammered by the gravity of a hundred-million suns’ energy / no more past and no more present / i don’t have to run / i am free”  i really truly meant it, and this song needs to be right, it needs to be perfect. 

so then we add some dreamy autoharps to “boy with wings’ which is otherwise very sparse at this point.  we decide to scrap the harpsichords and pink floydian  organs we tracked this summer.  wait, the autoharp is out of tune to the recording?  i take a 20-minute break while mason sits and tunes an autoharp into standard.  two takes later we like the autoharp direction, but maybe we can retrack a tighter performance next week, giving mason a chance to actually learn to play this song, he hadn’t played in 6 months, on a zither.  i throw on a scratch vocal because, well, i never actually put one on it yet.  maybe that will help?

i then realize that on “how to navigate” sean had played the drum pattern i heard in my head for another new song “formaldehyde” so i track down the master 4-track tape of the drum tracks, cue up one of the takes we did not use, slow down the tape and reverse it and create a drum loop.  it takes some time to get it right, to learn the ride should be the timekeeper and not the monster backwards snare hits or cymbal crashes.  finally i find the right placement to create this drumloop that would be the backbone of the verse sections.  we performed this song acoustically two months ago with mason playing a droning air organ and jeannette a droning clarinet, and it had a great feel—this is the direction “formaldehyde” should go.  i overdub a scratch guitar part to the backwards drumloop as a placeholder and then add the droning air organ.  I then track a scratch vocal of the verse verse for a placeholder for the other musicians who will layer this thing eventually.  this is the basics of the verses, and we’ll have to record the choruses with sean and ben at a later date and just piece the song together.  fun!


Surprise! We will be playing an exclusive, limited engagement acoustic set TONIGHT at The Amsterdam, St. Paul, MN. We’ll be playing with Superfluous Glowshoes and Eric Fifteen (of Party Of One). Show starts at 9pm, 21+ but it’s a FREE SHOW. Don’t miss it if you are in the area; we’ll be playing some new songs from the album we’re presently recording!

New CSPM song on the new Ondarock compilation!

"A Million Ribbons and Shooting Stars".  Download it here:

Elliott Smith accompagnato dai Flaming Lips che suona i Beatles al contrario”: è questo il surreale biglietto da visita dei Curiously Strong Peppermints di Minneapolis. Ma ad ascoltare la melodia acidula di “Bicycle For Two” si direbbe piuttosto che lo spirito dei Fab Four filtri attraverso le lenti deformanti di Daniel Johnston. Con Jesse Miller alla chitarra, Ben Swanson al basso, Mason Butler alle tastiere e Sean Fahrni alla batteria, i Curiously Strong Peppermints hanno alle spalle già due album, “Endless Fields Of Poppy” del 2009 e “Echoes From The Ultraviolet Fuzz” del 2011. Per usare le loro stesse immagini, “bizzarre frequenze soniche emesse da un’inspiegata formazione nuvolosa purpurea a cumulonembo”. Scritta in una notte di primavera e registrata a Minneapolis negli studi Xanadu III e Green Room, “Bicycle For Two” è una scampanellante escursione in un mondo dai colori strampalati. Ascoltatela in cuffia, raccomandano i Curiously Strong Peppermints.
The Curiously Strong Peppermints - Bicycle For Two

jesse’s recording journal 5/26/12

Finishing up “Bicycle For Two”.  Mason added some vocal harmonies on the chorus and multitracked a glockenspiel part.  Mason took off and then Ben played a bass part down for “How To navigate A Space Ship Through a Black Hole” which is a new song that is also our current set opener, one of the band’s favorites.  We had recorded the drum tracks along with “Bicycle For Two” a month ago.  We found it pretty weird because I hadn’t bothered adding an scratch guitar parts, and Ben was unused to playing along to solely the drum track on the song, as opposed to a full live-band.  Especially, when because of what he’s playing on the song, the bassline is more felt than heard. 

After a few takes he nails it, and he leaves and I record some rhythm guitar parts for the song.  Lost of takes of cleaned-tone guitar—why can’t I get those arpeggios right?!  I should know this song by now!  Then some layers of fuzzed guitars for the ending section. 

One new song done, one new song half done.  Not bad. 

jesse’s recording journal 5/5/12

Another session devoted to tracking Bicycle For Two…  Ben feels much better today and lays down a sweet bassline on his fretless he’s been playing since the beginning of the year.  One take!?  HOLY COW.  Jeannette from Awkward Bodies (whom Mason and I play in too) lays down a clarinet part.  After a few takes, we agree that we’re not capturing the correct vibe of the song, and agree to try again in a few weeks. Also the vent was bleeding in the metal band next door at our rehearsal space, thus making any clarinet tracks we recorded have this muffled DDUUUMMMPH DDUUUMMPH DDUUMMPPHH in the background, something not really desired for a clean sounding clarinet… 

I get home and that night try some vocals for the song.  Up until this point it was a great instrumental track, as since the bass was one of the last elements to add and I absolutely need the bass frequencies as a guide to sing to for some reason.   Made a nice double tracked vocal, that sounded clear, but not as tight as it could have been.  So I redid two more to replace them, and noticed some pitch problems (more so than usual anyways).  By then I was vocally shot and now it appears this will have to be a ‘Oh! Darlin” song, where McCartney had to try doing a vocal attempt every day until he got it right, erasing the previous day’s vocal attempt.  This one is pretty out of my range thought; why did I make it in C?  I never write in C!  I somehow got a good live take I recorded as J. Noel MacIntosh for the Hoursong compilation last year, why can’t I get it now?  Listening back to live tapes of us playing it recently, my vocals were also shaky.  Practice practice practice… 

jesse’s recording journal - April 21st 2012

Second session for recording “Bicycle For Two”.  Wanted to do some 4-track bouncing and recording, but the fluttery problem is not solved yet.  But then it occurs to me that that we should utilize this bizarre fluttery sound before it is fixed.  We’ll have to do it next week. 

The original idea for the song, is that it would decidedly NOT sound like a typical Curiously Strong Peppermints track…  I was thinking something more like a rock band’s take on the classic vaudeville sound, my point of reference being some of the deeper album cuts on A Night AT The Opera, such as “Seaside Rendezvous”, “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon” or “Good Company”, that sort of thing.  I don’t think we ever hit that point, even though mason had been playing the melodica on the song, and frankly I never thought it sounded like anything but a less-lyrically interesting rehash of Bike Ladder Pills, which is probably a pretty extreme condemnation—I don’t think anyone’s said that before, other than what rings in my own mind. 

But this Italian compilation specifically mentioned this was a psychedelic rock issue…  would a convincing vaudeville-rock song fit on a modern-psyche comp?  No, probably not.  Mason then referenced me some late British psyche, such as this weird David Bowie song—a direction we could take our song.  And he was right!  But the funny thing, is we would just do to “Bicycle For Two” what we would have done to any of our songs!  “Oh, so we just, instead, make it sound like us?”  Lesson learned: don’t be someone else, be yourself. 

Thus this creatively freed us up to do whatever we want with the song, rather than try to go in this specific direction that Queen already did 30 years later.  Ben was sick so we’d have to track bass next week…  With a drum track recorded last week and some acoustic guitars I added myself earlier this week as a guide, first off Sean overdubs some great washboard percussion to simulate a bicycle wheel; Mason then adds three tracks of melodica; Sean adds a tambourine in the chorus; I add my heavily flanged lead guitar intro, and spread the riff throughout the song for some variation; Mason adds an otamotone throughout, which does not work; Mason then adds a fuzzed out organ in the chorus.  After two hours we have nearly a complete track, minus bass and vocals.  Let’s see if we can finish this next week! 

jesse’s recording journal - april 14th, 2012

We were asked to be on this compilation for an Italian magazine, but they want a completely new recording, unique for this compilation.  So we took this as an opportunity to record some new material.  After our successful KVSC show (see entry below) we thought we’d take a break from continuous rehearsal to record a song for them, and possibly some songs for our next album. I was waiting to start recording the next album until this summer when I build a new studio in my new basement, but why not get a head-start?

First up was “Bicycle For Two” which we’ve played live a few times recently.  I wrote and demo’d this song in literally 1 hour, as a part of a compilation called Hoursongs, under the moniker J. Noel MacIntosh; that demo can still be found on the net if you are interested.  The next album, as I explained in the KVSC interview, is essentially already written.  There were 14 or so songs written at the same time as Echoes From The Ultraviolet Fuzz that did not fit the concept, but seemed to have their own unifying themes.  So I believe that to be Album #3.  But when the band heard “Bicycle For Two” late last year they were quite excited, and demanded we play it immediately.  My concern is that it did not fit these songs for Album #3 (which in turn did not fit the songs for Album #2…) so the question was ‘What to do with Bicycle For Two?’  Luckily for us the opportunity knocks with this compilation!  So we’re going to spend the month finishing this one off, and that’ll probably be the one. 

After quickly knocking off the song, Sean and I decide it would be best to record some more drum tracks, since we’re all set up.  We knock off a few takes of “How To Navigate A Space Ship Through A Black Hole”, which is our current set-opener and my current favorite of the new songs.  An acoustic version of it was featured on the Death By Singularity 7” which was a bonus in the delux edition of Echoes From The Ultraviolet Fuzz, limited edition of 20 copies.  But this is the epic full-band version, and I’m amazed how well it sounds already.  It’s always a fun challenge to figure out how to best record a new drummer; I experimented recording Sean when we did the Smashing Pumpkins and Beach Boys covers earlier this year, so I had a vague knowledge of how to mic him.  We borrowed Emily from Eric Funn & The Funnette’s snare (she also played with us back in 2010!) and tried several random mics for his kick.  I was able to get this great kick sound from a not-so-great mic on Bradley, but his foot is different than Sean’s, and the trick doesn’t work.  But we have this random dynamic mic, and it delivers a bang I hadn’t got in a while and even captured this weird reverberation from the snare that seems to travel through the kit. Not as audible on the drumtracks, but in isolation, it sounds crazy! 

After two takes of that, we move on to “Boy With Wings” which we initially (and crappily in my opinion) debuted live at an acoustic show last year.  We revamped it and played it on Monday, and Sean was comfortable enough with it to record today.  I cant decide if this fuzzy, in-your-face drumsound is right for the song, but we’ll see when we start piling on the overdubs.  I noted upon playback that something was wrong with the sound…  Either this was a defective tape, or there is something wrong with my 4-track, as there is a slight wobble—or flange actually—running through the whole recording.  It sounds really great actually, gives the drums a unique flittery wobble through the already overdriven overhead mics…  An all-natural wobble, an effect of either a bad tape or my 4-track starting to break!  That’s what’s wonderful about how we record: it leaves so much to go wrong and create happy accidents.  I really want to keep this take, and see what happens with it, there’s some magic in it that will never be replicated.  And that’s what we’re all about, really. 

And then I had better get a new 4-track, huh?

Monday, April 9th at 10pm
Listen live:
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Monday, April 9th at 10pm

Listen live:

Watch live:

Hey folks!  Excited to announce that our latest album “Echoes From The Ultraviolet Fuzz” can be heard and/or bought on Spotify, if that’s your poison.