While 2021 is as strange a time as any to release an album devoted to love and heartache, The Earth Satellites’ new album Feral Hearts owes its very existence to the isolation and virtual frontiers of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly isolated, indoors, and living through rectangles, Los Angeles based Rick Wood’s musical focus turned toward virtual collaboration. Before the pandemic, the album’s inception had been rootsy country sort of thing. When the bars closed, drummer Bryan Cook suddenly had enough free time to record, and production started leaning 70s rock.
Hearing early demos of the album, Sugar Ransom (Austin, TX) wanted to sing on Material Child, but, hesitant to tinker with the mix, Rick suggested she instead help him finish writing ‘Where You Goin’ With My Heart?’ with him. That song readily came out with this intricate, disconnected love triangle similar to that in Neko Case’s If You Knew. Finding a stride, the two continued writing songs together, using recording as drafting in the writing process. “In a weird way, you know, the pandemic helped,” Wood says. “I don’t know we would’ve done something as clumsy as collaborating over video chat otherwise.” Some of these sessions contribute to the heart wrenching dual-lead duets you’ll find here. Rick eventually “let go of the superstition that the mix I had was some house of cards and let something nice happen to it,” and you can also hear Sugar’s harmonies on Material Child.
The original idea for The Earth Satellites had always been remote collaboration between Rick and his former bandmates after life led them to different locations. When playing music in person no longer an option, location comes out of the equation. Remote collaboration has its struggles: there’s latency, for one, so no way to really jam. Let’s not begin to discuss the terrors of laptop and phone speakers. But it does have its perks– home recording is at your leisure. When your voice is warm, get over to the kitchen and record. When the guitar tone hits, get over to the kitchen and record.
The remote aspect also nudged Rick into taking more of a producer role on the album, his vision realized as a “swaggery mix of Petty, Springsteen and Ocasek with a dash of roots Americana by way of Laurel Canyon.
Rick Wood and Sugar Ransom’s duet “Wounded Heart” could be a lost Petty/Nicks number and “Cold Shoulder” checks so many boxes of what makes a truly great Springsteen song that we’re sure Brian Fallon will be mad jealous when he hears it. If you’re a fan of lyrically driven rock n’ roll this album will feel like a homecoming.” – -postcardelba
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