James Pequignot - Singer/Songwriter Buy Memento Mori Now
Cleveland’s Terrycloth Mother To Play Release Party on Oct. 15 at Happy Dog
The Cleveland Lottery League “drafts” local musicians who haven’t played together in the past and places them into new bands. The newly formed groups then have two months to write and record some original music that they debut at a “Big Show.” Some bands stick; some don’t. Terrycloth Mother is one of the bands that stuck.
For the 2019 Cleveland Lottery League, the guys wrote one long 11-minute tune together and then continued to write and record. Terrycloth Mother — drummer John Panza, singer-bassist James Pequignot, singer-pedal steel guitarist Stephen ‘Tebbs’ Karney, and singer-guitarist Drew Maziasz — will play an album release party at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Happy Dog.
“For that first rehearsal, I think we just got together and talked,” says Maziasz one night from the band’s rehearsal studio just east of downtown Cleveland, where he’s joined by Pequignot. “I play guitar, but I’m also comfortable playing bass. [Pequignot] plays guitar and is a singer-songwriter. We had to figure out who should do what. We knew what we were comfortable with. I thought of myself as a utility guitarist. If I had to play country, I could kind of do that. If I had to play heavy stuff, I could do that. It was like, ‘Let’s stretch out but know our strengths.’”
While the band had two months to prep for its appearance at the Lottery League’s Big Show, the guys also found that songs started coming easily to them.
“It was really comfortable to compose and improvise together,” says Pequignot, who points to a dry erase board at the rehearsal space that lists several new songs the band is currently composing. “We’re good at generating new ideas and figuring out where the pieces go. We’re pretty good at composing as a group. We’re always finishing things, and we’re always starting stuff. It’s nice to have a big pipeline of ideas.”
While Pequignot admits he comes from “more of a Radiohead/Wilco place,” band members all have very different influences, something that’s reflected on the album. A song such as “The Dancing Plague” begins with an alt-country vibe before turning to a dissonant spoken word segment mid-song and then letting the pedal steel guitar dominant during the song’s frenetic conclusion. The atmospheric “Big Stick Energy” recalls Incubus, and the narrative-driven “The Myth of Sisyphus” sounds like a singer-songwriter tune from a different era.
“I think we have Venn diagram overlap, but I think our musical centers are all very different,” says Pequignot when asked about the group’s musical inspirations.
“I don’t think our influences could be more disparate,” says Maziasz. “We always joke that they get passed through the Terrycloth Mother filter. It could be a nice three-and-a-half-minute pop song, but once it gets passed through the sieve, it’ll come out a little bit weirder. It’s amazing to write with someone else and throw things at them and know that they’ll do it justice.”
Initially, the group recorded a handful of songs but didn’t think they’d wind up on an album. They just thought the tunes would become demos that could help with getting gigs.
“For the album, we were initially approaching them as demos,” says Maziasz. “It was the middle of January, and we were trying to get shows, so we just knocked out a couple of songs.”
Because the demos turned out so great, the group decided to make them into an album. With COVID shutting local clubs down, the band had time to tinker with them too.
“We were sidetracked, but we had the impulse and drive to proceed with the product,” says Maziasz.
The group felt compelled to keep writing and recording even though the pandemic made them take extra precautions.
“Spending time together helped with the psychological horror of the pandemic,” says Pequignot. “We were in a fairly contained loop. We could maintain distance, and we masked up.”
Mastered by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North Studio, the album also features contributions from Antoine Canon and Sophoulla Gibson, both of whom live in the UK. They appear on “Weight of the World.”
Canon played trumpet and recorded both his and Gibson’s backup vocals, adding depth and texture to the music.
“The trumpet was not planned, but Antoine wanted to jump in, and it turned out great,” says Pequignot.
In preparation for the upcoming Happy Dog gig, the band has worked on minutiae such as transitions between songs to ensure the show’s something special.
“We want every show to feel a little different,” says Pequignot. “We want to put the songs together in different ways to keep it moving. I always want to create a unique experience for an audience, and I think that’s really important.”