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The audible couple: Andrew Goulet and Brandee Simone are married musicians, members of Night School

  • Andrew Goulet and Brandee Simone. Zach Schiffman, Studio Z


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Andrew Goulet and Brandee Simone met through music — he first saw her singing and playing guitar at a variety show in college, and then she saw him playing harmonica and dancing on stage at an open mic. 

“When we were finally introduced, the first thing we said to each other was, ‘We should play music together!’ ” Simone recalled. “So our first date involved us playing our own original songs for each other. At our wedding, instead of saying vows, we played songs for each other.”

And now the married couple have released their own mini albums one month apart. Simone’s “Smokestacks,” released last month, is simple and direct, like a suburban field recording — just the natural reverb of a wood-floored room on her acoustic guitar and dynamic voice (check out that lonesome high D at the end of “Okinawa Trails”). All the songs were recorded live, in one take, in her friend’s apartment.

Goulet’s “Sky Burial” came out last week and has a few more moving parts. He created it at home on a four-track cassette recorder some years back, during their then-infant daughter’s nap times, with a sonic palette that includes bass, harmonica, synthesizer, organ and fuzz. His Bandcamp page describes the five songs as “beautiful and weird, written while walking through woods, bright and dark.” The rollicking final track is “Cosmic Nothing,” and it starts up buzzy like a barber’s electric razor, revolving around the mantra, “I like it when you talk to me.”

Last week Clubland interviewed the two musicians, who currently play together in a band called Night School. They shared the process behind making their individual solo EPs.

“After we had our daughter, my musical focus became more about singing lullabies to her and less about playing shows and recording,” Simone said. “Once I started playing again, I remembered these six songs I had recorded a few years earlier, and knew immediately that I wanted to share them. The recordings are super lo-fi, but I would rather put something out there and have it be appreciated for what it is, rather than strive for some kind of perfection that involves being overly critical or analytical. Nobody knew I was releasing ‘Smokestacks’ until the day it was released — not even Andy! It was a truly independent endeavor.”

Goulet said he recorded his EP in their old Holyoke apartment when their daughter was 5 months old. “When I was able to put her down for a nap, I would run to the corner of the living room with all the recording junk and try to get as much done as possible before she woke up,” Goulet said. “After 5 months, I was more confident as a parent and could turn more attention to my musical life. It seems counterintuitive, but I think having a kid made me more productive and prolific. Faced with limited time to write, practice, and record, it was necessary to get all the bad ideas out of the way fast and strike at the heart of the songs. Music can suffer from too much consideration and tinkering.”

Simone was the supportive key to finally getting his solo work out into the world, Goulet said.

“Brandee knew that ‘Sky Burial’ was coming out before I did, because she got it mastered [by Mark Allan Miller at Sonelab] and sent to Rub Wrongways Records as a surprise present for me! I had been sitting on the tracks and feeling mediocre about them for a few years, and she changed all that. It’s been a huge boost of confidence for me, and a great joy to share another musical side of myself with our friends. Without Brandee’s vision and encouragement I don’t know if ‘Sky Burial’ would have ever been released.”

Goulet was inspired by the unfussy recording approach of Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, as well as the hissy but powerful 1920s recordings of blues man Charley Patton, which changed his life when he borrowed them from the public library when he was 13.

Simone, who spent one Halloween dressed like a Roy Lichtenstein painting, included a stormy song on her EP inspired by another favorite artist, Frida Kahlo: “I used to have a wall covered entirely in Kahlo prints. Looking at them one day, I began thinking about what it might have sounded like if she had used her voice, rather than her paintings, to express herself — how would those surreal, self-reflective, and challenging elements sound if they were presented in song form? I imagined that her song would not be bound by traditional notions of song structure or rhythm. She would break through those rigid constructs and write something that just pierces the listener in the soul.”

Goulet and Simone have a loose plan to do a show together in the late spring or summer, but in the meantime, Night School, their psychedelic band with Bob Fay, Jim Bliss and Sita Magnuson, is playing a show at the 13th Floor Lounge in Florence on Friday, May 4 at 9 p.m., sharing a bill with Bridge of Flowers and Assembly of Need.

To stream/buy their new EPs, visit their respective Bandcamp pages, andrewgoulet.bandcamp.com and brandeesimone.bandcamp.com.