When is a pandemic record not a pandemic record? According to Milwaukee drummer Victor DeLorenzo, his long-distance collaboration with far-flung musicians David J and Darwin Meiners—the result of which is the debut album from the newly minted Night Crickets, A Free Society—was anything but somber. “It was like being a kid on Christmas morning,” DeLorenzo says of receiving new tracks via the internet during the early days of the pandemic.
Another question: When is a supergroup not a supergroup? Who knows, but Night Crickets certainly qualify as one. DeLorenzo is the founding drummer of Violent Femmes, as well as the current drummer for drum-cello duo Nineteen Thirteen. David J is the bassist for seminal UK groups Bauhaus and Love And Rockets, while Meiners is a multi-instrumentalist who also happens to be David J’s manager.
“As the pandemic took hold,” reads a press release, “Darwin was looking for a new project to occupy the lock-down time and approached Victor, who was keen to proceed and suggested that David join as well. The musical trust established between these three was immediate and Night Crickets were born. Within weeks a global process was initiated between them, the recordings eventually forming the album, A Free Society.”
And what a fine, effortlessly cool album it is. Opener “Black Leather On The Inside” sets the table with a dreamy, percussion-heavy head-nodder marked by the occasional Velvet Underground-esque flourish. The lovely “Candlestick Park” finds Meiners and company paying tribute to both the Beatles and the long-gone titular ball field—a.k.a the “Ashtray by the Bay.” DeLorenzo takes over vocal duties on “Little Did I,” offering up a song that sounds like a modern-day take on War’s “Low Rider,” of all things. Speaking of DeLorenzo, his cello-playing Nineteen Thirteen partner Janet Schiff appears throughout Society, as does his drummer son Malachi.
Meanwhile, both the spoken-word title track and the mysterious “Soul Wave” play like lost selections from a David Lynch soundtrack. The director even inspired Night Crickets’ name. According to a press release:
The band’s name came from one of many Zoom meetings between the three members. After addressing various pressing musical issues the conversation rambled somewhat and turned to the subject of David Lynch, with David J telling an anecdote which was told to him by Lynch’s sound designer, John Neff. Lynch had asked Neff to obtain a field recording of crickets chirping at night for inclusion in Mulholland Drive. When Neff played him the tape, the director immediately recognized the sound that the insects make when it is light which is apparently a little different to their nocturnal chirp. “No! No! No! These are day crickets, John! I want my night crickets!” Victor, Darwin, and David then shared a look of mutual realization and instantly agreed that the project now had a name!
Despite the long-distance remove, DeLorenzo says playing in the Night Crickets feels like playing in a trio again. Could the group come together for a live show? It’s possible. Until then, enjoy the chirping, night or day.
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