Einstein’s Sister Releases New Single for Saturday Record Store Day
One of the Quad-Cities’ most popular bands – Einstein’s Sister – reunited last year for two new songs, which will be released Saturday, Sept. 26 for Record Store Day 2020 at Co-Op Records, Bandcamp, iTunes, Apple Music and CD Baby.
The longtime musical partners Kerry Tucker and Bill Douglas co-wrote the tunes, “Standing Still” (which Tucker sings) and “Begin Again” (which Douglas sings), recorded with Einstein’s Sister drummer Marty Reyhons and bassist Andrew Brock. The only original band member not to take part was guitarist Steven Volk.
The project came out of the power pop band’s November 2017 reunion gigs, which celebrated a new package of its “Learning Curves” (1999) disc in yellow vinyl, with a lyric and credits sheet, digital download of the original CD (including instrumental version of the album), a 7-inch single of its version of the ELO classic “Do Ya” (on clear vinyl), and a bonus CD of the instrumental, with outtakes, covers and live recordings.
“That night at the Redstone Room, everybody’s asking if we’re gonna do a reunion – if this is a one-shot deal or it’s gonna be a permanent thing,” Tucker said Monday. “I was getting a bug to record again with these guys, because it really did go well and it sounded good. But I wasn’t really committed to doing a full album.”
The first idea was to re-issue their “Humble Creatures” and add a single to it, but then the focus was just to do a single, he said.
Douglas and Tucker started writing and performing together in the ’80s, and recorded their first CD in Tucker’s basement, in 1996. They called it “Einstein’s Sister” after a line in the song “Little Known Fact” on the disc, about a smart girl who couldn’t see that a guy was obsessed with her.
It led to the formation of the band of the same name, which between 1997 and 2002 recorded three more CDs — “Oceanus,” “Learning Curves” and “Humble Creatures” — and released a “Best of …” CD in Japan. They played in Los Angeles several times, including the famed Troubadour club.
Based in part on financial pressures, schedules and their young children, ES went on hiatus after 2003, and their first reunion was in June 2004, opening for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at the then-Mark of the Quad Cities (today’s TaxSlayer Center).
“That album was our reference album for Einstein’s Sister. That was always the album we brought in when we were mixing an album, and said this is what we want our album to sound like,” Tucker said.
“I begged him to do this because of the XTC record, but his credentials go way beyond that for sure,” Tucker said. “The thing I really appreciated about Nick when he agreed to do this, he didn’t just say I charge x amount of money per mix. His response was, I need to listen to your band and make sure this is something I want to do. I don’t want to just do it for the money.”
Davis (who worked at RAK Studios in London) broke his arm last year, which put him way behind schedule, around the time he was working with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason on his latest project. Tucker didn’t get everything done recording-wise until last Christmas. He recorded in his home studio and drums at Pat Stolley’s Futureappletree Studio in Rock Island.
Davis got them a reasonable deal, given Einstein’s Sister was unsigned and didn’t have a label. Tucker was thrilled with RAK Studios, also since he’s a huge Pretenders fan (who recorded there). Harry Styles records there, as has Radiohead.
“It’s really cool,” Tucker said. “It’s a high-class, class-A, top of the line British studio.”
Davis mixed Einstein’s Sister in February 2020.
“It was a little surreal; I’d be teaching at Ambrose and I’d get a text, the mixing is done and you need to get home and listen to this,” Tucker, who teaches guitar at St. Ambrose said.
Coming together at Abbey Road
Davis recommended a friend “who works down the street” to master the recordings – “not thinking that Abbey Road was literally down the street,” Tucker said. That famed sound engineer (Miles Showell) liked what he heard.
“Not only did we get into two of the top British studios as unsigned acts; also as American acts,” Tucker said. “That just doesn’t happen there much, at either one of those places.”
Showell – who has been at Abbey Road since 2013 – has mastered The Beatles, Queen, and Rolling Stones, including re-mastering the landmark 50th anniversary release of “Sgt. Pepper” in 2017.
He worked out a deal with the studio, and mentioned he was working with Paul McCartney at the same time, “which blew my mind,” Tucker said. “No big deal, I’ll come in and work before Sir Paul a bit, and get your thing taken care of.”
Davis “was an absolute prince,” he said. “Here’s a guy who works with Phil Collins on a yearly basis and here I am, humming into a
microphone in my shorts at 3 in the morning, and he says ‘Yeah, that sounds, good, keep going.’”
Mixing is the process where the engineer literally mixes all the sound files, determining the volume and balance of each track, Tucker said.
“He determines how much reverb, how much echo should go on the voice. He’s like a film director – he basically decides the look of the song. I give him the raw footage and he determines how it’s going to look.”
“When he mixes it, it sounds like it comes out of a cathedral and a boys choir and a symphony, basically,” Tucker said of the finished product. The mastering process takes what Davis did, and Showell uses all the recordings and standardizes the sound – “so if you’re at Bent River on a Friday night, our song is just as loud as a Luke Bryan song, without it overloading the system,” Tucker said.
“There has to be dynamics to it, but it also has to be competitive with the market,” he said. “The other thing he has to do is the bass doesn’t blow out the truck speakers, or that Bill’s voice isn’t shrill coming out of a speaker that it’s offensive.”
“The other thing Miles has to consider, he has to make sure the vinyl is cut properly,” Tucker said.
They wanted to do a vinyl single for the nostalgia factor. “That’s how Bill and I grew up listening to music,” Tucker said. “Once we knew Miles was involved, that sealed the deal, because he’s cut so much classic vinyl in his life.”
They also got other guests on the record — Tim Smith on backing vocals (Jellyfish, Sheryl Crow, The Producers) and guitarist Vinnie Zummo (Joe Jackson, Art Garfunkel, Shawn Colvin).
“He just sent back these amazing tracks,” Tucker said of Smith. “I had like 16 backing vocals to pick from. I played it or Bill and his jaw, I had to scrape off the floor.”
He’s also a big fan of Zummo, and was Facebook friends with him. “He came from the Beatles era growing up, and he laid down these George Harrison slide things, just – it was just perfect. I cannot imagine anybody else playing better guitar solo. He played around my vocal perfectly.”
“He’s just a cool guy and an incredibly humble guy, too,” Tucker said.
“The Abbey Road staff, they treated me like I was Cliff Richard or something,” he said. “Considering we booked very few hours; we’re not royalty, we’re not British, they just could not have been nicer to me. They were just absolute princes and princesses to me. I was pinching myself the whole time.”
“It’s so weird – I got this McCartney box set for ‘Flaming Pie’ and I’m looking at the credits, and I know like three people, that I talked to on a monthly basis last year,” Tucker said. “This is just so weird.”
Seeing McCartney, playing with Laine
“It was surreal,” he said of the sold-out show in his hometown. “I just live down the street from the place, so it’s like, wow. It was definitely quite a show.”
“The real thrill for me was, last year I got to play with Denny Laine at the Redstone Room,” Tucker said of McCartney’s former partner in Wings, who played in Davenport in July 2019. “That to me was surreal. Bill and I got to open for him. I learned in making this single, as far as getting people on board, would you mind helping me?”
“That’s how all these doors have opened with this single, and I took that approach with Denny,” Tucker said. “I know ‘Mull of Kintyre,’ I know your harmony part and the guitar part you play. If you’re doing it tonight, I’d be honored to play it with you.”
“Right before he went on stage, he said yeah, I think you can come up and play this with me,” he said. “I had all these Wings posters on my walls when I was in grade school and there he is. I’m seeing him on the stage the same way I’m seeing him on these posters. It was just incredibly surreal. Not to mention all the times I played that song as a kid, I just loved that tune.”
“I sang his harmony 8,000 times as a kid,” Tucker said. “Here I am in Davenport singing this thing with the guy. That was more surreal than seeing McCartney here.”
When he found out Laine was coming, he said he couldn’t type fast enough to the RME’s Kate Dale, to ask about opening. It had to get approved with Laine’s management.
“Seeing McCartney, going to Abbey Road and playing with Denny last year, it was a big year,” Tucker said. “Being weaned on the Beatles as a child, if you told the 10-year-old me that would be my 2019, I think I probably would have had a heart attack as a 10-year-old.”
The highlights of a great last year were capped by a visit to London and the classic Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded.
Another teacher of a Tucker guitar student was invited in 2008 to meet Geoff Emerick, who recorded a lot of the classic Beatles’ tracks. The teacher couldn’t go, and insisted Tucker go in his place, to spend a day with Emerick. He had them to a seminar at Abbey Road he was giving.
Emerick died, however, in October 2018 at age 72. Last spring, Tucker got an invite from two of Geoff’s proteges who took over the seminar.
Tucker ended up bringing his family, in August 2019, went to the studio and they got a three-hour lecture on its amazing history.
“It was just stunning,” he said. “When I left there, I thought this is it, I’ll never be part of this or see this place again. Now six months later, it’s, I’m back again.”
Einstein’s Sister planned to do live shows after the release, but Covid scrapped that, Tucker said. They hope to be at Co-Op Records in Moline Saturday to celebrate the release.
Since 2008, Record Store Day has grown into the world’s largest single-day music event, shining a light on the culture of the indie record store across the globe. In 2020, that world is different, so Record Store Day will be too. RSD is being marked with properly distanced release dates on Saturdays in August, September and October.
For more information, visit www.recordstoreday.com.