Mr. Curt has been around creating music longer than I’ve been covering the local music scene. I first was aware of his band Pastiche when they won Boston’s most prestigious music competition, The WBCN Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble, in 1980. Since then (and prior to that) he’s taken on many project: Urban Ambience, The Exi’s, and Urban Caravan are but three of fifteen project he’s manned before his current musical marriage. Geoff Pango has been performing around Boston since the late-’80s as a solo artist and with his band The Geoff Pango Band. Not long ago the two came together to play music and right now they have a new maxi-single that’s getting lots of airplay on Greater Boston college radio. Let’s find out more about these two…
Noise: How and when did you guys meet and decide to play together?
Mr. C.: Geoff and I met about twenty-five years ago at a gig and struck up a friendship. I liked his pop sensibilities and bought his first album. We would bump into each other occasionally, but since he started a family he put his music career on the back burner. He resurfaced briefly several years ago with a few gigs, which we caught. As talent coordinator for BNN-TV’s cable show, It’s All About Arts, I got him a slot on the program and he continued to impress me with his enthusiasm and talent. When our violinist Clara (Kebabian) decided to leave Mr. Curt Ensemble/MC3/MC4, he popped into my head as a suitable replacement. We adopted a new moniker, Fun Era Fifty, and set out to perform and record. When that group floundered after 18 months, we decided to actively pursue a writing/recording partnership… and that’s where we are today.
Geoff: Curt and I met at a fundraiser at the Tam O’Shanter in 1991. We kept in touch over the years and would see each other play every so often. We ran into each other at a Willie Loco Alexander show a few years ago and I invited Curt and his wife Donna over to dinner. When his violin player departed the MC3, he asked me to play with them and we became Fun Era Fifty.
Noise: Fun Era Fifty – I believe you released something under that name.
Geoff: Frozen In Time was released in 2015, after the band ceased activity. I was brought in when the backing tracks were already done.
Noise: I know that Curt was in Pastiche back in the ’80s, Geoff, what were you doing back then?
Geoff: I released my CD Under the Acolytes Bell in 1989 and played throughout the late ’80s and middle ’90s. I had a four-piece band, modestly billed as The Geoff Pango Band – I also played solo. The band played all the Boston clubs. I was lucky enough to have played the Rat four times. We also played in New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.
Noise: Congratulations on the new 4-track EP, or maxi-single, Cap It Off – tell me a little about the making of it. And can we expect a full length CD to follow it up?
Mr. C.: Thanks for the acknowledgement. The project took a lot longer than I had anticipated, but we did complete it! I wrote “She’s a Miracle” in 2010 for my dear friend Heidi, who was sideswiped with breast cancer about a decade ago. With proper therapy and modern drugs, she survives – I wanted to honor that feat. We first met in the early 1980s when my ole band Pastiche used to play in Portland, Maine, and she owned a chic clothing store called Tijger. She and her crew of friends always showed for our shows and we’ve been close ever since. We played this song live in Fun Era Fifty, which always got a great response, and Geoff was adamant that we record it. “Chinese Envoy” was written by the legendary John Cale, a mentor for both of us. (He was also initially with The Velvet Underground and producer of The Stooges and Patti Smith. In fact, his 1990 album with Brian Eno, called Wrong Way Up, is a excellent template for our efforts.) I really thought Geoff’s arrangement of the tune to be super subtle and we worked that angle. “Okay, Cupid!” was a collaboration from the early stages of our writing sessions. Recently divorced, Geoff would tell me about these dating sites he was using – one of which became the title of this tune. I penned this scenario of Cupid losing his vision to hit the bulls-eye for struggling lovers. Geoff filled in the story, took the lead vocals, and created the fab guitar parts. My fave track! And lastly, “Not Bad (but could be better)” was co-written with my school bus monitor from 2014, Sydney Clark, whilst in downtime between school pick-ups. That was her usual response to “how ya doin’?” and we joked and laughed a lot creating the rhymes for lyrics. The words sat for almost a year before I returned to them and wrote the music. Geoff did another great job arranging the various parts. Finally, there will be a new full length album at some point – we have a few more songs co-written in addition to my newer tunes – but I must emphasize how s-l-o-w-l-y we work and how unpredictable the future remains. Stay tuned!
Noise: Curt, I know that you also do recordings in your home. Do you still make use of that for this or other projects?
Mr. C.: YES! But there’s an amusing anecdote involved because my home computer system is a dinosaur… and I haven’t updated in years. I continue to use Digital Performer 3.1, though it’s now up to DP 9. Three of my last four albums, as well as several other projects, were recorded here as I transitioned from my Teac 3340 reel-to-reel to learning “the new way.” Except, with current advancements, I’m unable swap files with other engineers (or even with Geoff), who use the latest programs. We’ll use his studio until I succumb and purchase a new computer with the most modern software etc. Thus, my home studio presently only exists for making home demos for my own development. Which coincides with MY next solo album coming early next year – Bollards (The Home Demos) – a stereo-mastered collection of various tunes written during the past decade, showcasing different styles and techniques, that embraced the new technology I had to learn. Gotta keep those home fires a-burning!
Noise: You recorded “Hand of Fate” for You Can’t Always Want What You Get (A Lowbudget Tribute to the Stones)… tell me something about that choice and how you went about recording it?
Mr. C.: That selection was chosen by Geoff, though I revised the arrangement into a country-blues feel instead of the rocker Keith wrote. It was originally on Black & Blue, but I felt it could have been on Exile On Main Street – that was the feeling calling to me. There’s a slew of open-tuned slide guitars, some delicate keyboards, and Geoff’s significant drum programming and crafty vocal. The other tune chosen, “I Am Waiting,” adhered more closely to the original version from Aftermath, so we decided to keep this more a folk duo representation. We recorded both at Pangoland, slowly and surely.
Noise: Yes, Pangoland Studio in West Roxbury. Geoff, can you give me a brief history of the studio.
Geoff: This is my private studio. It started out as a Teac 3440 with a BiAmp mixing board when I was 15 years old, eventually moving on to a ADAT based system and eventually computer based recording.
Noise: Have you recorded any other artists at Pangoland?
Geoff: With my day job, I haven’t got time for other artists and I’d have to outfit the studio a little better. Also I have my kids part-time. So, it’s just for myself and people I collaborate with.
Noise: Curt, your other project MC3 recorded “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” for Low Budget Barrel of Monkees? Did MC3 and your project with Geoff overlap?
Mr. C.: No… but sorta. Though I’ve always done solo projects, I appreciate group involvement even more. I nurtured a Mr. Curt Ensemble (a quartet or quintet) from 2002 – 2009 until it morphed into MC3 (an acoustic trio) then MC4 (a quartet again) from 2010 – 2014. When Geoff entered the band in 2014, he basically replaced Clara and brought in his upbeat energy. We dispensed with his array of pedals and became Fun Era Fifty, though we did perform many of the tunes from the earlier outfits. Just honoring the continuum until it ceased.
Noise: Are you planning something for the Bowie tribute on that same label due out next summer?
Mr. C.: Yes. We’ve already begun recording Geoff’s selection, “Seven” (from Hours) and I have “Memory of a Free Festival” (from Man of Words – Man of Music) ready to go. By the way, we already tried out about a half dozen other tunes, but nothing clicked. Phew, that Bowie – so unique!
Geoff: Initially, my selection was “Word on a Wing.” I’ve played it live at a few solo shows with live looping and it worked, but we couldn’t make it work in the unforgiving atmosphere of a studio or add anything that the master hadn’t already done so well. Vocally I was stretching – as you can imagine, that’s a hard song to do well. I didn’t want to do one of his more popular tunes and “Seven” really spoke to me with the recent loss of my Mum.
Noise: What about live shows?
Geoff: I still love to play live, but the thought of getting an EPK together, sending demos, begging for gigs and then begging friends to show up doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. It’s hard to fill a room with original music. You have to work really hard at it, but I imagine we’ll play the odd gig now and then when we’re asked.
Mr. C.: I like to offer that I’m retired from live performance (MY flesh is weak!), but we have done occasional local gigs when requested. Geoff loves the stage cause he’s such an intrinsic ham, but the act of shopping for acceptable rooms to admit our services is a done deal. I still get a lot of enjoyment watching other friends perform without that ephemeral tug. For me, fifty-plus years has given me many pleasurable memories. Been there done that. The recording studio will be my future Shangra-La. Also, many thanks for always including us in The Noise – all that press helps!