Updated Mon, Mar 26, 2012 9:34 am
Athens, Ohio, indie-rock quartet Mind Fish have released WATCHOUT!, a new full-length CD, with the help of producer, engineer and Ohio University Assistant Professor Eddie Ashworth.
The self-described "nerd pop" band got its start when guitartist/singer Dean Tartaglia and drummer Steve Warstler were in high school. During those years, the duo began writing and recording rough demos in their hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and managed to produce enough material for an album, which circulated among friends.
Warstler graduated high school in 2008 and attended Ohio University that fall; Tartaglia followed a year later. According to Tartaglia, Mind Fish was somewhat of a failed experiment in its early days.
"We started playing a couple shows my freshman year and that didn’t go very well," laughed Tartaglia. "We had about seven different members that year, coming and going."
It wasn’t until Tartaglia and Warstler discovered bassist Trent Rissover and guitarist Dan Barbera that the band really took form, resulting in today's lineup.
When Mind Fish first approached Eddie Ashworth to record and produce their newest project, they had only planned for a three song EP. However, as the band and Ashworth began recording, their plans changed.
"It was a three-song EP, then a six-song EP, then a seven-song EP," recalled Rissover. "Then we said ‘Let's just do a 10 song LP!'"
The vast majority of WATCHOUT! was recorded in the MDIA Sound studio in Ohio University's Radio and Television Building. Many of Ashworth’s audio students were able to help set up and engineer the weekend recording sessions that took place between January and August of 2011. In addition, some vocal overdubs and acoustic guitar tracking were recorded at Ashworth’s home studio, The Oxide Shed. The album was also mixed there.
The songwriting on WATCHOUT! was handled solely by Tartaglia, which has always been the case for Mind Fish. However, the arrangements were fleshed out with input from the rest of the band, as well as Ashworth.
The band members agree that Ashworth helped with the album's cohesive sound. For his part, Ashworth is humble about what he brought to the session.
"My approach to making records is, I always take my lead from the artist," he said. "What does the artist want to try to get across? How do I help them to best represent themselves on a record?"
Although WATCHOUT! certainly does have a unified sound, Mind Fish describe the album's feel as almost cartoon-like.
It's an accurate description, with cheerleading squad backing vocals, party soundscapes, incredibly cheesy synth runs and various sound effects sprinkled throughout the album. Tartaglia attributes much of the cartoon-esque sound and self-deprecating attitude of the album to Ashworth’s direction.
"Eddie gets real theatrical real fast, he really pushed me to go in that direction," said Tartaglia. "He pushed me to do things I’d never thought I’d be doing on the album.”
Ashworth not only helped Mind Fish fine-tune the album's sonics of their album, but also advised them on a couple of their arrangements.
"The first six or seven songs on the album I had in mind as a project, but I just couldn’t get a full album out of it," said Tartaglia. "Then we wrote two songs over the summer, sat down with Eddie and said, ‘We should probably put these two songs on the album. Could you help us turn these into full songs?’"
The final track of the 10-song CD is a cover of The Kinks' “Sunny Afternoon," which was "Totally Eddie's idea," according to Rissover. If one had never heard the original song, there is no question that Mind Fish’s cover would pass for their own original material. With a driving rhythm section and an over-the-top vocal performance by Tartaglia, “Sunny Afternoon” closes out the album with an irreverent tone and a fun-for-fun's-sake attitude.
"Mind Fish is a serious band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously," said Ashworth.
A CD release party for WATCHOUT! is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4 at The Union. Fellow Athens band Brothertiger will open and admission is free.