On this episode of the Sounds Visual spinoff series How Deep Is Your Crate, bassist/producer Max Ramey phoned in to talk about The Ironsides album Changing Light, and to talk some of his favorite records.
Changing Light is the first full-length effort from this masterful collective of Bay Area musicians. It melds classic psych-soul sounds with sweeping orchestral arrangements – reminiscent of a cinematic soundtrack from a ’60s European film. Inspired by the soundtracks and library music of European composers during the ’60s and ’70s, The Ironsides set out to create a collection of lush songs that evoke a diverse range of feelings, emotions, and memories.
The Ironsides enlisted the help of Louis Robert King, a New York based maestro, as co-writer and arranger. King had previously created arrangements for producer/bassist Max Ramey on other projects. Once the tunes were ready to go, the band started contacting the local musicians who would bring them to life. “We hired a group of Bay Area working musicians,” Max explained. “Many of them play a range of music, from jazz to classical, in clubs and orchestras. Using these local musicians was really important to us.” The album was recorded at Transistor Sound Studios in the North Bay Area of California. Transistor is home base for The Ironsides, and a host of Colemine Records artists, including Kelly Finnigan and Monophonics.
California wasn’t the only geographical inspiration for the new album. The Ramey brothers trace their heritage to Liguria, Italy – the birthplace of their maternal grandfather. “Ligurian Dream” (track 3) pays homage to both their Italian heritage and many of the composers who inspired the cinematic and instrumental direction of the album. In the early days, The Ironsides’ singles found a home in the hearts of cinematic-soul lovers by way of Colemine. “We started the band to write music that evokes cinematic landscapes.” The band’s first release, The Raven (originally composed by Piero Piccioni), fit the mold and foreshadowed an elaborate sound. “We’ve come full circle – this is what we’ve wanted to do from the beginning.”
Changing Light evokes strong imagery of an open road, a breathtaking view, and scenes of a vast landscape begging to be explored. Cruise up the coast, where sweeping orchestral arrangements rise and fall with the tide. As you head North, the countryside opens to an undeniable groove. Tremolo-soaked guitar tones grow on the vines, and timeless, soulful bass lines flow like wine. In higher altitudes, French horns and trumpets soar like eagles. A river below carries bellowing cello tones through a mountain pass into an expansive canyon. Down in the desert, fuzzed-out electric guitar cuts through the dry heat and leaves the listener thirsty for more.
Plot a course, or just turn the car on and drive. Max recommends the latter. “The songs are inspired by landscapes – each one could mean something to someone and create a completely different meaning for someone else.” At the end of a long road, The Ironsides have found the perfect place to begin.