MAKING THE ALBUM: At the 1:15 mark of “Less Talk, More Thought,” a song on kemp ridley’s debut full-length album, “Learn Again,” singer Cayla Fralick lets loose: “And oh my God, my God, I want to be yours / But my heart wants other hearts a little more,” she sings.
She continues, “And oh my God I can’t shake things up for good / When I know, I know, I know I really should.”
The sentiment typifies the theme of the album: does newfound maturity necessitate moving on? When it first began playing on the scene, kemp ridley was a working band that added heft and sophistication to Fralick’s vocals. On “Learn Again,” the band has molded into a cohesive unit built on sentient guitars, tenacious bass lines and resolute drumming.
The band’s songwriting maturation is clearest in “Grey,” a song that accentuates kemp’s understanding of tempo and song dynamics, and its multi-genre appeal. It’s also a song where Fralick’s vocals bounce from honeyed to acidic, as she trusts her bandmates to allow her to soar.
“I would love to believe in myself / but I don’t think I’m ready just yet,” she sings, as if wondering aloud.
kemp ridley might not be ready for proper capitalization, but it has certainly adjusted to making music that carries weight.
The members of kemp shared their thoughts on the recording process — and its future. A released recording is usually an introduction or a reconnection. For kemp, it could be a goodbye letter, the kind you’ll keep forever.
1. Conceptualization: “We released our eponymous EP in late June 2010 and started writing new music immediately thereafter. By the beginning of September 2011, we had a bevy of new songs that we were playing live, but no high-quality recordings to offer to people. kemp was in a rut as a group, so we decided that turning our new music into an album would be the best way to get out of it. We wanted a full-length record that we could be proud of, not just another amateur EP like the first record.” — Cam Powell (bass)
2. Recording: “We recorded from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for a week straight over USC’s winter break and had many late nights following that. In January, stuff got put on hold due to scheduling conflicts with school and booking studio time. When we made it back in, there were so many vocal tracks to record. I ended up sleeping on the floor in the vocal booth multiple times because it was exhausting. Eric ( McCoy, of Archer Avenue Studio) is a lot of fun to work with and he absolutely knows what he’s doing. He digs music with female vocals, so this was great for him. We miss working with him and seeing him so often.” — Cayla Fralick (singer, acoustic guitar)
3. Production: “After recording, we got the album mastered at Studio B by Dave Harris, who helped us turn it into something slick and professional sounding. It was a great experience. After that, Anna Westbury, one of our close friends, designed the album artwork and did an amazing job. Then we shipped all of that off to the extremely helpful people at Nationwide Disc in Texas to get it printed. All in all, we’re extremely happy with the finished product.” — Trey Lewis (guitar)
4. Album title: According to band members, drummer Turner Shull provided comic relief during recording, particularly when throwing out album titles. Here are some that were fortunately rejected: “Close, But No Sitar,” “Ed Hardy Vineyards,” “Confederate Neard,” “Yeah, Go Pat,” “Digital Afterparty,” “Sweet Midgets” and “Lions Made of Tigers.”
5. Future: “kemp’s future is really uncertain at this point. Most of us just graduated and we could all be working or studying in different places in the coming months. We’ll keep playing as many gigs as we can this summer in support of the album, but everything is hazy past July. Hopefully we’ll all stay in Columbia at least through the fall and we’ll continue playing if at all possible. If we can’t stay together, we hope to at least leave a lasting impression on the scene with this record.” — Thomas Barrineau (guitar)