Thursday, December 3, 2009

This Old Earthquake

Record release party 
Bolinas Earthquake Ball   

by Shari Faye Dell, West Marin Citizen (published December 3, 2009) 

Bearing nearly 80 years of musicianship between three members, This Old Earthquake 
brings to full gestation the tears, toils and joys of experience with the release of the 
groups’ first album, Portuguese Murder Ballads. 
The self-produced nine-song collection of originals blends sweet harmony and a laid- 
back tempo into melodies that linger just behind the beat. The effect is somber, bitter- 
sweet and nostalgically melancholic. The songs invite meditative reflection. 
In May of this year, the three men–Steve Trivelpiece, Michael Burton and Ethan 
Okamura–made the 3600-mile-round-trip to Palmer Texas for a coveted five-day session 
in Palmyra Studios.  

A cut above 

“Its one of the nicer analog studios in the country,” say Ethan Okamura, This Old 
Earthquake’s singing, song-writing guitarist. 
Owned and operated by Paul Middleton, an engineer to Bonnie Raitt since 1986, Palmyra 
is home to the audiophile’s collection of state of the art vintage audio equipment as well 
as his crown jewel, the 1969 Automated Neve analog-mixing board previously owned by 
Abbey Road Studios in London. 
 Middleton first heard This Old Earthquake in Bolinas at a private party. “He took some 
interest in us,” says guitar and vocal artist Steve Trivelpiece. Later, a mutual friend 
provided Middleton with a copy of the promotional CD the group completed in 
December of 2008. From his studio in Texas, Middleton told the Citizen, “I listened to 
the songs at least hundreds of times...these songs touched me so strongly I just couldn’t 
get away from it.”  
An industry professional for many years, Middleton expresses concern he has with 
standard digital recording practices and the tendency to tweak things or over produce, “I 
didn’t want that to happen to their music,” he says. “I knew they didn’t need to tamper 
with it. All the group needs is find the right feeling and go in there and record,” says 
Middleton. “We wanted to help capture that.” All said and done he adds, “The sheer 
passion in the’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in many, many years.”  

It takes a village 

Being family men, it took the group several months to arrange time off from work and 
child-care. Family and friends heartily orchestrated necessities for the journey a van, 
coolers packed with provisions and domestic support for the young family members 
staying at home. 
Upon arriving, the group set to the task. “We made the most of it. We slept right in the 
studio; we recorded–we were in there [working] 13 or 14 hour days,” says Trivelpiece. 

Drawing on experience

The difference between performing before a live audience and recording in a studio is far 
from subtle. While individual instrumental nuances and interpretations may come off 
nicely during a performance, they don’t necessarily translate into solid musical terms on 
“For several years, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio,” says Okamura. In 
addition to a former partnership in the Terra Linda studio, Okamura has a studio at home. 
Thanks to the advancement and availability of technology, “It is easy to stock yourself 
with a descent home studio,” he says.  
Going into the studio is often a challenge for performers. However, all three of the 
seasoned musicians have done studio work on other projects. During sessions in Terra 
Linda for the 2008 demo, This Old Earthquake worked out arrangements and solidified 
parts. The solidarity served them well when they hit Texas–nine songs in five days is 
quite a feat.  
“We barely got what we needed to get done;” Okamura iterates, “literally, at three in the 
morning.” “We were loading the van,” Trivelpiece chimes in. “I was finishing up a guitar 
track,” Okamura says with a grin. 
The group hit the highway for a long haul home at 3:30 a.m.. 

Fixing an identity 

“Wasn’t our first gig at the community center?” asks Trivelpiece, unable to recall the 
exact moment the ball began rolling. 
 To be certain, in the fall of 2007 Trivelpiece moved back to West Marin following an 
eleven year-hiatus. Okamura and bass player Miguel Burrtone, (aka. Michael Burton,) 
expressed an immediate interest in forming an all-acoustic trio. Shortly thereafter, the 
three men got together to test the waters. Although the three had played together 
previously, more than a decade had passed, they began by picking out a Gram Parsons’ 
tune, Sin City, which was later to become the only obvious inspiration for the groups’ 
official identity. Thus, from the Parsons’ adage, ““This old earthquake’s gonna leave me 
in the poor house,”” the band name was formed. 

Old Earthquake will perform at a semi-formal record release 
party on Friday, December 4 at the Bolinas Community Center. Serving Hog Island 
Oysters and wine, the band begins at 8 p.m.. 
Shari Faye Dell - West Marin Citizen (Dec 3, 2009)

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