Genre slinging and coming up with a catchy, funny and notable new genre are done all too easily in the musical realm anymore – gone are the days of simply labeling some as rock, pop, country or hip-hop. However, of all the genres being bandied about one that intrigued me recently was “Death Gospel”. Gospel music, in it’s own right, can be catchy, obviously spiritual and uplifting, though with the connection of the grimness and sorrow of death, a clearer definition was necessary. While the genre Death Gospel conjures up negative connotations of death and life spent underground, Arcuragi and his backing band, The Lupine Chorale Society are out to extinguish the sads by bringing Death Gospel to life in the form of celebratory rollicking Americana folk-rock. Arcuragi’s songwriting is precise and exacting, the backing vocals provided by guest collaborators and members of The Lupine Chorale Society. The celebration of humanity isn’t just contained in records – the presentation of Adam Arcuragi and The Lupine Chorale Society in a live setting is a ceremony to be witnessed best live. La Blogotheque was lucky enough to capture one of these festivities in a New York Flea Market in 2008 and the band has been gaining ground (and fun) since. Find the video at the bottom of the interview, or better yet come to Cicero’s tomorrow, Monday, July 25th to witness the fun and beauty of Arcuragi’s Death Gospel in person. I caught up with Arcuragi through email recently and asked him about the genre, recording and the success of their SXSW 2011 outing.
Where did you get your musical start and how did that start translate to the projects you’re currently working on/that became you [Adam Arcuragi] and The Lupine Choral Society?
Adam Arcuragi: This incarnation of the band started with Andrew playing slide guitar with me in a version of the band in New York. Then we met Jack in Atlanta. Matt was Jack’s roommate. Harrison knew Jack from Greensboro, NC and Henry just happened to have been on the same high school track team as the band’s manager.
Your recording for I Am Become Joy has laughter and conversation from the actual recording process left in it – was this recorded in analog form? Also, what made you choose to keep that intimacy in tact on the record?
AA: No, we did not record to tape for that album. In terms of the intimacy idea, I don’t think we thought of it as intimacy. I think you have different timbers that you favor from record to record and the sound we focused on and played with was the human voice and how it blends with other voices. I think it is also safe to say that the laugh at the beginning is one of the most positive sounds ever recorded.
In an interview from 2 years ago, you’d said that if you’d “taken more time some songs would’ve got fixed” but that if everyone had their say due to being a consummate artist that everything would have been fixed or picked at – do you think that if everyone had their say the recordings would possibly suffer for the listener? What do you think would have been left of the songs or, furthermore, the record?
AA: “Fix” is a bad choice of words. I don’t mean to imply that there is a platonic ideal of a song out there in the aether. I should have said that you can always tinker with a recording. So in a situation like making a record it is nice for me to have some constraints to help me not just be some tourist gawking at all the possibilities.
The ridiculousness of genre identifying knows no bounds in today’s ever-evolving musical realm and I know several have asked, but please explain the definition of “Death Gospel” that you’ve labeled yourself with. Do you feel this descriptor sets you apart from others or maybe piques the curiosity of possible show attendants? Why or why not?
AA: It is funny you should ask that because just the other day my manager got an internet alarm and sent me a link to what ends up being a page on Wikipedia about Death Gospel. We’re still not sure who put it up but they did it scientifically. (Find the link here.)
You were deemed a “breakout band” from this years SXSW by quite a few notable names and publications. Has that put any extra stress on the band? How has it affected the bands attitude and work ethic, either positively or negatively?
AA: No, the band doesn’t feel any pressure. I can say with a high degree of certainty that it hasn’t gone to their heads. They are still really in a really nice groove. They’re my pageant babies making momma proud.
It’s been said, and is extremely evident in photos and videos, that your live act is entertaining and more than an atypical show on any given night. Given the fun-loving attitue of the band and the music you perform, how, in your own words, do you think you make your shows more fun and entertaining?
AA: We have a great mix of talented people that are totally complimentary in both style and personality. It has become a joy and not a chore and really affords us the weird pleasure of hitting a point where we are both comfortable and excited.
About the Author – Jennifer Metzler has been going to rock and roll shows all over St. Louis from an early age. She recalls some of her first ever shows as rollicking good, jam-packed, sweaty and perfectly dim-lit shows while standing on the Cicero’s venue floor. When not rocking out at shows, writing about music or listening to the newest breakout band, she’s writing about hockey, watching hockey, or screaming and throwing a remote across the living room in regards to, you guessed it, hockey. She also loves to talk to her cats, walk around the duck pond judging duck hair-do’s and collect vinyl records. If you see her at a show, Cicero’s or anywhere around St. Louis, feel free to say hello!