We did it. We finally did it. Project BWQ has finally closed the door on the making of its debut album American Ghost. It’s been recorded, mixed, mastered and approved. Today, the entire body of work, 14 tracks in all, is available for streaming and purchase. This is a milestone for Darryl Joo, songwriter, singer, musician; it’s a milestone for Silver Horse Sound, the recording operation founded less than two years ago by myself, Max Feinstein, and Ben Scott; and it’s a milestone for the Hudson County music scene, which now has enough traction that it can literally fill White Eagle Hall. I don’t want to sound too hyperbolic, but it’s clear that we’re all onto something.
For as much recording as I do, full length albums are not a common practice. And a full length concept album over 67 minutes is a rare beast, and generally discouraged. That would have to be some rather compelling music in the age of Spotify, right?
I can’t decouple myself from being the second-closest person to Project BWQ’s American Ghost. Like all full-length albums I’ve recorded, it’s impossible not relive the experience of making it on each and every listen. At times it was essentially a full-time job to bring Darryl Joo’s brainchild to life. Long days, late nights, lots of coffee, lots of experimenting, lots of second-guessing every move. But within all of that is some of the deepest music I’ve ever had the privilege to record and perform.
I met Darryl Joo one year ago, May of 2017, in the same room at Silver Horse Sound where we would record 99% of the American Ghost album. Mike Kuzan of The Latest Noise brought in Darryl and a crew of musicians for a live recording of “Sleepwalkers.” It was a smooth session; meant to be quickly cobbled together for a psychedelic songwriting competition. Shortly thereafter Darryl, Mike and I met again at Silver Horse to discuss recording a full-length album; around 14 songs. I was delighted at the prospect of a steady stream of work coming my way (business was slow up to that point). But I did warn Darryl upfront, “Rule number one of recording: However long you think something is going to take, multiply that by 3.” I was mostly right.
Darryl’s a down-to-earth guy, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and remarkably gifted. He took to this challenge with a lot of patience and organization. This was a massive undertaking; involving a cast of musicians from the Hudson County music scene and Darryl’s inner circle. We worked two or three days a week beginning in June, 2017. That summer I played drums on a majority of the tracks and Darryl recorded his guitar parts and vocals. As the months went on the more the guest players would add their parts, some written out by Darryl and others improvised on the spot. To record so many of our friends and colleagues was a dream I expressed to my business partner Max Feinstein just months earlier, and here Darryl was making it a reality. The same magic that brought people together in our live scene was happening in the studio.
As the songs got more and more fleshed out I began forming an attachment to the music and the lyrics. Darryl was expressing and creating a musical identity that was deeply introspective and emotional; that much was obvious. But he also has a gift of translating those thoughts into the right notes and chords (VERY specific notes I might add). I felt my role in this was beyond capturing sounds; it was treating every layer of this musical anatomy as a vital component in this body of work. Can guitars and drums tell the whole story? Sometimes. But other times you have to look for extra texture and get extra weird (that part’s my favorite). It’s a delicate balance of having fun, but keeping it appropriate. And I think we pulled that off. There’s not a note out of place on American Ghost. Every sound and every silence was heavily scrutinized right up to the final day of mastering.
I’ve heard this album a thousand times and I plan to listen to it a thousand times more. I’m thrilled with what Darryl and the rest of us have accomplished. I know Project BWQ is a personal statement for Darryl, but I think he and we know now that it’s more than that. And it ranks among the best our music community has to offer. The 14 tracks on American Ghost range from pop to prog, rock to jazz, signal to noise, and all things in between. It’s a smart album. It’s a beautiful album. It takes itself seriously but can shake an ass all the same. I hope its more accessible elements will inspire repeat listens, which will reveal all of its complexities and subtleties until listeners identify with it on a molecular level. Quite plainly, American Ghost is what music is all about.