Cucumbers share never-before-seen gems in new album ‘Desk Drawer Tapes’
Deena Shoshkes said she “has been singing from the start. My parents told me I used to rock and sing in the crib.
She and her husband Jon Fried, best known as founding members of indie-rock band The Cucumbers, have been making music and releasing albums since the early 1980s, when they were part of the burgeoning Hoboken music scene. Most recently, they were part of the collaborative group, The Campfire Flies. They left Hoboken around 30 years ago to raise their family in the nearby town of Milburn, not far from where some of their group mates have also moved to raise families.
Now, after a long and lonely pandemic, they have found a silver lining in the tasks that kept them busy while confined to their homes. While cleaning a desk drawer, Shoshkes discovered unreleased songs from 1988 to 2005. The dynamic couple released today. Office drawer ribbons, a collection of these salvaged tracks, for digital download via Life Force Records. The songs will be available on deena.bandcamp.com and other streaming platforms.
This album (recorded with a rotating group of band members) reflects their diverse styles, including party tunes recorded in 1988 (“The Boss’s Song”, “Do It Yourself”, “You Are the Match”) and rock hypnotic (“I Am So Ready”, from their 1996 album Total vegetation). Fried sings at the head of “The Boss’s Song” (see the video below).
“Do It Yourself” began with “a fun jam session” with drummer Yuergen Renner and bassist John Williams, Shoshkes said. “Then I added the lyrics and the melody. It was written long before “DIY” became a thing, a phrase or an acronym. Without realizing it, we were part of that moment. Plus I’m still struggling with my own laziness and Jon is super energetic and always wants to work and I was describing how I was feeling back then. He was always trying to get me to move on and do things even though I didn’t feel like it. I realized and came to agree that “anything is better than nothing”. “
Renner and Williams, who both performed on the Cucumbers’ eponymous 1987 album on the Profile label, appear on some of the tracks, while drummer Dave Ross and bassist Kurt Wrobel join Shoshkes and Fried on other songs.
The collection also includes Wrobel and drummer EdNo on songs from 2002 including the catchy and compelling “What Would You Do”, the obsessive “Beauty From Afar”, the playful and intelligent “Our Love Is What We Are” , the thoughtful “Handle With Care” and the country rock “How Far Can You Go”.
“Beauty from afar” (see the video below) is one of my favorites, as well as Fried Cucumbers’ favorite recording.
“I think we’ve captured a mood, and Deena’s words are so full of mystery,” he said. “And our old friend Roger Moutenot made such a brilliant mix.”
“Mystical love and soul connection are ongoing themes and sources of inspiration for me,” Shoshkes said. These themes inspire this majestic song. Is there something more important in art or in life? I would answer with a categorical no.
“I think it’s a song about closeness and distance between people, especially people involved in a romantic relationship,” Fried said. “For the video, I wanted to capture the contrast between the idea of beauty from a distance and the intimacy of the song, so I used close-ups of the house. Stuff we see all the time but never notice. This is undoubtedly a video from the COVID era. We’ve been home for a long time staring at the same wallpapers, rugs, curtains, and doorknobs. I’ve exaggerated the colors and in some cases changed or reversed them completely – to keep it interesting, I hope, and also as a commentary on how things appear when you really look at them.
Shoshkes typically sings lead vocals with her gorgeous, bright, sunny vocals, but Fried traded places with her in their 2005 song “True for Me”, accompanied by Wrobel and drummer Steve Villano. Shoshkes sings beautiful harmonies to support her beloved Fried, whom she met as a freshman at Brown University in Providence, RI
Another song from 2005 was part of this collection: the soul-influenced “Still Thinking of Midnight” with the sultry playing of trombonist Ben Williams, trumpeter Dan Sugarman and saxophonist Brett Ollerenshaw.
“The band was born out of the New Wave, and while we really have our roots in the singer-songwriter tradition, part of us has always wanted to be a party dance group,” Fried said. “When John Williams brought his old buddies Brett Ollerenshaw and Steve Foreman on sax and trumpet for songs like ‘You Are the Match’, we had such gas. John made the excellent arrangement for the instrumental closing of this track and I will always smile when I hear it.
“The collection is a reminder that a band is a mix of musical personalities, a meeting point, and we’ve been fortunate enough to play with a lot of really wonderful musicians over the years,” Shoshkes said in a press release.
Although these songs were recorded years ago, they sound fresh and remain relevant. “We put a lot of energy into it back then,” said Shoshkes. “A few may seem fresh because they had never been mixed and received the contemporary mixing treatment from the very talented Rob Friedman. All recordings received a little extra sparkle thanks to the mastering process by Scott Anthony.
Shoshkes’ musical approach has changed over the years, reflecting how some of us evolve from young adventurers to wiser empty nests after the 1950s. His songwriting now embraces and reflects the experiences of the private moments of others.
“Initially, the writing was based on inspiration, straight from the heart, directly from my life and my feelings,” she said. “Then I started writing for projects when a filmmaker friend asked me to come up with songs for the films he was making. I found writing to order like this very liberating. At the same time, I started to collaborate with lyricist David Graham. By writing on someone else’s words, a certain part of my ego left the process, and it was truly liberating. Now I do a combination of all of the above: writing when lightning strikes, writing with inspiration from others… writing so much that the songs go through me and I don’t know where they came from.
The popular 1987 Cucumbers track, “My Boyfriend” (see the video below) – a song that cleverly expressed both love and frustration – was initially a diary entry. Shoshkes wrote about Fried, her boyfriend at the time, and never wanted his words to become words.
“I loved him but he wasn’t perfect. … I was just writing about what I was going through, ”she said. “We had recently moved in together and were working on any adjustments you needed to make. I wrote these lines in my journal, which at the time was a pile of typed notes. I kept my old Olivetti manual typewriter close at hand. After jamming with a friend one night, Jon grabbed this page and started singing them to some music we had recorded.
During the pandemic, she spent time cleaning her drawers and found diaries from the 1980s. They were “filled with the emotions of youth, shock and awe … Now enough time has passed for that to happen. these feelings and conflicts are a thing of the past, ”she said.
Shoshkes plans to make an acoustic and folk album of Cucumbers. “Jon and I have performed a lot of duo shows over the past year, via live broadcast and now in person as we return to live performances,” she said. “I would love to capture that sound.”
She would also like to record an album with her writing partners, friends “all over the world”. And an album of his “original experimental recordings at home – perhaps the closest to my heart.” Before the pandemic, she and her bandmates Campfire Flies had arranged material for an album. Now they are planning to finish it and release an album.
Fried is finishing a historical fictional novel about “some of the colorful characters in my family tree” and has another novel in progress. He also writes short stories.
“I am very grateful to Deena for keeping my musical life alive,” he said. “As compensation for being her roadie and driver, I can support her on the banjo and backing vocals these days… she continues to write amazing songs and I can play them.”
Shoshkes says her mother was her biggest influence, adding that she was “an artist and an intellectual and went back to college to study design when I was in kindergarten. She still has it. worked and focused on independence and looks forward to anything creative and constructive.
Through music, Shoshkes has found her place among her three accomplished sisters (she is the youngest).
“They are excellent role models: a scientist, an architect and an artist. In many ways, I chose music because they had already covered a lot of the basics. For example, they paved the way for countless possibilities.
Shoshkes and Fried will perform on Quimby Street in Westfield on June 25 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm The performance is sponsored by the Township of Westfield. Visit westfieldtoday.com.
On September 18 at 7:00 p.m., Shoshkes will perform with Rebecca Turner at “The Sound of Our Town” in Westfield. For more information, call Rob Galgano at (845) 661-8932 or email him at [email protected]
To learn more about The Cucumbers, visit thecucumbersmusic.weebly.com.
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