There’s a story behind album No. 6 from The Orange Peels, and they’re lucky to be alive to tell it.
Even as the whiplash, bruises, and body aches began to fade, it was like they could feel their old lives beginning to disappear.
Flash back to late November, 2013. On the way to the last show of their Sun Moon tour, founding Orange Peels members Allen Clapp and Jill Pries were in a life-changing accident. Stopped in traffic on Highway 880, Allen had just asked Jill for a piece of gum when they were hit from behind at 60 mph by a drunk driver.
Somehow, the two walked away, were given the OK by the EMTs, and even went on to play the show (their van wasn’t so lucky). But they weren’t the same.
What followed was a year of massive change, beginning with a 5-day recording session at the band’s 15-year headquarters — a midcentury modern Eichler home in the heart of Silicon Valley called Mystery Lawn Studio. In that session, new song ideas spilled out of the band faster than they could complete them.
“Its blend of melody, chunky riffs, gorgeous harmonies, and delicious arrangements are deep as hell. It’s just that they sound like the wide open sky, and that’s one hell of a thing.”
By the next month though, that house would be on the market, and the two would leave their home and studio to retreat to the Santa Cruz Mountains. “It wasn’t your typical exit strategy,” Clapp says,”It was more like being beat up and kicked into an alternate universe.”
Trading the sleek Sunnyvale abode for a late 1970s hexagonal mountain house in Boulder Creek, CA turned out to be the perfect recipe for recovery. There among the redwoods, the band reconvened on the 2-acre compound — rechristened Mystery Lawn Mountain — to flesh out the tunes, write a couple new ones, and mix the results.
New inspiration wasn’t hard to find. Many of the songs loosely chronicle the band’s journey over the course of a tumultuous year, so it’s not surprising that themes of loss, discovery, and change dominate the lyrics. Shadows of the experience lurk on the back-to-back tracks “Fleeing the Scene” and “New Moon,” while a more anthemic telling of the tale is condensed into the verses of “9″ — a song about the mountain highway that snakes past the band’s new headquarters.
Maybe it was the shock of the accident that gave lead guitarist John Moremen and drummer Gabriel Coan the opportunity to carry the band forward in new ways. The collection showcases Moremen’s on-the-spot song arrangement chops and marks Coan’s first appearance as co-producer on a Peels record. It’s also the first time the band has released a new record in less than 4 years.
Still, some things remain unchanged. The band’s keen attention to mood and melody is thankfully and marvelously intact. So is the collaborative spirit that launched their 2013 album, Sun Moon. “Begin the Begone” finds the band taking new risks, saying to hell with the consequences, and making the most immediate and adventurous music of its career.