New York, a burgeoning blend of cultural arts, opens its eyes, ears, and dance-club doors to Open Door – the eclectic, electric, lushly jazzmatic band that will thrill and chill the deepest club-dwellers.
Ray Grappone, Vicki Bell, and Peter Adams join forces once again to create their second album, So Close To Beautiful. And that it is, as this CD promises to deliver twelve hypnotic tracks to both the underground and pseudo-mainstreamed circuits.
Open Door unlocks itself from any particular genre—but rather fuses together the passions and persuasions of all three creators involved. New York based producer/vocalist/remixer Bell, Los Angeles keyboardist Adams, and all-around rhythm man Grappone combine their talents to generate multi-defining sounds spanning the retro-to-techno spectrum.
I had the opportunity to talk with Ray Grappone about Open Door’s policies – how they’re evolving, revolving and whether they plan on continuing to create neo-soulful sounds.
Tell me a little bit about the three of you…
The main producers in the group are Vicki Bell and Peter Adams. I happen to be a signed musician and co-owner of Hipbone Records and studio. The three of us met here in the NYC area out of doing different productions together. Peter is originally from the Boston area and he’s a great keyboardist and songwriter. He recently moved to Los Angeles and is doing some freelance work there. Vicki Bell is a producer and writer and has been running Hipbone Records for some time now. Basically, I’m a session percussion and drum set player. I grew up in Brooklyn and have played and recorded with many musical theatre productions and performed at the New York State Opera this year.
Since you and Vicki are in NY and Peter is in L.A., how do you collaborate on work?
We get together to produce the sessions — it’s more of collaboration over the airwaves though (laughs) – Peter will lay some things down on the west coast and we’ll do the same here on the east coast and send them back and forth. But actually, this album we did here in New York and mixed it up in Boston.
Europe has been both a good market for you, hasn't it?
Yes. We had a good push over there and produced the first record out in Scotland on a label called Sole Records. The group has done some live touring in Europe and that also went very well. We (Vicki and I) put out a bunch of house records and deep underground material that Europe seemed to pick up quite nicely.
How about here in the states?
It’s a little harder here to try to break through with something like this. We had a good plug in Europe– they seem to be much more open to new things. The medium over there makes it easier to get “round the block”. Over here, each state is a different scene. However, with the internet things are happening much faster now in a worldwide way.
On both albums you have a roster of notable guest band members. How do you choose vocalists and the players?
It really does evolve from people we’ve worked with on our record label. Usually, it’s just a natural thing. We just know who is perfect for it as we’re writing it. We won’t necessarily write it for them, but we’ll have an idea that it’s going to be right for someone in particular. There’s some great background vocals on this album by a woman named Elsa Cornish who we’ve done projects with before.
The tracks vary greatly on this CD. "Confused" sounds rather Radiohead-esque, "Good Thing" is jazzy and "Glow" has an electronic, loungy feeling. Does this wide spectrum make the album harder to market?
In a way, yeah. It’s such an eclectic mix – a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But I think in general when you hear the whole album, you can see how it also sticks together and has a nice flow.
How do you perceive Open Door?
It’s really a producer’s project. We’re taking advantage of what we do as producers—but at the same time, we’re not just thinking as producers but as producers in a band.
What bin or category would your music be listed under in a record store?
I would put it in electronica. Actually, at one point, we thought it would be nice to call it “progressive lounge” because it’s not just loungy — it’s got an edge to it.
How does this album differ from your first release, What's Behind Door #1?
The songs on So Close To Beautiful are a bit more cinematic in a sense; there’s more of a focused story, whereas the first album was more a compilation with a much broader range. SCTB is also being distributed through Koch International—so it has a much wider level distribution than our first album.
Both albums have a cover song? Is there a reason for this?
Our formula is to put a record out that includes maybe one instrumental and we also pick a cover. There’s definitely a reason for the cover song – it’s a fun idea and it also links you to people you like. In the first case, it was The Floyd. A lot of people have covered Pink Floyd, but our version of “Breathe” really went places. It was licensed worldwide.
Are all three of you Pink Floyd fans?
Oh, yeah absolutely. Fans of anything Floyd! We did a couple of tracks that were very Pink Floyd-like in the sense that we had the background vocalists really wailing while we were taking care of the up-front stuff.
How did you feel about the recent death of Syd Barrett?
We felt terrible. That hit hard. We’re all familiar with his solo work that was put out over the years. It’s one of the saddest stories in rock and roll. Yes, to go from the creator to a total recluse…Well, I guess he’s at peace now. He had life of turmoil. But on a happier note, we absolutely love the new David Gilmour record. It’s just fantastic.
And you're fans of David Bowie too…
Big fans and Eno, as well. Actually, the “Breathe” cover led to the Bowie cover, “DJ” on this album.
I love your cover of that song…and speaking of DJ's…
Yeah, Vicki did a lot of deejaying herself and we’re in the studio a lot…that’s a big part of Open Door. We weren’t full-time DJ’s but we always understood the DJ world. So that was a big thing for us that we were involved in — with the house music and then putting it all together. We often did the instrumentals for just that reason.
You have a seductive, soulful sound that reminds me of Zero 7. Are you familiar with them?
Yes. We loved them from the minute they came out. We’ve tapped into the guest vocalists approach as Zero 7 has, as well. We’re thinking like we do as producers…if we feel the song is right for someone, we’re open enough for getting that sound.
What kind of impact did Open Door experience from having tracks played on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Nip/Tuck?"
Big. It was quite a surprise. It was great to get involved with that.
Did it open you up more to the U.S. market?
Yeah, it actually did. We still get some really strange calls on how those songs are followed by the fans. The “Nip/Tuck” tune was a big one because it was a big segment of one of the tracks. We’ve got a whole other little fan base from that work. We’re very excited about that.
Owning your own record label (Hipbone Records) must give you unlimited creative license. Do the business responsibilities interfere with the artistic process?
Well, there are so many hours in a day and you have to make sure you can tackle a little bit of everything. It’s almost a curse and a blessing… Yes, it is. Anybody running a label –it’s a crazy thing to do but we do it out of the love of music. You have to keep your foot on the gas pedal all the time.
Is Open Door secondary to your ownership of Hipbone?
No, it’s not secondary…Open Door is very special to us, but Vicki and I are very active in running a lot of other things at the same time. You can see on Hipbone Records – we have a couple of artists out right now that are really good and are getting some play time — and we have to run with that a little bit. For example, we have an artist named Alexis P. Suter — we produced and recorded her entire record. As producers you still have to be “out there”—with all we have going on, this [Open Door] could be a hard thing to get off the ground, but we know it’s one of the best projects we have out there and we have high hopes for it.
And I noticed you're located in Brooklyn, which is a real hotbed for musicians these days…
Yes, we were on the lower east side for a number of years and then we moved over to Red Hook, Brooklyn after 9/11. There sure is quite a bit of great art going on down here…it’s changing by the minute. The Siren Music Festival held in Coney Island keeps getting better and better every year.
Any favorite local bands you’d like to mention?
Yes, TV On The Radio and Alexis P. Suter are two great Brooklyn based bands.
Do you think you'll continue with this "revolving door" policy (so to speak) or do you plan on settling down to a cast of permanent band members?
Well, the three of us are permanent and basically when we play live, we usually add a couple of players – like a bass player or a guitarist if we need it. We kind of keep it simple. Sometimes when we play live we’ll have some sequence tracks that we’ll play along with – sort of in a DJ style. We’re not afraid to do that.
Being I play percussion a lot, sometimes I can actually get off the drum kit – we try to use our ability to keep it light — it’s nicer that way. You don’t have to have as many people involved. We “split off” a little bit. For instance, Vicki may play some keyboards and Peter will then play guitar. That’s why the bass chair is just something that we often use in the live session to enhance the trio. So yes — we’ll continue keeping the “Open Door” open to different things vocal-wise or special instrumentation-wise. Hence, the name… Exactly.
Plans for the future?
We don't have a set tour right yet, but things are happening for the fall. We’re trying to get an actual NY-L.A. thing going (laughs). We’re pretty optimistic with our new record out.
If Open Door opens up in your city, make sure to take them up on the invite …it will definitely be a trip worth remembering.Powered by Sidelines