Counting Crows produce new EP
A trip to the English countryside inspired suite music from Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz.
“I hadn’t wanted to make records for a little while,” Duritz said last week during a Zoom interview, and the EP “Butter Miracle, Suite One” is the first new music from the band since 2014. “I was interested in playing. I was interested in touring. I loved being in the band, but I hadn’t found myself wanting to go through the whole record thing.”
During that 2019 vacation, he felt the urge to play piano and had one brought in from London. A couple days later, he had written “The Tall Grass.” At that point, he had no idea it would lead off a suite of four interconnected songs.
“The next day I was playing it back. I thought it was finished, but I was trying to figure out if it actually was or I wanted to extend it. I was messing around with the ending. I tried some, ‘I don’t know whys …’ (a lyric from the song) over some different chords, and I liked the way that was sounding.
“Over the new chords, I found myself singing the line, ‘Bobby was a kid from ’round the town, kicks pumped up and head held down …,’ and thought that was really cool. Maybe this song is more like (2014’s) ‘Palisades Park,’ which has a bunch of different movements.
“After a while, I realized this isn’t an extension of that song, it’s an entirely different song. When I did that, I couldn’t help thinking how cool it had been, how it flowed right out of ‘The Tall Grass.’ What if I write a series of songs where the end of one was the beginning of another? … At that point I got really excited about doing that.
“I’d only written part of one song at that point and a little bit of the second — ‘Elevator Boots’ — but the whole thing was composed after that with that in mind.”
Duritz said he liked the idea of releasing music in something smaller than album-sized servings. Counting Crows has gone anywhere from three to seven years between original studio albums since its multi-platinum-selling debut “August and Everything After” in 1993. And Duritz said he wrote another suite of songs during a monthlong vacation back to England in June before the start of the band’s summer tour, which comes to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre on Tuesday.
“People have been telling us for a long time we’d be better off releasing singles rather than albums or just an EP,” Duritz said. “That always seemed to me, yeah, that may be smarter commercially, but if it’s not what we do well — and it’s not — it doesn’t do us any good to do it.
“What we do is create these worlds and people can climb into them and get lost in them. We’ve had good singles, but it’s been more as an accident. It was never the plan. I wouldn’t say I’d known any of them were great hit singles when I wrote them.”
“Elevator Boots” from “Butter Miracle” joins that list of hits, topping the Adult Alternative Airplay chart.
The “skeletons” Duritz created in in England were fleshed out by the band — Charlie Gillingham, keyboards, accordion, clarinet and backing vocals; David Bryson, guitar and backing vocals; David Immergluck, guitar, bass, pedal steel, banjo, mandolin and backing vocals; Dan Vickrey, guitar, banjo and vocals; Millard Powers, bass, guitar and vocals; and Jim Bogios, drums — in the studio.
“Everyone thinks too much about the songwriter,” Duritz said. “If you love a band, what you really love is what they do after that … It’s the collaborative work between all of us that makes Counting Crows a great band. That’s why I’ve never wanted to be a solo artist. I can write these skeletons, and they’re great skeletons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be humble. I’m very proud of that s— and you can’t have a great song without that skeleton. But what really makes it (is what the band does). The band is so collaborative and contributes to every song.”
Counting Crows summer tour starts Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. Duritz said he wants to present “Butter Miracle” in its entirety, but he still was plotting out the best place to showcase it.
Opening shows with four new songs seemed risky. He considered making it the encore, but he likes “Palisades Park” in that slot.
What Duritz was leaning toward last week is doing a short, mid-show acoustic set where “The Tall Grass” is the last acoustic song and the rest of the EP would flow out of it.
The suite has both its quieter moments and more rousing ones. Duritz said he had those anthems Pete Townshend writes for The Who in mind on the final track, “Bobby and the Rat-Kings,” but he admitted side two of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” also was influential.
“The breakdown in the middle took it from Townshend to Springsteen,” he said.
Wherever the suite goes in the set, Duritz is looking forward to being on stage again after the forced layoff due to COVID-19. He said the band and crew all are vaccinated, and they made adjustments to the itinerary to make things are as safe as possible for the audience as well. Originally, about 75 percent of the tour was planned for indoor venues; now it’s 75 percent outdoor spaces.
“Everyone needs to get back to work, and the easiest way is for people to get vaccinated. We wouldn’t have a variant if we didn’t have so many unvaccinated people. It’s like a petri dish for it … We’ll be fine backstage. Everyone’s vaccinated backstage. But I want the audience to be safe too.”
If you’re going
WHO: Counting Crows, Sean Barna and Matt Sucich
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, 201 S. Phelps St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $40 to $125 and are available through Ticketmaster.