Twelve Tales From Winter City and Other Songs From The Berklee Years (2004​-​2007)

by The Young Republic

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about

This is the vault. These are the tunes we worked up and didn't throw away while we were young music students in Boston from 2004-2007, the songs which scored our late teen / early 20 something lives, loves and homework. The first twelve songs were released over seas on the album 12 Tales From Winter City. What follows are demos, rehearsal tapes, radio performances, unreleased recordings, and a couple of fly-on-the-wall arranging sessions, which appear, roughly, in chronological order.

While the YR's music became much more ambitious, well-crafted, and flat out better (see: Balletesque), listening back to this bunch of recordings, there is intrinsic value in the documentation of process and creativity, and the development of both. It's an interesting case study of a talented, young band, who made some interesting music in the '00s. From the earnest and endearing teenage "folk" songs we naively slapped instruments on top of during our first semester to the intricately arranged rock/pop music we labored over during the last days of school in December 2007, the change in sound and skill is pretty astounding ("change" was probably our Achilles heel, considering people bought the early college demos and, not being with us day by day, were confused when drastically different material was released a year later). The three arrangements of "Girl In A Tree," the vastly different 12 Tales and WOXY takes on "Blue Skies," and the (sadly) unfinished "Film Festival" and "La Terre Battue" point to the direction which the original lineup was adventurously wandering into, some kind of grandiose, sweeping, highly orchestrated pop, tempered with a better comprehension of black music and groove. I'm particularly bummed that the late 2007 YR never got to record the aforementioned songs or others from that era, such as the "Writer," which was super fun to play and remains, to my ears, quite beautiful. I've become a much better musician since that halcyon period (although, maybe not a better songwriter, certainly less prolific and hungry), and I've worked with better players, as I'm sure we all have, but those Boston days spent arranging, sharing my songs with people I came to consider kin, and hearing this music brought to life and go so much further than I could take it on my own, that was special. I really enjoyed that period. If you are reading this and you are young and you are in a band, appreciate the rehearsals. Appreciate creativity between brothers and sisters.

Perhaps, more important than its documentation of our musical growth, this collection possesses incalculable personal value through its ignition of memories from those charming early days. This is important, because, as with most bands, they break up, and in this band, I hated the last two personally and professionally arduous years. At the time, I didn't even fully realize how poisonous this denouement and conclusion were to me. I was an oblivious spinning top with a hollow heart, holding on to something I no longer loved because, once, I had loved it so much and it was all I had really ever known. But listening to these songs, I can prioritize memories. I can walk around our sterile, dingy rehearsal rooms, peek in on our gigs at Wellesley, ride the Peter Pan bus to one of our New York weekends (the one where I got super sick and Kat and Kristin did their best to nurse me while Chris and Bob watched some dependably terrible movie (Sahara?) and MJ and Nate and Matt did homework in some corner of Kat's parents old Staten Island house (demolished one year later). We won't get into how, after a gig at the Baggot Inn, Bob drove off with his family in a limo and the rest of us had to walk with all of our gear in a deluge, past the dramatic, gut wrenching hole of the WTC to the south tip of Manhattan because the Subways were flooded. And to top things off, when we reached the end of the island, soaked and chilled and exhausted, the first, neon red T was out on the STATEN ISLAND FERRY sign. Satan was afoot! But, I won't get into that.) I fondly remember our friends coming out for the Modern Plays album photo shoot in the Commons, the leave-it-all-on-the-road, insane DIY domestic tours, the early morning walks back from Somerville in blizzards (again with gear), some confused European tours, and most importantly, I remember how I felt when being part of a band was something that really meant a lot to me -- to all of us, I think. I dunno, I can't speak for Jon, MJ, Bob, Kristin, Matt, Kat, Chris, or Nate, but I can tell you that I cared for them, all of them, tremendously.

The records of one's youth, whether they be photos, videos, journals or songs, often induce reactions from the older self that combine feelings of glorious, sinewy triumph and immovable, rearview mirror regret. This anthology is no exception. I was wide-eyed, young, and dumb. My voice was as immature and unwieldy as my hot-tempered speech and behavior. I made a lot of mistakes, as a musician and human. The musical mistakes are charming. The human ones, well, we learn, yes? As much as I may have had a knack for stringing together a clever line of lyrics and composing a nice melody, I also had a penchant for steamrolling and bridge burning. Signing a record deal at age 19 was probably the worst thing a kid like me (talented, slightly brilliant, slightly sociopathic) could have done. I should have gone to BU or Columbia or Vandy and gotten my ass handed to me in some 1000 level Fem Theory course, the snot and male privileged beaten out of me by some mind shattering Butler or de Beauvoir book. I wish I had understood people better, but "Youth is wasted on the young," or so says Shaw.

I'm glad, at least, that I have these records, and, I bet, if not now, then at some point, my bandmates will be glad they have them too, and that's all that really matters. And, you know what? Quite a few of the songs still stand up, quite well, I think. And, I keep coming back to this (late summer is making me nostalgic, nine years removed from our first, stupid, glorious, 10,000-miles-in-two-weeks tour), but I'm glad these records exist because they are playable, tuneful memories of something that will never happen again, for any of us: a new college band. For many, this was their first band. For me, it'll definitely be my last. There were a lot of good times in those Mass Ave practice rooms, in the cafeteria, in our parents cars (communicating pre-texting with walkie talkies and pulling a homemade trailer), in our dorms and first apartments, weren't there? Like I said, I can't speak for anyone else, but to me, there was, and that's what this anthology is:
love.
and growing.
and mistakes.
and small triumphs.
and that night where, after we all got off the city bus, the boys, still on a high from whatever gig we had played, decided to extend the marvels of the evening and grab a meal at that awful Chinese joint (Nan Ling's?) down the block from our dorms (the only place open past midnight) after crushing it in Alston or Cambridge or wherever the hell it was. That was the meal where Bob, Chris, and I (maybe Matt and Jon too) watched Nate, frugal old Nate, splurge on a Pepsi and proceed to drink it out of his fucking doumbek like some sort of world-beating new god! which he was, at least for that night. Awesome... Indisputably awesome...

These are, quite literally, the songs of my youth. A special, privileged, lucky, fantastic youth. Folders bursting with ideas scribbled out on manuscript paper, busted amps, all night drives, muses, the Charles river, 2am recording sessions, 2am walks with Kristin, 2am store 24 runs with Bob and Chris, that time Bob and Chris and I fell for a Nigerian banking scam and sold our guitars to go to Amsterdam in order to collect my inheritance of 18 million dollars (I told each of them I'd give them a million bucks for coming with me. See: the "Between October and December" lyrics, or as one of my bandmates said of the song title, "Oh, you mean 'November'?"), always finding our way home because of the towering Pru, playing my new friends my new songs, everything new!
What an adventure.

Like I said, the band improved after we left Berklee, but we drifted apart and lineups changed (I still hate how we dealt with Kat leaving the band -- truly, sorry Kat -- and how I mismanaged my "hurt" over a stupid fucking thing like people deciding to do something else with their lives. Like I said, being in a band meant a lot back then, for good and bad). And then, like all bands, there was just nothing left, and it was over, and that was fine. I had an ego the size of a planet and needed to move away from clapping audiences. Nashville, NYC, London, Boston, those places were no good for me. It was too easy to stoke the competitive, dangerously driven fire. The west suits me, for the time being... But, like I said, I'm glad I have all these records. They make me smile, even the long, warts-and-all rehearsal session tapes where I make some stupid, off color jokes, and (three years into the band) we're all testy with each other, and, like we always did, waste WAY TOO MUCH TIME talking about TV shows and other stupid shit. It was a good band.

While the later years of the band were supremely better from a musical standpoint (I hope Balletesque gets its due SOMEDAY, c'mon, seriously, it's such a cool, crazy fuckin' record. whatever...), I'll always prefer the feelings, memories, and the people of the Berklee years, hands down. This was the classic lineup. This was some of the most fun I've ever had. This was The Young Republic.
I <3 TYR.

credits

released July 23, 2014

Written by Julian Saporiti, except "Goodbye Town" by Kristin Weber, "Long Gray Road,""Celesta" and "Maryellen" by Bob Merkl, "Geranium" by MJ Kim, and "Marissa's Lament" and "Oh Snow" by Nate Underkuffler.
Arranged, orchestrated and produced by all of us.
Thanks to our pals Charlie Worsham, Amberlee Rosen (sp?), Hallie and Jeremy, who also played on some of these jams.

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Track Name: Everybody Looks Better In Black And White (A Reference To Film)
Everybody looks better in black and white
See the beautiful kids in the snow tonight
Under the street light
She dances until morning takes her back to her place
She loves fallin asleep in the sunlight

Everybody looks nice on Friday night
We almost missed the movie but she didn't mind
I told her matters to me
Yeah, you're what matters to me
You don't have to care but I'm the biggest fan that you got
I tell you how great you are
I try to show you just how great you are
But my words don't cut it cuz you're prettier than all my songs

A perfect day in a college town
When you call to say, "let's watch the sun go down"
From my room