The parlor in Eric Krans and Jen O’Connor’s Altamont home is nothing spectacular to look at.
The small room toward the back of the 1904 house that O’Connor’s parents own is cluttered with random instruments, papers, recording equipment and an out-of-tune piano. It’s brightly lit, thanks to numerous large windows, but an unassuming spot to set up a practice space for a band, let alone a recording studio.
But even speaking at a normal volume in the parlor reveals its natural reverberation, and makes it clear why Krans and O’Connor have spent the past six years basing their musical endeavors out of this room. As We Are Jeneric, the two have recorded three albums there, all referencing the parlor to some degree — they titled their second album “In the Parlor With the Moon,” and 2009’s “Animals are People Too” was even released with a performance in the parlor, with fans lined up in the duo’s living room to get a peak.
Last year, when they began considering a name change, The Parlor was the only choice that fit the narrative the group had been building with each of its previous albums.
The Parlor CD release
with Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, The Red Lions
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Valentine’s, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
How Much: $7
More Info: 432-6572, www.valentinesalbany.com
“Some of the fun names that we thought of were like Ba-Ba-Baboon, just silly names that we were like, that would be a rock ’n’ roll band name that would fit our style of music,” Krans said, sitting with Jen in the duo’s dining room. “It had to have meaning, so The Parlor [ended] up being the one that we settled on as both looking pretty, sounding pretty and having the necessary meaning to keep the story moving forward.”
Their first album as The Parlor, “Our Day in the Sun,” finds the duo consolidating the different ideas explored on their We Are Jeneric releases — from the electronica-tinged folk of 2007’s “Hansel and Gretel; Stories From the Stove,” to the world music influences found on “Animals are People Too.” The album will be officially released at a show on Saturday night at Valentine’s, with The Red Lions and longtime B3nson labelmates and collaborators Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned opening.
For a time, Krans and O’Connor were members of Sgt. Dunbar, touring with them for a year. The Parlor still has strong ties with the group — Sgt. Dunbar’s Donna Baird joins the duo’s live band as a backing vocalist, and Tim Koch plays drums. But now the duo is ready to fully focus their efforts on The Parlor.
“All the stuff we learned through the period of time with We Are Jeneric and Sgt. Dunbar felt like sort of being in the womb, and this is coming out — I don’t know how to describe it. This is basically the first time that we’ve actually really taken our music as — I don’t know, I’m totally at a loss for words,” Krans said, looking to O’Connor. “Help me out here.”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to say,” O’Connor replied.
“I want to say it’s the first time we’re taking ourselves fully seriously, but I don’t know if that’s a good way of putting it.”
“It’s the first time that we’ve devoted as much time to a project as we should have, because we were always doing RPM Challenges, which is obviously limiting,” O’Connor said.
We Are Jeneric took the RPM Challenge, which requires musicians to record a full album in the month of February each year, for each of its three albums. Although they are still happy with the results, they wanted to focus their energy on the new music without a time constraint.
“We finally gave it that time that it deserved,” O’Connor said. “And we were able to, I think is the other thing, because we were no longer playing with Sgt. Dunbar, so we had that extra time to give.”
Krans and O’Connor have been making music together since meeting in an elevator in 1998 as students at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The two would write songs together in their dorm rooms, but didn’t consider themselves a band at the time. Their friends soon christened them Jeneric, after their names.
“When we tried to make our website — this is seriously the worst story in the world — we tried to make a website that was jeneric.com,” Krans said. “But there was already a Jeneric; there’s a band named Jeneric that had jeneric.com.
“We were like, all right, so then what else can we do? We decided, we are Jeneric, and so we got wearejeneric.com. And then when we moved to the Albany area, people just started calling us We Are Jeneric.”
Prior to moving to Altamont in 2006, they spent close to two years in Boston, where they performed some of their earliest shows. They also lived in Bangkok for a year, teaching English as a second language, and even playing a few shows.
In Altamont, the two began recording on a four-track in the parlor. “It was learning how to record, learning how to write songs, getting the craft together,” Krans said.
“Our Day in the Sun” is a more full-sounding album than the We Are Jeneric releases — thanks in part to a new computer, which allowed them to bounce tracks from their four-track and layer the vocals.
This has required some help reproducing live, with O’Connor’s brother occasionally joining the group to add his voice to those of O’Connor, Krans and Baird.
But the duo doesn’t really consider their performances “shows” so much as “love fests.”
“It’s like a family gathering as opposed to just a show performance,” Krans said. “We like to make people laugh and cry and want to hug the person next to them. And then ultimately, hug the person next to them.”
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Categories: Life and Arts