Saratoga Springs hard rockers Skeletons in the Piano is in exactly the position that lead singer and guitarist Elijah Hargrave has wanted since forming the band in early 2007.
Since the release of its second album “Stranger on a Damned Staircase” in 2010, the band has added second guitarist Brad Thibodeau and expanded belly dancer Katarra Peterson’s role as a percussionist. A steady stream of shows in the Capital Region and beyond, plus a stopgap EP, “Long Pig,” have helped to further the band’s profile, culminating in last year’s signing with local vinyl record label Magnetic Eye Records.
All these changes have come to the fore on the band’s first album for the label and the third full-length overall, “Please Don’t Die,” which will officially come out on Saturday, May 11, at a release show at the Putnam Den.
The album’s eight songs, including brand-new material as well as rerecorded versions of old favorites such as “Long Pig” and “The Price Put on You,” expand on the band’s already full sonic palette, with hand percussion, MIDI-controlled organ and even banjo infiltrating the mix.
Skeletons in the Piano
Where: Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
How Much: $5
More Info: 583-0022, www.caffelena.org
Falling into place
“With this lineup and everything, . . . it’s getting there,” Hargrave said, sitting with violinist Jeff Ayers, bassist Dustin Alexander and drummer Eric Donovan in an apartment in Saratoga Springs.
“And our professionalism and the difference between this record and the last, it’s where it should have been — where I wanted it to be seven years ago, and now it’s seven years later, and now it’s existing because of all of our parts. I think that’s so bizarre, man. You know, you just float through life and work at one thing, one day at a time, and eventually [it happens].”
The band will show off a different side of its personality at Caffe Lena on Wednesday night, stripping down to acoustic instruments for its first appearance at the venerable folk venue. The two-set show, part of the venue’s Emerging Artists series, has been a long time in the making, with the venue having contacted the band about a year and a half ago.
CD release show with The End Men, Linear North
Where: Putnam Den, 63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs
When: 10 p.m. Saturday, May 11
How Much: $7
More Info: 584-8066, www.putnamden.com. Album is $10 for digital or $20 for vinyl and deluxe digital bundle.
“Most of the songs that you hear electrically with Skeletons in the Piano are written acoustically, so it’s not that far of a cry to try to re-deconstruct it and then reconstruct it in the way it was,” Hargrave said. “It’s reverse engineering, kind of, songwriting-wise. . . . Some of the songs work, some of them don’t.”
“It’s weird, because songs that are slower electrically can kind of come up in tempo and be a little bit more fun and bouncy and enjoyable,” Donovan added. “And then some stuff can get like — some stuff where it’s usually a little bit more the poppier, energetic rock stuff takes a step back and gets a little bit more laid back.”
Thibodeau, who played the aforementioned banjo on two songs on “Please Don’t Die,” will be playing the instrument on more songs at the acoustic show. He joined the band in 2011, shortly after the release of “Long Pig,” which led the band to completely rework that song and many of the other newer songs they were playing.
“We were playing [the songs] out live, and they were songs that we had as a four-piece, and then when Brad joined the band we immediately took them back to the drawing board basically and were like, ‘OK, let’s not just plug you into these songs,’ ” Ayers said. “Let’s kind of rework these songs so we’ve got two guitars, and a lead guitar or a rhythm guitar or whatever.”
The band recorded “Please Don’t Die” at Overit Media in Albany, in a converted church. John Delehanty served as engineer on the album, and the record was mastered at New Alliance East in Boston, but the band produced themselves for the first time.
The band’s signing to Magnetic Eye, run by local musician Mike Vitali of the band Ironweed, greatly influenced the making of the album. With better distribution, the band wanted to rerecord older tracks — “The Price Put on You,” the album’s first track, was actually from the band’s first EP. But with the limitations of vinyl, they had to be picky about which songs would make the cut.
“Signing the contract with Magnetic Eye, the stipulation with this label — which is great — is they want to really work heavily in vinyl, which we’d never done before,” Ayers said.
“Which is great, but for a band like us who is used to putting 11, 12 tracks on a record, or on a full length, we had to whittle that down to eight to fit, because you really only get 40 minutes on a vinyl [album]. So we had to — we really had to pick and choose the best record, full, from track one to track eight.”
This resulted in not just a streamlined track listing, but a more streamlined sound on the songs themselves. “Oh Rose,” which both Hargrave and Donovan cited as their favorite from the album, came together in the studio as a result of the six band members’ writing process.
“We have a lot of songs where we wrote cool songs with parts that had never really been fully finished, or parts that were like — I don’t want to say shoddily thrown together, but stuff that we kind of made work,” Donovan said.
“And when we went back to practice and get ready for this record, we really re-examined a lot of these songs which we’ve been playing for years, went and fine-tuned what we needed to. We got rid of stuff that we really loved in these songs if they didn’t fit. It was really neat to see how well we could work together to make these songs be what they were supposed to be, as opposed to what we wanted them to be.”