“Track a Tiger began in August 2003 as a solo recording project of Jim Vallet. After sifting through some old 4-track tapes and a notebook with a few song ideas, a 16-track digital recorder and a few microphones were bought and recording began in his Chicago apartment (dubbed Coal to Cola Studio).
The songs started with acoustic guitar and then were slowly worked over a two-year period. Keyboards, guitars, banjo, cello, female harmonies and other assorted blips and bleeps were added. Jim Viner, an old friend back from their days in the Iowa City band Head Candy, (Link/Elektra), added drums to seven tracks. Kristina Castañeda, a newer friend from his hometown of Dubuque, Iowa, added vocals to four tracks.
Deciding the project needed an ending point, time was booked to mix in June 2005 at Paul Oldham’s Rove Studio in rural Shelbyville, Kentucky. Although happy with the mixes (and the three peaceful days spent at Paul’s farmhouse/studio), it was decided some of the songs weren’t quite done. A few more lyrics were written, additional harmonies added, and the result was mixed and mastered by Pat Stolley at Futureappletree Studio 1 in Rock Island, Illinois.
The result, “Woke up early the day I died,” is a moody thirty-three minutes of male-female harmonies, a little rock, and lots of slow, sad, sleepy late nights. Released in February 2006 on Future Appletree Records, the CD got lots of love from the bloggers as well as good reviews in Magnet, Skyscraper, Spill Magazine, and Pop Matters.
A live act was put together in the spring of 2006. Jim (guitar and vocals), a Chicago public high school teacher, asked two colleagues, Aaron Wilkins (bass), and Mike Ciuni (drums and percussion) to join. Patrick Melvin (guitar, keys and vocals) and Alicia Monnier (keys and vocals) rounded out the lineup and shows began in April 2006.
Between gigs in Illinois and Iowa in May 2006, the band was asked to record four songs live for Daytrotter.com (other artists on the site include Bonnie Prince Billy, Mates of State, Of Montreal, The M’s, Maritime, French Kicks, Two Gallants, Bound Stems, Shearwater, David Vandervelde, Frog Eyes, Cold War Kids, Sunset Rubdown and Headlights). Pat Stolley engineered and the songs (and interview) were posted in January 2007.
The second album began in July 2006 with a few drum tracks recorded by Pat at Futureappletree Studio 1. The project was finished at Jim’s Coal to Cola Studio in January 2007. In addition to the core group—Jim, Patrick, Aaron and Mike—old friend Kristina Castañeda, once again, lent her vocal talents. Others players included Kristian Svennevig (strings), John Peacock (pedal steel), Anna Steinhoff (cello), Jeff Wichmann (trumpet), Steve Isadore (percussion), Pat Stolley (vocals), and Nitya Viswanath (spoken-word French).
“We Moved Like Ghosts” will available for mail order on May 1 at Deep Elm Records and in stores May 22. The record is a bit more up tempo, but with the same love of acoustic instruments, male-female harmonies, strings, and mellow keyboards.
Track a Tiger now includes newest full-time members Sandy Kim, who took over keyboard and vocal duties, and Tony Sackett of the amazing Warm Ones on bass.”
Two of my favorite tracks, “Summer’s End” and “Don’t Make A Weapon”, can be sampled on their myspace page.