In a Tennessee Wal-Mart in the mid-1990s, a young Donald Ducote chose Weezer’s Pinkerton over the new Aerosmith release, a fateful first foray into the world of lo-fi indie rock. Over the years, he continued to build a steady collection of influential music with the likes of Elliot Smith’s Either/Or, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister. Discovering these records opened up his passion for playing and writing music, which ultimately led him to leave Arizona State University to pursue his music career.
In the summer of 2007, Ducote left his hometown of Phoenix for Brooklyn, where he formed and fronted a “5-piece genre-bending cacophony” of an indie rock outfit called My Sister in 1994. They soon became a fixture on the DIY scene in Bushwick, performing at venues like Market Hotel and the Asterisk*, and attracting moderate attention from European independent labels. For their final record together, Monitor, Ducote invited Jim Smith (the National, Au Revoir Simone), a regular at the coffee shop he managed at the time, to produce the record at Saltlands in Brooklyn. Ducote was ultimately unsatisfied with the record, primarily because of the sterile studio environment in which it was recorded. On top of that, Ducote became the victim of the dangerously unstable obsessions of the label owner’s girlfriend, which led to the termination of the tentative contract and eventually the end of the band itself.
As his next relationship dissolved in a drawn-out mess of disappointment and duplicity, his songwriting took a more personal bent, focusing more on relationships than he ever had in the past. His new songs married the poetically strung-out catharsis of his long-admired Elliott Smith with the vivid kitchen-sink minutiae of Belle & Sebastian. He and Jim Smith reconnected about making another record, with a completely different approach to capturing the sound that eluded them during the Monitor sessions.
To do so, Ducote and Smith decided to return to the home-recording style Ducote had employed on his second My Sister album, In Tall Cotton. They brought an impromptu studio setup to the French Kicks’ rehearsal space which included a twelve-track tape recorder and Jimi Hendrix’s original vocal microphone from his famed Electric Lady Studios. They enlisted Paul Johnson (Beirut) to play bass and mix the record, and guitarist Austin Lemieux to fill out the sound under the moniker Ancient History.
Over the next year and a half, Ducote was commissioned by Universal/Polydor to consult on songwriting with UK’s Must Be The Music 2011 winner Emma Gillespie. That trip also led to working with UK’s X-Factor 2007 winner, Leon Jackson. Simultaneously, Ducote worked with Smith to record the eleven songs that he termed “late-night red-wine-and-reefer music”. The result is a collection of indie/lo-fi/slowcore mix of heroin-slow tempos, pure analog warmth, delicate dream-pop guitar drones, improvised percussion, and Ducote’s captivatingly detailed confessionals full of ex-lovers, disappointment, disillusionment, physical breakdown and “loss, loss, loss.” The album, titled Tracks, will see its official release on January 29, 2013.