It's a sort of B side for three different albums, and the predecessor to The End of the Year. Bordering on EP territory, the Mendon Sessions is made up of nine songs leftover from almost five years worth of various completed and uncompleted projects. The concept for putting together Mendon Sessions as an album came after the fact, and only because of it's quirky charm and unusual cohesiveness. The project was not thought of very formally by its creators, and the engineering process was largely improvised, with little forethought. But whereas other projects of that nature might have been scrapped later on for the sake of good judgement, this project stood up on its own and displayed an attractiveness in its character that solidified its place in Mr. Haufe's budding discography.
Mendon Sessions is really the predecessor to The End of the Year largely because it was the first real project undertaken by Tim Haufe in close partnership with musician and producer, Julian DeFelice. It established the strong ties that the creative duo would utilize in creating the much more composed The End of the Year. The sessions were really more an excuse for friends to hang out and “celebrate”, and that mood can be heard in the recordings. But this is where Mendon Sessions is interesting, because unlike the overall mood of the sessions, the music itself is not always playful. In fact, it often goes to very serious, perhaps deeply contemplative and dark places. We experience this during 'The Singer and the Lover', with its gory imagery and desperate emotion, and in 'Tie Fighter Tim' (one of two tracks ironically given more humorous titles by DeFelice), with its crushing guitar work, robust hard-rock drum lines, and head-bursting climax. This contrasts the fun that is in many of the rest of the songs and certainly present in the project as a whole. As a result, a sort of lovable tension exists between the music and the surrounding event that was the Mendon Sessions.
The “event” took place in Mendon, VT, at the infamous white house in which DeFelice, Haufe, and friend and musician, Colin Kelly were all residing. The old house, formally a church rectory, was owned by their live-in landlord, who was slowly resurrecting the place after years of neglect. All of the sessions took place in a room in the house that had been designated for music (it was a house full of musicians, after all). The room was small, uncarpeted, and contained the landlord's many unusual and rare instruments. Many musical hours were spent in the room. In fact, the first sessions for The End of the Year would take place in the same space. It became a haven of sorts for the house's tenants. The house itself would later become a symbol of “sketchier” and poorer times gone by, for its former residents. It would also, however, become a symbol of the Mendon Sessions that had taken place under its bowed roof.
Julian DeFelice's engineering of the songs on Mendon Sessions is nothing but endearing. The sound you hear in the songs is real, and human. It lives and breathes. You want to be there in the house, in the music room, surrounded by quirky instruments, with the musicians, sitting back with a beer, listening to the takes being made. You want to be part of their celebration. You want to feel their energy live. You want to laugh alongside them.
The whole project has a fun about it that makes it almost invincible. A perfect example of this is at the 4:42 mark during 'The Wrinkle Nosed Fruit Bat', when someone in the room can be heard knocking over a bottle. The spectacular part about it is that it happens precisely on the beat, when the band drops out momentarily. Also notable is that the take was then never edited afterwards.
The songs chosen by Haufe seem to embody the aura surrounding Mendon Sessions. They are wholesome and honest. They are uplifting and heartbreaking. Most of all, they are fun. Some of the songs were new at the time, like 'What Splits You In Two', or 'The Wrinkle Nosed Fruit Bat'. Some were quite old and dusted off for the sessions, like for example, 'Disaster Trip Blues' and 'I Do', both of which had been sat on the bench for When the Sky is Clear. Some songs were orphans left over from a project that had never been completed. Tim would pick and choose from his song arsenal depending on his mood. It was an opportunity to give some of his long lost songs a second chance. The idea was just to record for the sake of recording. The end result was not of any real concern. There was no real agenda, other than having a good time. As a result, the album is raw and open. There are no preconceived aesthetics. It is that no frills, raw, fun mood that makes Mendon Sessions truly a joy to listen to.
Senior Editor for the Shankaar Times
Produced by Tim Haufe and Julian DeFelice
All songs written and arranged by Tim Haufe
The Mendon Sessions took place sporadically from December 2009 to February 2010, in Mendon, VT.
Special thanks to Marc Latzky for lending musical instruments and equipment for the sessions.
Tim Haufe: Guitar, Vocals, Bass, Drums, Mandolin
Colin Kelly: Lead Guitar and Bass on 'Disaster Trip Blues'; Background vocals on 'The Singer and the Lover'
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Julian DeFelice