| Clockwise from left: Joe Reyes, James Roadman, Erik Sanden, and Odie (Photos by Mark Greenberg)
Buttercup debuts with 'Sick Yellow Flower'
To get the sound Buttercup wants for a song, they will bang on cookie cans, play broken ukuleles, or scrape car keys against piano strings. When these myriad noises are stirred, boiled down, and garnished by the attentive hands of the band and producer Mark Rubenstein, the result is Buttercup's disc, Sick Yellow Flower, an ambitious and eccentric, but never self-indulgent, debut.
Quintessentially a San Antonio band, the members of Buttercup have roots in the local scene and perform in other groups. Bass guitarist Odie Cole and drummer James Roadman are in the blues-rock outfit Los Mescaleros, guitarist and lead singer Erik Sanden plays in The Mechanical Walking Robot Boy, and guitarist Joe Reyes was nominated for a Latin Grammy for his work with duo Lara and Reyes. Yet, Buttercup is the culmination of their shared talents: a San Antonio supergroup. Their music is experimental indie-pop, catchy but challenging, and performed with a remarkable degree of musical skill.
In its current lineup since 2002, Buttercup hadn't recorded anything but home demos until 2003. James Wilton, a friend of the band, provided the impetus - and the funds - to begin making an album; he dumped $100 in change on the stage at one of their performances, and announced it was the beginning of their recording fund. "When Wilton dropped the money, and said you guys should record, then we started taking it seriously, and started doing preproduction work for the record." says Reyes.
The band went to work with Rubenstein, a musical veteran who guided Buttercup through the recording and production process. Sanden is quick to credit Rubenstein for his contributions, especially for the overall feel of the album. "It's a document of how we sound."
Nonetheless, the band recorded 22 songs, many of which were unusable. Salvaging what they could from the studio sessions, Buttercup started from scratch to make their first album at Reyes' home studio.
"In essence, I think we really wanted to come out with a bang and have like a really bold statement record ... but those turned out to be the ones that weren't recorded as well," says Reyes.
The result of their home recordings, Sick Yellow Flower, contains songs their website describes as "quite thick, including string arrangements, horns, and lots of piano" and others characterized as "virtually live takes, the only overdubs being percussion and backup singing."
"Cutting Daisies," Sick Yellow Flower's opening track, shines with grand arrangements, while the following cut, "Twin Cities," sounds muted and intimate by comparison. Some songs are precise in their composition, and others leave much more to chance. "Epithalamium" is a sweet, straightforward pop ballad, whereas a disjointed and loose feel pervades "Parallax View," a song Sanden describes as "swimming through black Vaseline."
| Buttercup ⇒ CD release party |
Fri, Mar 4
$10 admission and CD
103 E. Grayson
To record Sick Yellow Flower, the band had to choose 12 songs from Buttercup's repertoire of about 60. "The wealth of material wasn't a problem, it was just kind of like editing it down to the best stuff" said Reyes. While recording, the band was surprised that they preferred the feel of such quieter songs as "Nov. 1" to louder, more up-tempo songs like "Johnny Appleseed."
"I think ultimately it worked out best," says Sanden, "because I think the record is really moody in a way that reflects better what we do and what we are." •