Multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Bützer's next show will celebrate not only the release of a brand-new album, a French pop-inspired opus titled Collapsible, but also the change in musical direction that the album signifies. In the beginning, much of the material heard throughout Collapsible was originally conceived and arranged to appear on a solo album of Bützer's original numbers played on toy instruments. But when the project failed to come together, it freed up those toy instrumentals for a more realized project, incorporating several of Bützer's Bicycle Eaters bandmates, including Cassi Costoulas (vocals), Chad Shivers (guitar), and Kristin Haverty (cello), as well as numerous special guests. The result is an album that balances fairy-tale-esque songs with real-world piano-driven numbers that come to a head with the album's most defining moments as "Barbiturates and Bear Traps," "Les Feuilles D'aluminium," and "Pickpocket."
The most notable addition to Bützer's typically cinematic repertoire are the French song lyrics heard throughout the album courtesy of French singer and first-time Bützer collaborator Lionel Fondeville. Fondeville wrote the lyrics for each song with Costoulas' luxuriant voice in mind. Costoulas, who was trained in classical vocal music at Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School and Emerson College in Boston, sings in various languages, including French, Italian, Latin, German, Spanish, and Swahili. "After spending years learning the sounds and the feelings behind the words, singing in different languages becomes less scary," Costoulas says. She goes on to say that although she isn't exactly fluent in French, Fondeville did provide her with translations and pronunciations to guide her through each song. "It helped so that I didn't unknowingly butcher his beautiful lyrics."
Recorded in the summer of 2011, Collapsible hits the Atlanta streets this month.
"Mixing took a while, because I kept changing my mind on things," Bützer says.
Working alongside producer and Bicycle Eaters bassist Matt Steadman, the two crafted the final cut after sifting through about 20 alternate takes that ended up on the cutting-room floor. As a result, Collapsible is the product of gradual change, fueled by new collaborations, slight adjustments, and additions to the Bicycle Eaters' live lineup. Though these small changes weren't completely conscious, Bützer admits that he wanted the album to diverge a bit from his previous material. "I wanted to get away from any Tom Waits or gypsy music," Bützer says. "I get compared to newer, trendy gypsy music a lot, but I don't listen to any of that kind of music."
Despite the changes, both subtle and obvious, the music still resonates with the same cinematic pop appeal that has defined Bützer's work all along. "People still say it sounds old-fashioned, so I guess I won't get away from that," Bützer says.
In the past, most of Bützer's music has been released under his name. And after much deliberation with the album's collaborators, he stuck with the solo moniker for Collapsible to keep from having his favorite album to date, and any future recordings, mistakenly perceived as a side project or a release by a new band. "I don't have an ego about music," Bützer says with his self-depreciating sense of humor on full display. "It's hard to convey that to people when you play under your own name and put it on T-shirts."