"The album takes me down mental avenues that remind me of my own mistakes, insecurities, joys, and even weird childhood memories that hide in corners of your brain brought out by familiar signs or smells. It transports you to places that you’ve been before, but you see them in a new setting through the songs. It’s like seeing a neon sign while standing in the rain outside a diner. The diner may be familiar and provide comforting food, but it’s pouring, you’re tired and beaten down from the treadmill of life. As you approach the diner you notice a man smoking a cigarette beneath the neon light who you swear you’ve met before, but you can’t remember if he is friend or foe...”
- Oliver Swanson
“Bad Porn” by Julian Coryell, David Schwartz & Isaiah Gage
Julian Coryell (vocals, lyrics, synths, keyboards)
David Schwartz (upright bass, synths, percussion, harmonica, keyboards)
Lucy Schwartz (vocals, vocal arrangements)
Antwaun Stanley (vocals: “Would Be Solar Panel Technician”)
Larry Goldings (piano, synths)
Zac Rae (keyboards, synths)
John Patitucci (electric bass solo: “Junk Food Love”)
Jake Reed (drums, percussion)
Tamir Barzilay (additional percussion: “Junk Food Love”)
Isaiah Gage (cello: “Bad Porn”)
W.F. Quinn Smith (additional percussion)
Mixed by: Craig Polasko
Mastered by: Eric Boulanger at The Bakery
Produced by: David Schwartz
Album Artwork by Claire McCracken
Origin story of this record:
(Julian): In April 2020 I got sick with Covid. My symptoms were bad, and I suddenly found I was not able to do much of anything. This was the early days of the pandemic. They didn’t even have a proper test for Covid, and they certainly had no cure. The doctor told me to stay in my house for the next two weeks and hope for the best.
The simplest tasks were now difficult. Going to the mailbox felt like running a marathon. I wasn’t allowed to go to my studio as it was a shared space. It was during this very challenging time my friend David sent me an instrumental track and invited me to contribute something to it.
Pre-Covid I was proud of my belting, brassy singing voice with its flexible range… that was all gone now. I struggled to breathe and was reduced to muttering in low, short intervals to save my breath. When I heard David’s track, I couldn’t have sang in my regular style even if I’d wanted to. But as I listened to it over and over, in the midst of what was now a great depression brought on by a sickness, I started to hear words and felt a feeling emerge. That feeling turned into a kind of character, and that character was yearning to communicate.
I’ve always written. It’s not uncommon for me to write prose for no other reason than to just get it out. Years ago, I used to connect with people by trying to be some kind of rockstar, but had given that up long ago. I never considered my writing as fodder for songs, only a substitute for that old musical connection I once had. But then David sent that track.
During those early pandemic days, we all did our best to keep sane and stay functional. It was very hard to sleep at night sometimes.
One of those sleepless nights, I crept into my living room and put on some headphones. I played David’s track over and over. I listened to his sturdy upright bass, the hypnotic drum beat and the playful harmonic information therein. Before long, a sympathetic relationship emerged. Some kind of intriguing correlation between words and music. I barely had a voice. Breathing was difficult. Not to mention my girlfriend and her daughter were asleep in adjacent rooms. Still, I was drawn to this moment of creative freedom that distracted me from the terror of what we were all experiencing.
I rifled through a drawer and found a cheap microphone. In no way did it resemble the pricey professional ones I had at my studio. I plugged it into my computer, opened up a software program, and imported David’s track. I mumbled a few words over it. Though I couldn’t really sing, and couldn’t even really talk for long, I could speak a line or two, stop the recording, catch my breath and start up again... When I finished, I listened back. I was surprised by what I heard. I had just met, for the first time, a character that later became known as The Storyteller.
The Storyteller was not a part of myself I’d met before, and it turned out he had some things to say. Unsure of what I’d done, I listened one more time, pressed save on the computer, and went to bed.
When I awoke the next morning, I wondered if it was any good. I gingerly went back to my laptop and listened to what had transpired in the wee hours. To my surprise, I still liked The Storyteller. I screwed up enough courage to send a rough mix to David. He responded positively and asked if I’d like to try another track.
And so it was over the next few weeks, David would send a track, I’d wait until late at night, and then sneak into my living room and whisper some prose over it. Weeks turned into months. Covid dragged on and this project saved my ass. It was the lifeline I grabbed and held onto when there was no work, when you couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone… It became the lone oasis in a desert of fear that surrounded the entire world for two years.
All Songs by Julian Coryell & David Schwartz
And here we are today. The world has changed forever. People are flying again, eating in restaurants. Work has resumed. And yet, this record endures. It’s the most honest thing I’ve ever participated in. It couldn’t have come about any other way. The Storyteller lives. And now he shall be heard.
(David): At the beginning of the pandemic with no work coming in, I realized I wanted to start creating my own music. I decided to create tracks that each started with my upright bass... I sent them to a few of my favorite musicians. Julian Coryell sent back a full song with vocals and lyrics. He asked for more and in a short time we had the 11 tracks that comprise the album. Julian and I both added various instruments and also included a few of our favorite players. Although Julian is one of the world’s great guitarists, he refused to play one note of guitar on this project. Everything about this project is different from what someone might expect from Julian or myself.