Jeremy Dubs is ubiquitous. At a glance, he’s there and then he’s not. Blink and rub your eyes, and there he is again. One minute he’s fronting Jeremy Dubs Presents . . . Speak! (or just Speak!) with bandmates Robert Ives, gal-pal Rebecca Macomber, and Vanessa Zaehring, and the next he’s popping up behind a drum kit, playing with Frank Black.
The mercurial Dubs, has spent the last two weeks holed up at Easthampton recording studio, Sonelab, assisting Pixies frontman, Black, on a batch of demos for a new album. Dub says, “I got to play drums, bass, keyboards, sing backing vocals, and do lots of other super fun stuff. Needless to say, it was a real life dream come true.”
The Northampton performer traces his connection to Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis/Frank Black) back to when he was a plucky super fanboy in a band called The Bennies. In 2000, Dubs contacted Thompson and asked if The Bennies could open for Frank Black and the Catholics. The Bennies subsequently toured multiple times with the band, and opened seven shows in 2004 for the re-united Pixies.
Dubs kept in contact with Thompson after the tour ended, and recorded the album Speak!, which was released last year, for his idol’s music label, The Bureau. After recently spending nearly 90 hours in a studio with Thompson, Dubs muses, “People often ask why I never complain. This might have something to do with it.”
Dubs might rightly get a number of free passes in the complaints department. Born with the genetic disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (“Lobstein Syndrome”), which causes bones to be very brittle and break; Dubs is small in stature, and uses a wheelchair to ambulate. He counts his blessings and has had only one broken bone in the past twenty years, though his early childhood was marked by a series of injuries and surgeries. Dubs, 34, takes these hurdles in stride with a shrug and says, “And, so it goes.”
Speak!, Dubs’ debut album, in many ways replicates his childhood discovery of the recording technique, multi-tracking. At 10 years old, Dubs began recording himself playing drums, ukulele or whatever on a boom box, and then playing it back while recording vocals on another boom box. He says it may have sounded like crap, but it was a start. One listen to Speak!’s bedroom pop alchemy of Dubs’ multi-tracked helium vocals over layers of gurgling and bubbling Realistic Concertmate synth and it’s easy to feel the joy of one man’s singular vision.
The album’s genesis, a 4-song EP of Harry Nilsson-related tunes made as Christmas gifts to friends, blossomed into a 12-song “conversation” between Dubs, Nilsson, and other musicians associated with the late singer-songwriter using the material from the spare Nilsson Sings Newman record as the conversation’s starting point. Ultimately, it was Thompson’s idea to have Dubs include some original songs on the record to complete the concept. Like Nilsson’s signature sound, a choir of multi-tracked vocals, Dubs’ voice is lifted to heavenly heights on the Nilsson tracks, “Remember,” “Give, Love, Joy,” and “I Will Take You There.”
Dubs is itching to debut some new material Tuesday night at the Flywheel in Easthampton. He’s just released “The Worlds” and “The Words,” two new songs off of The Words, the full-length follow-up album to Speak!, slated for a late November release. Dubs promises more original songs, a little bit more Nilsson and even a Sun Ra tune.
Speak! performs with Deep Time, Banditas, and Hex Lovers at the Flywheel, 43 Main St., Easthampton, MA, on August 14, 8 P.M.