Subject To Change is the sixth full-length release from Birdie Num Num And The Spirit Squad, one of Bucks County, PA’s most long-lived alternative rock outfits. The new album was recorded at band leader Joe Ujj’s Robot Recordings studio, engineered by Nick Cislak (Commonwealth Choir/Eric Venuto). Subject To Change is being released on October 14 on the band’s Robot Recordings label.
Although the band was pushing for new creations and forward thinking, the music they’ve made on Subject To Change is insanely infectious. “The Creek” is a slow, melodic song that builds into a dreamy piano universe. It has a very basic song structure that balances well with simple guitar and bass parts and pounding drums. “Infinite” has a stripped down, simple structure and an eerie feel making good use of the band’s two drummers; it’s as if Folk Implosion teamed up with Pornography- era Cure. “Ride The Pony” begins with a spacey, Funkadelic-like intro then turns into Hail To The Thief-era Radiohead terrain.
Subject To Change was a textbook example of how to turn lemons into limoncello. All the band members had arranged their busy schedules to spend a full three days camped out at Robot Recordings, purchased a half dozen reels of Quantegy 456 analog tapes, gotten Nick Cislak settled behind the mixing board and prepared for a weekend-long recording extravaganza. After six hours of setting up, level checks, and test runs, they recorded their first take, and playing it back got…dead silence. The playback head had died, pfft: NOTHING! Band and engineer quickly went to plan B; everyone but Joe and Nick went out for dinner while those two remained at the studio and set up to record via ProTools. The switch wound up being fortuitous, because they would have run out of tape before the first night’s recording ended. Within the three days, they’d gotten down a full five hours of great material. Some of the best tracks came when the band and friends came back for overdubs. From smashing cymbals, screaming, harmonicas, and backing vocal loops, a beauty of a record was born. The hard part wound up being boiling this weath of riches down to a pithy, punchy nine-song album.
In a sense, narrowing all this material down to fit on one album naturally follows from Birdie Num Num and the Spirit Squad’s basic writing process — playing for hours upon hours, recording constantly, then going back and digging for the magical bits, then arranging them into proper songs that have great beauty, vision and raw energy. “The songs are so important,” explains Joe. “It’s the songs that live forever long after bands fade away.”
Birdie Num Num And The Spirit Squad was started in 1999 by singer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Ujj. Since then, the band has included a revolving cast of 36 musicians who contributed to five albums and countless live performances. The most recent incarnation, however, is quite a different animal. The five current members of the band have become a solid group of friends, two of whom have played in the band since 2005. The line-up comprises: Todd Mason and JP Wasicko on drums, RJ Gilligan on bass and other vocals, as well as Joe Montone on keyboards. Maturity, growth, and experience are what led them to build this lineup with longevity in mind. “This is the nicest group of guys, and each one of us contributes creatively,” says Joe Ujj. “We write as a group now, whereas before people came in to play along to my songs.”
Joe formed Birdie Num Num after a previous band had been courted by the likes of Geffen and Sub Pop during the 90’s grunge explosion – the overall experience being powerfully disillusioning. Afterwards he headed back to Pennsylvania determined to take control over his career and music once and for all and began building the original version what has become his creative palace, Robot Recordings. The studio is equipped to record in any and all recording formats: 1/8″, 1/4″ and 1/2″ tape machines, ProTool rigs, digital recorders… he can employ whatever feels right at the time.
Although the band records for their own label, they have a large and diverse fan base. It’s not uncommon to see 16 year old kids mingling with hip senior citizens. It’s undeniable, something special is happening.