Double Trouble: The Story of Invisible Homes’ ‘Song for My Double'
From the get-go, frontman Sean Witters is a fun guy, happy to talk to you about anything- especially music- as he towers above you in a tall-skinny-guy sort of way. He’s got energy, and it becomes evident why he’s the life force behind Invisible Homes.
It was Sean who, with the help of his friends and fellow bandmates on the debut album’s core tracks, holed up inside the studio several nights a week to play with the equipment and work over as many details as he could. It was a cabin-in-the-woods type of deal. Most of the recording was done in a Witters’ family house in rural Vermont.
The house, a log cabin located out in the woods off a long dirt road, had a large main room with 20-foot ceilings. “I had, for years, wanted to do a record using that room as the live space,” Sean said. Invisible Homes was his reason to load in amps and microphones and get to work recording the core tracks from A Song for My Double live. Later, after bringing those tracks to the studio, Sean layered and manipulated the sound with the end result of a “hybrid of live, in the moment performance, and deliberate studio experimentation.”
“I’m not a good singer,” he’ll say with a laugh. He’s just a guy with a microphone and recording equipment, and he’ll be the first to admit that modern technology simply allows him to be less bad, (his bandmates and peers will call this a huge understatement). A Song for My Double is filled with “sonic Easter eggs,” as he put it; the result of his own curiosity and experimentation. “What happens if I speed piano up?” Through this method he ended up with a kind of unplanned sound that he tweaked until he was satisfied.
With the foundation of the album standing, Sean hand-picked a group of musicians and invited them to come add to it. “I brought in friends to play on the record, who either were just really dear to me and I just wanted them to be on the record ‘cuz I was making a record, or because they were great musicians from around town.” Slowly but surely, in several locations around Vermont, basslines and guitar riffs, vocals and drumbeats were added in.
Partially due to recording parts of the album in a family cabin and partially due to Sean’s personal preferences, homey-sounding elements were added to the album. Because a lot of it’s drawn from Sean’s past, there are sonic tidbits that hint at it throughout the album, from lyrics to creative instrumentals. “Most importantly, I captured my family home in sound. For example, I even turned the familiar sound of shuffling feet on the upstairs floorboards into a percussion element on the title track.... Space is inspiration and has a profound effect on both the sound and feeling of music.”
While Invisible Homes’ other leading singers and players, Patrick Ormiston, Matt DeLuca, Pat Melvin, and Will Andrews, stopped by the studio as often as they could, life has a tendency to get in the way of things like recording an album. Personal responsibilities made it impossible for everyone to spend as much time on the album as Sean did, and so from start to finish the whole project took several years.
It worked because the band has the dynamic of a bunch of teenagers hanging out. They laugh and joke and tease each other but it’s all in good fun. Patrick Ormiston waited for his kid to leave before breaking out the F-bombs and spoke, like the rest of the band, in awe about drummer Bob Moses, who is featured on the album: “And he’s telling stories while he’s drumming. Like, he hand built his snare drum himself!” Pat Melvin joked about his profession: “I don’t have any money. I’m a bass player!” The key point is they’re all talented musicians so things get done, and then the playtime starts.
Sean supplied some air guitar and personal anecdotes about everything from his lyrics to fellow musician Deva Racusin. “I grew up with them. And he was dear friends with my sister. So at the first show I actually had my sister come up and play slide whistle while Deva played saxophone. It was a reunion of the Hanover High School band, because they were in band together.”
The live shows were fun. The band held their album release party at Club Metronome in downtown Burlington, and it was awesome. “We were able to get almost all the guest performers on the record on stage that night, including Justin Levinson, Chris Dorman, Luke LaPlant, Dave Purcell, Deva Racusin, and Caleb Bronz. At one point, we had 10 musicians on stage.” The show, complete with confetti, was “wild and tremendous fun;” everything they’d hoped for. Since then, Invisible Homes has tried to recreate the spontaneity of that first show: “The whole idea for our live show is, like the debut, to make each show a unique event with some collaborative or improvisational event that can never happen again.”
During our photo shoot, they pointed out the graffitied Jerry Garcia face on the wall opposite them (“Hey, it’s Jerry!”) and then invited me to get in on their “Pat sandwich” between Patrick Ormiston and Pat Melvin. They pulled faces and poses, never too serious.
After all this time of work and play, Invisible Homes delivers, in an album cover appropriately decorated with an invisible mirror house, a fresh combination of many musical styles that stretch the limits of typical pop. Invisible Homes isn’t your typical power trio or six-piece band. It’s one guy: a singer, a songwriter, a musician, a producer- and his musical friends in a big, gloriously adept experimental mission called A Song for My Double, when ironically, there’s nothing else quite like it.