By Tracy Dietlin & Michelle Brewer
Imagine you’re a band with all your equipment loaded up in a big truck and you drove from the desert down to LA and you just pulled up in front of Seahorse Studios to record your first full-length album with a high caliber producer and just as you’re struggling to park this monstrosity on the narrow LA street, you get the call… the dreaded call… saying that unfortunately your weekend of studio recording time has been bumped due to a high profile, multi-platinum selling artist that is still in the studio recording and you will have to be rescheduled.
Your hearts sink, you’re shocked and disappointed. What can you do? You go to the only member of the band that has a home in LA (frontman and guitarist, Jim Cathcart), get drunk and go karaoke.
Imagine your next foray at recording is going to that same studio weeks later, spending a good part of Saturday getting (KT Zapcart’s) drum kit set up and all the drum mics dialed in and right after you lay down the first drum track, your Mom, Lora Cathcart, takes a serious full on tumble down a flight of stairs. (Bruce and Lora Cathcart had been there to bring dinner to the band and offer their support. Jim and KT are their son and daughter). The ambulance is called and she is off to the hospital.
Now imagine it taking a year to finally get the album recorded, mixed, mastered and in your hands when there was actually only 6 days of studio recording time that was spread out over that year. Add in several other bumps in the road and you can understand why Bridger named their debut album Forces Against Us.
The band had to overcome many forces that were against them to make this record. Having a producer the caliber of Chris Kasych (Vampire Weekend, Neil Young, Coheed & Cambria, Wallflowers, Cee Lo Green, to name a few) was both exhilarating and exhausting, gratifying and gut-wrenching. But Bridger wouldn’t have had it any other way.
KT Zapcart: “Making this record was a very arduous process. We pounded it out and the engineer/producer that we worked with was a really great guy and has worked with a lot of really big people, which put a couple snags in getting things done sooner. He has some serious clout in the industry and we felt he was worth waiting for to work with him.”
Jacob Miller (guitar): “He was fucking amazing! We wanted to wait on Chris because he was worth waiting for. I mean he’s worked with so many great people.”
Dan Dillinger (bass): “After all the things that happened to us, one thing after another, we didn’t think it (the album) was going to happen. It was like everything was against us.”
KT: “I’m really proud of us because it took more than a year to get through it and yet only about 6 days were spent in the studio. The first weekend we actually got into the studio, we had just set up my drum kit, tracked the first song, and then all the sudden my mom fell down the flight of stairs at the studio right in front of me, and of course we were all freaking out. And honestly it’s a miracle she’s even alive. We had to rush her to the hospital and after that it’s like ‘how can we go back and think about recording’. But these guys powered through with me, because I knew that I had to get my drums done in one day for them to still have studio time to do their parts.”
Jim Cathcart: “It was right after Mom fell and Katie was screaming her back to life and I looked at Dan and we were both like ‘forces against us man’. Realistically we probably had a day each to lay down our parts and a day for vocals. This record really was a labor of love. And it was hard, because it’s not like we got to go back the next weekend, we had to work around the studio’s schedule and so it could be 3 weeks later or more before we got to go back in.”
KT: “It was like it being Christmas Eve for a year and Christmas morning never coming. You know you have this present in your hand and you can shake it, but you can’t open it.”
Jacob: “The people we worked with (Chris Kasych and Alex DeYoung, who mastered the CD) became like family. We spent 14-16 hour days with them and then we’d be going to dinner with them at 2am. Let me just say that the guy who mastered this album probably has at least 2 songs in the Top 10 on any given week. ”
Dan: “Considering all the high profile people these guys have worked with it was pretty cool that they really wanted to work with us because they believed in the music. And I feel we came out stronger as a result of this experience as a brotherhood/sisterhood.”
I asked the band if they felt like the album came out the way they had envisioned it.
Jim: “Every time you record you’re reminded that it’s a living breathing thing and you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out really.”
Dan: “We knew what we wanted going in and we knew we had a limited amount of studio time and we wanted to bang it out. I think there were very minimal changes to what we wanted.”
KT: “I think Chris was really appreciative of our musicianship. I think the hardest thing for us was we were struggling with the idea of what we should sound like; more of a polished sound, but sounding live, but not over-produced. He was working through his computer and different software and it was like this battle in this warehouse and there were so many frequencies going on with our music. We had influences like Mute, Bad Religion, Goldfinger, and different bands like that, and the album sounded a little more rock, which gave us a little stress, but we came to the point where we just had to say ‘we trust you’ and we’re SO glad we did.”
Jim: “And then months later we had been working on it so long that you start to lose the vision of what you were trying to do. Somewhere along the line that vision gets blurry. But that can be good because you can start hearing your music in a different way.”
KT: “Another thing that took so long is Chris wasn’t happy with the first mix and didn’t want to put his name on it until he was 100% good with it. So he put it back through the board and it came to life again. And he spent time adding different nuances.”
Jim: “I’ve always been really critical of anything I’ve ever recorded and I was like that on this record, but as soon as I let go of that mentality and started celebrating all the little wins…I was able to appreciate different parts of it. There were a lot of happy accidents on Forces Against Us that I didn’t expect.”
KT: “I support every musician in this valley because it takes so much more for us to be a local musician than one who has already made it. It’s harder to not be famous because you still have your life and regular jobs that you have to work at AND then try to be a musician and record and perform and fit it in to everyone’s real jobs work schedule.”
Dan: “This album is about us figuring out who Bridger is and now that we’ve done that, we know what we can do, and we’re ready to just GO! We’ve been working on new material. And I think whatever we come out with now will have more of an emotional attachment with the writing.”
I asked the band what their plans are from here regarding promoting and distributing the CD.
Jim: “We have a plan of attack that we’ve put together. We have a blast together, we love to play and as long as we’re still smiling at rehearsals we’re good, but we also have a strategy. With this record we feel like we have a quality demo that we can try to secure management or a record deal.”
KT: “For the CD release party at the Date Shed we’re excited to get to play longer and to share the music.”
Dan: “We’re going to be doing the record from start to finish and we also have a few other surprises that we don’t want anyone to know about until that night. We also have limited swag that will only be available at this show; a limited number of stickers and posters.”
The Forces Against Us CD release party will be this Saturday, February 27 at The Date Shed in Indio. Bridger will be giving out free CDs to the first 100 people through the door. The show is free, 18 & over, doors open at 8pm with opening acts Herbert (Herb Lienau) and Ideation with Bridger following.
At last year’s CV Music Awards Bridger won Best Punk Band, Best Bass (Dan Dillinger), Best Frontman (Jim Cathcart), Best Drummer (KT Zapcart) and Best Band. The previous year they won Best New Band.