To include more strings and to be more adventurous: Those were two of Ari Hest‘s main goals when he began work in late 2009 on what would become Sunset Over Hope Street (Mercer Street).
Taking more than a year to complete the album, however, wasn’t part of the original plan. But singer/songwriter/guitarist Hest and producer/musician Alex Wong really had no choice when it came to working around a few long gaps between their recording sessions.
“Alex and I have pretty serious tour schedules every year,” Hest says. “He’s played in Vienna Teng‘s band, and he also has a ton of other acts that he plays with, so that’s really his bread and butter, even more than producing right now.
“So when he was home, I’d be away,” Hest adds. “And when I was home, he’d be away. It was difficult to put our schedules together. … I do think there were some songs that were helped [by having the extra time] … but I was on edge because I like to put things out whenever I feel like it.”
After dabbling with strings on his last album, 12 Mondays (2009), the New York-based Hest felt like pushing the envelope a bit with Sunset Over Hope Street. Wong was left alone to write the string parts for six songs, and he initially mocked them up on his computer for Hest.
“For the most part, I loved everything he had done,” Hest recalls. “Even the ones that I was on the fence about, once they were done with actual strings, it kind of made more sense to me.”
Even though strings play an important role on Sunset Over Hope Street, Hest says he isn’t concerned about replicating them in concert during his tour in support of the new album. The same goes for the 11-song disc’s array of interesting and experimental sounds — such as a pencil striking a pad on “Give It Time” — that he and Wong came up with through trial and error.
“There are a couple of elements that are key to the songs, and for the integrity of the songs, you need to have them there — obviously, the vocal,” he explains. “But in the live setting, I’m not bringing a full band on the road [with me]. I’m actually doing this as a duo with my drummer; he’s covering a bunch of different things. But also, he’s creating things that aren’t on the record.
“I don’t feel like I have to re-create the record, as long as I have an interesting way of presenting it.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Ari Hest on tour (schedule subject to change):
* March 1: Apple Store — Manhattan
* March 2: Club Café — Pittsburgh
* March 3: Kent Stage — Kent, Ohio
* March 4: The Ark — Ann Arbor, Mich.
* March 5: Rumba Café — Columbia, Ohio
* March 6: Garfield House — Northville, Mich.
* March 8: Radio Radio — Indianapolis
* March 9: Intersection/The Lounge — Grand Rapids, Mich.
* March 11: Schubas — Chicago
* March 12: Gino’s Place — Danville, Ill.
* March 14: Vaudeville Mews — Des Moines, Iowa
* March 15: The Mill — Iowa City, Iowa
* March 16: Cedar Valley House Concerts — Cedar Falls, Iowa
* March 19: The Walnut Room — Denver
* March 25: Tractor Tavern — Seattle
* March 26: Alberta Rose Theatre — Portland, Ore.
* March 27: Tsunami Books — Eugene, Ore.
* March 30: Café DuNord — San Francisco
* March 31: Hotel Café — Los Angeles
Photo by Rina Khadivi