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"We joke sometimes about making another record, but if we did, it would probably sound more like the Carpenters now."
--Mark Volman (Flo & Eddie)

Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill (Feb.12 issue) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Clark   

ImageYou Don’t Hear a Single? Then We’ll Make It a Double!
Fifteen Years After Recording It, Uncle Green (a.k.a. 3 lb. Thrill) Release Their Farewell Magnum Opus

After moving to Atlanta from their native New Jersey, where they’d been playing music together since early high school, from the mid-80s through the mid-90s Uncle Green were one of Atlanta’s brightest gems, crafting thoughtful, sincere rock and power pop songs for a devoted fan base. In 1997, following a one-album stint on Atlantic Records, a name change to 3 lb. Thrill and an album, Vulture, released by Brendan O’Brien’s short-lived Sony-backed 57 Records, the band began work on their seventh album, eventually recording 32 songs in a small rented house on Elmira Place in Candler Park, near Little Five Points. But, in light of Vulture’s disappointing sales, the powers that be at 57/Sony “didn’t hear a single,” as they say. After another batch of demos was judged unworthy, the band was let go, Ultimately, a subsequent deal with MCA collapsed, and so did the quartet, having had the wind knocked out of them by the whole experience.

So they grew up, and moved on. Singer/guitarist Matt Brown, one of the band’s two main songwriters, recorded a solo album in L.A., which also went unreleased. Drummer Pete McDade and guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jeff Jensen completed college. Bassist Bill Decker and his wife welcomed their first child. Today they’re all raising families and settled in non-musical jobs – Matt does website design back in Jersey, Jeff’s in DC working in the historical preservation wing of the Government Services Administration, Pete lives in Decatur and teaches History at Clark Atlanta, and Bill’s in Atlanta doing some sort of computer work nobody seems to comprehend.

But a few years after they had their “breakup meeting” at a Starbucks in Dunwoody in early March, 1999, the guys started thinking about their unreleased album, Rycopa, thinking about how they all believe it to be the best, most expansive thing they’d ever recorded, thinking about where the damn tapes for it could be now and if the songs could even be released. 57 Records was long kaput. Southern Tracks, for many years O’Brien’s main studio of choice, eventually shut its doors. Russell Carter, the band’s onetime manager, didn’t know where the tapes were. Various swoops at finding them turned up nothing. Eventually, a series of emails between McDade and Sony Music in 2010 finally bore fruit: thirty reels of Rycopa. And it still sounded great!

So, after a successful Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its goal in a day, they were able to finance the mixing and mastering (with Rob Gal), the pressing of the CDs (all 32 songs on two discs, as originally sequenced) and airline tickets for Matt and Jeff to come back to Atlanta for this month’s release party at Smith’s Olde Bar on Feb. 25, with an all-ages in-store performance at Decatur CD that afternoon. Viva Rycopa!

Brown, 46, and McDade, 45, offered a book of rad thoughts on the making and ultimate release of Rycopa (credited to both Uncle Green and 3 lb. Thrill, lest you prefer one name over the other). Here are some choice excerpts:

McDade: “Right before we went into the studio, into the house on Elmira Place, I remember that Jeff had a dream that we were gonna open for a band in Austin called Rycopa. And it was very exciting, because they were great and they were a really big deal. We all thought it was a much cooler name than either Uncle Green or 3 lb. Thrill. But we were smart enough to realize we shouldn’t change our name again! So we decided to call the record Rycopa. I think that’s another reason why it’s such a fond memory. We knew what it was going to be called before we even went in. So everything we did for this word that had no meaning, we could put the meaning of the stuff we were doing into that word.”

Brown: “I had a real sense before we made that album, that some members of the band were feeling marginalized and unfulfilled. I remember Bill telling me that he felt we'd never make an album where everyone really got to contribute in a satisfying way, and that was just the way it was. So I came into Rycopa thinking, ‘Fuck that. If this isn't fun for everybody, then it's not worth doing.’”

McDade: “I think at the time we knew that the last thing a band [should do] who’d released six records and none of them really sold anything is to go, ‘Okay, Sony, we have the answer! A two-CD set! And one that doesn’t really sound much like the previous record.’ So we figured that it would get narrowed down, and we were gonna fight for like 16 or 14 of the songs…  I guess we should’ve realized that, given the time and given Matt and Jeff’s tendency to write lots of songs, that we’d come up with [so] many, but when we started, we just knew we wanted it to be different, and that we wanted to kind of ‘seize the day.’”


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