Split Single’s Jason Narducy discusses the inspirations behind new album ‘Amplificado’
Split Single, the project of Jason Narducy (Bob Mould Band, Superchunk, Verbow, etc), just released a new album, Amplificado, last week. It's a record overflowing with energetic, roaring power-pop, fueled by joy and anger, and big hooks. The band on this album includes drummer Jon Wurster and R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, and you can listen to the whole thing below.
We asked Jason to tell us about the influences behind Amplificado and he sent us a very thoughtful Top 10 list, including fellow musicians (Guided by Voices, Shame, The Replacements, Scott McCaughey, Waco Brothers), artist James Turrell, NBA icon Michael Jordan, the experience of writing the Verboten musical (which is based on his teenage punk band), a certain former president, and more. It's a great read that will make you want to listen to the album even more. Check that out below.
Split Single play a release show for Amplificado on July 10 at Sketchbook Brewery in Skokie, IL, and then Jason will open a few shows for Bob Mould's solo tour. He's also playing as part of the Bob Mould Band on dates this fall.
JASON NARDUCY - TOP 10 INFLUENCES BEHIND SPLIT SINGLE'S 'AMPLIFICADO'
1) James Turrell, Into the Light at MASS MoCA
I played a solo show at a very cool hotel in North Adams, MA called Tourists in 2018. The next day I had a few hours free before leaving for the next stop on the tour so I went to MASS MoCA which is just up the road. The James Turrell exhibit was riveting. He uses light to create unique experiences. One of his installments is in an almost completely dark room - the light is so subtle that, at times, it is imperceptible. This 20 minute experience made me think about mortality and my comfort level with regards to being alone. I haven't had a more moving art experience than that. There are a number of songs on Amplificado about isolation and darkness.
2) Michael Jordan
When I was a junior in high school, I went to Doug Collins basketball camp. It was 1987 and Michael Jordan stopped by to talk to us campers. The most important thing he said that day was "Always practice at game speed - otherwise, you are practicing the wrong thing". I try to use this advice with music. I practice for tours at a loud volume while standing and singing into a mic on a mic stand. Just like a show. Now I do that for writing, too. Part of what makes a song feel natural is how it feels to actually play and sing it live. "(Nothing You Can Do) To End This Love", "Blood Break Ground", and "Worry" were written with this approach.
3) Guided By Voices and The Waco Brothers
Split Single was put on a festival lineup in Evanston IL (conveniently where I live) in 2018. We were sandwiched between The Waco Brothers and Guided By Voices. Those two bands bring a level of energy and power that I wasn't sure we could compete with. I looked at the songs from our first two albums to compile a setlist. It was that moment that I vowed to put as many uptempo songs on the next Split Single album as possible. I'm happy that I did that. Most of the songs on Amplificado fit well in the live setting.
4) Verböten the musical
I had a band when I was 11 years old called Verböten. We were a punk rock band from Evanston that played original songs and were fortunate to play at clubs in Chicago such as Cubby Bear. Our singer, Tracey Bradford, is cousins with Dave Grohl and he credits us with introducing him to punk rock as well as inspiring him to write his own songs. He interviewed Tracey and me for his 2014 HBO show, Sonic Highways, and even included footage of us at Cubby Bear. A playwright named Brett Neveau saw the program and pitched me on making a musical based on Verböten. Brett wrote the script, I wrote the music, and an ambitious theater company called The House Theatre produced it. Verböten premiered in Chicago in January 2020 to rave reviews and sold out shows. I loved being a part of it. It could have bombed and I still would have loved it. The cast, crew, and director were just fantastic.
I learned A LOT writing music for Verböten. Maybe the most resonant element I learned that affected Amplificado was the importance of the arc of a story. The sequencing of the album is, therefore, somewhat theatrical. The unusual/suspenseful opening, the defiant second song that punches hard but leaves questions unanswered, the third and fourth tracks are full of rage and confusion, and so on. The last song expresses a continued search but there is resolve and closure in the melody and chords.
5) The Replacements - For Sale: Live At Maxwell's 1986
When I was in high school, my friends and I loved The Replacements. I went to a lot of shows but I couldn't make it to see them at The Riviera. When my friends who went told me The Replacements were so drunk they only played 4 songs and announced "Well, you paid for 3 bands and you got two", I decided I would not spend money to see them. Listening to this live recording from 1986 makes me realize I should have rolled the dice. Even if it was only to hear Bob Stinson play guitar. My god, he was on fire. The unabashed energy at this show is enough to inspire me to write many songs. There's joy and there's power. A potent combination that I'm constantly trying to harness into 3 minute tracks.
6) Shame - Songs of Praise
I thought the debut album from this London band was excellent so I reached out to them when they were coming to Chicago. They asked me if I could find them a bar that would show premier league football matches on their TVs. I found one and, because of the time difference, their team was playing at 9am Chicago time. When I left my house at 8:30am that morning, my wife asked me where I was off to. "I'm headed to the bar to meet five 21 year old English boys whom I've never met".
It turns out they are bright guys with awareness and composure well beyond their years. We hung out a few more times at shows ( some of mine, some of theirs) and they continue to be one of my favorite new bands. The song "Belly of Lead" from Amplificado was influenced by their ability to write plodding, powerful chords with a repeating single note guitar line. Hooks me every time they do it.
7) Donald J. Trump, twice impeached single term former President of the United States
Something I surmised from the last 5 years of chaos that this grifter and his GOP cronies imposed on our country is that you have to speak up. You have to call bullshit out. I would like nothing more than to not have to talk about this awful person and the spineless, enabling current GOP but I can't. It must be dragged into the light and exposed.
The opening song on Amplificado is the sound of this awful crew. It's out of time, there are elements that shouldn't be there, and it is clumsy. There are messages in the title, too. The capitalized letters spell out a message. The first letters of each word spell out another message.
"Stone Heart World" is as direct as I can be. "No answers - just a cover for country clubs and stolen public funds. No answers - just a way to keep ten yachts floating on school kid's lost hope"
8) Scott McCaughey
In 2017, Scott had a stroke and collapsed on the sidewalk. He nearly died. I had lunch with him four months later and he was still wobbly on his feet and slow with his speech. But he eventually recovered fully and made an incredible album, Stroke Manor (with The Minus 5). Scott always exuded a positive energy, an infectious joy. Now he's also a goddamn inspiration. A force of nature. If I was ever down or unsure of myself while making this album, I just thought about what Scott had to overcome to get to the finish line.
9) Everyone involved in a Split Single album
Split Single is a collaborative effort. The albums, videos, tours, photo shoots... They all happen because people are willing to contribute for little to no money. When I look back at the time and energy the musicians (especially Jon Wurster), photographers, directors, editors, designers, and web support folks have contributed, I get overwhelmed with gratitude. It is a beautiful energy and i never take it for granted.
10) The Fan
Last year I was leaving the house for a show and my youngest daughter asked "Is your fan going to be there?" It's hilarious on two levels. I knew who she meant. John Raines is the only person I know of with a Split Single tattoo. (Yes, it's on his elbow) But it's also funny because I don't have a lot of fans.
There is no doubt, though, that I am fortunate to have ENOUGH fans. Thanks to crowdsourcing, the support needed to make and promote an album was funded by generous (and patient) supporters of my music. I can't thank them enough and I hope they enjoy Amplificado which they helped us create.