By Scott Roberts
By all accounts, the idea of a CD release show at Smith’s Olde Bar tomorrow night, for Atlanta’s long-inactive pop-rockers Uncle Green (later changed to 3 lb. Thrill) for their nearly 15-year-old work Rycopa is nothing short of a miracle. The master tapes for the sprawling double album — originally recorded in 1997 in a rented house in Little Five Points, rejected by Sony (their label at the time) for its apparent lack of commercial viability, then misplaced and lost for years afterward — were finally unearthed in 2011 and were completed in Atlanta at Rob Gal’s studio after a Kickstarter campaign raised the necessary funds from fans in about three days. Rycopa itself is a bit of a miracle as well as it accomplishes what few double albums can boast: The scope of the 32 tracks show the many facets of the band (singer/guitarists Matt Brown and Jeff Jensen, bassist Bill Decker, and drummer Peter McDade) and its influences without ever sounding derivative. And despite the album’s epic heft and kitchen-sink/no-use-for-editing approach to the recording, there is never a sense of needing to reign the band in or the thought that this would have made a better single disc. Rycopa is without waste or pretension and only showcases the timelessness of the writing, the exuberance of the band, and the ambitious achievement that may be remembered as their Odessey and Oracle, the 1968 Zombies classic LP that was released after they broke up.
While McDade and Decker still call Atlanta home, Jensen now lives in Washington, D.C., and Brown lives with his family in New Jersey. In town for rehearsals, Brown took the time to answer some questions about the band and tomorrow night’s festivities.
There are no songwriting credits on the album, so are you and Jensen the only writers? Do you guys write separately or collaborate?
The songs were all written by Jeff and myself, individually, although we collaborated on four tracks: “Super Kitty Uh Huh,” “Elmira Place,” “St. Lazaro” and “Claire and Allison Watching Over Me.” The band was more involved in the arranging, though, more than ever on Rycopa. Everyone contributed something to every track.
To remind folks, why did you change your name back in the day from Uncle Green to 3 lb. Thrill?
We changed our name because we were never crazy about our name, and saw a new record deal as an opportunity to do something about it. Also, it seemed to fit the different sound of the Vulture album. Now we use both names, which is certainly a first.
I think I saw somewhere that the meaning of the name “Rycopa” is sort of a secret, but I figured I’d ask anyway.
The name came from a dream Jeff had. It was the name of a highly successful band that we were opening for in his dream. The second we heard it, we decided to use it as an album name. For me it sounds like a cornucopia of wryness, which definitely fits many of the songs.
Will it just be the four of you onstage tomorrow night or will you have other musicians augmenting?
We have a guest violinist (Julia Taylor, daughter of Rick Taylor of Right as Rain), a flutist (Becky Shaw, of Roxy Watson), an extra vocalist (Paul Melancon, singer-songwriter), banjo player (Rick Taylor of Right as Rain), and a keyboardist/guitarist, Rob Gal (who helped mix Rycopa).
Anything planned for the band at this point beyond tomorrow?
Nothing is planned beyond this point, but we are sure of one thing at this stage: we’re not really a defunct band. We still exist. We will likely do some recording across the Internet at some point. I know I have two dozens songs ready to go at any time.
Anything else you want your fans to know about tomorrow night’s show?
Be patient with us. We haven’t played in six years! But we’ll be having fun and we’ll have CDs (including an outtakes collection and a solo album of mine) and t-shirts galore.
The Uncle Green/3 lb. Thrill CD release show is Saturday night, February 25, at Smith’s Olde Bar. They are also doing a family-friendly in-store show at Decatur CD on Saturday at 3 p.m.