Interview with Joey Cape, Zach Quinn, Brian Wahlstrom, and Donald Spence | By Tom Crandle
One Week Records is the brainchild of Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape.
The concept is simple: Cape invites an artist into his home to record 10 songs; they eat, drink, and work on songs together for one week. “The goal is to showcase songwriters in a raw and honest manner and, in turn, be able to reasonably price the albums,” Cape explains. “It was inspired by the many demos I have received over the years, stripped-down and often more inspired than the following act. I love the idea of capturing a great performance. I always loved those little live-in-studio bonus tracks at the end of an album. Sometimes, you don’t need all the other stuff.”
Cape is very straightforward about how he chooses who he’d like to work with. “For the most part, they are friends I admire or people I have played with on tour,” he says. “Always, they are people who write great songs.”
One Week Records has already produced an impressive 14 releases, and artists seem eager to record with Cape. PEARS frontman Zach Quinn describes it best. “Nobody had to twist my arm!” he assures. “Joey is an incredible songwriter, and I jumped at the chance to work with him.”
As a producer, Cape seems to have the ability to bring out the best in a songwriter. Cape’s Scorpios bandmate Brian Wahlstrom sums it up, explaining, “By hearing a single riff or lyrical phrase, he’s able to quickly develop an identity for a song that hasn’t been written yet. When we first started working together, I had a difficult time keeping up with him. He’s insanely prolific—continuously thinking, writing, and revising until he literally can’t stay awake.”
Versus The World’s Donald Spence adds, “That’s the allure of the One Week record: you get a Joey record. He has a really killer producer’s ear, so he listens to music a lot differently than most people do. We take notes, try ideas, tweak lyrics or harmonies, and when we’re solid, he presses record. He is hands down the most hands-on producer I’ve worked with.”
Describing his own methodology, Cape explains, “I try to appeal to their passion. I push them to say what they mean by having them explain their words. They often say something they hadn’t put into the lyrics. Songwriters only want to see their producer truly care. That part is easy, I do care. You have to be wholehearted with them. When they see that, they trust you, and tricks aren’t necessary. They know you have the best of intentions and will listen to you.”
While most of the One Week artists have come from Cape’s inner circle of friends, bandmates, and labelmates, he’s open to expanding his reach. “I see no rules for how we acquire people for the gig,” he says, “as long as I love their music and they are interested.” He also has a mental list of artists he would love to work with. “Oh, man, where do I start? Bob Mould, Josh Caterer, Paul Westerberg, Christina Perri, Ryan Adams, John K. Samson, Blake Schwarzenbach, to name a few,” he laughs.
The natural evolution of One Week Records has led to live shows and tours, but the basic idea remains the same: the artists are presented in a raw, unadorned form. Now, Feb. 7 through Feb. 10, the package of Joey Cape, Zach Quinn, Brian Wahlstrom, and Donald Spence are set to embark on a short run of California shows.
The transition from playing in a loud band to baring one’s soul in an intimate setting can be intimidating. It’s one thing to do it in a private studio, but another thing entirely to do it in front of a live audience. It’s especially difficult to picture shirtless wildman Quinn strumming an acoustic guitar, but he is less bothered than most. “I’d played solo plenty before PEARS, so I kind of knew what I wanted to do, but I had never done it right,” he shares.
Cape is a veteran solo performer at this point, but he admits to being terrified initially. “I wasn’t very comfortable at first,” he recalls. “Shit, I think I was the most nervous I’ve ever been the first time I played a solo show. A friend of mine pointed something out that made all the difference. He said, ‘Remember, you are in total control now. You can do anything you want at any time during a performance. You can stop, make a joke, change the key, slow down, speed up, anything.’ He’s right. You have total freedom, and you can perform a song any way that seems fit in the moment. That’s freeing and empowering.”
Wahlstrom agrees that it was difficult at first. “Especially with the piano-centric format, it was nerve-racking in the beginning,” he says. “Wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’ve been lucky to tour with some great people who know what they’re doing, which has made it a lot easier.”
The One Week releases have a loose, spontaneous feel, and the tour’s aim is to feel the same way. Cape shares his process for deciding which songs to include, revealing, “It’s going to be a mix. On Facebook, I requested help with my setlist for the tour. I am doing all requests and different sets each night. Some songs were requested for all four towns, but each night will be different.” According to Cape, collaborations are par for the course. “For sure, we all come and go throughout the night and close the show with all of us playing together,” he explains. “We did this in Europe recently, and it was really fun.”
There seems to be a consensus that the general vibe on this tour is going to be amazing, and attendees should expect the unexpected. Spence recalls, “We took this same tour to Europe last year, and it was awesome. We sing and play on each other’s songs almost the whole show. As far as surprises? Zach Quinn is a wildcard. He’s going to do something. He never knows [what it will be], so we never know, but it’s always gnarly.”
Wahlstrom concurs, “There’s some great chemistry on this tour. We were in Europe last September, and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. You didn’t know what to expect each night—except that Zach would end up naked at some point. This California tour is going to be a blast. I can’t wait.”
As for Quinn’s take on things? “Oh, I’ve got stuff up my sleeve—or maybe I don’t,” he says. “Either way, I’m going to stay mysterious about it.”
2/07 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
2/08 – Fullerton, CA – The Slidebar
2/09 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom Of The Hill
2/10 – Santa Barbara, CA – The Velvet Jones