& His Piddletractor Orchestra
Oh hello, hello to reach and one of all my children!
My title is Gr-r-r-andma for all these whoʼs wonder in slumber and still grin!
Follow me to the plunderfull town of Piddletractor, where we will search for my naughty little nephew, Alewishus, the clown prince of Piddletractor!
Thus begins the mythic non-saga of Grandma Sparrow, his nephew, and the various denizens of Piddletractor, USA. Joe Westerlund puts his performance alter-ego through the trademark Spacebomb wringer: strings, horns, and groovy houseband to produce a wild new thing, a psychedelic children’s song-cycle for adults that doesn’t defy description so much as dance around it and pull at its nose. It’s the kind of project that is rarely dreamed up these days, rarer still to be executed with such skill, bravado and glee (complete with an amateur youth choir). A bold production from Spacebomb Records, ever dedicated to the redefinition of what a record can be in the 21st century.
Westerlund on modern collage technique:
The idea for the record came from a desire to make a completely seamless album, where pieces and parts from one song could be placed on another, to investigate a collage structure. Working with tape was a revelation. I learned more about following the natural energy of the performance within each set of takes, without the aid of digital technology.
Westerlund on the composition process:
I have a lot of ideas come to me in the morning while Iʼm waking up. Iʼd follow through with a concept blindly, like “write a twelve-tone lullabye” and then as we ﬂeshed it out and recorded it, there would be a process of justifying it by giving the character a context in the Piddletractor world.
Westerlund on the story, non-story of Piddletractor:
Thereʼs no hidden narrative. What the listener hears is all there is. I didnʼt sit down with a typewriter, ﬁguring out any sort of backstory, or social dynamic, or what the land of Piddletractor looked like; all these things just emerged naturally from writing the score, and were left in their obscured state. Weʼre choosing to rely on the music to ﬁll in the blanks for us.
Grandma Sparrow on mothersnakes:
Obediah, Sacrimiah, Existential Mothersnakes
Grandma Sparrow is blessed with a 7-year-old’s unbridled imagination in the body of a talented 33-year-old musician. Viewing the character from this perspective, things start to make more magical sense and the absurdities fit together in a satisfying whole. Crude jokes, energetic silliness, and limerick logic are borne aloft by the compositions–methodically thought-out and arranged with razor sharp precision in this over-the-top, richly realized musical vision. Westerlund revels in chaotic form, pop deconstruction, and guileless melody–Grandma Sparrow & his Piddletractor Orchestra is a wild ride of audio collage, drifts of radio static and orchestrated grooves–the Beach Boys and Charles Ives wandering through Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
“Mind-blowing… Grandma Sparrow is nostalgic, futuristic, hilarious, profound, disturbing, ecstatic, ridiculous, and brilliant.” (9 out of 10) — SPIN
“Album of the month times ten!” — Stephen Daultrey, Bizarre Mag UK
“It’s got the strange, multi-layered harmonies of the Beatles circa Magical Mystery Tour, the symphonic sweep of Van Dyke Parks, the oddball instrumentation of Brian Wilson at his most wigged-out.” — Wondering Sound
“Gloriously freaky…super-fun…This playdate is some trippy, deep shit.” — Village Voice
“An amalgam of audio collage, improvisation, atonal sounds and enchanting melodies” — Relix
“Brilliantly realized…a surreal, train-wreck masterpiece.” — Style Weekly
“It’s a sonic playground…[that] embraces absurdist humor and childlike whimsy, impulsive improvisation and pop collisions.” — Indy Week
“Wonderfully brilliant” — All Around Sound
“After a very long wait, the second album on Matthew E White’s Spacebomb label has turned up… and it may not be quite what most of you would have envisaged…” — UNCUT
01. Invocation: Is that you?
02. The Piddletractor Welcome Anthem
03. Grandma's Song For You
04. Presenting: Alewishus,
The Clown Prince of Piddletractor
05. This Is My Wheelhouse
06. Shhh!!! Tiptoe past the Oryoman!
07. Do you know who your Scrimpa is?
08. A Window of Happy Rhymes:
a) Where is my Daddy Longlegs?
b) The Possum-Turnip Jamboree
09. Existential Mothersnakes
10. Story Time:
a) Grandma's Pants
b) Scrimpa joins Tinkleminus
in his search for Alewishus
c) The Bark Commissioner's Lunchbox
11. Scavenger Hunt: Find the Squirnkey!
12. The Pigsmilk Candycane
13. Nap Time: Twelve-Tone Lullaby
14. Alew's Dream: A True Piddlean Adventure
a) Dream, Dream Away
b) Oh, what a day we hath braught us!
c) Lost Inside the Nothing Messages
d) Peel the Showers (Awaken!)
15. The Farewell Bolero
33rpm LP Vinyl
Release date: May 20, 2014
500 hand-numbered, hand-stamped copies assembled by Spacebomb in Richmond, VA.
01. Invocation: Is that you? 0:29
with Matthew E. White on additional tape manipulation, Matt Coyle on vibraphone, Carson Efird Westerlund and Graham Tolbert on additional vocals
02. The Piddletractor Welcome Anthem 3:11
with The Piddletractor Children’s Choir, Benny Ralston on additional vocals, Giustino Riccio on congas, Matt Coyle on vibraphone, Lauren Serpa on flute and featuring David Hood on saxophone, Bob Miller on trumpet
03. Grandma's Song For You 1:27
with Nate Mathews on accordion, Gabe Churray on synthesizer, Giustino Riccio on congas and additional vocals
04. Presenting: Alewishus, The Clown Prince of Piddletractor 1:50
with Gabe Churray on euphonium, Matthew E. White on organ
05. This Is My Wheelhouse 2:16
with Graham Tolbert on additional vocals
06. Presenting: Alewishus, The Clown Prince of Piddletractor 1:11
with Gabe Churray on synthezier, Isadora Efird-Westerlund and Weezie Johnston on additional vocals
07. Do you know who your Scrimpa is? 1:06
Traditional / Westerlund
with The Piddletractor Drum Corps, John Lilley on tenor saxophone, Lauren Serpa on piccolo
08. A Window of Happy Rhymes: A) Where is my Daddy Longlegs? B) The Possum-Turnip Jamboree 1:50
with Gabe Churray on synthesizer
09. Existential Mothersnakes 4:55
with The Piddletractor Men’s Choir, Giustino Riccio on congas, Pinson Chanselle and Cameron Ralston on percussion and featuring Jason Scott on tenor saxophone, Abigail Stinnett on vocals
10. Story Time A) Grandma's Pants B) Scrimpa joins Tinkleminus in his search for Alewishus C) The Bark Commissioner's Lunchbox 1:11
Traditional / Westerlund
with The Piddletractor Children’s Choir, Matthew E. White on organ, Pinson Chanselle on percussion
11. Scavenger Hunt: Find the Squirnkey! 2:05
with Graham Tolbert on additional vocals and featuring Trever Hagen on electric trumpet, Bryan Hooten on trombone
12. The Pigsmilk Candycane 3:21
with The Piddletractor Children’s Choir, Wells Hanley on piano, Scott Burton on guitar and featuring Marcus Tenney on trumpet
13. Nap Time: Twelve-Tone Lullaby 2:05
with The Piddletractor Children’s Choir
14. Alew's Dream: A True Piddlean Adventure A) Dream, Dream Away B) Oh, what a day we hath braught us! C) Lost Inside the Nothing Messages D) Peel the Showers (Awaken!) 5:04
with The Piddletractor Children’s Choir, The Piddletractor Men’s Choir, Nate Mathews on accordion, Matthew E. White on additional tape manipulation, Graham Tolbert and Giustino Riccio on additional vocals
15. The Farewell Bolero 2:50
with The Piddletractor Drum Corps
The Spacebomb House Band
Cameron Ralston, bass
Pinson Chanselle, drums and percussion
Matthew E. White, guitar
The Spacebomb Horns
David Hood, alto saxophone; John Lilley, tenor saxophone; Jason Scott, tenor saxophone; Lauren Serpa, flute; Bob Miller, trumpet; Reginald Chapman, bass trombone; Bryan Hooten, trombone; Reginald Pace, trombone
The Spacebomb Strings
Jessika Blanks, violin; Caitlin Hunt, violin; Amy Peterson, violin; Katie Wooldridge, violin; Matt Jewell, viola; Garrett Pederson, viola; Amber Blankenship, cello; Naomi Steckman, cello; Cameron Ralston, double bass
The Spacebomb Choir
Mallary Forbes, Abigail Stinnett, Audrey Tillack
Arrangements by Matthew E. White, Trey Pollard & Joseph Westerlund
Orchestrations by Matthew E. White & Trey Pollard
Recorded by Matthew E. White at Spacebomb Studios, Trey Pollard at Songwire Studios, & Joseph Westerlund at Walnut Avenue, June 16—26, 2011
Produced by Matthew E. White
Editing and assembling by Joseph Westerlund
Engineered by Matthew E. White & Trey Pollard
Assistant Engineer Gabe Churray
Mixed by Trey Pollard
Mastered by Nick Petersen
Art Direction and Design by Joel Speasmaker & Travis Robertson
Production assistance by Tesni Stephen
Photographs by Samuel Dixon