For many artists, music is never complete. Just because the vinyl has been pressed, the interviews have been published and the fans have put the songs into their listening rotations doesn’t mean that the song necessarily feels ‘finished.’ Rather, many artists see songs as living beings whose meanings and intentions can change over time. Sometimes these artists even revisit those songs and illuminate them in new and different ways. One such artist is The Orange Peels.
Since forming in California back in 1994 The Orange Peels have been on the front lines of indie rock, putting out seven studio albums. Now, the band is paying tribute to one of it’s go-to and most endearing songs, “Everyone’s Gone” by releasing the various versions of the song that have existed since its inception, thus documenting how it’s grown alongside the band. In a statement, bandleader and songwriter Allen Clapp said:
“This song was always there — a sad-happy pop song about relationships, about people moving on, about loss and about realizing that life will somehow go on. It was part of our live set as far back as anyone can remember. Back then, when it came time to start working up demos for our album, we captured it the way we played it — sunshine-y, lo-fi and immediate.
“By the time we had secured a recording budget we tried it again in the studio. What started as an attempt to recreate our demo morphed into a super power-poppy Bobby Fuller Four-style rocker. I think it’s even faster than the demo. And yet the ultra-confidence in the rhythm section is now tempered by a slide guitar solo reminiscent of Syd Barrett. I think the sentiment of the lyrics was beginning to seep into the fabric of the music.
“We thought we had finished with the tune by late 1995. But a change in fortunes (…and record labels and producers) found us in Minneapolis in the dead of winter in 1996 recording in the famous Terrarium studio with Bryan Hanna at the controls and I thought we might just try to do something totally different with it. I said something about redoing it, but nobody really wanted to. It was already done, after all.
“But something told me the song still hadn’t found its soul yet. Like it was still not free of some earlier preconceptions it needed to shake off. It was bothering me. Then, I told everyone I thought we should try it as a slow, sad, country song. Of course, it’s not really a ‘country’ song, but I think everyone kind of got what I meant. Before we knew it, Bryan had sat down behind the drums and chipped in a thundering middle section and a powerful ending. The Syd Barrett-ish slide guitar now became a mournful pedal steel solo by Larry. The rhythm guitars were now pristine 12-string acoustics. And the delivery of the vocals changed 180 degrees. The sadness had won. The song had found its soul.”
The end result is a fascinating look into how a song can develop as time goes on. Simultaneously feeling like an artifact and a living being, “Everybody’s Gone” has gone through a long journey to come to such a fascinating, enlightening and rewarding celebration of its excellence.
Listen to the three versions of “Everybody’s Gone” below: