Members: Carl Johns
Charlemagne is still very much Carl Johns, bringing his songs to life with help from friends. But since his previous release and SideCho debut, 2005's critically acclaimed Detour Allure (which garnered four stars from Uncut and was called an album that's "beautifully crafted, mid-tempo bliss with bouncy pop hooks and folk reassurances" from Harmonium Music), things have changed significantly in the musician's camp. No longer are albums pieced together in a Madison, WI-based home studio in between day jobs and life's obligations. And Charlemagne is less of a revolving door of sidemen and artistic hands. This year's Charlemagne model finds Johns with a better sense of musical permanency. He has since relocated to Brooklyn from Madison, WI (after a short stint in Philadelphia) and has established a backing ensemble with his East Coast-based bandmates Matt Ricchini and Michael Heinzer (also of Soft People). He has also reverted to his days of recording as a live unit (as he did in Noahjohn several years earlier), by implementing the same techniques with Charlemagne's latest album, We Can Build An Island. For example, instead of dialing in tracks on a computer, one layer at a time in a home-based studio over several months, Johns and his bandmates trekked out to Tucson, AZ's Wavelab Studio for two weeks to record and mix in a live and analog setting not to mention the change of scenery. "I liked the idea of going to the desert to record, being in an expanse with a lot of sky," Johns says. "I was first there in February 2006 touring for Detour and it was almost like being in another planet. I was really into the idea of a completely different locale for making this album and the desert seemed like the perfect contrast to urban surroundings of New York and Philly." The new environment allowed for a more concentrated effort, as the trio took full advantage of the two weeks to produce We Can Build An Island. Though Johns penned all of the tracks on the album, he credits his bandmates in providing their assistance on arrangements and production. With a melding of influences, including The Clean, Smog, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks and the Pixies, Charlemagne's latest effort still finds the act squarely in the realm of dirty pop songs, tinged with a bit of folk and psychedelia. We Can Build An Island deftly alludes to theme of prevailing after times of trauma and survival, in rebuilding a safe haven for oneself, touching upon a variety of situations, including death, divorce, dating, and life after turning 30. Many of these aforementioned changes came about after extensive touring for Detour Allure throughout the US, Canada and the UK. The time spent on the road became a transitional journey of sorts, which has landed at. With the album wrapped, Johns looks forward to the future of touring with his new bandmates. "I just wanted a consistent variable," he says. "I spent the bulk of 2006 switching live lineups, which was fun, but now I'm interested in the idea of playing with the same people over and over again."