One thing is certain, Reno’s soul and funk band The Sextones never does anything half-assed.
From their hit-inspired songwriting sessions in 2013 to the five-day analog record-a-thon in 2015 to their creative promotion for the album release in the last few months, these guys have thought and re-thought every aspect of their newest album “Moonlight Vision.”
The album itself is immediately striking in its classic production and genuinely dirty tonal qualities but a more concentrated listen will have song after song rolling around in your head for days. Lead singer and guitarist Mark Sexton was pointed in explaining that this was no accident.
“A lot of the songs were finished in 2013, and we were really focused on pop songwriting, not necessarily making our songs sound poppy but just on making the choruses really big, and writing songs that people would want to sing along to.
“Our influences for this album were Sly and The Family Stone, Van Morrison, Louis Taylor and, of course, Stevie (Wonder). We were really intent on making a classic-sounding album. That’s why it took so long. We wanted to record to tape like our idols did and really make this sound good.”
They recorded the album at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, California, with engineer Matt Wright over the course of five days.
“It was like a musician’s Disneyland. We stayed at the little cabin they have there and every day from 10 to 10 we would record.”
For Sexton and company, Prairie Sun was the obvious choice after seeing and hearing a video on Con Brio’s instagram of the reel-to-reel machine.
“A lot of studios have a tape machine but they don’t really use it or it’s broken, but at Prairie Sun they use that old gear every day and maintain it for recording,” Sexton said. “We recorded everything to tape and there was a lot of permanence (with that method) because when you record everything super dirty you can’t go back and clean it up later.”
Their dedication to the final product didn’t come without its hangups. Sexton explained that changing the band’s name (It was the Mark Sexton Band) and thus, the brand, in late 2015 took time away from the project. The choice to mix the album themselves also came with its challenges.
“You can mix forever is the problem, and we just got too caught up with the minute details. We must have mixed each song 30 to 40 times.”
They also re-recorded all the vocals themselves.
“We would record all day and spend all of this time trying to get the right sound then we would just kind of do vocals in the last 20 minutes of each day but those were the only things we recorded at Prairie Sun that didn’t end up on the album.”
After nearly four years of working on a project, most bands would be so excited to release it that they simply would, but the Sextones debuted their first single over at Popdust.com before rolling out their creative Sex-Tone Hotline, a play on the phone sex lines of yesteryear. This was an actual working line that could be called anytime (1-336-sex-tone) to listen to cuts from the new album. They included some retro looking ads and graphics and the hotline caught the attention of their fan base in a big way.
Now, with all of that done, they have a string of shows coming up to finally release “Moonlight Vision” in its entirety — Thursday, April 6 at Doc’s Lab in San Francisco, the 7th at Harlow’s in Sacramento with Jelly Bread, then the 8th here in Reno with local blues-rock two piece Hopeless Jack.
Related story: Read about the Sex-Tone Hotline.
- CD Release Performance
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, April 8
Where: The Saint, midtown Reno
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Openers: Hopeless Jack