Yeah, what did happen to the Counting Crows?
I was thinking about that as I saw the movie “Gypsy Davy” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The documentary film, in a tangent, reveals the origins of “a black-haired / flamenco dancer” and the father who plays guitar in the ’90s hit “Mr. Jones.” There’s footage of the band’s floppy-dreaded frontman Adam Duritz singing the song live and a reminder that Duritz and his bandmates had lives and other bands before Counting Crows. And they’ve seen some strange years after its inception.
The rock act parted ways from Geffen in 2009, and I honestly thought that may be the end of that. They’d released the immensely personal and very dark double-disc “Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings” in 2008, with some interviews revealing some of heavy baggage. There were some good reasons why it took the band six years to release an album of new material after 2002’s “Hard Candy,” including Duritz’ struggle with a dissociative disorder. It’s a mental illness spurred on by pressure, which the band undoubtedly had after its string of hits starting in 1993 and throughout the ’90s into the 2000s.
Being an immensely popular rock band from the 1990s doesn’t always bode well in this jaded post-Internet age. Ask Bush, or the Wallflowers or Creed.
All this while, the Counting Crows have been touring consistently, and Duritz and the crew have been pretty lively on Twitter, with well over a million followers, and vibrant in other online community hotspots. It’s this relationship that may have spurred an experiment from the band for the release of their next studio effort.
“Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)” is an album of covers and reworkings of pre-Counting Crows material, with release duties in the hands of California-based indie label Collective Sounds. It’s an imprint that’s had its hand in a variety of releases lately, from distributing relative newcomers like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to putting out Jimmy Cliff’s first studio effort in seven years, the “Sacred Fire” EP.
The new Counting Crows will be hitting online destinations like Spotify and Facebook and maybe even radio stations “long before” its skedded drop date, according to Billboard.
“You can either try to treat the Internet like it is a big drain sucking your profit down the tubes, or you can realize it’s also a conduit,” he said. “There’s got to be a better way than just bemoaning the loss.”
The group will cover artists from Bob Dylan and Big Star to Dawes and Travis, tracklist below (no, no Joni Mitchell). The songs were recorded with producer Shawn Dealey over two separate week-long sessions, during April and June last year. Duritz had apparently playing with his mental health cocktails, resulting in some tumultuous recording circumstances.
“It was a long year last year,” he admitted. “At one point I had the shakes really badly, and you can hear it on the song ‘Hospital.’ I’m just literally vibrating around the room trying to just stand still and I couldn’t do it.”
An EP, rarities or covers set is a good way to toy with the traditional record release, to see what fans will follow you to where you go. It’s more of a baby step, perhaps, instead of entrusting a proper studio originals set to an indie after 18 years with a heavy-hitting major.