DS Exclusive: A day in the studio with Rebuilder

Things are happening in the Rebuilder camp. Great things. Potentially awesome things, even.

The assorted members of the Boston-area five-piece spent the first week of November holed up in Getaway Recording, the Haverhill, Massachusetts, recording studio owned and operated by Jay Maas (pictured above) of Defeater fame. The goal? Recording their debut full-length, Rock And Roll In America. Due out in February 2015 on Panic State Records, “RNRIA” will serve as follow-up to the band’s debut self-titled EP and their four-song Christmas EP, both released last year on their own Refuse Rethink Rebuild Records label. 

There’s a bit of a buzz growing around Rebuilder, and for good reason. Formed early last year from the ashes of bands like Dead Ellington, The Rimmons, The Great White North and occasionally Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, the band have already shared the stage with the likes of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dropkick Murphys, Banner Pilot, and in a particularly triumphant two-night stay at the Sinclair in Cambridge, MA last spring, Frank Turner. The band recently wrapped an eleven date US/Canada tour during which they debuted all of the songs that’ll appear on Rock And Roll In America. Immediately upon returning home to Boston, the band jumped right into the studio. “The goal of that tour was to have all of the material down before coming here, rather than waste time in the studio figuring things out,” Ellington and Stanton tell me. I quote both of them, because the duo give the impression that they’re on the same page all the time, expounding on each others’ thoughts and words during our conversation.

Ah, perhaps I missed a step there. Yours truly had the privilege of joining Rebuilder’s Sal Ellington (lead vocals/guitar) and Craig Stanton (lead guitar) as they tracked guitars under Maas’ watchful eye. As stated above, Getaway Recording is located in a quiet residential street in an otherwise fairly rough, working-class Boston suburb. There’s little about the drive up through the nondescript neighborhood filled with newer Colonial-style houses like Maas’ that screams  “high-profile hardcore punk recording studio,” except for maybe the American-made touring vans parked piggy-back style out front. Maas’ mini pinscher, Niles, came barreling out of the house upon my arrival, loudly (for a “min pin”) making his presence felt. This, my friends, is where the magic happens.

Admittedly, guitar day in the studio is not always the most dynamic of recording days. Drummer/tambourinist Brandon Phillips and bassist Daniel Carswell had spent the first part of the week committing their respective parts to tape (or hard drive, as it were), leaving Ellington and Stanton alone with Maas (and Niles) to lay down guitars before wrapping things up with vocals and Rick Smith’s keyboards by the week’s end. There’s something instantly comfortable and laid back about the setup at Getaway. The operation’s command center has the feel of a living room; the leather couches, Goose Island brews and Little Caesar’s Soft Pretzel Crust pizza (seriously guys…that’s a thing) certainly help.

As I arrived, Stanton was wrapping guitars for songs labelled on the white board as “Hope” and “Dread.” The former of those tracks Ellington would refer to as the album’s “pop track.” He’s not wrong, necessarily, though that understates the pop sensibilities of the remainder of what Rebuilder does. There’s a certain 90s-skate-punk-meets-post-punk quality to the area that is the Rebuilder wheelhouse; I’m instantly reminded of bands like No Motiv and Big Awesome, though perhaps Bouncing Souls-meets-Samiam is more appropriate. While laid-back in nature, Maas remains focused on getting the most out of the band. “The great thing about working with Jay,” Ellington tells me when Maas leaves the room to take a call from his band’s manager, “is that he already knows the sounds we’re looking for.” “Unlike maybe some other engineers who work on a broader variety,” Stanton adds,”Jay already speaks the same language. That makes things so much easier when you’re in the studio.”

After plowing through rhythm parts on the the last couple of songs, Stanton and Ellington, in that order, moved on to recording leads for a few of the album’s tracks. “We’re throwing out all the rules here,” Stanton stated jokingly at one point during a brief lull between takes, as the left-handed Ellington was trying to work out a part on Maas’ right-handed EverTuned Telecaster, while the right-handed Maas was trying to tune the left-handed Ellington’s Telecaster for a particular lead. Light-hearted nature that was the theme of the evening aside (“just a tad sexier” was Maas’ advice to Stanton after a not-particularly-sexy take at a lead on the album’s opening track, “Natty Bo”), Stanton’s quote wasn’t really all that much of a joke. Removed from anything that could be considered the context in which it was stated, Rebuilder were essentially formed by throwing out all of the rules that governed many of their other musical projects. “We’ve got four drummers in this band,” Ellington tells me. He, Stanton and Smith all play or have played drums in other projects. “And our drummer (Phillips) is one of the best guitar players around, easily better than the two of us,” Stanton adds.

Hey, if the philosophy worked for Neil Young when he put Crazy Horse together, there’s no reason it can’t help a band of Boston punks as it tries to help do its part in revitalizing a scene. Stay tuned for Rock And Roll In America…it’ll be worth the wait. Check out more pictures from my visit with the law firm of Ellington, Stanton and Maas below.


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