Berry's latest album, "Success/Fail," was made by friends separated by state lines but brought closer through music.
David Berry is in a long-distance relationship with most of his musical collaborators. But that didn’t keep him from recording his latest solo album, “Success/Fail,” with them.
“It’s amazing what you can do without being in the studio together,” he says. “It saves time and money and, for the most part, it sounds better.”
The process began in 2018. It had three years since Berry, a local musician and coordinator of Sarasota Music Archive, had put out an album, so he and high school friend/percussionist Dave Creps started tossing ideas back and forth across the country (Berry in Sarasota and Creps in their shared hometown of Toledo, Ohio).
Creps sent some drum tracks he’d recorded at home in his musical “man cave,” and Berry replied with some guitar compositions he’d been toying with. They got in a rhythm with every new email attachment, developing a sound for what would later become Berry’s third solo album.
Recording was done in a plethora of ways. The group Berry assembled is a mix of members from his old ’80s Midwestern proto-punk group, Insatiable, and musicians he’s met since, so some of the album was recorded in places like the soundproof practice room at Pine View School (music teacher Victor Mongillo plays horns and flute on the record), while other sections were recorded in home studios four states apart (jazz singer Kelly Broadway, who is featured on "main line," recorded with Creps in his Toledo basement).
Mongillo taught Berry's son, Jack — a professional bass player who founded The Garbage Men Band and also appears on “Success/Fail” — at Pine View. When Berry brought his mobile recording studio to the school practice room to record Mongillo’s sections, he says it turned into a learning experience for students hanging around who helped get tracks arranged.
Berry's other son, Trent, created the cover art and is the young boy celebrating an unidentified but evidently sweet youthful success in the cover image.
Software programs Mixcraft and Protools connected the geographically challenged members of the team. With a solid internet connection, Berry says both allow him and Creps to record together in real time.
Although they were apart for all but a couple in-person discussions, the process was intensely collaborative. Berry would send rough drafts of every song to Creps, who would then flesh them out with percussion, and Berry would respond with edits while adding melody and new arrangements. This continued, song after song, with both musicians bouncing comments and ideas off one another until every song felt just right.
Like most modern music, the resulting sound crosses into the territory of several music genres, ranging from progressive/psychedelic rock to new jazz. Berry says he and Creps really wanted to mix things up with a few of the songs, which is evident in their use of drum loops used in an atypical direction.
“That unlocked some creativity we didn’t use before,” he says.
The recording duo works well together because their personalities balance each other out, Berry says. He's the unorganized creative type, whereas Creps is a total numbers guy — he’s fittingly the finance director for the city of Perrysburg, Ohio.
“He likes numbers and percussion and hitting the beat right on the target, which compliments my messy nature and keeps it from all falling apart,” Berry says with a laugh.
The album was mastered at iconic Abbey Road studios in London using some of the same analog equipment used on Beatles and Pink Floyd recordings. The double vinyl LP was pressed in Opa Locka, Florida, in the legendary Final Vinyl reggae pressing plant revived from the 1970s.
"Success/Fail" was ranked No. 1 regionally in February and No. 5 nationally in March on ReverbNation in the alternative category. This month, the track "The Game" ended up on RiverbNation's Must-Hear Artists playlist for Tampa Bay.
Last month during a reunion of his previous band that doubled as a release party for the new album, Berry and his fellow musicians played from a set list he had saved from a 1983 gig at Bowling Green State University. The nostalgic jam session went so well, he says they're planning a mini tour during which they'll play both band favorites and songs from "Success/Fail" around Florida, Ohio and Michigan next fall.
"A lot of songs have to do with points in our lives when we make decisions that determine whether we succeed or fail," Berry says. "Overtime that adds up to what one person may consider being a successful person, another person might not consider that the same way ... It’s kind of like keeping a journal of how things happen and (how) one event leads to another."
"Success/Fail" is available on CD, cassette and double vinyl at RocketStar, Jerk Dog, Salty Dog and a few other record stores as well as digitally on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon, Shazam, Google Tidal, etc. A free album poster is included with every in-store record purchase.