Drive-By Truckers keyboardist and guitarist Jay Gonzalez is set to release a solo album titled The Bitter Suite, but it has more in common with the power pop of the mid-‘60s and ‘70s than the alt country the Truckers are known for.
“It’s kind of a whole different thing,” Gonzalez told Paste. “I played in a lot of bands through the ‘90s and the early ‘2000s, but it was always rock and more pop based. So when [Drive-By Truckers] asked me to play with them, it was great and there was definitely a lot of common ground, but this definitely has a slightly different approach.”
On top of this departure from Gonzalez’s recent work, the album is a medley, reminiscent of the last portion of Abbey Road.
“It’s almost like a rock version of the overtures they used have in things like West Side Story and Tommy,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez wrote the medley’s five songs separately and had no intention of putting them together at first, but he later found they seemed share a common thread. After some work arranging the songs, he found the experiment worked more smoothly than he expected.
“They were all written around the same time and all had a sort of darker theme because of a lot of weird stuff going on in my life at the time,” Gonzalez said. “So I decided to put them together. When I sat down and tried to piece them together, I found they fit together almost like a puzzle.”
During the time of songwriting, Gonzalez had lost a close relative, had a falling out with a friend, and spent a great deal of time away from his family on tour. But he also found himself surrounded by great friends and musicians. This rocky contrast heavily influenced the content of the songs Gonzalez wrote, leading up to the tracks that comprise the medley. Gonzalez also found his musical inspirations possessed a similar songwriting sensibility, which helped create what is now.
“I think my favorite mood of music is that wistful, upbeat but kind of bittersweet feeling kind of stuff,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like a lot of the pop bands from the ‘70s, like Big Star, have that sort of feel to them. It just seemed to fit. And it made an easy pun, so I had to take it.”
The album, recorded at Studio 1093 in Athens, Ga., with musical assistance from Gonzalez’s friends Chris Grehan and Joe Rowe, has been finished and mastered. However, distribution will take a twist, as Gonzalez has launched a Kickstarter in order to get 500 vinyl copies of the album pressed.
The album’s b-side will feature a custom etching by Athens artist Jeff T. Owens, making the vinyl an artistic endeavor in itself. The music will also be available for purchase online, and a copy of the record will come with a download of the album as well.
Reward levels range from a pre-order of the album to personal guitar or keyboard lessons from Gonzalez. He is looking to raise $6,500 from the campaign.
“It was a long, drawn out process that really only ended up being 13 minutes, but a lot has sort of weaved its way into that,” Gonzalez said.
Following the album’s release, Gonzalez hopes to embark on a tour of his own, accompanied by Grehan and Rowe. Gonzalez has already proved himself a dynamic musician with the Truckers, but his own live shows offer creative, new fare as well, often featuring a homemade instrument that combines an acoustic guitar and a keytar.
“We played the whole piece straight through opening for the Truckers at the Georgia Theatre last year, and it went really well,” Gonzalez said. “So I’m hoping to do some more of that.”
Check out this video from his Kickstarter to get more of an idea of what Gonzalez is doing with The Bitter Suite.