Raphael Cutrufello’s latest was inspired by the Bride of Frankenstein.
You know how some albums have a hidden track? Raphael Cutrufello’s latest album, Have You Seen Our New Fort? (Yer Bird Records), the third release under the moniker Hezekiah Jones, has a hidden purpose: Each song is a mini soundtrack to parts of the 1935 cult sci-fi classic Bride of Frankenstein.
Sometimes, Cutrufello sits in front of his television, guitar in lap and remote in hand, rewatching the film for the umpteenth time, searching for just the right three-to-four minute clip to inspire his next song. “I press play and record at the same time and go, but it’s really difficult,” he says.
“‘Airplane Windows,’ the opening track, starts when you see the airplane coming around the world,” he explains. “You hear the propeller coming from left to the right and then ‘Airplane Window’ starts. It’s about finding spaces and matching with songs that either make sense rhythmically or through lyrics.”
This bit of weird genius is a result of Cutrufello, a prolific but laid-back alt-folk singer, striking up a creative partnership with producer Andrew Lipke, a multi-instrumentalist and musician in his own right with a penchant for complex projects.
“When Lipke and I were first making this album, we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have video for an entire album?’ So we started brainstorming.” Rejected films include Marx Brothers’ classic Duck Soup and Tom Selleck’s mustache vehicle Three Men and a Baby.
Now, the goal is to write songs to fill in the gaps of the movie not covered by tracks on the album, like “Borrowed Heart,” a single produced by local legend Brian McTear (for the Weathervane Music/WXPN Shaking Through series). “Borrowed Heart” syncs note for note with the scene when the bride is built.
The secret soundtrack isn’t the only thing that sets Fort apart from previous Hezekiah Jones albums. For one thing, the longer, smoother vocals are missing that world-weary crack reminiscent of Will Oldham. “I’m not scared of my voice anymore,” says Cutrufello.
It’s also more lush and cinematic, thanks to Lipke’s vision of elaborate instrumentation pinned down by heavy bass tracks. “Some tunes have electric bass, and then a muted electric bass played with a pick,” explains Hezekiah Jones bassist Phil D’Agostino. Other songs have upright bass, electric bass and then bass doubled on guitar.
The response to the album, both live and in the press, has been overwhelmingly positive, and Cutrufello remains very busy. Not that he’s complaining. “To be honest, I can’t really afford to leave my house,” he laughs. “If you get paid, you realize you’re doing something well. Someone says something nice, you realize the same thing. It’s nice to get one or the other. I can’t pay my rent, but it makes my mom happy.”
Concerts in the Piazza kicks off this Wed., Aug. 17, with a Reggae Night and continues next Wed., Aug. 24, with Nico’s Gun, Cheers Elephant + Hezekiah Jones. Both shows are free.
We’re going to say it: This moment RIGHT NOW is the most exciting in Philadelphia’s storied music history. Truthfully. No exaggeration. Gamble and Huff be damned.
PW's 2014 College Issue
PW's Music Issue 2014