Middletown is July For Kings first album in over five years, and has been described by the band as a return to JFK's signature sound, complete with crushing distorted guitars, melodic hooks and vignettes of American midwestern life. Songwriter and lead vocalist Joe Hedges elaborates, "this album is really for the fans. As we have grown in different directions as individuals, July For Kings as an entity retained a power and importance for a lot of people, and this album is a way of respecting that for ourselves and for listeners."
While the album's recording was essentially a Cincinnati-area DIY effort with long-time collaborator Eric Stewart, guitarist/recording engineer John McGuire oversaw the completion and mixing of the record as executive producer, bringing in two Los Angeles-based mixing engineers Michael James (L7, Hole, Jane's Addiction) and Paul Pavao (Breaking Benjamin, Marilyn Manson). John McGuire, a University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Conservatory of Music graduate, also mixed several songs at his own studio J Mac Studios in Cincinnati, and Toledo-based Jeff Harris of Mad Sam Studios mixed one of the album's ballads "Kite", which features original JFK member T Miller on cello.
The carefully balanced post-grunge and pop sensibilities of Middletown, grounded by Hedges' consistently thoughtful and personal lyrics mean the record has more in common with JFK's 2001 MCA debut SWIM than any other July For Kings or Joe Hedges effort. Hedges explains, "the songs were all written over a period of several months so I think they stick together pretty well. We were really deliberate about making a record that was big but could still be sensitive. I've always enjoyed albums that are dynamic, that show a range of human emotions."
The power-pop inspired track six is about Middletown, Ohio, the album's namesake and the high school stomping grounds of Hedges and drummer Dan McQuinn (who also contributed some production to the record). "Middletown is a pretty typical small town. I always liked the connotations of the name, Middle-Town as in middle of America, middle of the road, etc. The city has some economic problems like any other rust belt city, but also is home to some extremely hard-working and generous people." Hedges and McQuinn met in Middletown, OH as kids and "used to watch each other's high school bands perform Tool covers. The song is just about growing up there--playing music, driving cars, attempting to talk to girls".
Other tracks range from aggressive nearly-metal "Climb" and "Back to Life" to acoustic ballads like "Believe Me" and "Tarantula". The album somehow holds together, despite five years of recording, ten studios and a wide range of stories and moods. While the record is guitar-heavy, there are some much appreciated moments of cello, piano and even trumpet to keep listeners engaged while adding some musicality.
Longtime July For Kings fans will undoubtedly relish this effort. This album may also be a gateway for new fans and younger audiences to appreciate the wall-of-guitars sound that reigned before flannel gave way to plaid and earnest Alternative became ironic indie. For those of us who never lost interest in music that was at once powerful and humble, you may now eat your heart out in Middletown--if just for July.
released July 14, 2015
Executive Producer John McGuire
Produced by July For Kings and Eric Stewart
Additional production by John McGuire and Dan McQuinn
All lyrics and music by Joe Hedges, Machines & Dreams (BMI)
Recorded by John McGuire at J-Mac Studios in Cincinnati, OH and by
Eric Stewart at The Stewdio in Middletown, OH
Tracks 1, 6 and 9 mixed by Paul Pavao in Los Angeles, CA
Tracks 2 and 3 mixed by Michael James at IndieProMix in Los Angeles, CA
Track 4 mixed by Jeff Harris at Mad Sam Studios in Toledo, OH
Tracks 5 and 7 mixed by John McGuire at J-Mac Studios in Cincinnati, OH
Tracks 8, 10 and 11 mixed by Michael James at IndieProMix in Los Angeles, CA with additional mixing by John McGuire at J-Mac Studios in Cincinnati, OH
Mastered by Dave Davis of The All Night Party in Cincinnati, OH
Additional recording on tracks 1, 3 and 10 by Eric Stewart at Refraze Recording Studio in Dayton, OH. Additional recording on Tracks 1, 3 and 6 by Eric Stewart at Downtown Recording in Louisville, KY. Additional recording on Track 10 by Ryan Marcotte at Blackwater Sound in Loveland, OH. Additional recording on tracks 2, 4 and 8 by Rob Nadler at Fat Track Studio in Cincinnati, OH. Additional recording by Dan McQuinn at Poolside Sound in Covington, KY.
Guitars by Joe Hedges and John McGuire
Drums by Dan McQuinn
Bass by Aaron Thomas except track 8 by Drew Phillips
Backing vocals by Dan McQuinn and Joe Hedges
Additional backing vocals on tracks 5, 6 and 11 by John McGuireBacking vocals and additional guitar on track 10 by Aaron Thomas
Cello on track 4 by Travis Wong Miller
Trumpet on track 8 and organ on track 3 by Jason Easter
Piano on track 8 by John McGuire
Loops on track 10 by Dan McQuinn
Additional instrumentation by Eric Stewart, Dan McQuinn and John McGuire
Art direction by Jiemei Lin and Joe Hedges
Cover photo by Joe Hedges
Back cover photo and insert photo by Jiemei Lin
Studio photos by John McGuire
July For Kings is:
Joe Hedges - Vocals, Guitars
John McGuire - Guitar, Backing vocals
Dan McQuinn - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Brian Ives - Bass
Thank you to our families, friends and supporters over the years, especially these people who have made the production of this album possible: Jiemei Lin, Brandon and Holly Marusa, Bob and Carol Ives, Rebecca Hedges, Sean Tracey, Lisa Bone, Doug Howell, Markus Kleiner, Keith Wallace, Kirstin Fallang, Amber McDonough, Kevin Chuck, Peter Weber, Jaden Sempsrott, Jesse Vela, Jon Price, Timothy Henson, Nick Miller, Nicole Brown, Jonathan O’Sullivan, Karen and Geno Stewart, Hannah Farrell, Bryan Russel, Eric Tuffandsam at Moonlight Studios, Catherine Garber, Jason Smithers and Clark Tucker.
This album was resuscitated once by Eric Stewart and again by Aaron Thomas, John McGuire of jmacstudios.com
and Michael James at indiepromix.com
. Thank you all for your patience and encouragement.