The idea had been growing in my brain for some time- true force. Or, rather, to do a split with Bleak because they were the only band in town I could think of that could do justice to the best Unsane song there is. And I wanted to do vocals over it.
So the idea was hatched- Dialysis would do a split 7” with Bleak where each band would choose a cover for the other band to play and the vocalist from the other band sang on it. So I chose for Bleak to cover “Sick” by Unsane and I sang it. Bleak chose for Dialysis to cover “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” by Tom Waits, except we did it more in Dialysis fashion and it ended up more like the Ramones version of the Tom Waits song. There was only one problem.
“Yeah, we didn’t have a vocalist.” Bleak bassist Matt Jaime states regarding the time their portion of the 7” was recorded. Their previous vocalist, Scott Thayer, who sang on the “We Deserve Our Failures” LP, had moved out of the country and the band was in need of a singer.
It’s kind of weird.
The collective Bleak/Dialysis crew
“You came up with the idea- each band does a cover and an original. And we had always wanted to do a Tom Waits cover. But you chose our cover and did the vocals, but we decided to also do another cover, which was the Tom Waits song.”
So Bleak actually recorded the Unsane cover, as well as a Tom Waits song of their own- “God’s Away On Business”.
Who sang the Tom Waits cover?
“That was this dude Randall, one of TJ’s (guitarist for Bleak) friends”, another fill-in for a band in transition.
And Matt from Bleak ended up doing the vocals for the Dialysis Tom Waits cover.
“Yeah, that’s a great song. I was stoked to do that. But when you all play it live I like it a lot better when you sing it. I like that version. You ought to re-record that with you singing.”
One of many shows the bands played together, this one in Buffalo
That period was a bit strange for Bleak because they still had shows booked. They relied on some fill-in’s to keep things moving along. Since Dialysis and Bleak often were playing shows together there was a particular weekend where the band took John (guitar) from Dialysis to Cincinnati with them and he sang their set. The next day the rest of Dialysis met up with them in Buffalo and both myself and John split vocals for their set, after Dialysis had already played a set. Finally, the last show of the weekend was in Syracuse, where I did the entire Bleak set with them.
“We talked about it for a super long time, and when we finally did it it was really quick and we just spat it out”, recalls Matt Calabrese (drums) of Dialysis, in regards to our end of the recording.
“We’ve done a lot of recordings but these ones passed so quickly. I think we worked on that recording for one day. I played drums for a day and my work there was done. We recorded with Jay Bailey (Architect, Ebony Sorrow) in his basement. We did “Things I Hate…”, the cover, and “Cat Magnet” that we wrote on the spot. I think Jay had been having band practice earlier that day too. He switched from band mode right into recording mode. He’s a fucking animal.”
The ongoing theme of ridiculous test press covers continues
That recording session yielded the aforementioned “Things I Hate About This Place”, the companion song to “Things I Like About This Place” from the “Abastab” 7”, which started with an identical riff, but a different lyrical theme. It finally found a home on this split, as we had been sitting on the song for about a year. Additionally, “Cat Magnet” is, to date, the only song Dialysis has never released. The music was kept, but the lyrics changed, and became the song “Laugh Track Factory” on the Dialysis full length the next year.
Another show played together, this time in Ithaca
Calabrese continues, “One thing I remember at that time is that Dialysis and Bleak were playing a lot of shows together, and seeing each other a lot, and having a lot of fun together. That period of about a year or so was a really fun time.”
It was those numerous interactions, as well as sharing a band room, some members working at the same places, and just having known each other for a long time that really led to this split being a natural extension of all those collected experiences together. It was a fun record to do because the idea was kind of ludicrous. “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” became a staple in the Dialysis set for awhile and occasionally Matt from Bleak would sing it with us. I believe Bleak played out “Sick” (their Unsane cover) once in the live setting.
Matt from Bleak singing with Dialysis doing the "I Don't Wat To Grow Up" cover
This record also gave me a chance to do something I had wanted to do for a long time with a record and that was to do a letterpressed cover. I had always been fascinated with letterpressing and literally a few blocks down the street from our practice spot was Boxcar Press, one of the largest and most well-known letterpress companies in the country. Located on Syracuse’s West Side, Boxcar Press has been in operation for nearly 100 years and has one of the biggest set up’s for letterpress anywhere. So I created a design for the record which I felt would work well as a letterpress, which was almost entirely heavy text in weird shapes so it required a polymer to be made, as opposed to the traditional form of letterpress where you literally have to select each letter made out of metal to line up as a line of text and then frame it, center it, and manually print it with a roller. This required one giant piece with the design (polymer) of the image (in this case, weird blocky text) printing onto thick, black paper. It was an unusual process for a company that was used to frequently making wedding invitations for extremely wealthy families. But I knew there were some punks working there and they would appreciate the opportunity to work on something different and less formal. Forgive me for nerding out about this process, I just got really into the design part of this record.
Nerd shit with the letterpress cover both inside and out, as well as the insert
So, all in all, it was a record that I had no delusions that it would sell through the roof or anything close to that. It was a wild idea that brought some friends together to make some really cool music, scratched an itch I had for a certain kind of packaging I had wanted to do for a long time, and I got to lay down vocals for one of my favorite songs ever. And the rest of it came out a lot better than I had thought it would as well. So it was a labor of love, fun, jokes, and camaraderie. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
And with that I offer you all a deal. You may take advantage of it for the next week. Get yourself that split 7", which will include bonus goodies, for a mere $4. Or purchase the digital version for only $2. It's all available HERE. You can't beat that, can you?