The Raised by Wolves debut has been a long time coming anyway you look at it. For those who caught Christopher ("CT") Stephenson in his previous band, Memphis Quick 50, the wait stretches back to that act's 2000-2003 run and its promising self-titled release. And even if you mark RBW time beginning after that, it's still been a good chunk of chronological real estate since Stephenson wrote the diverse set of country- and indie-rock songs that make up Return to the House of Ill Repute.
"I'm not that prolific of a songwriter," Stephenson says. "I'm not a machine in that I can't sit down and write for the sake of writing. Usually some bad shit's got to go down to get my juices flowing a little bit, you know? When life's going good, I don't do that much writing."
The bad shit must've been raining down when Stephenson, now 32, moved to Chapel Hill after the break-up of Memphis Quick 50 and began recording demos at his brother John's home-studio. The 10 songs, whose influences run the gamut from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- and Summer Teeth-era Wilco and early My Morning Jacket to Nirvana and Whiskeytown, are replete with "broken hearts and weird imagery" that would qualify as bummer-ful if the music didn't tend to lift the listener up with it.
"Because they were all written over a three or four-year period," Stephenson says, "throughout that time your style's going to change, what you're listening to sometimes comes out in your music -- well, it does in mine, anyway. But they all come from the same context."
Stephenson returned to Charlotte after a year in the Triangle, but it took him a while to get a band together and think about recording the material. After going through a typical litany of temporary band-mates, he eventually turned to two former MQ50 partners-in-crime, Charlie Heard (drums) and Bobby Gillespie (bass), as well as ex-Houstons' member Grant Funderburk on guitar.
Stephenson says that once they solidified the new line-up, "some of the song dynamics changed." And when Raised by Wolves entered 34th Street Studios in September of 2007, the songs underwent yet more alterations with co-producer/engineer Joe Kuhlmann.
"He had really good ideas, and I think he did good stuff with our sound," says Stephenson, citing the sonically adventurous disc-opener, "See Touch." "He was pretty much the mastermind behind all that's going on there, the ring modulations and funky bass-lines."
Kuhlmann wound up playing bass on half the songs, and Jon Phillips, late of The Young Sons, added keys and backing vocals throughout. The title had been floating around for a while, an off-the-cuff remark that "just stuck around" after a long night (and morning after) of recording and merry-making Stephenson says. "I guess it does fit the topics and themes okay, too."
Stephenson and company don't plan on taking their time to follow up, either. With nine new songs already in their arsenal, the plan is to return to the studio in January or February. But for now, Stephenson's going to enjoy sharing some Ill Repute at the Raised by Wolves Nov. 1 CD-release party at Snug Harbor -- the same night he celebrates his 33rd birthday -- and on an opening slot for friend Nicole Atkins at the Neighborhood Theatre in November. Then, it's back to business.
"Hopefully it won't take three years," he laughs.
Irreconcilable Sons – The short-lived indie power-poppers The Young Sons recently split up on the eve of its debut's release, and if you had hopes of hearing Hearts Inc. in its entirety don't hold your breath. According to a post from (the aforementioned) Jon Phillips on the already-vanished YS MySpace page: "[The rest of the band] really wanted to see the full young sons album 'hearts inc.' come out on iTunes, as we spent a good deal of time and energy on that recording, and it only seems logical to have the album exist as an artifact of the band that was, and of this past year together. at the time of writing this, justin williams has decided that of the 12 songs we recorded, he's taking half (the six he principally wrote), and not allowing us to release the record in full. it's a shame, because the rest of us can't wait to get on with our lives and new projects, and frankly, could care less about holding on to these jams in any way other than as a document of the group that is no more." And so they have, as The Young Sons page now diverts to South Career. Stay tuned.