Mike and I first met Norman in November, 2000. The Pernice Brothers were opening for Teenage Fanclub in London at the Astoria. I recall us drinking a couple beers in the green room prior to the gig. My first exchange with Norman went something like this: I told Norman how much I dug his music. He told me he really liked my tune “Crestfallen.” I told him he should like it because I stole the coda idea directly from “The Concept.” (A word to the wise: always look uptown if you’re going to steal.)
Nick Hornby was there in the green room. I had met him for the first time earlier that day. He took me to lunch at his solid-oak literary club. I sat there homesick for baseball and hockey as famous (though not to me) footballers popped by our table. Nick would be a coincidental key player in the formation of The New Mendicants.
In the Astoria green room, we were all lamenting the possibility of George W. Bush winning the U.S. Presidency later that day in America. It really did seem like a dream. I can’t speak for everyone there, but I know I was still pre-September-eleven starry-eyed. Everything still seemed possible. Norman told me not to worry: “If Bush wins, I’ll adopt you.”
Cut to the summer of 2012. I’m living in Toronto for six years with my Canadian wife. Belitsky is living in Toronto with his American wife. I receive an email from Pernice Brothers drummer Patrick Berkery: “Norman is moving back to your area. Gave him your email.” The same day I received a brief missive from Norman which I saved: “Back in Canada at the end of next week. Want to be friends?” It was like we were to meet up at the same YMCA summer camp. I asked him if he liked archery.
We hung out at my house. Played guitars. Shot the shit. I grilled some salmon. Steamed a bit of asparagus. It was all really easy. I had a solo show booked for the next week. I asked Norman to sit in, which he did. I wouldn’t exactly say a band was born, but sperm had met egg at the Dakota in Toronto. (Norman, since I picked the metaphor, you can pick whether you’re sperm or egg. I’m fine with that.)
Soon after, Norman heard from a good friend who is a music supervisor for film back in England. She was working on the film of Nick Hornby’s book A Long Way Down. Since Norman and I both knew Nick, Norman’s friend suggested we write some tunes and submit them for consideration for the film soundtrack. We asked Mike Belitsky to join us. (Mike and I hadn’t played together since 2002 when he left The Pernice Brothers to drum with his current band The Sadies.) The New Mendicants were officially born.
We wrote and recorded a handful of songs that were almost exclusively about leaping to one’s death off a building, since that is the suicide method of choice in Nick’s book. Real toe-tapper stuff that, I must confess, is right in my wheelhouse. Well, the long and short of it is the film folks wanted not a single one of our tunes. But we sure did. We kept our favorites, and those would be the first tunes to be included on our debut LP Into the Lime.
It became apparent pretty quickly into recording that The New Mendicants should start a record label to release the vinyl in North America. We liked the idea of a hands-on DIY stuff-stamp-and-mail operation. Since I have owned Ashmont Records (with my partner and The New Mendicants manager Joyce Linehan) since 1999 and STILL refuse to join the ranks of online bankers, stuffing envelopes and mailing them is old hat.
I thought it would be cool for obvious reasons to name our label Expat Records. Norman suggested we remove the vowels. XPT. Great idea. Some real Lennon and McCartney shit right there. (I promise that last sentence was the only time I have compared and will compare my friends or myself to a Beatle.)
So there you have it. We started a band. We started a label. We’re releasing an LP called Into the Lime. Oh, right, we’re also releasing a Christmas 7”. The song is called “A Very Sorry Christmas. None of us is particularly religious, though Mike still insists there be “no pork” on our rider. Check out the blurb for the 7” to learn about the song’s genesis.
In addition to the band’s label XPT releasing the vinyl for North America, we’re happy the following labels will be releasing our music around the world: Ashmont Records will release Into the Lime on CD and download in North America; Spunk Records will release Into the Lime on CD and download in Australia; P-Vine will release Into the Lime on CD, download and vinyl in Japan; One Little Indian will release Into the Lime and the Christmas 7” on CD, download and vinyl everywhere else in the world.
Our friend Harry Farmer will be booking the band in the UK and Europe. And our old friend Frank Riley at Highroad Touring will be booking us in North America.
That’s pretty much the whole story, except for the whole musical story that’s still to come.
By the way, Norman never did adopt me after Bush became President….