John Agnello and I met for the first time about a year ago, in a bar. We were feeling each other out. He was deciding if he wanted to work with me and I was deciding if he was the right guy do take over production duties for a collection of songs that was becoming really close to my heart. I had loved recent records he’d worked on by Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur, Jr. (Agnello’s J. Mascis association goes back decades), but it also appealed to me that he’d been involved with some of the defining records of my pop childhood, singles like The Outfield’s “Your Love” and Scandal’s “The Warrior,” pop milestones like Cyndi Lauper’s incredible She’s So Unusual, and even grunge records I’d enjoyed like Screaming Trees’ Sweet Oblivion.
The meeting went great. John and I talked for hours. He really got where I was coming from with the project. I left the bar feeling very excited. Months later, I’d be down in Austin rehearsing every day with Okkervil River while he’d be sending me arrangement notes by night; we’d go over his notes, I’d demo my version of them, and then in the morning we would start the process again. The Silver Gymnasium sessions were the easiest and fastest record sessions I’d ever been involved with. Everything felt natural and right and intuitive. John was a tireless worker, a perfect cheerleader, and an inspiring partner. We’d work hard all day, go out for some drinks, and then repeat the process the next day. We were done in a month and change.
This podcast leans a little heavy on the “go out for some drinks” part of that equation. John wants to me to make it clear, I think, that he’s not a raging partier and I have to stand behind him on this. The man has a work ethic up there with the best I’ve ever seen. But I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t had some wonderful times, and this podcast should be taken more as a tribute to those times. This is us meeting up in a bar again, about a year out in Brooklyn, with some hidden microphones and some cocktails, me sort of “interviewing” John about his fascinating and long career, the highlights and the lowlights and the behind-the-scene stories, and us talking about the recording sessions and John’s secret to staying young, and a little bit of us patting each other on the back having not seen each other since the record came out, and most of all us cracking some exceedingly stupid jokes.The audio quality is not stellar but the quality of the company is. I hope you like it.