With a video for the lead single "People Please," Mapache announce Swinging Stars out August 18, a new LP of cosmic folk filled with distinct styles from a slow-burner that sounds something like Bob Weir fronting Crazy Horse to Toussaint swing and Parsons shine, a cowboy-chord ballad and more.
In the past, Mapache recording sessions have been pretty laid-back affairs, with friends coming and going, the sessions starting and stopping at the band’s discretion—as relaxed a process as the immaculately sunny vibes that their four albums would suggest. But on their dynamic and ambitious fifth album of cosmic-folk, Swinging Stars, Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch decided to take a trip and hunker down somewhere particularly special.
“It’s a pretty impactful place,” Finch says of the Panoramic House, the artist retreat where Swinging Stars was recorded. “It’s kind of dramatic. It’s a castle-y building on a hill, way up overlooking the Bay.”
Located in Stinson Beach in Marin County, California, the Panoramic House has recently hosted acts like My Morning Jacket, the War on Drugs, and Cate Le Bon, and was the ideal combination of scenic beauty and self-imposed confinement to allow Mapache to settle in for their most cohesive album yet. “That environment yields itself to a higher level of focus because everybody’s together for a week,” says Finch, explaining that the band stayed there during the process, sharing every bit of their time and energy on a shared vision. “We were all captive. No one could escape,” he laughs.
The band share a new video for first album singe "People Please," which they explain, "Some people talk your life into a corner in the name of god or religion, but you can talk your life back with whatever vocabulary you feel inside. It’s just about playing how you feel."
Swinging Stars, an album of calm, second-nature swagger, is the natural result of a band that’s existed in one form or another for its founders’ entire adult lives. Finch and Blasucci first met as students at La Cañada High School, just north of Los Angeles, where they both had a guitar class: “There wasn’t much supervision or anything,” remembers Blasucci. “It was really nice. And we got to just play guitars together.”
The two stayed friends through their college years—Finch went to Chico State and Blasucci spent two years as a missionary in Mexico—and eventually they ended up back in L.A., spending their days playing guitar together once again, just like old times. Working with producer/engineer Dan Horne (Cass McCombs, Allah-Las), they recorded four albums —2017’s Mapache, 2020’s From Liberty Street, 2021’s 3, and 2022’s Roscoe’s Dream. Often trading solos, and occasionally switching from English to Spanish, Finch and Blasucci are perfectly in sync together.
But the duo have also been developing their own personal voices in recent years as well—partially the result of the two of them living in separate cities for the first time in years. (Blasucci now lives in Ojai, and Finch in Malibu.) As Finch explains, that means the “meat and potatoes” of the songs were cooked up more on their own than they had been in the past. “What a Summer,” a slow-burn that sounds something like Bob Weir fronting Crazy Horse, is unmistakably Finch, for instance; “French Kiss,” with its Toussaint swing and Parsons shine, is Blasucci all the way. “Swinging Stars was probably the first Mapache record where each of us really leaned into our personal, distinct styles,” Blasucci explains.
Still, many of the songs on Swinging Stars are the result of a significant amount of group work on the road, sharpening and refining them, getting them just so before hitting the studio with their trusted collaborator Horne, who produced the set. Swinging Stars is also notable for its introduction of drummer Steve Didelot as a formal member of the band, with him playing on every track, and contributing an original song as well—“Reflecting Everything,” a cowboy-chord ballad sparkling with Finch and Blasucci’s guitars, and with Horne’s impeccable slide guitar.
There are also two special features: one from the Allah-Lahs’ Spencer Dunham, who plays bass on “French Kiss,” and another from David Rawlings, who graciously took the call to play acoustic guitar on the album’s finale, “Where’d You Go,” recording his part remotely. “He’s someone who Sam and I look up to in a pretty serious way,” Finch says. “So it was cool to have him.”
Mapache is so easygoing that their vibe belies their prolificness at times. Swinging Stars is their fourth album in as many years, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Blasucci chalks it up partly to the fact that, when you have two principal songwriters in a band, “the songs come in quickly and they stack up quickly.” It helps, too, that they’re just in the right place to be making music. “We’re just trying to make hay while the sun shines,” as Finch puts it. “None of us have any babies or anything and we’re all pretty committed to playing as much music as we can. And really focused on making something beautiful.”
Sam Blasucci, best known as one half of Mapache, a duo just as instantly recognizable for their elegant, intertwined guitar parts as they are for their devoted, Nudie-Suit wearing fanbase, shares a new video for first single "Turn Yourself Around" off forthcoming debut solo LP Off My Stars (due out June 2, 2023).
Blasucci explains, "I wrote this song in January 2019 at the home of fellow LA musicians Anna Pomerantz and Colby Buddlemyer. It is about my curiosity at the beginning stages of romance. Years later, this song became a sort of theme song for our dear friend Roman, featured in the music video, and his late husband Al (1936-2022). Roman and Al were to be in the video together when Al rather suddenly passed, so we decided to make it a tribute to him. Some words that feel like "Turn Yourself Around" to me are water, intoxicated, glow, cold, mercy, fog, and blue. Al moves about and we stay put and here is ‘Turn Yourself Around’ for now."
When Blasucci was writing the songs that would become Off My Stars, he found himself less focused on the guitar and more gravitated toward a different instrument: piano. The mother of Clay Finch, his Mapache bandmate, was getting rid of one, and so Blasucci took the piano, carefully transporting it to his home in Ojai, California, with the help of a few strong friends, including Farmer Dave Scher of Beachwood Sparks (and a Mapache collaborator). “Farmer Dave wasn’t even wearing shoes,” Blasucci remembers, laughing. Once the piano was safely in there, he became deeply attached, playing on it multiple hours a day: “It’s changed the way I think about music, having all the keys laid out in front of me,” he explains. “Having that sort of changed everything.”
Also inspired by his recent time riding out the pandemic in New Orleans, where the clubs may have closed but the music never stopped, Blasucci used that piano to start writing one of the most inspired batches of songs of his career thus far. New gems like “Turn Yourself Around” and “Sha La La” were developing with a Southern swing and classic songbook sparkle, and when assessing the growing stack of music he was working on, Blasucci realized that there was something about these tunes that wasn’t quite suited for a Mapache record.
Infused with an honest, personal perspective about settling into adult life—about developing as a person and a partner and a family member—these songs were straight from the heart, a clear window, recently Windexed, into the life of one of the most talented members of the L.A.-area underground rock scene. Using just as much inspiration from the music of Ronnie Wood and Sade as the films of Ingmar Bergman and the writing of Brian Doyle, Blasucci started to see a vision of songs that are all “fully autobiographical.”
Blasucci reached out to songwriter and producer Johnny Payne, and the two decamped to Dan Horne’s Lone Palm Studio, the home/studio where Mapache has in the past both recorded and abided in. Blasucci’s direction to Payne—acting as producer and as multi-instrumentalist, performing on everything from shaker to “guitar pancake”—was simple: no pretense, no affect, no Mr. Cool. This approach is most evident through covers on the record—like a stripped-down, achingly beautiful version of Dido’s ubiquitous “Thank You,” or a New Orleans-porch-worthy version of the Cranberries’ classic “Linger.” “There was nothing ironic or gimmicky about wanting to do those,” notes Blasucci. “I just really, really love those songs.”
Also covered on Off My Stars is a raw take on Jimmy Fontana’s timeless ballad “Il Mondo,” sung in its original Italian by Blasucci, who belts it in a performance that ends with him giving it all he has, his voice cracking as he reaches the song’s epic finale. “Il Mondo” is a song that Blasucci particularly wanted to do as a means to get more in touch with his Italian roots—and this wouldn’t be the only way he’d tap into family on the album.
On “Proud of You Dad,” Blasucci dug into his archives for a song that’s he had for some time, originally having written and recorded it just for his father, David Blasucci, a musician who was at one time a touring member in the band Toto, and who has performed and acted in Christopher Guest movies like A Mighty Wind. “If I ever told you this while we were in the same room / I know you would cover your ears and run,” Sam sings over a rustic, campfire acoustic progression. As Sam explains, David was a crucial influence on his taste: “A lot of the underlying styles that influenced the rest of the songs on the record definitely come from what he introduced me to,” Sam says. But Sam is his own man now, writing the new chapters of his own life with an aw-shucks tone that belies his prolific workload. Even through the pandemic—and even with the ongoing backlogs at pressing plants—Blasucci has still managed to put out beloved Mapache records in each of the last three years, and he and the band have no plans to slow down anytime soon. “I’m definitely the type of artist that is constantly creating,” Sam says, matter of fact. “And I can’t seem to really stop.”
Mapache — the “quintessentially laid-back” (UNCUT) Los Angeles-based duo of Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch whose “angelic harmonies weave between traditional folk and modern cosmic country music” (FLOOD) — release their new covers project 3 via Innovative Leisure. A tenderly crafted tribute to beloved music from past legends and admired contemporaries, 3 is a showcase for the seemingly effortless, unmistakably Californian musicality that has quickly become Mapache’s signature.
Created in the midst of the pandemic shutdown that interrupted the touring of their 2020 album From Liberty Street, 3 emerged after Sam and Clay hunkered down with their close friend and record producer Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Cass McCombs, Allah-Las) and began to work on vulnerable reinterpretations on some of their favorite songs. There are tributes to acknowledged classics — including a sun-dappled and swaying take on Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” and a romantically unhurried version of Sade’s “All About Our Love” — as well as inventive spins on songs by Allah-Las and Aussie psych-rockers Babe Rainbow.
The performances on 3 embody exactly what makes Mapache’s music so intoxicating: close harmonies, masterful musicianship, and a unique ability to tap into the innate vibrations of a song and tease out its moments of wonder. It’s a welcoming record that posits deep, thoughtful listening as the greatest means of escape.
Listen to 3 here: https://smarturl.it/mapache3
In our latest collaboration with Calico Discos (a label imprint by Allah-Las), we are pleased to announce an album of cover songs by the band Mapache entitled 3. "All About Our Love" - - Sade's timeless classic is the lead single from the forthcoming project and is out now across DSP's.
More info about the covers project:
Shortly after having their North American tour canceled due to Covid in March 2020, Sam, Clay & their close friend and producer Dan Horne decided to hunker down and use the time to work on an album of covers. Ranging from songs by close friends like Allah Las & Little Wings, to classics by Stevie Wonder & the Beach Boys, what resulted is an effortless & touching take on songs you may or may not be familiar with. Other artists include: Sade, Babe Rainbow, Peter Rowan, The Louvin Brothers