June 4, 2009

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Beneath the blue suburban skies
Kennedy Lane Project records with big-time producer
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

“Serendipitous” is a word that the members of Kennedy Lane Project bring up frequently in conversation, and aptly so.

The paths of Burt Keirstead, Nick Louis and Jamie Perrine might not have crossed had it not been for Louis and Perrine’s initial contact as West Point cadets in the mid-1990s, and again as employees, along with Keirstead, at Nashua’s BAE Systems. A song that Keirstead wrote made it into the company’s end-of-the-year variety show, and Louis took notice.

“He said, ‘Jamie and I are playing in Jamie’s basement. Why don’t you come over?’” Keirstead recalls. “The cool thing was that we all had our different influences, and when we got together, it was really collaborative.”

The process behind the band’s new EP, Far From Gone, could also be described as serendipitous. They had independently released their self-titled first album in 2007, tracks from which were played on The River, an independent radio station based in Boston. The trio was hashing out new material when Louis decided to e-mail legendary producer Kevin Killen out of the blue, asking him to listen to a handful of the band’s demo songs.

“We were trying to figure out why things didn’t sound as good as the stuff you hear on the radio,” Louis recalls. “One day I decided to send one of our songs to Kevin. The worst he could say was no … or just not write back.”

But Killen, known for his work with Elvis Costello, U2 and Peter Gabriel, did write back. He liked what he heard. And he wanted to meet them. A few bounces off the wall later, Louis met up with him at a Portsmouth Starbucks during Killen’s trip to Gateway Studios in Portland, Maine.

“[We] started chatting and things. He said, ‘Look, I think you guys have something unique, otherwise I wouldn’t be here talking to you. I’d be interested in recording you guys,’” Louis recalls.

After visiting Louis’ home studio, located on Kennedy Lane in New Boston, and deeming it sufficient for professional recording, Killen spent a week with Kennedy Lane Project last September, revising and recording the three songs that make up Far From Gone. Working with Killen meant 12- to 14-hour days for the band, fine-tuning their work to achieve the studio-quality sound they desired. Keirstead jokingly calls it “a master’s degree in music production,” but added that working with Killen is an opportunity most unsigned bands can only dream of. 

“For someone like that, as a businessman, you go, ‘Whoa, why is he spending time with us when he could be like doing another album with Elvis Costello?’” Keirstead says. “When you think about it, he’s heard a lot of stuff, so there must have been an essence that he kind of dug. But then he also saw, OK, these guys aren’t crazy. He saw that it was probably a worthwhile risk for him to take with us.”

The week the trio spent away from work with Killen was also a week when their families had to take a backseat to their fledgling music careers. With three partners and eight children between them, balancing work, music and family time is a delicate act not easily achieved. After three and a half years together as a band, it remains a challenge, Perrine says.

“You have folks who say, ‘Music is my thing, I’m going for it,’ and either you skip college or right after college you go for the music and iron it out and do what you can,” he explains. “We’ve kind of taken the path of doing the responsibility thing first, doing the families and children and careers and being successful in [our] careers. And now we’re like, ‘I still really love music.’”

In the near future, Kennedy Lane Project hopes to continue maintaining the balance between work and family, but they want to continue pushing their original music as far as it can go. With a producer like Killen in their corner, the odds are definitely in their favor.

“That sort of feedback reinforced that we do have something unique and clever here,” says Louis. “I don’t think it’s pure luck that these things happen. It’s really been pretty cool working with these guys.”


Far From Gone
What: Kennedy Lane Project CD release party
Where: Margarita’s, 1 Nashua Drive, Nashua
When: Thursday, June 11, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
To hear samples from Far From Gone, visit www.myspace.com/kennedylaneproject.