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"Keith has an affinity for old opera records: great storytelling, very dramatic in the presentation of it," Stockslager says. "I think that comes through in the music, but then you've also got a flavor of...when I first saw these guys play, I picked up on Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, the Clash--it was contemporary as well."
While there isn't much contemporary to be found anywhere in the house, or at least not contemporary by Clear Channel standards, that seems to be the common bond between these housemates, who met as the result of a rooftop serenade of sorts, back when Stockslager was playing with Sons of Sound.
"I was walking in Denton putting up fliers," Killoren says, "and all I'm hearing are these keyboards playing on Fry Street. I heard this total Zombies-esque, Question Mark & the Mysterians-sounding Farfisa organ coming from the sky, and I was like, 'Where the hell is that coming from?' I realized it was [Sons of Sound sound-checking on] the rooftop of Cool Beans. I ran up there and I see [Chad], and we had met a month before at the Curtain Club. He'd said to me that he played keyboards, but I kinda blew him off, 'cause I didn't know he was playing those kinds of keyboards. And then, when we started playing together, it was like a long-lost brotherhood. Right away, the record collections started getting swapped."
"This guy was already writing great tunes long before I met him," Stockslager adds. "Whenever you get in a situation like that, and you can come on and add harmony and stuff like that, it's a real treat."
Compared with Budapest One's previous albums, This Town reflects a real collaboration between the roommates, and not just because it's their first album together. The sharing of creative duties is apparent in the larger focus on piano parts, harmony vocals and a more tight-knit sound on the record.
"Our last album was done in three days, and this time, we did weeks of [recording], and Chad and I were able to prepare all these ideas," Killoren says. "It was a matter of time; we got to prepare, so songs came out more orchestrated."
Budapest One hit the studio with the pAper chAse's John Congleton at the helm, whose most recent production efforts have been with more straight rock bands such as Baboon and 90 Day Men. Asked how such a producer could fit with the different style that Budapest One brings to the Dallas music scene, the guys were all smiles. It has a good answer: "He likes that we sound like Tom Jones with fangs," Killoren says. "He likes the sinister nature of it."
"He was always trying to play that up," Stockslager says. "Keith would do a vocal and he'd be like, 'It wasn't quite sinister enough. Do it again. Show me some claws.' We had recorded all these vocal tracks before we had even gone in with Congleton to do the album, and I think that was essential in getting some of the sounds we wanted. I think we stayed up until five in the morning one night fooling with this four-track, just getting all the songs down. We'd put headphones on his head and say, 'Here's what we fooled around with before, months ago,' and he was completely responsive to it."
Before the two met to hammer out songs, though, Budapest One's seeds were far from sown. Killoren's first group, Three Liter Hit, was a college band in Wisconsin that Keith described as "circus-rock," featuring preachers' gospels scratched on turntables and Killoren "jumping out in the audience and cutting up" in a priest's outfit. He made the move to Denton years ago, and the changes he faced forced him to take a new direction with music.
"I was without my bandmates that helped me write songs. I had to finish songs on my own, so I had to become my own kind of songwriter. I really spent the first three months here terrified of the heat and holed up inside, but I also tried to embrace Texas; I went nuts on Jimmy Rodgers and the like."
Not long after Killoren moved to Denton, he got an assist from Baboon's Steve Barnett, who helped record the first Budapest One album and gigged with the guys when one of their drummers split for Oklahoma City. Barnett was the first in a distinguished list of local timekeepers who've shown up on Budapest One albums.