They’re picking up the threads of an old act.
Brooklyn band Burlap To Cashmere is releasing its first album in five years. The band, which sounds like equal parts Paul Simon and Django Reinhardt, uses the folk-singer-songwriter paradigm as a jumping-off point, incorporating odd-time signatures and exotic melodies from the members’ Hellenic heritage.
The new cuts — collectively titled “Freedom Souls” — are a nod to the group’s beginnings, but benefitting by the quintet’s musical maturity, the guitarist said.
“We’re tipping the hat to the first album, which has a lot more of the flashy guitar and Gypsy-Greek bouzouki thing,” said guitarist John Philippidis, referring to the guitar-like Mediterranean instrument called a bouzouki. “But we recorded everything live — there’s absolutely no auto-tuning, no Pro-Tools trickery on this album.”
They cut two of the new tracks in a basement practice space under Bay Ridge’s former Griswalds Pub on Third Avenue and 78th Street, he said.
Rhythmically, the band eschews straight-forward singer-songwriter vibes for complex time signatures — something that can make recording an entire song in one take a tricky ordeal. But things are easier for the group because they’re cut from the same cloth, Philippidis said.
“We just write the music in odd time — it’s not on purpose,” said Philippidis, whose Greek father was a trained jazz man. “That is for us very standard, and that’s why we love Teddy [Pagano, the drummer]. He grew up with us and we could always throw this music at him.”
The band’s previous releases were backed by major labels, but they went straight to fans to finance the latest venture through a crowd-funding website, Phillippidis said.
“Every time we do a record with a label, they do nothing to help us except pat us on the back and say ‘good job,’ ” he said. “Selling 600,000 records with A&M Records did nothing for my wallet.”
Burlap To Cashmere formed in Bensonhurst in 1994, but they could have started anywhere, because the once-predominantly Italian neighborhood’s prevalent music struck discord with the band’s sound, Philippidis said.
“We lived in Bensonhurst when it used to be a mob neighborhood — it couldn’t have been more opposite from what influenced us,” said Philippidis, who counts Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan among those who inform Burlap’s sound. “We were totally little kids who were not cool at all — we were the anti-cool. Everyone was into hair metal or guido music, and we were just like ‘Ugh, that’s all terrible.’ ”
Burlap to Cashmere’s “Freedom Souls” is available through iTunes, Amazon, and the band’s website www.burlap