What do you get when you combine a legendary, much-honored man of letters and an adventurous New York songwriter? One of the most orginal and enthralling indie-pop releases of the year: Excursions In Trevorland by John Dunbar.
How did this unlikely collaboration come about? It all started with a self-imposed homework assignment Mr. Dunbar gave himself in search of inspiration. "I was reading a book called 'Squeeze—Song By Song,' which is a series of interviews with Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford on their entire recorded output," explains Dunbar. "Seeing how they worked together got me interested in writing with someone else, which is something I never do. Especially when it comes to lyrics, if anything I write way too many. I am often called a bookworm and William Trevor is someone I'm constantly reading, re-reading and re-re-reading. Being a bit of a song title fetishist, I always thought that Trevor's story titles sounded like great names for songs. One day I pulled out one of his story collections, The Day We Got Drunk On Cake. How great a title is that? So I tried to write a song by that name that could encapsulate his tale in a few minutes. It was a challenge, and it made me write in a way I would not have otherwise."
After pulling it off once, Dunbar tried it again, and then again. He would read one of Trevor's stories, taking notes, grabbing great phrases and outlining the story. Then he would try to turn the tale into a pop song. Before too long he had enough for a full album. "I know that stories get turned into films and plays. And many people have composed songs from famous poems. But I couldn't think of anyone that did something like I was trying to do, So I gave it shot," Dunbar tells. "I started playing the songs for people and was getting a great response. I even got some non-readers to run to a bookstore and pick up some William Trevor books."
The songs themselves recall the elite tunesmiths of our time, such as Ray Davies, Glenn Tilbrook and Harry Nilsson. The classic literature transforms into a variery of tunes: A Bit On The Side becomes a jaunty vaudevillian sing-along, The Ballroom Of Romance a dark and jazzy song where you can almost hear the smokey haze hovering above the melody, Another Christmas turns the bittersweet tale into a future holiday classic and Autumn Sunshine transforms into an atmospheric, hook-filled tale of loss and hope.
John Dunbar was the leader of the band A Confederacy Of Dunces that put out a couple of critically acclaimed releases in the '90's (Tsk, Tsk, Tsk and Dunces With Wolves). Since the demise of the band, John has put out solo releases (The Man Who Never Learns, New And Interesting Developments In Uselessness and the most recent The Moment You've Not Been Waiting For) He also composed an Off-Broadway musical (The Last Hand Laundry In Chinatown).