In 1996, Das Defino’s notebook was found in a field I’ve never visited, behind a yellow farmhouse in rural central Virginia, by folks I’ve never met. I’ve never seen the notebook either, except for a xeroxed copy brought to me by a friend I never see anymore. Whatever I found interesting from that notebook, I scrawled into a notebook of my own nearly twenty years ago and then promptly lost the original.
Who was Das Defino? That’s a good question and not one I’m prepared to answer, even after spending a year writing and recording a suite of songs about him. The Das Defino I know is a phantom--made up of details from a transcription of a copied, junked, apparently rain-soaked, discarded notebook somewhere near Charlottesville, Virginia.
The contents of the notebook read like a diary. It was full of self-affirmations and childhood memories. It was an inventory of life-goals and a dream journal. It was definitely odd, but probably not any odder than what another personal notebook or journal might look and read like out of context. Some of it was like reading someone’s Google search history for a year.
Except this person’s name is Das Defino--a very musical name, one that is a lot of fun to say and sing. That sound worked its way into some equally discarded and unfinished musical ideas I’d been hoarding for the last few years, and a year later, I’ve got the Das Defino Song Suite--a story told in three songs.
I tried to put together a group of songs that would seamlessly lead into one another. I knew I wanted the project to have a grand sound, so I reached out to composer Joshua Stamper to arrange parts for string quartet. Josh is an amazing composer who’s worked with a number of great artists. His work is moving (and moving) and unpredictable. I knew he would write something special for this, and he did. Josh brought in musicians from the Dark Horse Orchestra of Philadelphia to play the parts. It was really something else to watch and listen to Michelle Bishop, Shelley Weiss, Petula Perdikis, and Daniel Delaney bring those parts to life.
I was fortunate to have the talents of Matt Magarahan and Tim Celfo again, on drums and bass. It’s a great reminder that your half-ideas can become something really special when you involve friends as talented and creative as those two.
The same goes for Joel Metzler who produced and mixed the music. Joel has likely spent more time with the music than I have, and so it seems, as it does with great producers and engineers, that this project is more ours than mine.
Philip Shaw Bova mastered the record from his studio in Ottawa, Canada. He’s worked on projects for Feist, The Stars, and Bahamas, and I was happy to have him apply the final polishing.
I hope you enjoy this collection. It’s available now at my Bandcamp site--and soon some of your other favorite listening spots.
released 30 March 2015
All songs by Ben Smith, 2015
Ben Smith -- vox, piano, guitars
Matt Magarahan -- drums
Tim Celfo -- bass
String arrangement -- Joshua Stamper
Violins -- Michelle Bishop, Shelley Weiss,
Viola -- Petula Perdikis
Cello -- Daniel Delaney
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