Orbis Max is an Internet recording collective with members located in San Diego CA, Dallas TX, Liverpool UK, and Vass North Carolina. The Covid Collaborations 2020 – 2021 is a compilation of the 13 singles released in the last few months.
Craig Carlstrom explains how the collective works.
Let us go where the music takes us. I think every time I listen to The Covid Collaborations 2020-2021. How did this compilation come about?
As you may remember, Patrick, from the last time we spoke a few years ago, we have recorded all of our material remotely via file sharing from the get-go. We’ve always brought in guest singers and musicians to appear on our songs with us. So by the time the pandemic hit, we had this method of recording down pat.
This album, The Covid Collaborations, is a compilation of all the singles we recorded from late 2019 thru 2021. Each song was released individually. Most of the songs did well on internet radio, reaching #1 and the top 10 on various indie charts. After doing 15 singles, we figured these would make a great album, a historical record of the Covid experience. Put them all together in one package—kind of a best-of album. As singles, they got airplay and were soon forgotten. So it made sense to package them all together.
Those magical moments when you’re working in the studio. Which moment was the most magical, and how did you create them as an Internet Recording Collective?
There were many magical moments. Like when we reached out to Lisa Mychols. I emailed her and sent her the backing track to record her vocals. She immediately responded that she liked the song and would love to sing it. That song is Be With You. When she returned her vocals, she said, ” I hope you don’t mind, but I rewrite the words and melodies. It was initially called Talk To Me. Those lyrics got new music and were passed on to Emperor Penguin. Lol. We were gobsmacked by what Lisa had done. She had stacked all of these dreamy harmonies, wonderful stuff.
Another was reconnecting with an earlier collaborator, Ed Ryan. We asked him for a song, and he sent us Everyone Wonders. He sent us a demo, and we re-recorded the music. The singer we had lined up backed out. We asked Ed if he’d sing it and add some guitar. It went to #1, much to everyone’s surprise.
We’ve worked with Ed now more than any other artist. Be it co-writing a song, or providing lyrics, or guitar parts. It’s been a very fruitful relationship. His latest efforts have been providing orchestration to two of our songs. Icarus (a song Paul Trip Ryan of Super 8 sent us) and our latest single from the new album, With A Girl. Absolutely gorgeous orchestral scores.
Every song is like that. It’s magical. We provide the artist with a blueprint and encourage them to do their thing. You get the track back, and it’s always a pleasant surprise hearing what they come up with. We aren’t bullies; we encourage them to follow their instincts. We haven’t been disappointed yet.
It seems pretty complicated to me to create a whole from all the bits and pieces that are exchanged via the internet?
The process isn’t that complicated. We send the artist our backing track. Include a click track to drop in next to it, so their tracks sync up with ours. They send us their individual tracks, and we drop them into our mix. It’s pretty common these days. But we’ve been doing this way all along. So we had a leg up on everybody. So when the pandemic hit, everyone had to learn how to do it out of necessity. Now everyone does it.
Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?
Choose three songs that represent Orbis Max. Hmmm, that’s hard cause we’re so eclectic. We’ve never been tied down to one genre. It could be anything from all-out ’60s-’70s rocker to an R&B song with horns or a stone-cold blues.
So I’ll pick four from the new album. You Sold Tomorrow a 60’s psych-rock thing. On The Radio, an R&B song with horns. Lonesome Journey, a blues number with horns. And my current favorite, because it’s so new, is the single from the album, With A Girl. It has a Dear Prudence vibe to it and beautiful orchestration. Those four are quite representative of the Orbis Max sound.
Which songwriters and musicians would you like to collaborate with and why?
What songwriters or artists would we like to work with. I’d have to think about that. We’ve already worked with so many of our faves. LOL. I guess Peter Horvath from The Anderson Council. I think he’s a brilliant power pop writer, great singer—Chris Church, for the same reasons.
We’re working on new material now with our in-house people. Take a break from working with prominent online artists. Lest people think we’re riding on all those people’s coattails. LOL. We’ll continue doing what we do—writing and recording singles. Once we have a bunch, we’ll put them together on another compilation.
I just listened to the new album and what struck me was, this is like listening to the radio. Different vocalists and genres of songs. A lot of variety like back in the day.
Dick Winter: drums
Don Baake: guitars, bass
Bruce Walker: keyboards
Jonny Viau: sax
Craig Carlstrom: bass, slide guitar
Dennis George: vocals
Rod Bennett: vocals, guitars, keyboards
Danny Wilkerson and Lannie Flowers
Neil Christie and Nigel Winfield
Paul “Trip” Ryan
Bill Seward and Will Seward