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Jay Farrar, Ben Gibbard pay tribute to Kerouac

 Vocalist and guitarist Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California April 26, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files - Reuters
Vocalist and guitarist Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie performs at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California April 26, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files
— image credit: Reuters

By Michael D. Ayers

NEW YORK (Billboard) - In an ode to Beat author Jack Kerouac, alt-country musician Jay Farrar has teamed with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard for a collaborative album, "One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur."

The 12-song set will be released October 20 by F-Stop/Atlantic and will serve as the soundtrack to a Kerouac documentary of the same name.

Farrar and Gibbard were approached by the filmmakers in 2007 about writing music for the film, which documents the author's time spent in the Big Sur region of California. Both musicians are longtime Kerouac fans and, according to Farrar, they drew about 90 percent of the album's lyrics from his 1962 novel "Big Sur," including a poem that appears as an addendum to the book, "Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur."

The recordings took place over a three-year period, with the initial session taking place in San Francisco during summer 2007.

"I'd never met Jay before, and we found ourselves in a studio with a film crew, just blinking at each other, diving right into recording sessions," Gibbard told Billboard.com. "In that first session, we did three or four songs together. We had the trepidation of not really knowing each other; getting to know each other in real time as we were recording made for a beautiful recording."

Gibbard and Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Sun Volt) share vocal duties, and are augmented by Brad Sarno on pedal steel, Aaron Espinoza on bass for the title track and Mark Spencer on multiple instruments. Farrar contributes various guitars, percussion and harmonica elements, and Gibbard contributes guitars as well as drums on several tracks.

"There was a familiarity to Kerouac's words," Farrar said. "There was an element of a kid being left in charge of the candy store, in a way. Jack's method of writing -- the idea that you get raw ideas out there, the stream-of-consciousness method -- I've always appreciated it."

Farrar also said that pre-production was minimal for the recording, describing it as "essentially a deconstruction of the recording process."

"It wasn't so much an effortless recording session, but it felt like the songs were in the driver's seat," Gibbard added. "We were very conscious not to overproduce them and add layers of vocals or overdubs. In my own home demo-ing, I'm a flagrant overdubber. They (Farrar and Spencer) kept it really sparse, and I'm really drawn to that. How few things are happening; there's not a lot of adornment around (the songs), and I like that."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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