A collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire. BTO aims to entertain the masses while providing an outlet for the creative urges of its members. *BTO promises to protect customer confidentiality with the utmost vigilance while remaining irreverent at all times.
There really is not much repertory for a typewriter-based ensemble. Once you get past Leroy Anderson, the landscape is rather barren, adorned only by flourishes that are as non-musical as most uses of a theremin. So, needless to say it takes a while to add something significant to that, especially with a practice only once a week, and a random hope of remembering riffs if the recorder isn’t going full time. When we got enough ideas together, this time we booked a real studio to see if our magic could be captured.
The results are in and Workstation to Workstation is the record that we have been hoping to make for years. Thanks to the work of Converge’s Kurt Ballou we were able to capture the thump as well as the thwack of our machines, and the results sound as massive as we were hoping. It’s even bigger on vinyl with wide grooves giving plenty of space to those thumps. You can buy the vinyl, or a download, or an array of options on our bandcamp page.
Something about Boston Typewriter Orchestra intrigues people. Some see us as a novelty and total lark, or else can’t discern our music from background noise like a Zoom filter. True story: as Alex and I were preparing for this interview, we tried to practice playing via Zoom. I heard his first key strike and then I could hear his breathing. Apparently the default setting for Zoom finds what we do to be just noise and filters it out. Our hopes of learning the tricks to performing in a world full of lagtime were not answered, but we did figure a way to fake it for our appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show
Tune in Monday, August 17 to your local NBC affiliate in mid-afternoon, and hopefully you can catch a minute or two of us back on national TV again! or just view it here:
Pre-orders for our new album Workstation to Workstation are also now open on our bandcamp page! Vinyl records and downloads and a special for those who want to dress like their favorite BTO member!
The Boston Typewriter Orchestra has been having as much difficulty making music as anyone else in this divided time. However when Great Big Story called and asked us to record a song for the quarantine, we jumped at the chance.
This live version was recorded to a track so follows closely with the studio version. The album is in the process of being completed and is set to be pressed on vinyl and hopefully ready for your turntables by the end of the summer.
Sometimes when we play shows we get stuck waiting for things to happen for far longer than our performances ever are. When we went to Chicago last year to open a benefit dinner for the American Writers Museum, we pulled a total “hurry-up-and-wait.” With our instruments set up, we were relegated to a Green Room in the Four Seasons, and while we were well catered, we didn’t have much of anything to do. What we did have were a bunch of phones and a song that we decided to make a video for….
We handed off the footage to George O’Connor, and he matched what we made to the audio from our recent sessions at God City with Kurt Ballou. More video ideas to come as we slowly release these songs through the course of 2020…
It’s weird when people have been asking about the BTO and wondering where they can see us play. Since the answer to that for much of the year so far had been Chicago, it seemed a bit irrelevant for our local fans. While Chicago was a blast and both of our shows were a hoot, it’s nice to have a spot in Cambridge where we are playing and can invite people to see us. That’s why we’re taking our act to the Hong Kong in Harvard Square. It’s a venue that had been known as a hub of comedy, so it’s fitting that we’re the sort of band that fits just right there.
Joining us for the night of fun is a DJ crew who do things the way I did when I used to take over the gym/cafeteria in junior high and did it all on cassette. The Hartford Yacht Goats are a crew that brings the soft rock flavor and dolby hiss to any great night, and we’re taking them out of Connecticut for the night and showcasing them to a whole new audience. As the other primary contributor to the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, it’s nice to have us join forces like Voltron.
B&E is a duo that will be playing a live set during the evening. With the most un-googleable name, the accordion-guitar duo features Brendan’s former C4RT bandmate Ed, and we’ll find out just what it’s really all about when you do too, since you’ll already be sitting at a table right up front. We haven’t been let out to have fun in the more ribald environment of a night club in ages, so make sure you’re there, because witnesses will be needed.
People who track our touring radius know that the one time we made it to Washington DC was the true anomaly on our appearances. Aside from a few flirtations with NYC and the Catskills, all of our performances have been within New England. Thanks to overtures from the American Writers Museum, we’re gonna try to sneak a bunch of typewriters through TSA and visit Chicago for a couple days.
While the AWM performance is for a fundraiser for them and you may need $5000 for a table to see us open and close the show, we have added a gig on Monday April 8 where we are going to play at the venerable Phyllis’ Musical Inn. If you’re in Chicago, come early, as we are scheduled for a 6pm start time. Or if you see a bunch of Bostonians wandering around the streets carrying typewriters, try to point us in the right direction.
So we went on a Corporate Retreat this fall up to Salem, where we spent a few days at God City Studios under the watch of Converge’s Kurt Ballou. Using his studio and some innovative techniques to their best, he recorded a bunch of our new songs which we begin unveiling today with this wonderfully short teaser of a song that has been animated by Zak Kirwin
In the movie California Typewriter, out performance is right in the middle of it all. But you also don’t get to see an entire song as we are often overlaid with members of the band talking. Since the director Doug Nichol first made his mark in the music video game (Madonna’s Truth or Dare, Pulp, the Cars, Wet Wet Wet, et al) and even is a 3-time Grammy nominee (Aerosmith’s “Pink”, NKOTB “Hanging Tough”) and winner for his work on Sting’s Ten Summoners Tales , it’s nice to finally be able to show this clip of “Entropy Begins at the Office” the way you might have been able to see it on V66 back in the day…
After spending the first half of the year playing surprise shows and private events and then heading into the studio to lay down some tracks, we’re venturing Westward over the fall to play a series of shows along the Mass Pike (or maybe more appropriately Route 20). We’re bound to land a Boston gig to announce soon too, but for now you’ll have to make a bit of a trek to come and see us play, starting Sunday in Worcester…
I thought the strangest part about running a band website is the moment when you switch a band members designation from the ‘active’ to ’emeritus’ position, but the truth is having to add ‘memoriam’ to that list is like devastation. Richie Madallo wasn’t an original member of the band and he hadn’t played with us since our first trip to the Burlington VT Book Fest, but his nimble fingers were a treat to add to our mix from the first moment that I met him when he came and subbed in for a show when our numbers were low and Jay implored him just enough. He was a percussion wizard with roots in the Boston punk scene having played drums for the Bones. He grew up in East Boston’s Orient Heights neighborhood, and it was on the public school bus there that he and Jay met and forged a lifelong friendship that was founded on music.
BTO recently lost one of it’s own, Richie Maddalo, the guy with the huge grin on his face, Richie was a dear friend and percussionist like no other. He brought creativity and style to anything he performed on, for us he was a maestro on the Remette typewriter. BTO will be performing along with Joe Harvard in Richie’s honor on Saturday, April 28 at the East Boston YMCA on 45 Ashley St., East Boston, a short walk from Orient Heights station on the Blue Line, starting at 7:30PM. Light refreshments will be served. Expect some Bowie throughout the evening Admission is free,