In Transit

Released: November 11, 2011
Label: Wild Iris Records

George Zhen – Vocals, Piano, Guitars, Synths, Basses, Drums, Percussion, Programming & More

Jeremy Zhen: Trombone on Track 2

Steven Carroll: Lead Guitar on Track 3

Shira Ridley: Backing Vocals on Track 6

David Thompson: Bass on Track 6

Sam Weitzner: Harmonica on Track 7

Jake Oliver: Chair Percussion on Track 8

Listen Now On:

The idea of In Transit was pretty simple to me after coming off of Dust of the American Pixel: Make some straight-ahead indie-pop songs driven by natural orchestrations and arrangements, with just a dash of modern production. The aim was to maintain this idea of making a “timeless” record that would stand up to scrutiny years down the road without the trappings of dated production sensibilities. This record was about the songs, and they were the stars.

The ideas were all put together in Pro Tools again, with Reason and a myriad of drum programs to give it a more natural feel. To that end, one trick was to record all of the cymbals using real hit hats and crashes so they would sound right. I remember using some live snares in some songs, especially “Digital Oxide.” The end result was a blend I described as “Tom Petty and the Beatles in a bar fight over which was better, the Mustang or the Spitfire.”

One of the things I discovered when recording this album was how much I love running my acoustic guitar through effects processing. No, I’m not talking just reverb and delays, but full on British amp simulators and stacks of effects units. Yes, sometimes an acoustic guitar can crash your skull! You can even do mind-numbing leads on it, such as at the end of “Napoleon Solo,” laving the fret board behind and finding notes beyond the limit. It was great fun exploring this.

Lyrically, there are a lot of stories on this record. One minute, you’re on a train leaving New York City at dusk. Then, a tale about a fugitive hacker on the run across the desert to L.A. Before you know it, you’re speeding in a car with your friends, at night, on a highway with the lights off. Light posts and consequences be damned.

When the track listing was coming together, I was looking for a theme to wrap it all up into. I realized there were a LOT of geographical references splashed across the songs – Amsterdam, New York, L.A., etc. So I pulled the whole thing together by writing the title track, “In Transit.”

Now I just needed to find something like a vintage Eastern Airlines DC-7 and I would be set.