October Project is a band that delivers exquisite vocals and beautiful songs, all sparkling in their mystery. With music by Emil Adler, lyrics by Julie Flanders, and Marina Belica on vocals, the band has recently released two EPs (Uncovered and More Uncovered) of intimate piano-and-voice renditions of songs that will appear fully adorned on a full-length recording slated for release in 2013.
With two unforgettable albums released by Epic Records in 1993 (October Project), and 1995 (Falling Farther In) October Project originally enjoyed the beautiful alto of Mary Fahl. Since re-forming, lyricist Julie Flanders now graces the stage, contributing intricate and featured harmonies to the lead vocals of Marina Belica.
Earlier, Marina Belica took the time to field a few questions from me for The Morton Report. The answers were elegant, revealing, and thoughtful, just as I figured such a conversation with any member of October Project might yield. I could have gone on talking for quite a long time with Marina but as is the case in our busy lives, time is always of short supply. With this, let me warmly introduce October Project thorough this brief interview with Ms Belica.
First off, I’m very pleased to be able to speak with some of the architects of October Project. Julie has been very accessible, a rare thing from bands that have such a history of beautiful works. Having said that, I’d be interested to know what keeps October Project a viable band after all these years?
Julie is a volcano of creativity and one of the most prolific writers I know. She has a trunk full of lyrics for Emil to sift through and explore, so there will never be a lack of material! What keeps us “viable,” though, is our deep friendship and belief that the music we make isn’t just pleasurable but is meaningful and makes a difference in people’s lives.
How was October Project assembled? Who had the original vision of the band (or was it a united idea between all intended members)?
The stars seemed to align from the start. Julie, Emil and I met when we were teenagers. Julie and Emil went to high school together, and Julie and I were college roommates. We did our first evening of original music at Yale. After college, the three of us attended a well known musical theater workshop in New York.
Julie and Emil continued to write songs and various artists began to record them. I was madly in love with their songs and felt that there would be many like me! Emil built a recording studio in Montclair with guitarist Dave Sabatino and the two of them were performing together in a cover band. Julie met Mary socially and Urbano was the friend of a friend. We were all drawn to the music at just the right time in our lives. The laws of attraction and synchronicity pulled everyone in, with the songs the magnetic core.
Naming conventions abound. How was October Project as a name for the band arrived at? Is there significance?
We had begun to rehearse as a band in the winter and were projecting when we felt we would be ready to give our first performance. October seemed far enough away to be safe, so as fall approached we began to think of what to call ourselves. Lots of ideas were discussed, but there was no consensus. Emil is very organized and kept all the lyrics and lead sheets in a folder on which he had written, sensibly, “October Project.” When he suggested this as a name, it rang surprisingly true. The magic of October in the Northeast, when the leaves have begun to fall and people are beginning to go inside, seemed to correspond well to the feeling evoked by the beauty of Julie’s poetry, especially. And the coming together of a group of people with distinctly different backgrounds and musical histories felt very much like a project — a constantly evolving one at that!
How long did you sing together as a unit before being signed by Epic Records in 1993? How were you discovered and then brought into the label?
Not very long! Just over a year? We had established what was effectively a residency at a very cool club on the Lower East Side called Cafe Sine, and were packing the place. People who couldn’t get in would watch from the sidewalk through the big picture window. It became a happening, and before long the record companies caught on. After our set one evening, we were informed by our manager that Epic had offered to sign us.
How much of the self-titled debut album had already been written and for how long as the band went into the studio to record the album?
The songs on first album definitely had ‘legs’ and the benefit of months of rehearsal and performance.
I love the cover of the debut. Can you give some insight into it? While you’re at it, what inspired the second album’s cover?
We had a very inspired art
director at Epic who assembled a number of photographs for us to look
through for our first release. I think it was Emil who picked the
photo of the child with the paper bag on its head, and we all agreed
it was the coolest image. The same art director created the October
Project logo that we use to this day, and conceived of the artwork for Falling Farther In.
October Project is a very powerful vocal band. There’s a sense of late seasons in the music, a foreboding sense of fall, with winter in the wings. I can’t explain why I get that feeling but it’s the one I get. (Maybe the name encourages the thoughts towards that but still, the music resonates like that.) If you can pick up on what I’m saying, was this an intended sound for the band?
Thank you! The sound was what resulted from the mixture of talent in the band applied to the beauty of the music and lyrics.
Did October Project have influence that was drawn from musically? Lyrically?
Emil has a master’s degree in composition and is a music theoretician. He is also a romantic who isn’t afraid for his music to be beautiful. Julie is a gifted poet, visionary and healer. Her lyrics go deep and can be extremely cathartic for the listener. Add to that the particular musical history of each member of the band, and what you get is October Project.
Why did Mary Fahl leave October Project? Was it a desire to pursue a solo career? Also, is there possibility of a reunion in the future, if even for live shows?
“To everything, turn, turn, turn, There is a season, turn, turn, turn...”
October Project recorded several beautiful renditions of classic holiday songs including the stunningly beautiful “Silent Night.” Are there any plans to further this exploration? Honestly, it just feels right for October Project to have a perfect holiday album with songs like “In the Bleak Midwinter,”, etc. (I still play both “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night”).
We would love to continue to record holiday songs, and Julie has an inspiration to add or create new lyrics to them. It’s simply a matter of finding the time.
I understand that there are plans to record a new album. Will this be released via a newly formed label that is operated by the band, or is there an offer on the table?
Are there any viable record labels still out there? It’s an entirely different musical universe than when we released our first albums. We have been doing things ourselves for the last decade or so, and have interest overseas. We will explore options and go with what seems to make the most sense.
The music of October Project is truly as expressed here. The songs, and their underlying components, are well-traveled. For the life traveler, the music of October Project is a late year flurry of autumnal beauty and wintry reflection. For those travelers, you are invited to take refuge for a time within the shelter of such music. You'll be warmed as if by a well-lit fire and the reception of close friends. For that is what October Project is — a shelter.