All The Real Girls is a rock band from seattle, wa.
Their new album, Elk City, was produced by John Goodmanson (Nada Surf, Sleater-Kinney, Los Campesinos!) and features the talents of many musicians including Jason McGerr (Death Cab For Cutie), Jim Roth (Built To Spill), Steve Fisk (Pell Mell), Eric Corson (The Long Winters), Eric Howk (The Lashes) & Shelby Earl.
When singer Peter Donovan listens to his band’s new album, he can’t help but think about the menthol cigarettes that helped inspire it. “She must have smoked a whole pack by the end of the night,” he remembers, laughing.
Donovan was living just outside Bakersfield, California and working on an independent film, Lost on Purpose. “The character I played was a struggling singer-songwriter who pays the bills by working as a ranch hand on a dairy farm,” Donovan said, adding: “Typecasting, obviously.”
After shooting wrapped one day, he walked into a bar in town and found himself with an improbable drinking buddy: “Her name was Jo. She was probably in her 70s, super tall, wearing this bright yellow dress, and a pair of these ridiculous Coke bottle glasses.”
They got to talking. The woman, joined by her geriatric Basset Hound Winston, had been driving all day, en route to the Pacific Ocean from Oklahoma – and she was in the mood to chat.
“She started giving me her entire family history, like five generations of it,” Donovan recalls. “Adultery, botched kidnappings, crazy cult leaders, schizophrenic starlets. It was nuts. She basically just inhaled white wine, smoked like a chimney, and told me these crazy, amazing stories all night.”
Donovan had just completed the songs he contributed to Lost on Purpose and wasn’t expecting to be writing new music anytime soon. “I wasn’t thinking at all about more songwriting, but these stories were just too good. I started picturing all these crazy, sordid characters intersecting each other’s lives in some tiny Oklahoma town.” Donovan said. “I was writing as soon as I got back to my room.”
Donovan brought the songs to producer John Goodmanson, hoping to enlist him to help record the album. “I wasn’t totally sure how he’d respond to it, but he was on board right away, which was huge.” Donovan says. “His records all have this amazing balance between melody and chaos, which I love. I knew John was the only guy for this.”
Goodmanson and the band set up shop at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle and hunkered down to begin recording. “Once all those other guys got their hands on the songs, that’s when the whole thing really started to come into focus,” Donovan said.
Donovan says he tried his best to be faithful to what the woman told him of her family history, though admits there is some creative license on the record. “I had to sneak a little bit of me in there.”
Though, “fluid storytelling,” as Donovan puts it, may just be hard to avoid with stories like these.
But in the end, Jo probably won’t mind.
“As she was leaving, she told me she embellished some parts,” Donovan laughs. “But she never said how much or which parts.”