The debut release for the buzz-about-town band Bottlefly is being put together by an international coalition: five British musicians, led by keyboardist Richie Wermerling, singer Mark Arnell, French co-producer Eric Caudieux and Canadian mixer Mike Fraser. I stopped in at Caudieux's multilevel recording aerie one chilly October night to check out the scene, as, high in the hills above Studio City, he and the London-based band were finishing up overdubs.
Rapid-fire insults and jokes from the irrepressible members of Bottlefly dominated our conversation, but Caudieux did manage to interject a bemused explanation of how the project had come about. "I heard a tape of theirs almost two years ago, and they stuck in my mind," he recalls. "Then, when Terry Lippman became my manager, I gave him the tape. I didn't hear from him for a few days, then he called back and sang me all the songs over the phone. In fact, he loved it and said, 'Let's sign them.' He flew to England, brought them back in June, and we started working in July."
Originally from Paris, Caudieux is a musician and composer as well as a programmer and producer. His previous work includes projects with producers Trevor Horn and Garth Richardson, and with artists from Metallica and Everclear to Rob Zombie and Luther Vandross. He's also done programming and editing for cuts on the soundtracks for the films Strange Days and Indecent Proposal, and, with audio/visual artist Lol Creme, he's co-written and designed music for TV commercials and Comedy Central.
About the Bottlefly project, Caudieux says: "It was great; first off because they had songs that were already written and arranged. But, since they had so many songs, it sounded like ten different bands, and that's where I came in. I helped them to put together something that sounded like it was all from the same band, one that truly reflected themselves. That was the exciting part, because Bottlefly are as pop as pop can get, but there are also a couple of rock guys in the band, and I wanted to accommodate everything. It was a merger of a lot of things, and, somehow, we made it work."
The working relationship between Caudieux and Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica) began a while ago with Metallica's boxed set Live Shit: Binge & Purge, which Fraser mixed and Caudieux edited. Post-Bottlefly, the two were headed to The Plant Studios in Sausalito, Calif., where Caudieux was producing Joe Satriani's upcoming release and Fraser was handling mixing chores.
Mixes for Bottlefly were done in Burbank at Royaltone's Studio B. Source tracks came from Pro Tools and analog 24 and were mixed down to DA-88s through an Apogee PSX100 24-bit splitter. "It was a lot of work, and it was a lot of fun," says Fraser. "It was a lot of work because, when you work in Pro Tools you can have practically unlimited virtual tracks. So some songs had 70 or 80 tracks, and mixing that can be a challenge. It was a lot of fun because the band is on ten the whole time, and the music is great. It's happy and uplifting, and I found that very enjoyable."
It's Lippman who is the behind-the-scenes force among all these diverse personalities; Bottlefly (which he co-manages with Pat Dorn), Caudieux and Fraser are all signed to his management company, dubbed TLC. No novice in the business, Lippman has plenty of experience working with bands, writers and producer/engineers. In his previous management role at Lippman Entertainment, he was instrumental in launching the careers of Matchbox 20 and producer Matt Serletic, whose Yourself or Someone Like You is now certified seven times Platinum. Lippman has also worked closely with producers Nellee Hooper (Madonna, Massive Attack, Bjork) and Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Blind Melon, Alice in Chains), as well as a number of others.
Now, Lippman is striking out on his own to build the kind of business he's been thinking about for years. "The nature of this company is to be a creative hub for a diverse musical talent pool," he comments. "I've been fortunate in my career. I've been associated with some very successful projects from their inception to their realization of multiPlatinum status. Over the years, I've been around a lot of great record-makers, and I've learned how to facilitate what they do. That's what I've been groomed on; that's what I know. I also have experience in setting up the marketing and promotion of records. My goal at TLC is to integrate my clientele's resources with the music industry at large and to create win/win opportunities for all concerned."
The roster at TLC is an interesting combination of cutting-edge up-and-comers and vets with solid track records, including Charles Dye, Jim Wirt, Clif Magness, Geza X, Rick Neigher and Tony Visconti; also managed by the company is the band Candlebox. In addition, Lippman has his own label already in place. Named Left Hand, the imprint is distributed by universal Music Group with Bottlefly scheduled to be the first release.
"TLC is very entrepreneurial," Lippman states. "I, [TLC manager] Michael Davenport and the staff work on all aspects of our client's careers. The diversity of our roster is by design; I think it's very important to mix the seasoned producers with the upcoming ones. I've learned so much from all of them."
Although Bottlefly is a new band, the members have amassed quite a bit of industry experience. Co-producer, writer and keyboardist Wermerling was previously the front man for the successful British pop band Let Loose. Questioned about the feasibility of a record-making British/French/Canadian alliance, he laughs, "We do have a lot of fights, and a lot of bruises to show for it."
Lead singer Arnell is the other co-writer/producer in Bottlefly; he and Wermerling have worked together for several years through several band incarnations. "We started out kind of grunge and Bush-like," he says, "but the music progressed to being less dark and to having more pop melodies. We did so much stuff that we finally started to really have fun doing it, and we kept on with the fun part."
"But it did take a conscious effort," adds Wermerling, "to say, 'Let's go for something that's different and more fun.' We really wanted to bring the concept of the song back in. Along with that, we felt that music was getting a bit boring, and we wanted to do something that would bring a smile back to people's faces."
Okay, we're intrigued by the descriptions of Bottlefly's music; now we need an explanation of the name.
"The idea came the day I caught a fly in my house and put it in a jar," Arnell says. "I put a napkin on it and left it there all day. By evening, it was still alive, so I said to Richie, 'I've got this fly in a bottle, and I want to bring it over, put a mic on it, and tape it buzzing around.' And that's what we did. The fly kept itself alive in the jar till we miked it up; then it died. It had served its purpose. Now we're hoping that we make it the most famous fly ever in the world."