Stereo Embers The Podcast: Jerry Vessel (Red House Painters)

Written by on 10/28/2021

“Her Favourite Hitchcock Films”

A native of Northern California, Jerry Vessel was the bassist for the beloved San Francisco outfit Red House Painters. The band, who formed in 1989, put out four albums on 4AD and toured all over North America and Europe before calling it a day in 2001. Post-Painters, Vessel played drums for the Muons and bass for Six Eye Columbia and he also put out two solo albums under the moniker Heirlooms of August.
Heirlooms’ sophomore album Down at the 5-Star found one of the songs featured in the TV series Parenthood. Vessel’s third effort is under his own name this time around and it really makes sense. A stripped down affair that’s stark, spare, personal and unflinchingly honest, Her Favorite Hitchcock Films was written about his relationship with fashion designer Alexis O’Connell and it not only details their time together, it also confronts dealing with her sudden loss. Punctuated by piano violins, cellos, and atmospheric production courtesy of American Music Club’s Bruce Kaphan, the compositions on Her Favorite Hitchcock Films are as poetic as they are conversational. Beautifully constructed, they’re parenthetical, interstitial, referential and emotional. Name-checking Darby Crash, David Lynch, aluminum boats, Thelonious Monk, druid forts and Townes Van Zandt, the songs that make up this album are filled with lyrical intensity in that they conjure the world Vessel and O’Connell built and occupied together. When you’re close with someone you construct universes that are made up of the things you mutually love and this is a stirring homage to those universes. Yes, there’s darkness and of course, there’s pain here, but every song is charged with love. It’s vulnerable but in that vulnerability there’s tremendous life-affirming strength. It’s quite an album. And this is quite a conversation—Vessel talks to Alex about grief, his friendships with his former Red House Painters bandmates, Townes Van Zandt, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jack London and why the piano was his go-to instrument this time around.

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