Premiere: Fritz Hutchison’s ‘Ladder Shake’ is a soaring and raucous joy


Fritz Hutchison. // Photo by Quinn Hernandez

When Fritz Hutchison released his debut album on Center Cut Records, Wide Wild Acres, in the spring of 2020, we were big fans here at The Pitch. Thanks to a selection of inventive and clever videos, the Kansas City artist’s music rapidly hooked us, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up ever since.

That release comes in the form of Movie Night, due out April 15 from Manor Records. It’s a fun collection of songs, alternately raucous and introspective, and sometimes both at once. We’re happy to premiere the first single off the album, “Ladder Shake.” Featuring BodaciousThang, aka Cheyenne Jolene, it begins like the Mountain Goats before soaring like Alabama Shakes, complete with a full horn section.

I spoke with Hutchison via email about the new album, the single, and how it all came to be. Check it out while you take a listen to “Ladder Shake” below.

Fritz Hutchison Ladder ShakeThe Pitch: How’d you come to work with the various collaborators on this new album, specifically BodaciousThang? Their vocals lend a whole lot to Movie Night.

Fritz Hutchison: Cheyenne (BodaciousThang) and I have been buds since high school. When I started going to Paseo Academy and didn’t know anybody, she was the first person to really welcome me into her world and be a friend to me when I needed one, so that has endeared her to me ever since. We’ve kept up with each other—she’s an incredible vocalist and songwriter that’s been non-stop kicking ass in LA for like ten years now—and as she was coming home for the holidays last year she hit me up about doing a show together while she was in town.

We couldn’t make one happen because of Covid, but I just happened to have studio time booked that same week so I invited her to come lay some tracks down in lieu of doing a show. It was perfect, actually. I had written this chorus that was too high for me to sing well so I was like “Here, you do it” [laughs]. It all worked out very serendipitously and beautifully. She really elevates every track she sings on, especially “Ladder Shake.” Carmen Dieker (violin/vocals) was really great too, bringing along Sascha Groschang (cello) for the string section stuff, and singing a good deal of the harmonies. I got to know Carmen through working with Claire Adams, and Carmen’s solo project, Meyadi. The other folks on the record—Kyle Little (keys), Aryana Nemati (sax), Teddy Krulewich (trumpet), and Trevor Turla (trombone)—have been rock-solid bandmates of mine for a long time.

Was it working with these folks that led to Movie Night‘s rather-more raucous mood, or was it something else?

I think the horns in particular are much more integral to the arrangements on this album, not just frosting on top. In the last few years, I played in a couple more horn-oriented bands like the Grand Marquis, and the feeling that horns bring to a live show is something truly ecstatic and celebratory like nothing else. I think I got hooked on that feeling and wanted to incorporate it as a defining factor of what this music is.

I’ve always been a rocker at heart, and a huge fan of New Orleans parade music, so combining those influences is something that I can only do half of myself. The horns really made the sound in my head possible, and it turns out to be a real joy to write with other players in mind or to be surprised by what someone else can bring to a track, like what happened with BodaciousThang. That spontaneity is so special.

What led to you working with Manor Records for the new album?

Center Cut was great with Wide Wild Acres and really did a lot to get me up and running as my own artist, but the pandemic really squashed our plans for how things were gonna go. I never got the chance to tour the record and have been relying on streaming to earn back our investments. Well, that just doesn’t cut the mustard, especially for a debut record by someone the larger public has no idea exists. Part of our deal was that Center Cut was going to finance studio time for the follow-up record(s), which sounded great to me at the time, but the way COVID-19 laid waste to the industry—there was just no money coming in that they could put back into my studio sessions.

Meanwhile, I’m restless as hell and feeling insanely driven to record more material because that’s all I felt like I could do. It was kind of a perfect storm and unfortunately, due to technicalities in our contract, we had to break our agreement in order for me to get this album made on my own dime and my own time.

Manor is a much more of a DIY operation—no red tape. I was already friends with Shaun Crowley and many of the other artists on the label, and I live right by the Mockingbird Lounge where Manor has been putting on weekly songwriter showcases for a few years. So, I already felt like a part of that community. It was an easy fit, and after such a stressful couple of years (for everyone), I really wanted the process of putting out this record to feel relaxed and natural. Shaun’s been awesome with that.

Tell me more about the title—do you have movie nights, and what are they like, if so?

So, Movie Night is the title mostly because it’s easy to say!

I realized after a couple interviews and such with the last album that Wide Wild Acres is sort of a tongue twister. So, I was like, “How about Movie Night?” It does run deeper than that though—the main theme of this album is friendship and time; how time causes our friendships to morph and mold; fortify or fall apart. None of us can escape time, and friendship is one of the greatest resources we have to make the most of our living experience.

We used to show movies on a big projector in my old apartment every week. There was no air conditioning or heat, so we would try to watch movies that fit the weather. We’d be sweating crazy in 100 degrees watching Do The Right Thing or Triplets of Belleville on a rainy night and had the audio wired up through the whole apartment so you’d hear the movie everywhere, even if you weren’t watching. We called it “Project Ya Neck” because, you know… Wu-Tang.

Anyway, lots of the folks who were coming over regularly at that time are the subjects of these songs, and Emmett Merrill—who did the album art—was my main co-conspirator in putting on the film series. Much of this album reflects on those friendships and how they’ve changed since that time. The song “Movie Night” is literally about those nights, and some of the lyrics are taken from the dialogue cards of the silent film Sunrise, which ironically we never watched in that setting. But it’s a powerful movie that I’ve always loved, and it inspired a lot of the visual aesthetic that Emmett put together for the cover.

Where did you pull a reggae/ska tune from?

Teddy, Aryana, Kyle, and I were actually all in a reggae band together at one point called Mt. Veritas. I’d hardly call myself a legit artist in that field, but it’s something that we all connect on. Aryana actually has a great instrumental reggae album out called The Sax in I. When I left the Grand Marquis to focus on my own music, Chad Boydston gave me one of his old trumpets as a parting gift. It was incredibly generous and thoughtful of him. I’d also recently acquired the Tascam 8-track that I use to make all my demos now, so I figured I’d build a simple track to learn how to use these new toys. All I could make happen on the trumpet was the three or four-note melody that the song is built around, and it was just asking for a ska rhythm underneath it.

The whole exercise was to create something as quickly as possible, and it ended up being pretty catchy. We’d played it live a few times for longer sets and it always got people dancing. I wanted the album to end on a positive note, so it made the cut!

There are a lot of genre-hopping and sleeve-worn influences on this record, so the fact that it’s kind of a sonic outlier actually helps complete the bigger picture, I think. It’s sort of an island of misfit songs.

Fritz Hutchison’s Movie Night is out April 15 on Manor Records.

Categories: Music