Productive. “Who the Hell is Richard Manuel?,” is the second full length album from Patches & Gretchen in less than a year, a fact that makes frontwoman Gretchen Seichrist not apologetic or even self conscious, but proud.
Since Seichrist started collaborating with songwriting partner and multi-instrumentalist Danny Viper, her malleable troupe of accompanying musicians known as ‘Patches’ has slimmed down to one. That has allowed Seichrist and Viper to streamline their creative process.
“When you find a style of communication and eliminate the ‘wasting time’ and petty stuff, you can really hone in and get a lot of work done, Seichrist said.
“Taking a long time to do something doesn’t necessarily make it great. It’s been really great because we’ve learned to trust that first instinct. When we don’t know the answer, we’ll take more time. Plus, we don’t care anymore. We’re either amusing ourselves or saying what we feel like saying. That’s what I’m after.”
Seichrist says Richard Manuel, the late, great keyboardist and occasional drummer for “The Band,” who commited suicide in 1986, lends symbolic weight to the whole aura of the album.
The songs explore the depths of extreme isolation, abandonment, and loneliness with Seichrist’s wry sense of humor, poetry and unsparing observational skills, and Seichrist thinks more than ever, they reflect the times.
“The other day my daughter said something to me,” she said. “Just out of the blue she said, ‘you know, I don’t know what it was like when you were growing up, but i feel like, as far as being a girl, and even other things, like discrimination, that things have gotten worse, not better.’ And that really struck me.
It’s something you can feel. You can feel it in the way people react to things, how much committment they’re going to put into relationships, the way we treat poor people. When I was younger there was a feeling that things were going to get better, and so here now, being 48 and looking around and that kind of feeling of ‘what is this?’ Is this it?’ But you know, the record also reflects strengthening the opposite of that whereever you find it.”