Flophouse Jr. Houseboat

Jon Wood and Susan Young take the alt-country elements of their first release Woodland, and the orchestral ambience of their second release, Hour Glass House, and concoct an enriched melancholic formula. Having lost their bassist during the recording of their last album, Houseboat has a noticeably quieter sound than their previous albums. Though aurally less diverse, the duo have done a fine job of making do. Though separated by Atlantic water, talent and travel have held Wood and Young together. Wood, whose vocals and instrumentation constitute most of Flophouse Jr., is adept at bending instruments to his will, ability, and imagination. Houseboat’s sombre tone is supplemented by drone keyboard arrangements, while the solemnity of this backdrop is mitigated by a prominent old baritone ukulele. The ukulele’s soft sound is not as terse as the banjo that dominated their debut and is better company to the pathos-rife, interwoven vocals of Wood and Young. While Flophouse Jr. are a departure from their previous efforts, Houseboat won’t fail to impress.

What sounds have you brought to the Flophouse Jr. recordings? Wood: Many of the instruments I own I end up using for percussion. I play the pan flute as a percussion instrument, partly because I’m not sure how else to play it, but also because it suits Flophouse Jr. The ukulele is prominent on this album, but I incorporated some funky keyboard stuff, loops, over-dubs, and some found sounds as well.

You lost your bassist during the recording of your last album and Susan now lives in the UK. Has this made your work more of an independent effort, or is Susan still quite involved? Flophouse Jr. has always been a recording project of mine, but yes, losing Andy and Susan settling overseas affected the sound of Houseboat. Each of the albums have been different; Woodland was very alt-country, while Hour Glass House reflected what you could call my "Pet Sounds” period. Our second album was definitely our most collaborative effort, but with Houseboat I wanted to go back to a sparser sound; to present a series of landscapes, but allow the pieces and individual sounds to surface. I wanted Susan’s voice to figure prominently and not be drowned out. There’s something about how our vocals blend together that I really appreciate.

Do you have any other projects on the go? I’m keeping busy playing and recording with Rodney DeCroo, and was also involved in the production of Herald Nix’s last couple albums. The label [Northern Electric] has been good for me. It’s nice working with people you trust. (Northern Electric)