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Released: June 20, 2006
The Submarines

"i should be gone
cast away
but still i�d love you
through all peace and hate"
-- Peace and Hate

For the Submarines' Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti, it was love at first take�but the second take is even better. With their debut album Declare A New State, the longtime collaborators have forged a beautiful and sonically inventive record. From the haunted, sing-song buzz of "Peace and Hate" to the swoony pocket symphonies of "Modern Inventions" to the delicately ornamented "The Good Night," Declare A New State is both gorgeously bittersweet pop music and a tribute to the unexpected wonder of a second chance. Not bad for a record that the duo made with no thought that it would ever be released.

"I think because we had no expectations, we both felt it was really fresh," says Hazard. "A fresh start."

Longtime pillars of the Boston music scene who now live in Los Angeles, Hazard and Dragonetti first crossed paths as solo artists. Dragonetti�a.k.a. Jack Drag�made records for the labels HepCat, Sugar Free, and A&M; he was both a peer and kindred spirit to the likes of Beck, the Eels and Apples in Stereo. After forming a proper band during his time on A&M;, Jack Drag "ended the way it started," Dragonetti says�i.e., he went back to making indie records as a one-man home recording visionary. But as much as Dragonetti loves his recording technology, he remains quite fond of instruments. "I have a room full of toys," he acknowledges. "But I'm still really an advocate of having your source sound come from outside the computer."

Hazard is a singer-songwriter of impeccable literary roots (her great-grandfather was F. Scott Fitzgerald) who attended Sarah Lawrence and Harvard before striking out on the New England circuit. Early on, she collaborated with Frank Black guitarist Rich Gilbert and former members of Helium, and her early demos were recorded by Morphine frontman Mark Sandman, as well as producer Paul Q. Kolderie. She and Dragonetti had a lot of mutual friends, including bass player Joe Klompus (who appears on Declare a New State) in common, which is ultimately how Dragonetti wound up producing Hazard's record Little Airplane (Kimchee Records, 2002). A fan of groundbreakers like Bjork and Aphex Twin, Hazard's own music up until that point was more straightforward alt-country-tinged material. "Playing with John was the first time I was really exposed to more electronic-based production," she says. "It just blew my mind, to be able to play with really strange sounds and beats and loops."

Soon Jack Drag and Hazard were both touring Europe, as members of each other's bands and yes, each other's better half. "It was a pretty exciting start to a relationship, to travel all over the place getting to do what we loved," says Dragonetti. But it was also the real thing, not some whirlwind rock'n'romance: they were together for four years, then moved to L.A. as a couple. There, Dragonetti began working as a film and TV composer (he scored the Showtime hit series Weeds in collaboration with the Pixies� Joey Santiago, scenes for HBO�s Family Bonds and spots for Volkswagen and EA Games). But the relationship did not survive the move�they broke up on the eve of the 2004 California presidential primary, a happenstance that eventually inspired the song "Vote."

After the break-up, John had a prolific period of writing and recording songs, as did Blake, though she still had to come to John's home studio to record her material. It wasn't long before the sparks were struck again, both on tape and in their hearts. "We realized we'd been writing all these songs about having broken up, about each other," says Hazard. "It made so much sense as an album. It made sense sonically, it made sense thematically. So then we just wrote a few more songs together." One of those was "Peace and Hate," on which Hazard and Dragonetti took turns writing (and singing) the verses.

"It's almost like the break-up failed," says Dragonetti. "When we were kind of falling back together it was just so obvious� we were like, oh, ok, if we're doing this, we're doing it for keeps."

In fact, Declare a New State was mastered by a friend of Blake's and John's as a wedding present; until then the duo hadn't even thought about the record as a project that would find an outside audience�a big reason why it was so satisfying. For Dragonetti, "it was a rare opportunity to experience something like when I first started recording," he says. "That feeling of, 'yeah cool, I'm gonna put these tapes together for my friends.'" Hazard experienced the process almost exactly the same way, though for her it was more about emotional immediacy of the material�both in lyrics and the melodies. "It's raw and genuine and unfiltered," she says. "There's not as much artifice as I think there normally would be, when you're sort of conjuring topics to write about."

While the circumstances of its making put Declare a New State in the same category as such classic troubled-couple records as Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Light or Rosanne Cash's Interiors, this one has a happy ending�and thus a sonic palette that's more colorful and poppy. "We were writing songs to make ourselves feel better," says Hazard. "Our break-up was more sad than angry." With its big chorus and harmonies, "Modern Inventions" is, says Dragonetti, "kind of the smiley break in the middle," while the majestic "Darkest Things" ends the record on a hopeful note ("�we're coming home").

"It slowly leans towards possibility in sound as well as lyrically," Hazard says of the entire record. "It goes from hopelessness to a certain kind of optimism�an optimism that's more realistic."

"The whole theme of the record is spoken pretty plainly in 'Peace and Hate," she continues. "That conflict is inevitable but you live with it. That you still love each other, so you move on. You declare a new state."

Related Links
» The Submarines Official Site
» The Submarines on MySpace
» The Submarines at Nettwerk Records

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The Shins with John Krasinski
Issue 23 - Holiday '06
The Shins Go Hollywood with John Krasinski

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