Untethered is the 10th and final studio album by Willard Grant Conspiracy. The band’s lead singer and guiding force, Robert Fisher, died in February 2017.
Originally based in Boston, Willard Grant Conspiracy was formed by Robert Fisher and expanded & contracted over the years to include members from all corners of the US and Europe. Their first album, “3am Sunday at Fortune Otto’s” was recorded before the band even had a name. Over the ensuing years, the list of people who have toured or recorded the music of the Willard Grant Conspiracy became lengthy. The band never had a set line-up and the records often contain the credit, “If someone tells you they played on this, they probably did.” The album “3am Sunday at Fortune Otto’s” was released on the band’s own label and the German label, Glitterhouse, agreed to distribute the record through their mail order catalogue in Europe, as well as include a song on one of their label compilations. The resulting interest allowed the band to do a few shows in Europe, and when it became time to release a second album, “Flying Low”, the record was picked up by the Slow River label and distributed by Rykodisc in the US and Europe. This gave the band – with help from the Seattle band The Walkabouts who allowed them to support Chris and Carla on the “Swinger 500” tour – the chance to do their first European tour. This friendship resulted in many tours and cross-pollination of the bands over the years. “Flying Low” was followed a year later by the album “Mojave”. “Mojave” intentionally stretched the edges of the band sound and included some of the bands’ most enduring songs like “The Work Song”, “Love has no Meaning” (featuring Edith Frost) and “Another Lonely Night”. More touring through the US and Europe and even more writing brought the band home to record “Everything’s Fine”. It would be the last record for Slow River, with the parent company Rykodisc being absorbed by another label.
“Regard the End”, was the band’s first release on Loose and included songs like “Soft Hand” and “Suffering Song”. The record was well received and resulted in Uncut magazine including it in a round-up of the decade’s most influential records at the end of 2010. The following album, “Let it Roll”, was recorded in Holland and Ljubljana. The band had written a group of songs that they played during a five week tour before taking the collection into the studio. The record was recorded as live as possible and reflects the sound of a band used to touring and playing together. Besides the epic title track, the album includes favourites like the anti-war ballad “From a Distant Shore” and “Mary of the Angels”. Over the years of touring, Robert had become friends with the Scottish composer Malcolm Lindsay. Malcolm suggested that he would be interested in working together on a project for the band. One wet Welsh night, while Robert was visiting the brilliant Jackie Leven at a recording session for the album “Elegy for Johnny Cash”, Malcolm played the two a live recording of one of his compositions, played by The Moscow String Quartet. Hearing this music gave Robert the idea that they might compose a record together using the instrumentation represented in the band, along with the orchestral instruments Malcolm had been using in his compositions. A year later, the result of the collaboration is the album “Pilgrim Road”. The tour for “Pilgrim Road” would be the most ambitious the band had ever tried to execute. Twelve musicians onstage, including horns and strings along with a grand piano to augment the regular band instrumentation. With the huge undertaking the tour for Pilgrim Road represented in the background, the band scaled back and began touring more in a stripped down style, closer to the original instrumentation. These intimate but no less intense shows prompted Loose to ask the band to record something similar to the live sets they had been doing. This request led the band to record the album “Paper Covers Stone” with new versions of old songs being mixed with new. The record was recorded in a weekend and was intended to reflect the loose configuration of a live set. There was no “set list” for this recording and the songs are played and presented in the order they were recorded. “Ghost Republic” followed in September 2013. The recording was a celebration of the working and playing relationship between Robert and David Michael Curry, the band’s long time viola player. All the instruments were played between the two musicians and the album, inspired by the friendship between the two, is arguably the most intuitive of all of the records.
What you have in your hands now are the final recordings made by Willard Grant Conspiracy. The final recordings made by Robert Fisher and his band before his untimely death, brought about by cancer, on February 12th 2017. The recordings were made before he died but the tapes have only recently been dusted down and brought to life with the care and attention of his long-time compadre, David Michael Curry. Contributors include Steve Wynn and Chris Brokaw but it’s David Michael Curry alongside Robert Fisher who hold the whole project together. Robert’s death came far too quickly and suddenly, as Curry relates, “Incubate Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands was our last show in 2016. When we returned home, Robert went for a check-up because he said he felt something unusual. He was diagnosed within a month or two of that final tour. He wrote the song “Untethered” shortly after that.”
“Untethered” by Willard Grant Conspiracy is out on the 7th December 2018 via Loose