While Karl Hendricks was in the process of converting the landmark Paul's CDs into his own Sound Cat Records in Bloomfield, the singer-songwriter-guitarist was in the process of making a new record to stock on the shelves.
"It was a challenge," he says, "though I don't know if it was more of a challenge than it would be for anybody with a job and a band."
"The Adult Section" is the ninth album from the Karl Hendricks Trio, although technically, the last album, 2007's "The World Says," was the Karl Hendricks Rock Band, as it had a second guitarist, Alexei Plotnicov, on board.
"I tend to like -- among the many kinds of music I like -- rock that is kind of sprawling," Mr. Hendricks says, "and I think on the previous couple records (especially 'The World Says,' with Alexei on guitar) the band went some in that direction. As I started on working on this album, I wanted to return to just a three-piece, for practical as much as aesthetic reasons. As adults with complicated lives, it's hard enough getting three people in a room together to play music, much less four, and so I just felt the band had to be efficient as possible if it was to keep going. And in hindsight, maybe some of that desire for efficiency spilled over into the music, though hopefully not too much. I still play guitar solos pretty often."
In the KHT tradition, "The Adult Section," recorded by Matt Schor at his North Side studio, combines noisy guitar-rock a la Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du and Superchunk with Mr. Hendricks' wry, thoughtful lyrics and vulnerable vocals.
"A starting point in writing some of the songs on the album for me -- and I was only semi-conscious of this when I was writing them -- was thinking about specific places. Particularly, it ended up with places that one might feel less than comfortable in some ways: the men's room at the airport, the parking lot of a strip mall, the adult section in the video store, and so on. And though the song 'The Adult Section' didn't end up really being 'set' in, say, a video store, I like the double weight the phrase 'Adult' had -- sort of exposed and shamed on one side but assuming responsibility on the other side. And I think that ended up being one of the themes that I noticed a lot of the songs had, sort of the conflict between our desires -- and I don't mean sexual, I mean to do the things we imagine doing -- and our responsibilities. And so it seemed like a good title for the album."
The mood ranges from the slow-burning "After Four Beers," where he second-guesses some heavy life choices, to the fun, frantic punk of "I Don't Need a Hippie (to Tell Me How to Talk to My Cat)." He gives some credit to Paul's clerk Jason Baldinger for that one.
"We were at the store one day, and we received a promotional CD that was music for something like 'Yoga With Your Cat.' And as we were laughing about it, Jason said, 'I don't need a hippie to tell me how to talk to my cat.' I thought that was not only a really funny sentence, but also the kind of sentence that almost tells a story by itself -- and so of course, I ended up using it, with Jason's permission, as the starting point for a song."
Of course, being surrounded by music all day at Sound Cat plays a part in fueling his drive and keeping the ideas fresh. Twenty years into his career, though, his sonic aesthetic, with bassist Corey Layman and drummer Jake Leger, is firmly grounded.
"For many reasons, not least among them that I own a record store, I remain very interested in new music and new bands," he says. "I listen to music (new and old) most of the hours I'm awake, and sure, stuff has got to seep in there. On the other hand, when I think about writing songs, I'm usually just sitting down with a few notes, a few thoughts, my guitar, and what little skill I've managed to acquire. I feel like the process is a pretty closed one for me. I'm just trying to be the best 'me' I can be at this point in my life."
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.