Mike Merenda

Last night before I went to bed I got the news that @pipelinewmbr‘s @jeffwbreeze had passed away. As it often is when a friend suddenly moves on, I’m still making sense of it all. We’d known each other as mutual admirers for almost 20 years (we first met during a Spouse in-studio in the early 2000s.) Jeff was a steadfast supporter of all my releases, be it solo records, Mike + Ruthy, The Mammals, Spouse . . . even fuckin’ Skarotum. He connected all the dots. A corner stone of the New England (and Boston, in particular) indie music braintrust. And Jeff was one of only a handful of radio folks who really got behind “Nonet” during this insane year. In fact, “Radio Signal” helped him get his radio show muscles moving early in quarantine when he needed to start producing shows from home. He kicked off that inaugural home-produced Pipeline! with “Radio Signal.” I loved that then and I doubly love it now.
The interview we did with him about the record was great but the live duo recordings we made especially for that interview are especially great. Lightning in a bottle. Some of the best live recordings we’ve ever made. We’d been in touch all through the fall about a cover song compilation he was in the midst of producing which was to include our version of @thebandspouse song, “Wonder Woman” (accompanied by Willy & Opal!) and again a week ago when he asked if I could record an updated version of my song “Election Day” for his Election Day show (Pipeline! is always on Tuesday and every Election Day he spins that song.) He thought it would be fun to bring it up to date and I love that he was bold enough and thoughtful enough to pitch that idea to me!) Alas, I couldn’t get it together to record / write an updated version so he stuck with the original and kicked off the show with it on 11/3. We had a lovely back and forth about it. I had suggested he spin “Culture War” instead and he responded, “I live by that ‘my body is my ballot’ credo… and my wallet as well, in a capitalist society what you choose to purchase is sometimes the real way you vote. I haven’t had a Snapple since they started sponsoring Rush Limbaugh in the early 90s!” (Fun fact! I learned that last fact the hard way when a bandmate brought a case of Snapple to a punk rock club in the 90s on a scorching hot July night and the owner promptly made us “get that fuckin piece of shit company off my stage!”
I’m gonna miss Jeff an awful lot. During this year of radio outreach, he was among a small group of industry folks who always wrote back and made me feel received and appreciated. It meant a lot. Do what you can where you are, they say. Jeff did all that he could and more to keep spirits moving and music heard. I’ll be carrying on that lesson in my own work with renewed vigor in Jeff’s absence. Check out the interview and the session we recorded for Pipeline! It’s really a great one and I’m so sorry to be sharing under these circumstances.

Breeze liner notes (from Bandcamp): Three weeks into quarantine, I looked up and realized that I hadn’t been to MIT in a longer period of time than I ever had since starting in 2001. Once I had been on tour and missed two shows in a row, but that was back in 2007. Without Pipeline! I felt directionless, even when they resumed broadcast of archived shows from last fall.
     When we got the chance to record from home and post shows for regular broadcast, it was a bit of a relief, but live music and local music was a challenge that no one else had to tilt at but me. While wholly directionless and just worrying about how to fill space, I let myself go and dove into the new music that was being released for answers. That’s when “Radio Signal” dropped into my lap. Like a beacon reminding me that while I may feel like I am merely manning a light tower and alone in my spire, there are a lot of people that look to what we do at Pipeline! beyond curating our way through hundreds of releases weekly to share the best two hours we can. Mike + Ruthy remind me that there is a power in radio that few things ever have. Needless to say, it was the first song I put in the playlist to restart broadcasting.
     The cover they did wasn’t on my original list, but it was on a list that I had sent to José from Spouse as my request for a forthcoming set from him. Joined on the track by their children Willy (on bass) an Opal (Casio SK-5), it provided a great circularity to the local aspect of it all as Mike had played in Spouse back in the day. Now, if only I had been able to convince him to do a cover from his high school ska band with Kurt Weisman….

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