One last song
Before leaving Chico, Maurice Spencer gathers local players for CD comp and farewell party
Chico, CA 95928
“There’s just not enough music for me here in Chico,” quipped long-time local musical impresario Maurice Spencer, his wry smile accentuated by his inimitable facial coiffure as he let the sarcasm sink in.
Maurice Spencer Teilmann (he drops the last name for the stage, and uses Spencer as a first name with his friends) arrived in town a dozen years ago, a fresh-faced, 20-year-old kid from Sacramento eager to study music and recording at Chico State and play in a band with hometown friends. It’s doubtful he could imagine then the adventures he’d have or the ubiquitous presence he’d occupy in the local music scene over the next decade.
In that time, he’s been in upward of a dozen bands, including such luminaries as The Yule Logs, Bear Hunter and Gorgeous Armada, and released acclaimed solo work as Catlike Reflexes. He’s also worked in local music theater, composing original music for Rogue Theatre’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and the Blue Room’s Bluebeard, and playing big roles in the theater’s popular productions of the classics The Who’s Tommy and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
He also spent many years as a writer and music editor for local entertainment weekly The Synthesis.
Teilmann is relocating to Portland, Ore., this summer, the true impetus for his departure being the search for new sonic horizons, and for his girlfriend, fellow musician and sometime collaborator Jodi Nixon, to attend the Oregon Culinary Institute next fall.
“I’ve been here 12 years and feel like I’ve done a lot of cool stuff,” he said. “There’s very little left for me to do other than open a bar or restaurant or business of some sort, but I’m too irresponsible for anything like that. I’d rather just play guitar and sing and write music and record bands, and Portland’s got a vital scene for that.
“Plus the people are nice, I like the weather and, if you wanna get all hippie and shit, it just feels right.”
Teilmann isn’t leaving Chico without giving us a parting gift: a 21-track compilation of his favorite local musicians performing songs about Chico, titled Thank You Chico, Goodnight,
“A couple of years ago I was listening to a lot of big bands with a lot of members, and having this dream of all the people in Chico I’d like to form this gigantic, ridiculous band with,” Teilmann said of the project’s inception. “But everyone’s already in three bands, schedules are crazy, so I gave up on the idea but it really got stuck in my craw.
“Jodi and I were in Upper Park last summer talking about all the things we’d like to do before we left. I told her about my idea of the giant band, and we thought maybe we could just have them over one at a time to record a song, and it became more feasible.”
Teilmann contacted a “dream list” of 20-something songwriters last September and sketched some loose rules: The songs had to be between two and five minutes long, previously unrecorded, and written specifically about Chico or experiences the songwriters have had here. Spencer said he was surprised most people agreed to do it, and even more surprised when a steady stream of musicians, including Zach Zeller, Barbara Manning, Aubrey Debauchery, JP Gutierrez and many more, started showing up at his door, instruments and fresh new songs in hand.
Several months of sessions in Teilmann’s bedroom full of instruments and borrowed equipment and countless man-hours ensued as he recorded each artist onto a pair of cantankerous ADAT machines. Then he brought in an all-star band composed in part of his Bear Hunter and Yule Logs cohorts and added some touches himself with guitar, bass, drums, keys, percussion, mandolin, bouzouki, autoharp, trombone, harmonica and glockenspiel and mixed it all through a Roland Space Echo. The only computers used were in the mastering, which Teilmann handed over to musician/engineer Chris Keene, who also contributed a track.
The result is a thank-you worthy of the town that inspired it, a place Teilmann acknowledges and reveres as vital to his own development.
“It’s safe here, not just in the sense that you won’t get mugged walking to the store, but it’s not such a tightrope walk with such a big net. People can expand and do new things and if they fail it’s not too far to fall,” Teilmann said of the uniqueness of Chico
“There’s a lot of creative people here shoved into the same small art and music scene. You see the same people everywhere, and it becomes safe to talk to them: ‘Hey, I saw you at the Surrogate show. So what’s your deal? I like your shoes, nice mustache, let’s form a band.’”
A release party for TYCG, featuring many of the performers on the album, is set for May 6 at Café Coda. Bear Hunter will also be saying goodbye that night—an emotional farewell for Teilmann: “I’ve spent the last eight or nine years writing and playing music with these guys; they’re the best people I know and my closest friends. Who knows what the future holds, but for all practical purposes this is it. We’re gonna play our top 10 favorite songs and pretty much call it a day.”