Dan Schneider of The Singleman Affair | Interview
Dan Schneider delivers a sequel on a shoestring budget—a sequel to his debut album, not The Graduate. Not yet.
The sun had already set on a Thursday in late January and the scene at Logan Square’s Cafe Mustache was buzzing with caffeine. As twentysomethings pecked away at laptops, the coffeehouse spun a mix of folk music that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a space like this 40 years ago. The soundtrack isn’t far removed from the tender tunes that singer-guitarist Dan Schneider writes in the Singleman Affair. After our chat over drinks, the barista asked Schneider for a copy of his latest album, Silhouettes at Dawn.
Essentially just Schneider and a rotating cast of local ringers, the Singleman Affair has been spinning yarns of handsome acid-folk since 2005. And despite a few brushes with notoriety, it’s still floating around the underground. When local psychedeliaphile Steve Krakow included a Singleman cut on a mix packaged with his Galactic Zoo Dossier zine, it fell into the hands of Alan McGee, cofounder of Creation Records and the man responsible for signing Oasis. McGee picked Singleman’s sitar-draped debut, Let’s Kill the Summer, for release on his Poptones label in 2006. “I never understood a word he said, he has the biggest Glaswegian accent,” Schneider says with a laugh. “I could have given away my firstborn child, I wouldn’t have known.”
Before long, the Singleman Affair was on a U.K. tour, and McGee’s endorsement meant kind reviews in that country’s most respected magazines. But McGee pulled the plug on Poptones before the outfit could build an overseas audience, let alone secure a U.S. release for the album.
Schneider, a native of Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs, worked intermittently over the next four years with drummer and engineer Graeme Gibson on a follow-up album, Silhouettes, recently self-released on Schneider’s Cardboard Sangria label.
Lush tunes convincingly approximate the analog warmth of the singer-songwriter era, be it the elfin guitar-work lighting up “Cristi” or the pedal-steel flickering through the sunny “Same Sky I See.” There isn’t anything close to a contemporary flourish. Gibson’s unlimited access to the South Side studio Clava afforded them the time to tinker with arrangements and pull in guest musicians from Califone and Fruit Bats.
“I’d say, ‘Let’s make this a bluish color,’ ” the 35-year-old explains. “While he gets into the technicalities of finding old plate reverbs and that kind of classical engineer standpoint.” Schneider adds, “To work with someone like that is kind of rare these days. Everyone records in bedrooms.”
Between sips of the house blend, Schneider admits he’s still looking for a bigger label. That has yet to happen, but not for lack of enthusiasm from others. The Numero Group’s Rob Sevier liked Silhouettes enough to help shop it around, and the disc’s artwork shows the keen eye of designer Xiaofei Zhang. It wasn’t until licensing the image that Schneider learned it was called Interior of a Working-Class Man, an unforeseen riff on the band’s name. The Singleman Affair was lifted from one of Schneider’s favorite films, The Graduate. “In high school, my friend and I had this joke about writing The Graduate II,” Schneider says. He shares a bit of the plot: “Elaine says, ‘Hey, do you wanna take the trash out, Benjamin?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t feel like it.’ She replies, ‘What are you gonna do? Go fuck my mom?’ ” Schneider delivers Benjamin’s would-be sullen response, “ ‘Okay, I’ll take the garbage out.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’ll write that if music doesn’t work out.”
The Singleman Affair playsThursday 10.