In his basement apartment, William Bendler (Bimsclix Atrolla) fed his fish Archimedes, stepped outside, sat on the porch and lit a cigarette. His new album, Mrs. Calabash, just released digitally via Bandcamp on March 23, but it has been over a decade in the making.
“What you hear on this album is what was recorded at Lake Mary Ronan, Montana, over 10 years ago,” said Bendler. “It was never meant to be released, but I suppose it’s a good time to release a digital album, and I’m a procrastinator so it took me a minute.”
Mrs. Calabash and another cassette, Abraxas Whip (set for release sometime in early May), were recorded at the same time, around 2008. The recordings have sat in a closet all this time, until now, and been released through local label collective Scavenger Cult Records, which exclusively deals in analog recordings.
Bendler has played in a lot of different bands over the years, like The Slaves to Nom de Plume, and also played with a lot of local musicians like Otis Crook and Blake Green; but Mrs. Calabash is his debut album.
The story began when Bendler met a woman from a British all-analog electronic band called Add N to (X) on 13th Street in Boise’s North End. She gave him all of their albums and, after listening to them, he said they inspired him to create something.
“My friend and I put all of them in a boom box and carried it around town for two days straight,” said Bendler, “I can’t emphasize how much of an affect they had on me.”
He took out a credit card and bought two Moog synthesizers, a Korg synthesizer and a drum machine; and slowly cobbled together the instruments needed in hopes of acquiring a band but he couldn’t put one together. So he did everything by himself. He was living in Montana and his friend Tuck Nelson, now a freelance sound engineer based in London, came up for a month and they recorded.
“I wrote most of the songs on guitar and then I added synthesizer and drum machine,” said Bendler. “I also created several alter egos, them being Mouse Lee, The Daughters of the Chief, Prince Vic and Alvin’s Arrows. I’m not sure why, I just did, and some of the songs are from the alter egos’ perspectives.”
Mrs. Calabash is a blend of electronic styles, with sometimes gloomy synth coupled with guitar and Bendler’s light, melodic voice. The album’s name comes from the old Jimmy Durante radio show, where every night, the host would end with the line “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” No one knew whom Durante was referring to and he didn’t divulge the secret that it was his wife until 1966.
Bendler eventually returned to Boise, and the tapes have sat unused ever since. Scavenger Cult approached Bendler through Tuck Nelson in 2018 and the two have been working on it going back and forth while making changes. Eventually, general consensus was to leave the recordings as close to their original versions as possible, and the result is a warm and organic sound that flows through the album.
“I just conspired over the pond with Tuck. He sent mixes and did a lot of work, but in the end we decided to stick with as much originality that it possessed from the get go,” said Bendler.