REFLECTION CLUB: Declaration of Love

Reflection Club

Jethro Tull‘s 1972 magnum opus ‘Thick as a Brick‘ is considered as one of the cornerstone releases in the progressive rock genre. It is one of those albums that has shaped the genre and put the foundation of what is to come decades later. 

Berlin-based musician and songwriter Lutz Meinert has launched a progressive rock project Reflection Club in 2017 with one of the goals being paying tribute to the English formation’s mentioned release. In his own words, “Reflection Club picks up the musical style of Jethro Tull during their progressive rock phase between 1972 and 1973, expands on it with elements of jazz and fusion and creates a novel, nearly 48-minute-long, original composition, divided into 11 parts.”

This composition, entitled ‘Still Thick as a Brick,’ is available since March this year via Bandcamp. Reflection Club was a part of our recent Progotronics compilation, and for that occasion Meinert answered our questionnaire.

Define the mission of Reflection Club.

When I founded the project, I was initially only interested in producing a homage to “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, reviving their sound of that time with my own composition and expanding it with further jazz and prog elements. The band name “Reflection Club” fit perfectly to the project, because “Still Thick as a Brick” is indeed a musical reflection on the progressive rock of the 70s, here in the style of Jethro Tull.

The lyrics are also a reflection on events that concern me and are considered more or less central theme in the form of a concept album. After the great response to our debut so far, Reflection Club’s mission is to delight the world with more interesting concept albums of this kind.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Still Thick as a Brick,” and the themes it covers.

When I heard “Thick as a Brick 2″ by Ian Anderson in 2012, I spontaneously came up with the idea of writing a kind of sequel of my own to “Thick as a Brick,” stylistically closer to the original work “Thick as a Brick,” Jethro Tull’s 1972 classic. I immediately thought of the vocal melodies and themes, which I recorded in the studio. I also had the story for the lyrics in my head. However, at that time I was in the middle of working on “Psychedelic Teatime”, the debut album of my other psychedelic-prog project Margin. And I wanted to finish that one first in peace and quiet before I ventured into a new project.

The subject matter of “Still Thick as Brick” is quite complex, as it relates to different levels and areas of the concept album. First of all, there are the lyrics, which are about someone who is at a crossroads at the height of his career in the financial sector and looks back critically on his professional and private life. Very dubious practices in the financial world are described, as well as the development of the small town of Rellington from a sleepy fishing village to a hyped scene.

If you take a look at the enclosed music magazine “Rellington Stone”, you learn that the main character in the song lyrics is a certain George Bosten, the successful financial mogul who suddenly disappeared completely from the public eye a few years ago and who, according to rumors, co-wrote the song lyrics of “Still Thick as a Brick”.

The Rellington Stone has more articles about the album and Rellington, and the DVD also visualizes the complete music with an elaborate slide show.

Ultimately, the album story is only fully revealed when you read the lyrics and the Rellington Stone magazine, watch the video, and of course listen to the music while doing so. Everything complements each other, as a good concept album should.

Still Thick as a Brick

What is the message of “Still Thick as a Brick”?

Lyrically, it’s about how much of your conscience you’re willing to sacrifice for power and wealth.

Musically, it’s a declaration of love to the progressive rock of the early ’70s, especially that in the vein of Jethro Tull.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

When I think of an interesting theme, I just sing it into my smartphone. I regularly listen to these recordings in the studio and immediately record them on an instrumental track if I still like them. That’s how it went with “Still Thick as a Brick.”

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Especially when you’re working on a longer continuous composition, like Still Thick as a Brick, which is almost 48 minutes long, you have to be very careful that the dramaturgy is right. The interplay of quiet and fast parts, of dense and sparsely arranged sections, and of acoustic and electric arrangements must be right, so that the music carries you through the entire composition without you feeling bored or rushed in between. For me, a long track like this is like an exciting journey, where on the one hand you don’t know what’s coming next, but on the other hand every now and then you see something familiar that you can orient yourself by.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

First I recorded the 11 individual parts one after the other, complete with all instrumental and vocal tracks. Among them were dummy tracks that were later replaced by the other musicians like vocals, flute and guitars. After that, I listened to everything over and over again, tweaked the transitions and arrangements, tried out different timbres until everything was coherent. It was a bit like being in the practice room with the band, when the pieces finally take on the form that everyone feels comfortable with, through frequent playing and trial and error.
I then recorded Ulla’s flute in the studio. I sent Paul and Nils the sequenzer tracks with the rough mix so they could record their parts in their studios and they sent me back the finished takes.

After that, I was left with the stereo and suround mix and mastering.

How long “Still Thick as a Brick” was in the making?

Actually, most of the recording was already done in 2017. Most of the work started for me after that, namely the tedious work of mixing. Many Jethro Tull albums were remixed by none other than Steven Wilson, so the hurdle was extremely high, not only musically but also sound-wise. I also had to familiarize myself with the multi-channel material, as I had previously only mixed in stereo. This also required a hardware and software expansion of my studio, which involved a lot of reading and trial and error. Creating the Rellington Stone magazine with all the articles and incorporating them into the newspaper layout also proved to be very labor intensive. The album video also took a lot of time. Just sifting through masses of photos for the approx. 680 images I used for the album video and the album trailer alone took me several weeks. Then to assemble and synchronize all that was another huge job. At the end came the mastering and the integration of the pressing plant. That all took much longer than I had originally thought. The fact that I’m a perfectionist in certain things also made the whole thing take longer. On the other hand, I gained a lot of useful experience from which future productions will certainly benefit.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the album?

For our debut, Jethro Tull was of course in the foreground as a source of inspiration, no wonder when you make a homage to “Thick as a Brick”. However, I was also influenced by the progressive rock and jazz rock of the 70s, which you can also hear on our debut. Not every passage here sounds typically like Jethro Tull. And there are many bands that have influenced me, like Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, PFM, Brand X, Pink Floyd and many more. Some of that will definitely shine through in our sound.

What is your view on technology in music?

Today’s digital technology makes it possible to set up your own professional studio at a reasonably affordable price, which would have cost a considerable fortune back in the 70s to 90s.

Without a virtual, arbitrarily expandable mixing console, virtual studio effects and instruments, this debut would never have been possible and, above all, affordable in this quality. The exchange of audio files via the Internet is also part of this. For me, this results in a production paradise. However, I also have the interest and stamina to deal with all the technology besides the music.

But without good compositions and good musicians, even the best technology won’t make good music. And medicore, interchangeable music can be made with or without digital technology….

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I see our album as a total work of art, where the music is this basis, but lyrics, cover and video also play an important role and clarify the content concept. And this level is also important to me. But first and foremost I’m a musician and I know how limited the possibility is to deal with complex topics in a few song lyrics. If that were my main concern, I would rather write books than make music.

What are your plans for the future?

Apart from the current pandemic, live gigs are out of the question for the time being, because Paul lives in America and the rest in and around Berlin. Also, Ulla, Nils and I have full-time jobs, with Nils still playing in his main band Crystal Palace. On top of that, we would need three additional musicians to bring the complex arrangements to the stage. At the moment this is not possible for us due to time and financial reasons.

That’s why we are concentrating on the next album. This much can be revealed, it will be a concept album again…

Get a copy of Still Thick as a Brick from Bandcamp here.

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