On a front porch in Philadelphia in early 2004, Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon sat with a guitar and a banjo and busily fingerpicked to keep their hands from freezing. After a few false starts they settled on a dirge in D minor and began improvising lyrics about a labor conflict in a Western Pennsylvania coal town that their fathers had learned about from an old folk song taught in Quaker schools in the 1950's.
The facts, as communicated, were a half-remembered pastiche of rampant discrimination, frayed family ties, and double-dealing. The principal heroes and villains of the story were lost to history and buried in mineshafts and unmarked graves, and the particulars of the outcome were primarily recorded on newspapers lost in warehouse fires and floods. Nevertheless, the tragedy struck both as an ideal thread to weave through a series of stories they had been telling each other about a town full of unlucky, lovelorn people. Inspired by the classic rock operas of the 1970's and the golden age of musical theater, they began work on their own.
Wilder and Kardon spent the next several years traveling, each writing and tinkering with songs about their town and sending each other hastily recorded demos and fragments of lyrics. The story of Greenbelt grew and the cast of characters, from robber barons to union men, migrant farmers to crooked ministers, became fleshed out. They enlisted friends from bands like Suckers, the Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, Man Man, Chairlift, and Dragons of Zynth to sing the parts of the town's luckless citizens. [see full album credits below]
In 2008, they put together a core band [featuring Ira Wolf Tuton of Yeasayer on bass and Christopher Powell of Man Man on drums] and began arranging the songs of Break Line for a full ensemble. With the help of recording wunderkind Britt Myers [Chairlift, Yeasayer, Passing Strange] they finally began putting the music down onto tape, staying up late experimenting with sounds and arrangements.
In the years that followed, the two found moments whenever they could to complete the project. Neither can believe that what started with just the two of them huddled on a cold porch would grow to involve a once-in-a-lifetime cast of collaborators. A decade after its conception, they are proud to present to the public their vision of a classic story of betrayal, pride and lost love.
Welcome to Greenbelt.
Singers: Aku Orraca-Tetteh (Dragons of Zynth), Chris Keating (Yeasayer), Haley Dekle (Dirty Projectors), Quinn Walker (Suckers) and Austin Fisher (Suckers), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), Cameron Hull, Anand Wilder (Yeasayer)
Musicians: Ira Wolf Tuton (Yeasayer), James Richardson (MGMT), Christopher Sean Powell (Man Man), Jason Trammell (Sinkane, Jaytram), K Ishibashi (Kishi Bashi), Austin Fisher and Quinn Walker (Suckers), Steve Marion (Delicate Steve), Lyndon Cordero Lopez, Daniel Schleifer, Charles Christopher Erway (What Cheer? Brigade) Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Jonny Hull (Jones Street Station), Samuel Muglia, Travis Rosenberg,