If Emil Adler didn’t know any better, he could swear an Italian journalist was insulting his group, October Project.
In Chicago for a recent Sony International conference, Adler and his bandmates were “meeting and greeting” with the label honchos and foreign press. One writer, upon hearing October Project’s self-titled debut Epic album, didn’t mince any words with Adler.
“You’re the most un-American band I’ve ever heard.”
Taken aback, Adler stared at the writer with a puzzled look and replied, “What does that mean? What country do we sound like we’re from?”
“He didn’t know,” Adler said, laughing as he recalled the brief encounter. “He said it was a different vibe and not the kind he expected from America. I asked him if he thought we sounded like we’re from Ireland, because some people think we sound like some of the Celtic bands. He said, ‘No, it’s not as folk-oriented.’ “
Fortunately, someone changed the subject, and Adler continued on in his genial way. Still, the conversation with the Italian writer left him baffled.
“Well, for one thing, I’d hate to make comparisons myself about how we sound,” Adler said, “because if they show up in print, the other band members will lay me on the ground and walk all over me.
“I’ll tell you this, we all listened to a lot of the Beatles – whatever that means.”
That’s as close as you will get in cornering Adler on October Project’s grandiose, synthesizer-dominated flair for pop. The leadoff single, “Bury My Lovely,” would make Phil Spector proud. Singer Mary Fahl’s haunting alto and Adler’s melodic touch put a twist on Julie Flanders’ delicate lyrics.
“Julie won’t say exactly what inspired the song,” Adler said, “and she won’t get too specific. When I first read the lyrics, I thought it was a song about child abuse, and she says, ‘Well, it’s a song about a tragedy sort of remembered by an adult.”
October Project, up from its home base at New York’s Cafe Sin-E, is a unique collaboration: Fahl provides the voice, Adler composes the music and Flanders finds the words.
Adler calls it a miracle.
“Getting three people together to do anything is unbelievable,” he said, laughing again. “You know how you just want to go to a bar or a restaurant, and it’s like landing at Normandy? The logistics are horrible.
“To get five people, or six usually, together in this situation, it was like, ‘how is this happening?’ We must be in the same place at the same time, and luckily so. We’re of the same mind at the same moment.”
Fahl and Flanders met through mutual friends, while Adler and guitarist David Sabatino operated a recording studio in New Jersey. Somehow they converged, and after one listen to Fahl’s distinctive vocals, Adler knew where they were headed.
First, they had to come up with a group name.
“It’s a mundane story, really,” Adler said. “When we got together, we all got the notion we wanted to play out in clubs beginning in October, and we hadn’t come up with a band name yet, so we were putting all our ideas, all the songs and notes into a folder marked ‘the October Project.’
“When it came time to come up with names, there were tons of suggestions and then the folder came up. It’s a great name because October is a season of when things die, there’s transformation. It’s beautiful. Those thoughts of the season were what we were arriving at with the sound of the band.”
BWF (before we forget): October Project’s follow-up album, “Falling Further In,” charted briefly in, appropriately, October 1995.