“We’re not really a tribute band,” says Glen Burtnik of The Weeklings, though it’s easy to see why people get that impression. Six of the 12 songs on the band’s self-titled debut album, which is being released today on the JEM label, were written by Beatles members, though they were recorded, in the ’60s, by other artists (including Cilla Black, The Fourmost and The Strangers) and not the Fab Four themselves. The other six songs are originals, written by Burtnik and Bob Burger in an early Beatles style. Live at the Stone Pony in January, The Weeklings added some Beatles “greatest hits,” including “I Am the Walrus” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” to the setlist.
“When you have a live audience, you do want to give out everything from your toolbox that you can,” says Burtnik. “We’re probably, as we continue, become more of a power-pop band than just the Beatles things — the Raspberries, and the Knack, and whoever. That is the music that we draw from, that we grew up with, and that we are going back to.”
Does he mean the band will cover Raspberries and Knack songs, or write songs in that style? “A little bit of both. I mentioned the Raspberries because there’s one song (on the album ) that’s a tip of the hat to the Raspberries as much as the Beatles. But yeah, maybe live we’ll cover some of those power-pop classics.”
The band — which will celebrate the release of the CD at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on Friday (visit wonderbarasburypark.com) and has a number of other New Jersey and New York shows scheduled through June (visit weeklings.com for information) — features Burtnik on bass and vocals, Burger on rhythm guitar and vocals, John Merjave on lead guitar and vocals, and Dave Anthony on drums. The musicians, in some cases, have known each other for many years, and they first played together as a quartet at one of the “Beatles Bash” concerts Burtnik presents annually at the State Theatre in New Brunswick.
This led to more shows, and then talk of making an album.
Burtnik, at first, resisted the idea of an album. “I thought, ‘Why would a Beatles band ever try to record Beatles songs?’ Because as you listen to those familiar songs, you’re just gonna be aware of how much these guys don’t sound like the Beatles. So we started to adjust to that by saying, ‘Well, let’s take some of these rare songs.’ ”
The Weeklings name evolved from an inside joke — band members would sarcastically call some brilliant thing the Beatles did “weak” — and Weaklings became Weeklings just as Beetles became Beatles. (“It’s not a great story,” Burtnik admits.)
They also gave themselves goofy names, a la The Traveling Wilburys. Burtnik, Burger, Merjave and Anthony are Lefty Weekling, Zeek Weekling, Rocky Weekling and Ramblin’ Dave Weekling, respectively.
To try to re-create that early Beatles sound, the band recorded like the early Beatles did, as much as possible.
“We wanted to record the way things were done in the early ’60s, and the way the Beatles recorded, as a quartet with (producer) George Martin, for the first two albums,” says Burtnik. “So we went into the recording studio and set up the way the Beatles set up. We used the same kind of microphones. We used all the gear, all the amplifiers, all the guitars, and we recorded quickly. Within three days, we recorded all of this album.
“That’s very, very different from the way I’ve always recorded, because I’ve always fixed everything I could, overdubbed as much as possible. Which is really the way modern recording is now. You edit everything, and you put everything into a computer, and the computer has lots of plug-ins and apps that change everything and make it pitch perfect and all that.
“Well, this was essentially a live recording that we did a little bit of overdubbing on. And we mixed it in mono, as opposed to stereo.”
As fans of New Jersey rock know, Burtnik always seems to be involved in a million different projects. But he seems to really be focused on making the Weeklings work.
“It’s akin to getting together with a fraternal order, or a group of guys who hang out weekly and get drunk together, or something,” he says. “It’s very easy for the four of us to play together, and to do shows, because it’s only the four of us, and it’s really inspired, and fueled, by our common love for the pop music of the early ’60s — the British Invasion.”
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