For their third studio recording Other Desert Cities (April 27, 2018), Bay Station sought inspiration amid the stark, natural beauty of the Mojave Desert. While their first two releases, Your Own Reaction (2014 under their former name, KCDC) and Go Out and Make Some (2016) reflected the coastal landscape of their home in Alameda, California, the 10 songs on Other Desert Cities was written by Bay Station co-founders Deborah Crooks and Kwame Copeland during several week-long writing retreats in Joshua Tree. Their experiences and impressions of the desert town adjacent to its namesake National Park inform the recording, which details the strange, poetic, and distinctly American stories of desert denizens, both animal and human.
As they did on their previous two releases, Deborah Crooks (vocals, principal lyricist) and Kwame Copeland (guitar, dobro, vocals, harmonica) co-produced Other Desert Cities with Mike Stevens. Stevens (Sun Kil Moon, The Uptones) also played drums, mixed the record, and recorded three of the tracks at his Lost Monkey studio in Hayward, CA. Along with Ben Bernstein (bass) and Steve Waters (guitar, backing vocals), they recorded most of the album at Gatos Trail studio in the Mojave, among the Joshua trees and creosote, with engineer Dan Joeright. Ben Bernstein also recorded and engineered “Fire Song” and “Trickster Moon” at Petting Zoo Studio in Oakland, CA. Upon joining the band in late 2017, bass player Chris Veenstra contributed to several songs on the record, as did guest musicians Michael McNevin (electric and slide guitar), and Joan Reuter (fiddle). The album was mastered by Ken Lee (JJ Grey & Mofro, Bill Frisell) in Oakland.
Many of the album’s tracks depict the imagined lives of desert dwellers; from wild coyotes and survivors of a building fire to road-tripping visitors. “Sleeping Hard Waking Slow” explores aspects of unconditional and timeless love, sung from an unconventional point of view. “Look but Don’t Touch” is a straight-ahead rock song depicting the life of a stripper working at an adult entertainment store, while “Sands of Time” doubles down on a recurring theme of timelessness over a dance-worthy, samba-inspired beat. Crooks assumes the narrative voice, in turns affectionate (“Sands of Time”) inclusive and communal (“Everybody’s Business”) and mournful (“Trickster Moon”). “Bay Station Wiggle” displays the band’s penchant for cutting loose, skirting the edges of surf music in a guitar-driven romp evocative of Chuck Berry.