The American Dollar was formed in August, 2005, in Fresh Meadows, New York City. The duo had been playing in several rock bands since high school, when Cupolo’s band at the time needed a drummer to sit in during a show rehearsal, and Emanuele picked up the sticks. The two were at Emanuele’s parents’ house (who are musicians themselves), when Rich ran an Alesis keyboard through John’s new Kaos Pad, producing the warm, repetitive buzz-type pattern that eventually could be heard on the first song they recorded, “Everyone Gets Shot”. The title came from a documentary scene that was on mute in the background as the two worked on the song. Rich and John recorded the Kaos Pad sample using a simple Behringer mixer, and supplemented it with instruments from a Yamaha Motif and electric drum kit.
First Self-Titled Album
At the time, Myspace was the dominant social media platform for musicians. The two finished their first song and created a colorful band page, customized with Cupolo’s basic knowledge of digital design. For the band name, Rich suggested The American Dollar, inspired by a coin bank with $100 wrapped around it that he had as a child. They sent a few friend requests, and went to grab a beer.
This simple action had a big consequence: the very next day, the band was contacted by producer Jim Helton, wishing to license their music for MTV’s hit show “Battlegrounds”. They agreed. Inspired by consistent positive responses and the sound they were creating, Cupolo and Emanuele set about finishing their first album, while diligently continuing independent myspace promotion of each song as they uploaded it. John also began to learn the keyboard after initially only being a drummer. By the time the musicians finished their senior year of university, their first self-titled album was complete, and they had built a small studio in Emanuele’s apartment. Cupolo mixed and mastered the album, and artwork was provided by Emanuele’s now wife Heather Corrigan.
The Technicolour Sleep
Cupolo and Emanuele began recording their second album in 2006 while each member worked as a high school teacher and IT consultant, respectively. It was recorded on the most ambitious schedule of all of their albums: the plan was to record the album in June and July of 2006 and then mix later in the summer. They would dedicate almost all holiday time and after-work hours to completing the songs on the record. This would be the first album that the band would record using VST’s, or computer-based samplers. The duo first incorporated their use on the first album’s bonus track “A Long Goodbye” and was highly impressed with their versatility. Finding good VST’s created an almost infinite number of instruments to work with, which was very exciting. After selling enough of their first album to fund a better recording setup, the band forged a relationship with Presonus, getting a subsidized fire pod, and upgrading microphones. This put is in a situation to record a significantly better album in terms of fidelity. It was also around this time that musician Nosaj Thing recommended getting their songs on iTunes, which opened up a broader market to The American Dollar’s music. As the band was recording, they were contacted by French artist Fursy Teyssier, who expressed an appreciation of their music and offered to create the forthcoming album’s artwork.
A Memory Stream
The band pressed on at their studio, once again working normal jobs by day and recording A Memory Stream by night, to a growing, positive audience. Cupolo was also taking Masters degree classes at Fordham University, and one day in the computer lab, he noticed amazing artwork on a computer screen which was left open by the previous user. He tracked down the artist, Greg Brophy, who agreed to provide artwork for the next album, establishing a creative partnership for many years to come. This was the first album of The American Dollar to be produced on vinyl. At the end of the recording process, the band almost lost the entire album when the PC they were using crashed, and would not turn on for a week. But they finally found a single, crucial system file that allowed them to turn the computer back on, and they quickly created mixdowns of all the songs. After the release of this album, the duo quit their day jobs to focus entirely on their music career.
The band was considering how to play their material live with just two people for several years, and in between recording albums, they made a plan. Cupolo and Emanuele decided which songs would sound good live, along with which parts would sound the best when played live. Emanuele was primarily in charge of finding the right live monitoring equipment, and Cupolo created the instruments and background tracks in Mainstage. The duo began to rehearse in Brooklyn and Astoria. Their first live show was at the now-closed Brooklyn audiovisual room Monkeytown in late 2008. The show featured live visuals chosen by the band and displayed on all four walls of the room. Live drums, guitar, and keyboards were performed as the two switched back and forth for their respective parts. It was a success that would continue for years to come.
The duo had always listened to ambient music, and wanted to showcase that element of their songs more specifically. Also, by 2009, licensing of The American Dollar’s music in television and film was picking up considerably, and the band was constantly asked for more ambient songs that would be conducive for soundtracks. This generated the idea of producing ambient recreations of their songs that would cover both bases. A test release for Ambient One was done for Linus Records in Japan, and upon seeing such a positive response by filmmakers and fans alike, the band put out a worldwide release and continued this tradition into the future with Ambient Two and Three. Following the release of Ambient Two, The American Dollar played a special show for the Echoes Gatherings series at St Mary’s Church in 2011 that featured chilled out versions of their heavier songs matched with the natural reverb of the cathedral. Ambient Three marked the first time the band engaged in sound manipulation to create new soundscapes from existing instruments. This resulted in an even greater variation from the original mixes found on Awake In The City.
For Atlas, the duo made plans to seriously upgrade its recording sound quality. In 2010, they switched to a high-end Mac Pro recording system, bought Apogee Duets for recording all guitar and mic’d up instruments, and rented out A Bloody Good Record recording studio in Long Island City, to re-record drums and guitars in high-fidelity. They mostly funded this through their first CSI: Miami licensing placement, and were very thankful to finally be on a setup that was far more convenient to use than previous relatively primitive PC setups. Neither Cupolo or Emanuele had professional recording training, but they figured it out themselves and moved ahead. Their lack of knowledge created a funny situation when they imported the studio tracks into their own recording system at different sample rates, resulting in “Wonka sounds” that threatened the entire session until they figured out the problem. During this time, the band also purchased a touring van complete with custom stereo and a huge subwoofer, which was excellent for testing new mixes of songs on the road. From 2009-2014, the band used this van for several tours across the United States and Canada. The band also played huge festivals in several cities in Russia during 2011 and 2012.
After years of The American Dollar licensing their songs to hundreds of great filmmakers and companies who paid for a license to use their songs, lawyers for the band noticed many others were not paying for their use, with some of them being prominent names in different industries. Through their record label Yesh Music, the band was involved in some lawsuits to change that situation. All the cases settled amicably, as the duo continued to focus on making the best music they could.
Awake In The City
Preceding their 2012 Russia tour, The American Dollar wanted to return to the studio to record a brand new album. They would aim for a more simple method of writing songs, focused on unique and dominant melodies, and leaving out extemporaneous percussive elements. Rather than leave the studio for recording drums and guitars as they did on Atlas, drums were recorded separately from cymbals on an electric kit, allowing for greater separation and clarity to the music. Rich’s guitars were also tracked using a vintage Fender Bassman amp from the 1960s which belonged to his father. The band also recorded parts of the album while on tour in the midwest USA, spawning an entire track, “Urbana”. Promo efforts for the album included a video for ‘As We Float’ by Tor Evan Mathison. Cover art was once again a striking photo by Greg Brophy.
Live In Brooklyn
The American Dollar returned to Brooklyn to open for The Mercury Program at The Knitting Factory in 2012. The recording was created from a hybrid of two sound sources – the original soundboard recording, and a stereo mix of two condenser microphones spread out in the audience. Mixed together and mastered by Cupolo, the sound came to life, and although originally intended to be just a reference recording and capturing of a great night, the band decided it should be released as a good representation of their live performances at the time.
Across The Oceans
In 2015, Cupolo decided to return to university to complete a J.D., in addition to continuing The American Dollar. The band decided to use the time before he started the first semester to create a full length album that would be released later in the year. This decision came after a short hiatus for the band, a time during which each member pursued musical side projects, after creating music as The American Dollar almost constantly for the 7 years prior. The side projects brought in new equipment and concepts to the band’s musical consciousness. For this album, the band utilized vast sample libraries from various sources, and an instrument called the Monome (basically a very complex sample trigger grid) to inspire and create patterns for new songs. This infused a new excitement into the creative process, although the process itself was somewhat complex and intense. The band also had some major equipment upgrades for this album which allowed Emanuele to return to using mic’d up acoustic drums. He preferred this over the electronic pads, which sounded good but were somewhat limiting stylistically on Across The Oceans. The band decided to keep the album more brief than their previous efforts, as they decided that commercially, patience for the album experience was decreasing, forcing a picky process of refinement. This philosophy would greatly impact their approach to releases going forward.
A few months after the release of Across The Oceans, The American Dollar returned to the studio in late 2015 to create a few new songs. One of the first songs recorded in the sessions was 4 BC. Somewhat disillusioned with the album format, the band decided to release singles, track by track, as they were completed and mastered. On December 1, 2016, the duo released 4 BC, and announced they would release a song a month for all of 2017, indefinitely. The new material was more electronically influenced and again heavily reliant on the Monome for the start of the creative process. The sessions also found the band in a much upgraded equipment situation, with a new Mac Pro, Apogee Ensemble Interface, and several microphone upgrades. The band finally felt that everything was sounding as it should. After releasing 13 months worth of individual songs, The American Dollar compiled and released You’re Listening, an album created from the individual releases.