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 have a smoke.
This simple action had a big consequence: the 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 created, Cupolo and Emanuele set about finishing their first album, and continued independent promotion of each song as they uploaded it. John also learned the keyboard after initially only playing drums. By the time the musicians finished their final 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 some friends.
The Technicolour Sleep
Cupolo and Emanuele recorded their second album in 2006 while each member worked as a 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 finish mixing in August. 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 recorded using VSTs, or computer-based samplers. The duo first incorporated their use on the first album’s bonus track “A Long Goodbye” and was impressed with their versatility. Finding good VSTs 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 for a subsidized fire pod, and upgraded microphones. These upgrades allowed a significantly better album in terms of fidelity. It was also around this time that musician Nosaj Thing recommended putting their songs on iTunes, which opened up a broader market to The American Dollar’s music. As the band recorded, they were contacted by French artist Fursy Teyssier, who expressed interest in 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 degree classes at Fordham University, and one day working 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 with the band for many years to come. This was the first album of The American Dollar to be produced on vinyl, as the band partnered with Pirate Ship Records for its production. 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. Amid lingering thoughts of doom, 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. The band sent an advance copy of the album to Rogier Hendricks of the Netherlands video production outfit Onesize, which inspired him to create the iconic animated video for the song. 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. As Emanuele tracked down the right live monitoring equipment, Cupolo created the instruments and background tracks in Mainstage. The duo began to rehearse in Brooklyn and Astoria and optimize the set. 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 by the venue 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 repeatedly asked for more ambient songs that would be conducive for soundtracks. This generated the idea of producing ambient re-creations of their songs that would be good for licensing and listening. 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 Cathedreal in 2011 that featured chilled out versions of their heavier songs matched with the natural reverb of the huge space. The ambient albums marked the first time the band engaged in spectral mixing to create new soundscapes from existing instruments. This resulted in an even greater variation from the original mixes found on albums such as 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 Apogees 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 thankful to finally have 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 as they moved forward. Their lack of knowledge created funny situations such as importing studio tracks into their own recording system at different sample rates, resulting in a cacophony that threatened the entire session until they figured out the problem. During this time, the band also purchased a touring van outfitted with custom speakers 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 to use their songs, lawyers for the band noticed many others were not paying for their use, including prominent companies in different industries. Through their record label, the band was involved in some legal cases to fix the problem. Despite the media circus caused by some cases, 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 over the top percussive elements. Rather than leave the studio for recording drums and guitars as they did on Atlas, drums were recorded on an electric kit separately from cymbals, 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, generating 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 serve only as a reference recording and capture of a fun show, the band thought it was a good representation of their live performances at the time and released it.
Across The Oceans
In 2015, Cupolo decided to return to university to complete a degree, 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 previous 7 years. 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 (a 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 stylistically limiting. The band decided to keep the album more brief than their previous efforts, as patience for the album experience decreased, which forced 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. 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.
In 2019, the duo renewed their focus on the live setup, and upgraded their live performance gear, setlist, and visuals. They returned to the stage and played some great shows with God Is An Astronaut, which were long in the making as the bands had talked on and off for years. These shows were so successful and enjoyable that they inspired plans for a larger international tour featuring the two bands. At the same time, during van rides to their gigs in the USA, Cupolo and Emanuele listened to lofi music more and more, finding the style appealing to their ear and similar to the songs they had made themselves. When the Coronavirus crisis arrived early in 2020, touring plans were sadly cancelled, but the band knew which direction it wanted to move in immediately – the duo set to work making low key, warm tracks to counteract all the chaos in the outside world. They relied on artist Yan Goldschmidt to create stylized album art appropriate for the genre, and released their new effort on April 14th, 2020, much to the surprise of longtime listeners. After plans to play the Post Festival were similarly cancelled, the band also began their relationship with Post Recordings, and together released Lofi Dimensions on a beautiful vinyl pressing.
Inspired by the positive response to Lofi Dimensions, the duo fully committed to developing their sound in this new direction. With live shows frozen until further notice, and much of society shut down, Cupolo and Emanuele retreated to their recording studios in between trips to the beach during the summer, and set to work on a follow-up album. The Lofi Dimensions albums were recorded more separately than other albums, with the musicians sending pieces back and forth as they were completed. The focus on Lofi 2 was to create even shorter pieces that would sound good on repeat, and expose the listener to a greater variety of impressions. The effort was released August 21, 2020, with cozy animated artwork by graphic artist Sonia Lorenz.
The duo was now in a solid groove, and stayed busy carving out their space in a new but similar genre to their historical releases.The band had individual breakthroughs, with Emanuele sharpening his talent for putting together diverse samples, and Cupolo discovering guitar tones appropriate to the new sound and new mixing techniques. Additional songs were recorded, inspired by time near the ocean during the summer and reconnecting with friends and family as society opened up again. These songs were compiled under the title track’s name “Cosmic Wave” and released on October 15th, 2020. Emanuele at this point had also created videos for several lofi songs over the past few months, and artwork for the release was done by Cupolo, who animated a still image from one of Emanuele’s videos.