Former members of Cartoon evolve with Arts Fest

Cartoon performs on Pugh Street during Arts Fest in 1981.
Cartoon performs on Pugh Street during Arts Fest in 1981. Photo provided

Hughes, Kidder & Rounds will take the stage at State College Presbyterian Church on Saturday as part of the annual Arts Fest extravaganza.

The band is made up of members of the former group Cartoon, an Arts Fest staple that was formed more than 30 years ago. Guitarist and singer-songwriter Jon Rounds said that the band was formed when members started sitting in on each other’s solo gigs in town and decided to play together.

“About three-quarters of the songs we played at club gigs were original, and soon we were doing entirely original sets at on-campus shows and at the Arts Fest. Our trademark was three-part vocal harmony and tight acoustic guitars,” Rounds said.

Cartoon mophed into Hughes, Kidder & Rounds after Kevin Dremel left the band in 2012.

“After Cartoon’s final reunion show at the 2012 fest — we’d been doing one every year since 1985 — Randy (Hughes), Glenn (Kidder) and I remained closely connected musically,” Rounds said. “We’d share songs online and jam for hours when we were together. As new songs were written and arranged, we realized we had enough material for another fest show, which we performed last year. It was very well received, and they asked us back.”

The trio has been working extensively on a new musical endeavor, “The Schoolhouse Project.”

“We wanted to have a new CD ready in time for this year’s show, so we contacted Chris Younken, who has been a part of the State College music scene for a long time as guitarist and sound engineer and, formerly, studio owner,” Rounds said.

The CD is named for the recording location — the recently restored 19th-century Rock Hill School in Linden Hall.

“It has great sound because of the high ceiling, wood floor and wainscoting, which contribute to a warm, spacey reverb,” Rounds said. “We loved the room the minute we sang the first note. We recorded the album over four days in March. All the basic tracks were recorded live, the three of us sitting on stools in a circle. We overdubbed harmony vocals and lead instruments in separate sessions.”

It also fits a familiar theme, said Hughes.

“The last Cartoon CD, ‘The Chapel Sessions,’ was recorded in an old stone chapel in the middle of a cemetery in Keene, N.H., back in 2010,” he said . “This project has a similar motif — self-produced, away from the normal recording studio atmosphere. We seem to have a thing for historic buildings with great acoustics.”

In addition to the three core members, other musicians featured on “The Schoolhouse Project” include Richard Sleigh, Olivia Jones and Tommy Wareham.

“We were blessed to have the help of four very talented local musicians,” Rounds said. “Chris Younken arranged to have his old friend and former studio partner, Tom Bone (T-Bone) Edmonds do the final mix and the mastering of the album. ... The combination of Chris’s recording skill and T-Bone’s expertise at mixing and mastering made this the best-sounding album I’ve ever been a part of.”

Hughes would like to see the band break even on the CD, but said the band isn’t in it for the money.

“We hope to sell enough CDs and downloads through our Arts Festival show, CD Baby and iTunes over the next couple of years to break even on ‘The School House Project,’ ” he said. “It’s difficult for a band that only plays one gig per year to move CDs. We have a pretty loyal fan base and what we think is an excellent new album.”

Hughes hopes fans and friends will help spread the word.

“Word of mouth can move mountains in today’s music climate. In the long run, we hope to go back to the schoolhouse one day to record the next Hughes, Kidder & Rounds album,” he said.

The band takes the stage Saturday night and will be selling copies of its new CD at the show.

“We’re going to bring the best, most fun energy possible to the show, along with some wonderful extra players,” Kidder said. “All we can say is that folks have supported us since 1980, a lot of whom will be there again this year, in part because the festival show is such a terrific venue to hear this kind of personal, original music — music from our hearts to theirs.”