The band is lead by Henning Ohlenbusch who writes, sings, and produces all the songs. The current line up of the rest of band is:
Brian Marchese (The Figments, The Aloha Steamtrain, The Fawns) on drums
Max Germer (Winterpills) on bass
Ken Maiuri (B-52's, King Radio, The Mammals) on guitar and keys.
They play jangly, smart, indie-pop-rock.
They have released
The Chain CD (EP) - 2003 (as School for the Dead)
The New You (LP) - 2004 (as School for the Dead)
A Telephone Built for Two (LP) - 2006 (as School for the Dead)
The Bells on the Boats on the Bay (LP) - 2011 (as Gentle Hen)
Sneaking Up on the Moon (LP) - 2017 (as Gentle Hen)
Be Nice to Everyone (LP) - 2018 (as Gentle Hen)
Turn It Down (Single) - 2020 (as Gentle Hen)
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Gentle Hen - Be Nice to Everyone - CD
On April 15, 2018 Brian, Max, and I got together at Rub Wrongways Studios. We opened the curtain to let in the spring light so we could see the finally-winter’s-over green plants blossoming while we set up, tuned up, and started to tackle eleven new songs.
We hit the record button at 12:45 and didn’t stop until we made it through all the songs. A few of them we’d been playing a little bit at shows here and there, some of them Brian and Max had heard in demo form, and at least one of them they were introduced to just moments before recording.
It had been a wild and unsettling year since we finished up our previous album, Sneaking up on the Moon. The days had been flashing by in blurs of news stories, each more absurd and troubling than the last. Nights had been filled with concert-going and movies and binging tv shows and generally trying to keep some semblance of light and creativity in an increasingly cynical and upsetting atmosphere.
We dove into the songs like starving animals, giving in to the parts of our brains that thrive on creating and exploring and making sense of chaos. I’d written the eleven songs during this year of upheaval, there were no oldies being revisited. This was all new territory.
As it turns out, the songs fell into a few different genres of rock. It was unintended, I try not to plan too much. The songs know what they are supposed to sound like. The themes reflect the times. The overall push was a quest for kindness, a call for compassion and understanding. Thus the title of the record “Be Nice to Everyone”.
The listener might not find specifics in the lyrics to justify the album title, but I’m hoping that the overall feel of the collection is human, friendly, introspective, and caring. The songs themselves touch on various subjects. Snippets of lyrics jump out: it’s not wrong to long to belong | Jenny emulates a retro charm | the saddest part of town | you read the room wrong once again | the hours ignite in the clouds | grab the scissors, cut the string, and fly | lean, then catch your fall | the wind was like an uncle | they know better, they do worse | that was more than just a joke | arguments, there’s just no winning, the only way to end them is to not begin them.
Over the next few months, I added decorations and voices and snippets. Ken came in and plowed through a burst of inspired musicianship, painting with new colors, with perfect colors. Andrew Goulet set up his pedal steel and layered on a mournful sunset of sounds. We mixed things and then turned them over to Justin Pizzoferrato who deftly mixed them better. He passed the songs along to Mark Allen MIller who mastered them and made them ready so we could share them with whoever might want to listen.
I hope you enjoy this collection. I hope you feel the humanity in it, the rough edges, the sparkles of light, the personal weight.
Gentle Hen - Sneaking up on the Moon
"14 glowing tracks, each a different filter on Ohlenbusch’s witty, thoughtful lens on the world, full of existential dread and ennui, but also burning with brio and an unmistakable gratefulness for the richness of the whole diverse mess."
On September 11, 2016 Max, Brian, and I met in the brown carpeted Rub Wrongways Records studio. A lot can happen in a year. Twin Peaks was just a dream from the past. There were no fidget spinners. We weren't all shaking our heads at the barrage of crazy news stories streaming into our faces every five minutes. Barack Obama was the president.
We were just three carefree ragamuffins plugging in cables and tuning up strings. I threw fourteen tunes at Max and Brian and they caught them with a bass and a drum kit. In one grueling day, they tackled and transported all fourteen into inspired, sparkling songs.
Over the next several weeks, Ken dropped in the studio between his voyages playing with the B-52s and the Mammals and the Whoever-elses. I encouraged him to wield a guitar more often than a keyboard. We were mixing things up. We had to. Tony Westcott had moved south. Far, far south and in doing so, he gracefully exited the band stage-left. We were left with just us four. Ken and I traded off on guitar leads and hooks and riffs (in general that's Ken in the right speaker and I'm on the left). We also tossed in some delicious keyboard here and there for flavor.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year...the calendar pages were flipping and a week didn't go by where I wasn't recording a vocal or bringing in guests (Andy Goulet on pedal steel, Dave Trenholm on Saxophone, Lesa Bezo on guitar and vocals). I was mixing and remixing. Ken and Brian were singing together and separately. The songs were growing and evolving and maturing.
Inauguration Day came and we dug deeper in. The album became an escape. Music is what we do and we figured we better do it even better than before. We needed to make something. We needed to make sense.
The collection of songs was sent off to Mark Alan Miller for help in mixing and mastering and Max and I dove into finding the right artwork. I had a mood in my head and scoured through endless piles of photographs that I'd snapped over the years until we found the perfect one.
The record is called Sneaking up on the Moon. It nudges us to lift our heads from the screens, turn off the electric lights, leave the air conditioning, and spread out into the endless world. To be filled with adrenaline and danger like a Hardy Boy or a chipmunk in an amusement park. To feel the enormity of everything. To listen to the crickets or the snapping of the trees. To be reminded of who we are and what we want to be doing.
The songs range from growling to loungey, but there's a common thread of urgency and intensity. There are songs about the friend who won't commit, how we are all famous but not famous enough, temptation, existential panic, seeking freedom, coming of age, growing up, switching coasts, springtime, running through the woods, escaping responsibility, forgiveness, and celebration. And of course, much much more.
Thank you for reading this far and for all your support over the years. We hope you'll like this album, we are really happy with it. It's the best yet.
Gentle Hen - The Bells on the Boats on the Bay
The Bells on the Boats on the Bay. They’re out there ringing in the dark, even if the only one around is a cat scavenging on the docks. Similarly, Gentle Hen is making music, even if the only one around is a cat scavenging on the docks. It’s just what they do. Henning Ohlenbusch has been writing songs for this particular band to play since 2001 and he doesn’t see any reason to stop. The band is five guys. Brian Marchese, Max Gemer, Ken Maiuri, Tony Westcott, and Ohlenbusch.
It took forever to make this album. In an effort to mix things up after they changed their band name from School for the Dead to Gentle Hen, they decided to record these songs off-site. They made day trips into the dark forests of New Hampshire to work with Frank Padellero. The trips turned to once a month and then once every few months. Then, other life-things got in the way. Mixing took a few years of back and forth. Artwork lingered in half-finished purgatory. Everyone had everything else to do. Days got shorter and shorter. Weeks became moments.
But the songs are classics. The moments captured are magical. They’ve just been waiting, patiently, to be heard. Well, not patiently. They are eager and busting and clamoring to be heard.
They are simple and intricate and smooth and gritty and all-over-the-place and played with passion and energy and sung with heart. There are cool sounds all over them. Organs and pianos and tubular-bells. Different guitars and amps and unimaginable percussive objects. There was a whole lot of creativity secretly happening out there in the woods while snowstorms came and went and black bears snooped around the windows.
Recorded, produced, by Frank Padellaro and Henning Ohlenbusch
Mixed by Frank Padellaro
Mastered by TW Walsh
All songs © 2015 Henning Ohlenbusch
A Telephone Built For Two
“School for the Dead” is perhaps the most misleading name for a band since the days of that hedonistically bombastic hard rock group from the ‘70s known as April Wine. Except, rather than a moniker conjuring flowery romantic notions only to have the listener assaulted with the brash swagger of a band who once named one of their albums (this time, appropriately) “Harder…Faster,” School for the Dead is sitting on the other side of the playground. Rather than commiserating along the rusty hulk of a dilapidated urban schoolyard fence among the malevolent adolescents with their boom-boxes, denim, long faces and Kelly Leak-like attitude, School for the Dead are too busy perched atop a shiny jungle-gym surrounded by chirping schoolchildren, green grass, and the effervescent scent of jonquils prancing on the breeze.
Well, yes and no. Singer-songwriter-bandleader Henning Ohlenbusch at one point wonders aloud on “A Telephone Built For Two,” the group’s sophomore set, “Why don’t I feel the way I should?” but the question is posed while a cascading swirl of background harmonies and sumptuous synths support the ache in the melody with a comforting embrace. Similarly, when Ohlenbusch opines that “Last night, I had the most boring dream,” the rhythm section meanwhile careens along like one of those trains in the final minutes... more
released September 16, 2008
School for the Dead is:
Chris Collingwood (Singing on Tracks 2 & 3)
F. Alex Johnson (Pedal Steel on Track 1)
Lesa Bezo (Singing on Track 1 & 2)
Recorded and mixed at Rub Wrongways Studios, Northampton, MA by Henning Ohlenbusch
Mastered by Dan Richardson
All songs © 2008 Henning Ohlenbusch
all rights reserved
Looks Like I'm Tall
"For about four or five years now, I've been playing Henning's songs for people and saying they were my own. Please don't tell him that. Brief, romantic, and simple in a why-didn't-I-think-of-that way, his stories and melodies touch people without resorting to attitude or pretense. If his name weren't so hard to pronounce, he'd be Yngwie Malmsteen by now." -- Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne)
You wouldn’t necessarily call a friend to come over to hang out with you as you sort, fold, and put away the laundry. Similarly, it’s difficult to read a magazine while you do the dishes. So you slap an album on the CD player. But you’re not looking for “Moondance,” which you know by heart, nor is this the time to put on the new Belle & Sebastian album to decode for the first time - what you need is an old friend who will speak to you as he sings, engaging your mind and heart at the same time. Every time one listens to Henning’s "Looks Like I’m Tall," it reveals another shade, it grows a new leaf, it sheds a tear through a sung sigh.
Although gifted with a talented, expressive backing band in School for the Dead, Henning set aside this collection of songs to form a solo album in every sense. Over 2005, in his home studio, Henning by his tall lonesome penned lyrics, composed tunes, arranged and then played all instrumentation, devised and crooned harmonies, moved the amps, pressed all the buttons, and took out the trash.
From the sprightly opener “But We Did,” a feast of gurgly synths surfing across a tasty banquet of hooks to the closer, “It’s Now,” which is marked by a sadly lilting recorder line in the intro and a pluvial cascade of plucked strings announcing the pensively sweet chorus, Henning broadens his palette with a set of reflective songs set to contemplative moods presented by his solitary muse.
Herein you’ll also find “Held His Gaze,” which is the most fully realized distillation of Paul Simon’s considerable influence upon Henning’s writing, but after one or two listens, the tune eases into your consciousness as one of Henning’s own best. The title track and “This Nightly Progression” both express Henning’s mixed feelings about his place in the independent music world.Lyrics are married to latchkey melodies, then lovingly swaddled in majestic prisms of instrumentation and harmonies. Looks like I’m tall, smells like teen spirit, feel like makin’ love, sounds like we have a winner. And we do. Taste the victory.
- But We Did - 03:02
- Short - 01:06
- Looks Like I'm Tall - 04:31
- Held His Gaze - 03:28
- A Machine To Break Your Heart - 03:36
- Carnival - 02:43
- The Center Of Time - 04:00
- 20,000 Dollars - 04:29
- Nightly Progression - 04:34
- Stereo Glow - 02:19
- It's Now -04:38
Henning - Another Sleepless Nap
2016 was a busy year for musician Henning. He’d just come off of touring with the band Polaris and it was time to release some new material. The band he plays lead guitar in, The Fawns, put out a record. His band, Gentle Hen, put out a new record of his songs. His alter ego, Turkey Andersen, released an EP of new family friendly songs. He produced and recorded a new album by Ray Mason. He released a single written about and for comedian Emo Philips. And finally, he released a new collection of songs under his own name.
Another Sleepless Nap is his latest in a long line of thoughtful, well-crafted, moving albums. Henning wrote, sang, played all the instruments, recorded, and produced the record. He even did the cover photography.
The nine songs on this record illustrate Henning’s ever maturing songwriting. The lead-off track “Untied States” is like a modern day take on the classic tune America by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s expression of isolation and disenfranchisement in lines like “We let the crazy people steal the conversation pit, there’s money to be made from a nation that’s been split” are countered with feelings of community and hope, “But we’re all in this together facing forward in our chairs, thinking only of mortality while hanging in the air.” It couldn’t have come at a more fitting time and is a soothing balm for this political climate. It was just voted #34 on WRSI’s songs of 2016!This album also provides a home for the much beloved single “Maybe I’m Not Meant to Do Anything Remarkable After All”, which was treated to a year-long multi-video project by local filmmaker Jason Mazzotta.
The other 7 songs on the record roller-coaster between stark piano ballads, poppy synthesizer pieces, and personal acoustic guitar driven numbers. There is no filler here.
- Untied States - 04:02
- Unaffected - 03:16
- Service Industry Stars - 02:28
- Supposed to Be Close to Me - 03:48
- You'll Take This Too - 03:08
- I Will Always Root for You - 03:33
- Maybe I'm Not Meant to Do Anything Remarkable After All - 04:25
- Stop Taking My Friends - 02:38
- I Don't Know If I've Got What It Takes Anymore - 03:12
Gentle Hen - Choose a color! - Short-Sleeve Unisex T-Shirt
This Gentle Hen -Be Nice To Everyone t-shirt is everything you've dreamed of and more. It feels soft and lightweight, with the right amount of stretch. It's comfortable and flattering for both men and women.
• 100% combed and ring-spun cotton (heather colors contain polyester)
• Fabric weight: 4.2 oz (142 g/m2)
• Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
Gentle Hen - Bundle Pack - Three CDS
For a limited time get all three Gentle Hen albums on CD for just $20 including shipping (in the U.S.) or $35 international.