Friday, January 30, 2009

Pick Your Poison

or tomorrow night...

Things are looking up for this weekend o' rock. We'll debut "Bob Dole" at one show or the other, we're debuting in Nashville, and we hope to be joined for a song or two by the inimitable Matt Field for a tune or two tomorrow night at Springwater. Throw in some other great bands, and we're looking at a rockin' good time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Nathan Bedford Forrest Conundrum

Like so many of our ideas, including most of our songs and concept for this whole record, it started as a joke. At our first show with Josh, Kelly introduced "Eli Whitney" by saying, "This song is about a man who changed Tennessee for all we know it." Someone near us immediately yelled out, "Nathan Bedford Forrest?" Kelly expertly handled it be simply saying, "No, even better, this song's about Eli Whitney." It took a few seconds into the song before what had been said truly registered, and it became a funny joke.

Then we developed the idea of writing a history record. A song about Nathan Bedford Forrest could fit in with the material really. At a subsequent practice last summer, I came up with the hokiest way to sing the words, "Nathan Bedford For-rest" while doubling the vocal melody with my bassline. It was fun to keep playing because the concept itself was funny, and it annoyed Kelly. And let's face it, annoying Kelly at practice is fun.

As time went on, I added a punkish Spider-Man-like refrain to the hokey bassline, and suddenly it was a little more like a song. Daniel and Josh have been known to join in on the impromptu jam of it every once in a while, but it hasn't led to anything definitive.

As the work from my second job has subsided for a week or two, I've been focusing on practicing bass and guitar and hopefully writing some contributions to this record. No real fruits have come from it just yet (though I turned the best one so far over to Kelly at practice on Saturday because he would be better at writing the verses for the chorus and jam that Daniel and I came up with), but I've been toying with different ideas that I left on the drawing board over the past few months. One of them was this corny little song about the famous Confederate cavalry general.

Most of our songs center somewhere around a smirk. We smirk when we first entertain the notion, we smirk when we can finally tell what Kelly is singing, we smirk when we play them, and we hope you'll smirk when you hear about Lynsey Lohan's preferred payment method or nuptials of the un-dead or the future battle for domination of the planet with a species of very fast cats. But Nathan Bedford Forrest? It dances a little too close to the line beyond ironic to uncomfortable. Even if we went out of our way to make sure the song didn't venerate him, even if we discussed the ways in which history has not correctly remembered the man, it's still a pretty sticky topic to have a song about the first grand wizard of the KKK, challenging people's perspective of our band in ways that I don't think would be the best.

Besides, I don't think Kelly would sing it anyway.

And my fiancee was pretty unhappy about the idea too.

So I am retiring the idea, although I seriously considered making an 8-track demo of it to include as a b-side on the "Deluxe Edition" of this record. But with ideas on my part coming much more slowly than I'd like, I think I'm going to permanently shelve this one in favor of songs about child labor in the industrial revolution or man's first flight. And "Bob Dole" does a pretty good job of getting out my need for an autobiographical song about a less-than-popular figure in the American psyche.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Debuting the New Material

Playing the Grind felt like playing in a big living room with its lamp lighting and pillows where couches will probably be eventually. The hookahs reminded me of Josh's living room a few years back. I liked that it was spacious enough to move around and not feel crowded, but oh how I long to play somewhere where we don't bring our own PA and have a stage. Having our friends all standing that close to us also made the performance a little more awkward for some reason. I was wishing for more of a barrier of some sort. Kelly's always talking about legendary shows in which thirty people are there and a hundred people say they were there a year later. I didn't think last night's show would reach legendary status, but it did occur to me that maybe we should start handing out affidavits attesting that someone was at a given show for posterity's sake. Or not.

I felt the show was good, but I was frustrated that the crowd didn't noticeably get into it until one of Kelly's work friends got there and yelled for "My Wife's a Zombie" and "Man Vs. Cheetah" at the end of our set, just before we played both of those songs. The crowd response was good then, but before that, they were pretty deadpan. Granted, they were sitting on the floor in an almost pitch-black room.

Since I'm the one who's recording the show and cooking it up the next morning, I'm always the one going over them the most with a very fine-toothed comb. Also be aware that everything I'm about to say comes through my eyes as a perfectionist. There's something I feel that's wrong with "Whiskey Rebellion." I can't put my finger on it. Maybe a dozen or so listens to it will help me decide, probably only to decide there's nothing wrong without it at all. "Great Stink" was played without a 12-string or Kelly's chorus pedal (the battery on it was dead), which made it almost completely lose its Cure feel, an asset lost to be sure for its debut. Josh started it out on a tempo that's faster than we've ever played it before, which always works best in a live setting. I flubbed the bass line on that one a time or two, but I had a quick recovery. "Know-It-All" was played its best to date. Daniel's lead work really shone through. As we were playing it, I was happy that Kelly's words, which are often hard to understand for this one, were coming in very clearly through the PA and on the recording. Then Angela asked me if the song said, "F- you, Know-It-All" today. So maybe not. I was happy that Kelly played this show without a music stand and lyric sheet. Yeah, he missed a few words, but he and I are the only ones who noticed or will notice. I think not using it as a crutch will push him to learn the words and make better performances later.

I'm glad we have a steady stream of shows this winter and into spring to keep us motivated to practice and work to ward our ultimate goal for the record. The ideas keep coming in, and I hope we keep cultivating them into great new songs. I hope Kelly's prediction that we'll play "Bob Dole" at the next show is true considering we'll have time for one practice between now and January 30th.

On a final note, none of us can get over the awesome flyer that Truck made for this show!

Comin' In Fast!

We played a show last night. Despite my financial woes that occured just a few hours before the hitting the stage, I managed to unleash the anger into the rock. And rock we did.

The Grind is a different kind of place. Then again, we are different kind of band. About 30 people watched us and gave us quite a response. Sold 4 cd's, and I even signed one!

"Bring Out Your Dead" has been kicking ass since we amped it up. Hard to believe that was back in June when we debuted that one! It works at the end or start of a set.

"Great Stink" was rocky but still good. Tha D forgot the 12-string but made do. I sang the words backwards. Josh and Matt had a good grip on this one and kept it together. I really like the bass line. Peach does not listen to Sebadoh, but you would never guess based on his Barlow-esque bass line. The crowd enjoyed it too!

"Whiskey Rebellion" went over great! It's our new favorite song, and the shelf life on this one is looking superb. We nailed it in practice both nights and nailed all the starts and stops during the show. This song has power.....

We did not play "Bob Dole." Still tooling with it, but it's going to get debuted at the next one. I recently made a demo of this one, but it does not reflect some of the changes we made. I mostly did it to help me memorize the words and try out a new bridge. The bridge remains in the same key but has different chords. It really separates itself from the song and had an identity of its own. I think this will aid in the flow of the tune. Only practice will tell....

We did not play "Election: 1800." This one might get an REM treatment. Peach has an idea, and so do I. Like I said, this song may get recorded 10 times. Look for the remix EP next year....

We did an improv on another song. Read Peach's post below. I don't have anything different to add. He pretty much said it all.

Angela pointed out we have no groupies. This is true. 2 members married, one about to be, and the other smitten. Even with these statistics, we need groupies. They help record sales, and it's an instant crowd at shows. Well...maybe not "groupies" per say....maybe crazy dorky dudes/gals like the way we used to be at Features and Fluid Ounces shows. We ARE those guys, so...we are taking applications for "hard core fans" now. Just like Ounces shows, there will be a special table for you to sit.

Updates on demos, practice, and shows to come. Here is our show schedule in case you do not already know:

January 30th @ The Boro
January 31st @ Springwater
February 27th @ Liquid Smoke
March 13th @ French Quarter Cafe
April 4th @ Liquid Smoke

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I decided going into practice last night that I wouldn't blog about it. I prefer to talk more about the particularly newsworthy on here, and nothing big was scheduled to happen. I took my electric 12-string for Daniel to use on "The Great Stink," and he tried it also on "Bob Dole," which also got enough significant re-tooling that it probably won't debut at our last-minute show at The Grind this weekend. Too bad.

Then something "newsworthy" happened.

We had just had some great bonding talking about some very standard guy things and were just about to go back into practice after a break. I picked up the guitar to show them my latest idea for a song, which I sort of derived from a pair of acoustic guitar players on TV with their own show. I started playing, and Kelly came in and used that as the opportunity to stand up and sing a tune he'd been working on for about a month tentatively called, "Dancing with the Martians in the Roswell Sand." Josh threw on the drums, and Daniel picked up the bass, and Kelly began to spew out pure gold in a falsetto voice. As we played it in its roughest form, just a kernel of what it could be, I knew we were on to something. I knew this song would make it to the record and be amazing once it was properly arranged. It has the potential to overshadow "Man Vs. Cheetah," which wasn't this good at its inception. True, "Martians" more 70s dance than unbridled rock epic, but I've always viewed "Man Vs. Cheetah," as much as I love it, as a one-trick pony at best. It has long been my hope that we could top it and/or replace it with something equally show-stopping before "Cheetah" hit major backlash or grew into the only song people wanted to hear us play. Although it won't be ready anytime soon, and although we've got a whole lot to work out on it, I think we may have done it, Mr. Kerr.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Left Early From Work

I went home early yesterday. I wasn't sick; I was just bored. I started a new project, and my computer was giving me shit, so I left. My guitar was at home waiting for me.
I got some Sam Adams Winter Ale and fired up the 4-track. I played some piano during the first 3 beers. The second half of the six-pack was spent actually recording!

Inspiration! These are three (really awesome) Sebadoh 7"s. I have always wanted to release a 7" or a series of them. Maybe if I have the funds, I can do a release of 4 track stuff. Lo-fi recording sounds better in lo-fi audio.

I broke out the fuzz!! Plus Tha D let me borrow his Boss DD-5. After playing around with it on some Cure songs, I found a few sounds that might aid in writing.

These are the copies of Whimsical in Reverse that remain. Get it while it's hot!!

Scout likes to stare at me while I'm recording/playing. She thinks she's in the band!

More inspiration! I bought the Sebadoh Bubble and Scrape re-issue on ebay for dirt cheap! Sebadoh has been good therapy during this writing time.

I spent most of the afternoon experimenting with different things. I recorded some instrumental tracks, one of which could be a new song. I recorded guitar for a song about Theodore Roosevelt called "Legendary Fool." I also revisited an older song of mine called "Summer '04." It never had a proper title, but after revisiting crazy stories from that time with friends last saturday, I felt the need to play it again, which is why I wrote it in the first place. I recorded vocals, but I think I'm going to redo them. I also got started another untitled instrumental that is another old song revisited. This one will receive a history treatment along with ANOTHER older tune. These songs never really went anywhere. I really enjoy the sound of them. I have made some major changes which have breathed new life into the song.

To practice singing and vocal harmonies, I recorded the Roger Clyne song "Easy." It took a few takes, but by this time I was getting tired and ready for dinner. I did some scratch back-up vocals and sang harmony. This was good practice because Josh and I want to do more vocal harmonies. I want to try and get me, Josh, and Matt to take a few singing lessons together. 1-2 would aid in this process. We have different voices and need to figure out how to make harmonies work.

We have a show this saturday January 17th at The Grind. Come out and rock with us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"I Can't Sleep" Songwriting Should Be Its Own Genre

I couldn't sleep last night. When my "To Do List" is longer than the Godfather, you know have a problem, but you can't do anything about these things at 3am. What else is there to do?

I began by dumping drum tracks from the "Drag and Drop" Drummer program to my 4-track. I also took many more drum sounds from my keyboard and put on them on the 4-track. This killed time from 12:31am to 1:27am.

Since my wife was asleep, I couldn't play guitar, so I plugged in the keyboard, put on the head phones and went at it. I spent 1:35am to 2:16am playing around with another melody in "D." I need to avoid the open D for awhile. I can't tell where I am going with all this stuff. Content is not a problem this time around. I am trying to mix everything up as much as possible.

I broke out the guitar before I tried to go bed but ended up playing "Bob Dole" and "Election of 1800" to myself. No different. Then tried some other stuff, but it ended up sounding like "Bob Dole." We only get 1 Violent Femmes-esque song per album. I need to stop listening to "Hollowed Ground" at work.

I'm stuck on a song about Roswell, New Mexico. I wanted it to be dance song, but it may not. I think I've had more luck with it changing directions, but still no luck. I have about 10 pages printed out about it. I think this song will take shape in the words first. I have a friend at work that has prepared some dance grooves for me. He is more atuned to that style, and there is nothing wrong with out-sourcing for better quality.

Around 2:47am I hooked the piano into the 4-track and began reworking "Election of 1800." Night and day. Two different worlds, same song. This could end up being one we record twice, a lot like "Eli Whitney." But the piano treatment seems to be working. The guitar treatment does also. Like I said, night and Day.

I want to try playing piano with the band. I'm really weary about playing on stage, especially in front of a certain local rock god. Just because a song is on the record does not mean we have to play it live or play it live the way we play it on the record.

For historical purposes, I want to issue the album on all formats known to man.
Quadruple 7"
8 Track
78 RPM Shellac records
Edison cylinders
and of course CD, MP3, WAV, etc etc etc.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Lot Like Last Night

Just like last night. It's cold. It's rainy. It's productive. If the weather doesn't let up, this may become a "sad bastard" album.

Played piano most of the day. I needed to work later, but the weather brought me home. I downloaded a Best Of Scott Joplin cd, a Flat Duo Jets live album, and then went to town.

More tomorrow.

Another Day

Another practice. It was cold. It was rainy. It was productive.

"Election of 1800" seems to be an issue. I got a lot of blank stares and a lot of "I just don't know what to do with it." Sure it sounds similiar to other songs, but the chords are different, more complex, and the melody is one of the most difficult ones I have written. It took a lot of time to make this simple tune come alive. It started on the piano and then moved to the guitar. I might need to revisit the song on the piano. It could be the element we need to make it "work." Whether we play it live or not, it will be on the album. It's content is too good to pass up. Maybe a jazz arrangement? Big band? Lounge act? These are things we talk about but never put them into play because they seem silly. Maybe we are just that silly and need to approach it with a sense of humor. It is a very serious type song. It's not political, it just raises an issue America has been kicking around for 200 years.

I concur with Masta P on the Whimsical In Reverse tunes. I'm not exactly "done" with them, but there are two I would like to not play as much anymore. "Elephants" gets my vote. It's one of the oldest. I'm shocked it made it onto a record. It has served its purpose, but sometimes I don't enjoy revisting the reasons why I wrote that song. It means nothing now. "I Married A Zombie" would be the next to go, but I would keep it handy. I'm not keen using it as an opener anymore. Like "Elephants," it served its purpose 5 years ago. The film will never come out, and it's the last remaining reminder of the Ghostflower. Not in a painful way, but I have written better since then. All the rest are good to stay in my book. For awhile. They are new(er) than the other two and represent what the band stands for more than the others. The state of mind that went into those songs are something I'm going to try and use again when doing this new thing. We can't lose that foundation. "Alone (on the Make-Out Couch)" could be cut as well, but it represents the beginning of the band, and its the song that started it all. Therefore, it will get a longer life than some others. This is difficult because we are trying to get people to buy the record.

I have a problem with "Bob Dole." Not with the song, but with how it seems to be falling off. For such a simple song, it seems to be difficult. I don't want to lose it mostly because of how long I sat on it, and now that it has clicked, it's not clicking for the others. More Femmes will work. It could also be a "clean" rocker. I guess the direction is different, making it all seem different. The chord changes were necessary for me to sing it, and for such an upbeat tempo, it had to get cut for dragging purposes. We are not a boring band, and this is not a boring song. How many songs have you heard that have the words "Dan Akroyd" in it? Who writes a song about that guy?!?!? What has he done in the last 10 years to deserve a song? The answer: he made fun of Bob Dole. Good enough for me. It's another that seems to have the "I don't know what to do with it" problem. I should burn everyone a Violent Femmes CD. That should do the trick.

Time always seems to be an issue. I think we are cramming too much into a small hole. After these songs are "good," we should back off to one new song per show. Pressure is everything. There could be absolutely nothing wrong with any of these songs. We might just need to back down.

I have not talked about "Bring Out Your Dead/Bubonic Plague/Dance with the Dead/etc,etc,etc" yet. I'll save that for the next entry.

Practice Number 3

We convened last night for our third practice of the History Era. "Whiskey Rebellion" and "The Great Stink" are coming right along. We're still a little fuzzy on the transitions from verse to chorus and back again as well as the beginnings and ends. The songs are probably 80% there. I really like both of these bass lines, but "Whiskey Rebellion" is my favorite that I've composed in a long time. The way we play it reminds me of what I love about playing in a band. I remember back in 1998 when Josh assembled the first band I ever played with when he said, "When you take the guitars and bass and add drums, everything is just...perfect." I thought of that as Daniel was shredding out the solo and the rest of us collapsed so smoothly into the verse chords.

The one that lags behind is my own composition, "Bob Dole," which we have not quite figured out. I had some plans for it, like lead guitar suggestions and to have the lead guitar and bass to follow the vocal melody in the bridge. Kelly's changes to the chords and vocal melody made me toss away all I had in mind. What I'll suggest at next practice is to go with the Violent Femmes influence to make it stand out more from the rest of the songs and sound less like "Elephants." I have some ideas to drop in some instrumental breaks and maybe pull the drums back in a couple of places.

We finally made a band attempt at "Election of 1800," and none of us knows what to do with it. We alternated in styles and tempos as Kelly sang through the song, in the end making no decision on what direction to take with it. I suggested that we simply record it to possibly put on the record with Kelly singing with acoustic guitar and then some soft, maybe Radiohead-like noise behind it. Kelly didn't seem to like that idea. I doubt we'll have it ready for the two shows we have at the end of the month.

I've noticed that since we've started playing these songs, I have little to no interest in the songs from Whimsical in Reverse. I still love them and all, but I could take them or leave them in our live sets and am more interested in building up our history set. Granted, we just put out the record and still need to play those songs to help promote it, but there are three songs that I could go a long time without playing. We'll keep rocking them, and that's fine, and I'm guessing the two sets at the end of the month will be the first chance for us to leave some of the second-stringers on the bench for a night while we break in the new guys on our basketball court of rock (with a full-court press, no less).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Writing Right Along

Last night was our second practice with the new songs. We all left Monday night feeling good, yet concerned. Last night changed all that, and the new tunes are coming together quite well. It just goes to show that practicing is something we do very well.

We have been tackling "Great Stink," "Whiskey Rebellion," and "Bob Dole." Plus we've been getting much better at rocking "Know-It-All."

"Know-It-All" is not going to be on the next record. It's a new song but does not go with the overall theme of what we are trying to achieve. It is likely we will make a "single" out of it and make it available to consume. The song started out rough. I had the chords/music/changes for some time and finally found a way to use it. I wrote the chorus first, which in the end became a "pre-chorus." The first verse came next and then scattered verse after that. Peach went home and "finished" the blank parts after a short writing session back in the summer. This song is wordy to the max and makes me uncomfortable because of all the stuff I have to remember. Nothing in the song repeats, so it's a good thing we don't have lights, smoke, and pyro at our shows, or I will never remember the words! It has been through several revisions, and as of last night, I have found a "final" draft I can be happy with. The drums drive the song, and everything else just hums along. Kudos to the J-man!

What is strange about "Know-It-All" is its inspiration. It's about a guy who wants to be with a "smart girl" but she's to good for him, or so he thinks. It's not about one person. Between Peach and me, we managed to cull every person we've ever known that fits the description into one main character, which is why this one was so difficult. I wanted to stay away from making it about one person, so I won't hurt anyone's feelings. Peach interjected a lot of his own experience with the "smart girls," which gives its own seperate life, practically creating this person we all should or have known at some time in our lives. I like the song more than I did 3 months ago. This last revision makes it easier to sing too!

This is my 4-track machine. It's a Tascam Porta02. It will aid in all the writing of this record.

The piano has been helpful so far. This will be the first time I use it for writing songs and even recording!

This is a 750 GB hard drive. It was purchased to carry the weight of the record. The second is a microphone I bought 5 years ago. I use it for everything. Perfect for 4-track recording. Lo-Fi!

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