April 20, 2012
Twilight: we load into the dark cool space of Laundry Room Studio and drop the gear down with a groan.
We’re like chubby first time Mothers, reluctantly meeting at Curves after that year and a half of deserved self indulgence.
Yeah yeah, we know it’s good for us, but the bloom is clearly off the rose here…
In the old days, studios were like cathedrals.
We’d report bright eyed, the songs rehearsed to a razor’s edge, the lyrics in folder, neatly typed in triplicate and phrasing locked down.
I’m still scribbling lyrics in the vocal booth, searching for pitch and phrase like a drunk blindman navigating his first escalator.
It’s been too long.
Can you blame us?
To try and create something new, only to have them yell for Wetspots night after night….
But really, it’s not about the burning desire to create or express blindingly brilliant thoughts, now is it?
After all, we predictably play those 30 year old songs, the audience leaves happy, we’ve done our job.
No, perhaps we book studio time because that’s what ya do, ya see.
We like the illusion of momentum, gotta have it, lest we go suddenly motionless like life-weary sharks, and resignedly sink to the bottom of the sea.
Just more chum for the lobsters in the end.
Heh.–Not us brother! It’s time to get in there and start a new chapter!
So, hmmm—I guess we need a song first, is that what yer saying?
Step 1: Songwriting
One day I watched my dear old obaasan cooking dinner.
Grandma was as regally brown and stooped as a stubborn pine on the leeward side of a mountain, and she hunched low over the sink, washing the evening rice with her familiar swisha-swish-swish-swish pattern.
In the moment I imagined the rugged life journey she’d endured to arrive here in a suburban Cerritos kitchen.
I’d heard those family stories of the internment camps of WWII, and then I thought of my adolescent Mother, her last night in her own bed, sleeplessly waiting for the dawn that would take them 2000 miles away from home.
Outside her window, she could hear the Okies parked outside, waiting patiently for the foreigners to leave, so they could squat in her childhood home.
I went to my room and wrote Manzanar.
Skip to present day, and that’s me sitting at the Goat Hill Tavern, nursing a pitcher of Stella and eating salted peanuts to the point of nausea.
I am waiting for inspiration.
Let’s see–here’s a gripping subject for a punk song:
My goddamned boat is in the shop again! Ooooh, I hate that, don’t you?!
Too broad a subject?
Ah well, just what does interest the youth of today?
Skinny Jeans? Tickets to Coachella?
Whatever. We tough out the pre production rehearsals, grimly rejecting one song idea after another:
Too Shitty (A wildly common denominator)
I come up with a crazy catchy pattern and melody–just 3 proper chords, no bridge, verse and chorus over the same thing–beautiful!
It will be a masterful exercise in dynamics, and will surely put us in the top 100 of the college charts once again!!
I bring the song in to the fellas, and yeah, they all dig it.
And that’s when Kimm points out that I have just rewrote Bruno Mars’ Marry You
But we finally come up some passable ideas, and the session goes pretty fast, the basic tracks anyway….
We get to background vocals and Anthony rolls his eyes when I suggest more oohs and ahhs, perhaps some handclaps here?
We came from the Poshboy school after all, and if it was us rebelling against a little sweetener back in the old days, it’s our turn to pour on the sugar now baby!!
I think of those old tricks, the doubling leads and abstract backgrounds.
I remember how we would stomp and pout when Robbie or Jay would suggest a new part, something we deemed wildly unpunk and, well, gay!
But I’m in the producer chair now, and the fellas can only sigh a weary sigh as I lower my sunglasses and say the fateful words:
Ya know, call me crazy, but I’m actually hearing a cowbell in here….!