The Music Journal: Entry #11

11/26/09

Thanksgiving Day—a day of food, family, and football. The latter is currently happening in our living room as I write this, Texas vs. A&M to be exact. I have the other two on the brain a little more right now, though. When I arrived at my parent’s house last night, I proceeded to gorge myself with a huge bowl of my mom’s excellent vegetable stew (except there was beef in it and she STILL called it vegetable stew—that confused me). This was after consuming a good amount of gas station food on the drive to Manhattan. I guess I was involuntarily prepping myself for the huge Thanksgiving feast, but thanks to the fact that I nearly puked after eating all that shit, I wasn’t in much of a mood to eat today. It kinda sucked—although what I DID eat was incredible.

My bro Skyler

As far as family goes, I got that on the brain too, because this had to have been the smallest Thanksgiving I have ever attended in my life. It was my mom, my dad, and me. For those of you who don’t know, my older brother Skyler lives in Amsterdam and hasn’t really been coming home for the holidays for the last decade or so (he lived in Hawaii before that—I can’t deny my envy, but he totally deserves it, as he has worked his ass off almost his entire life to be where he is today). Plus, my mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and though she is now thankfully in remission, the whole experience has understandably made her very emotional about pretty much everything. She is still sort of able to keep it all in perspective, but I think it really got to her this year—more so than others—that Skyler wasn’t here with us. On the lighter side, it was cool doing it differently for once. We didn’t have an entire house full of comatose family members less than an hour after dinner like we are used to, but in the end, we still all got to be with family, and that’s the point of Thanksgiving. So, I can’t complain. Love you, bro!

The Republic Tigers

Musically, wow—there has been a LOT happening. The Dead Girls played our second stellar gig in a month, opening up for our friends The Republic Tigers at the Granada last Friday night. Like the gig before that (Brendan Benson at the Bottleneck) we were first on the bill and went on very early (EIGHT PM this time!). But again, the crowd proved hungry and many of them showed up on time for our set. We didn’t sell as much merch, which kind of disappointed me, but not in a way like “Man, we have to move these units!!! AHHHH!” No, I just like it when we sell merch, because then it makes me feel like it was worth getting it in the first place. It’s tougher to sell stuff nowadays, what with the economy and general disinterest in music and whatnot, but there are still people who are moved enough by it to want to walk away with a souvenir or two. That’s the way I was when I was younger, and I would like to think some of that spirit has been passed on to others and I wasn’t just some unorthadoxically geeky person (even though I know I was…am…). Anyway, that stuff isn’t really important—what IS important is that we played a great, memorable set (lots of compliments after) with bands that we like and are friends with, and a lot of people came out to rock with everyone. That’s why you have shows is to have shows like that one.

Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack

The following Sunday, our friend Justin Pierre (lead singer/guitarist for Motion City Soundtrack) came through Lawrence on his solo tour to promote the new MCS album, My Dinosaur Life. This tour is not a normal one—first of all, he is the only MCS band member on it. He plays solo, acoustic shows in very unorthodox places (in Lawrence, he played at Love Garden Sounds and Blue Collar Distro, a printing studio), and only announces these appearances on his band’s website the day before they happen. Also, while on the tour, Justin finds little projects to participate in during his downtime, and has his friends film them and post them on the website daily.

JD Warnock

The Dead Girls were lucky enough to open for MCS for a couple dates of their last tour, and Justin thought it would be cool to get all of us together to write and record a song in one day. Actually, we only had about five hours. So, we got our engineer friend Steve Squire to bring his mobile rig over to JoJo’s, and we set up four guitar amps, a bass amp, and drums in the basement and mic’d them all. Our friend JD Warnock (of Blackpool Lights/Ultimate Fakebook/Creature Comforts fame) was in on the shindigs as well, hence the fourth amp (he jokingly said we should call the project “Guitarmada”). We strapped on our guitars and proceeded to hammer out a song in about two hours. I had a riff or two ready to go, and Justin had a killer chorus in mind, so it really didn’t take that much time to get off the ground. A couple hours of fucking around with it, shuffling parts, augmenting chord progressions, messing with vocal melodies, and all of a sudden, BOOM—we had a song. Most of the song was recorded live in the basement, with some overdubs later to make it sound less like it was recorded in a basement. Justin and I wrote lyrics in about 20 minutes, but it still sounds like a coherent idea is being communicated. Overall, it was one of the most fun musical experiences I have had in recent memory. It’s so much fun to make music with people who do it as well as Justin does—I mean, he sang those vocals, literally, in under ten minutes. Maybe ten minutes. Either way, that’s pretty freakin’ amazing. It’s the sort of thing that, if you are an engineer especially, really makes your day.

The song is called “It’s All Happening”, and you can hear it now at The Dead Girls Project site.

In other news, I have been posting these capsule reviews of what are, in my humble opinion, the best albums of the last decade. Going through all of them has been fun, but also sort of bittersweet. It is making me realize how much music has changed since I fell in love with it all those years ago. I know I am running the risk of sounding sentimental here, but I don’t really care, you know? I never really have, and maybe that’s my problem—I lose people with this shit. But you know, it’s my shit, and I’m going to say it.

Talking with my friend Josh earlier, we found a common ground about the music of today. “It seems like so many of these new bands and songwriters are just kind of disregarding most of the things I love about music, and it makes me say, ‘Why? No, don’t do that!’” I laughed, but I realized how right on he was. I have been saying for months—maybe years, now—that one of the most uncool things to have in a song nowadays is a really strong vocal melody. If you’re stuff sounds too melodic, people are going to think it’s cheesy. That’s why nobody bought any Big Star records back in the day. It’s why no American buys any Sloan records today. It’s

Superdrag Sound Laboratories

why bands like Superdrag will always be nothing more than one-hit-wonders to the world (though they aren’t really helping themselves putting out albums like their 2009 reunion venture, Industry Giants—easily their worst record and completely unnecessary). Actually, to say that is the only reason for these occurrences is probably exaggerating—certainly, there were a number of factors at work in all cases. But it’s pretty true to history that bands in the “power pop” vein are doomed to fall through the cracks (Oasis were one of the few lucky ones). And sadly, it seems music is heading even further in the other direction now. I have always been into music that engages me, makes me want to rock out, sing along, go crazy, and just fucking feel good, and it seems a good portion of music being made today is going for the exact opposite effect—music that sits neatly in the background where you don’t have to think about it too much, and acts as a perfect soundtrack for everyone’s self-indulgence. I’m not going to give any examples, because that’s beside the point—in the end, this is really only my opinion, and everyone else will either take it or leave it. All I know is I fucking love rock and roll—music that doesn’t flinch when you slap at it and stays solid throughout time. It’s still out there somewhere, fellow rockers—never fear!

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