Friday, October 30, 2009

Fiction Fridays

On Fridays I present excerpts, in order, from a collection of stories I've written entitled Central, Remote. As it is serial I hope you can come back every week and pick up where we all left off.

BB Gun

Part Two.

Beatrice rode her Schwinn Cruiser along 2nd street content with her pedalic rhythm: one two three four cycles on the pedal, one two three four seconds of coasting, the chain clicking like fishing line drawn through a caster. It was the same route everyday, the same pattern of exertion and release, bringing dinner to old Juniper Helms in the midday scourge. This outing was typically executed after school except that it was early August—the dog days—her father called them. She’d been told by George Junior that the Eskimos had a million words for snow right before he’d tried to plant one on her, so it made sense that her town would have a million words for heat.

Flicking the kickstand down with a casual ease, she parked the bicycle in the driveway of the forties style craftsman. The house was a cracked frosting white with blue trim painted to look like shutters around the windows. BB liked to call it the cupcake house in her mind. She imagined the pale wood that peeked through the faded paint as moist yellow cake underneath icing.

In March just after Easter her Baptist girls group had drawn names out of a converted coffee tin turned pencil holder. She’d drawn Miss Howser out on Dry Creek Lane, but her mother had told her that was much too far to bike and she didn’t want the added responsibility of carting her out there 5 days a week, and for god’s sake can’t the church group just memorize a bible verse or two instead of adding another extra curricular activity to her already unruly social calendar? BB thought briefly about giving the whole thing up but Janette’s mom phoned Miss Calloway, the old preacher’s daughter who ran the outreach, with a similar complaint. So in the end she was given Mr. Juniper Helms four blocks away on 2nd street and Janette got Miss Howser and their moms were able to continue their afternoons at the hair salon.

Despite its pastry like appearance in daylight, Old Juniper’s house was a fixture of pre-teen conspiracy. Although he regularly sat on his porch reading the paper spitting chaw saliva into a plastic cup with a Fresno State Bulldog emblem, the mythology developed that he couldn’t leave his house. The children speculated that Old Juniper suffered house arrest for some unspeakable crime, the murder of his wife or cannibalism, resulting in quite a few dares in BB’s time concluding with “or you have to do such and such at creepy old Juniper’s place.” BB didn’t put too much stock into the whole mumbo jumbo; she saw old Juniper occasionally through the open curtains of his living room doing what she imagined most old people did who lived alone: watching television, reading the paper or periodical, sometimes a cat in the lap, sometimes a beer in the hand. She was a practical girl, well mannered when it mattered, indifferently scholastic, with black hair pulled into a pony-tail high atop her head that exploded into a bouquet of curls. Her smile was loaded with braces and her blue eyes held a respect for harmless mischief. In truth it was her discretion in playmates that lead her to trouble rather than an innate desire for such unscrupulous activity. But such was the magic of the town in summer time, fathers farming or shop-keeping until the four o’clock happy hour at Salida Club, mothers escaping the infernal heat of the home in gossip parlors and Walmarts, and kids told to play outside without any further direction as to the play’s constructiveness.

Today was no different. As was her routine, BB rang the doorbell, heard its four part chime somewhere off in the hallways of the Juniper’s house, waved at no one in particular through the window, and left the industrial cardboard meal container on the mat that read “God Gave Me This.” Hopping back on her bike she returned down 2nd heading for Poplar St. and from Poplar to 4th, which lead past Dickie’s Slaughterhouse to the old lean-to by the railroad tracks just outside town where George, Willy and her spent the majority of their summer afternoons.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The New Record One Year Recording Anniversary

In the last week October of 2008, we began recording what we thought would be our final EP in the series of 3 that we planned to release that year. However, in my mind there was a song that I wasn't too happy with on our previous EP Good Feeling, and wanted to redo it. Unbeknownst to me, both Todd and Dan felt the same way about a couple of other tracks. When we went into emitter studios to record drums that day we all expressed our desire that if we had the time, maybe we could lay down the drums for this song all quick like, and then maybe this song, and of course let's not forget that song.

What ended up transpiring that fall afternoon, a mere 5 days before Todd would move to Portland, making this a one shot affair-whatever-doesn't-get-done-doesn't-make -the-record sort of recording day, was pure magic. Todd banged out all six new tracks as well as the three tracks we were re-imagining in less than eight hours (the tenth song on the new album does not have drums). It was inspiring to watch and as we close out the mixes for this still untitled record, I find it encouraging to remember where these recordings started and how excited I am to be near completion of the record we've been trying to make for the last 12 months.

Sobriety Journal Entry 1: Romanticizing your ex-lover

This is day four of my month long trek into the barren wilderness that is sobriety. I was talking shop with my buddy who's been sober the last fifteen years about the bazaar alcohol fantasies I've been having and I thought I'd share the one recurring fantasy he suffers from only because I was impressed by its specificity. He fantasizes about reaching into a tall cupboard and removing a heavy rocks glass. The glass has a weighted bottom that is square in dimension, but whose mouth and tumbler are round. He then cracks ice from the ice tray that he has made by freezing Smart Water (the electrolites are cleansing, man) and puts two Smart Water cubes in the glass. He completes this ritual by adding two fingers of a certain brown American liquor. Damn, I kidded him, you need to get to a meeting because your fantasy kicks my fantasy's ass.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra Does Fleetwood Mac

Late last night Heather and I made it out after work to the Otik Records Costume Bash at the Echo. While we were unable to witness the Voyeurs performing as CCR or the Monolators performing as ABBA, we did have the pleasure of catching The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra performing as Fleetwood Mac. I like a band that makes me want to play music. In this instance while watching FTO tear through such hits like "Rhiannon" and "Tell Me Lies" Heather and I got excited about what band we'd want to masquerade as. Heather thought the Cousins could go as The Bangles. I thought Summer Darling could do a mean Pixies. A good show produces that sort of reaction. It inspires those who play to go out and keep playing and it inspires those who listen to go out and keep listening. So my thanks to FTO for keeping some inspiration alive last night.

You can catch FTO at the Gibson Amphitheater on November 3rd with Silversun Pickups.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Music Tuesdays: Death House Chaplain

I'm not at all surprised when I tell people I'm in another band besides Summer Darling and they respond that they had no idea. Actually, I'm in two, both of which I play drums. Today I am spotlighting Death House Chaplain.

I have been in Death House Chaplain three different times over a period of seven years, most of those years playing bass. The chance to play drums came around in late 2007/early 2008. We put a record out in 08 entitled Of Asthma and we're now at work on a new record to be completed early next year. So that you can get a sense of that band, I'm sharing a Mp3 of a brand new song called "Dot the Eyes." Paul Harper, the bassist, and I recorded the bass and drums live directly to eight track cassette. Matthew Holl, the guitarist/vocalist, later added guitar on the eight track and then dumped the session as one stereo track into Pro Tools and added his vocals. The guitar work reminds me of one of my favorite bands, US Maple, and I am really impressed with tones we got out of the eight track.

Death House Chaplain plays live Fri Nov 6th at The Ambiguous Warehouse Skatepark in Santa Ana. 9pm All ages Free Show, Free Beer for 21+
3123 Macarther Blvd., Santa Ana, California 92704

Monday, October 26, 2009

This Just In--The Grass Is Officially Greener.

I am watching Evan, Brett, and Sam play some gorgeous tunes in a plush rehearsal space when it hits me. Bedrock Studios in Echo Park is better than Downtown Rehearsal. This is not a subjective evaluation, the grass is officially greener.

Heather and I spent our Sunday afternoon hanging out with friends, eating brautwerst and drinking microbrew at the expense of our gracious host, Bedrock Studios. We got a tour of emitter studios where engineer/producer Chris Haynes works with the biggest monitors I've ever seen! (Chris recorded the drums for our upcoming record at his old space at DTR 1.) We got lost for twenty minutes while we peeked our heads into various rehearsal spaces, some of which, like our friends Andrew's and Tony's space, have little isolation rooms connected to the main space. We bumped into LA Record's work space, ...IsGood Radio's broadcast area, even a Gibson show room? This place has it all, and I heard a rumor that they're PUTTING IN A PIZZA AND BEER PLACE!

Logically, Summer Darling should rehearse here. Downtown Rehearsal is one notch above those condemned hotels you see in the rougher districts of downtown. But we won't move. We can't. For the last five years, we've spent every monday night--and many other nights as well--in that dank dark shit hole and it's been some of the best, most creative times of my life. Plus we just cleaned our space for the first time since 2006. Bedrock most certainly does rehearsal studios better, but I can't trade what I got. For anyone looking for a new space, though, I highly recommend Bedrock.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fiction Fridays

On Fridays I present excerpts, in order, from a collection of stories I've written entitled Central, Remote. As it is serial I hope you can come back every week and pick up where we all left off.

BB Gun

Part One.

The hills orange in the mid day heat crested like Bering Straight waves into deep dales where hid patches of green and the occasional cow drinking irrigation water from the washes in the valley. In one such valley a burnt-out pick up truck speckled white with a strange decaying rust lay long ruined by a violent car fire. Its blackened frame housed a bum’s variety of glass bottles with the scant well-water traces of alcohol trapped in their grooved bottoms. Abandoned garments of cloth covered fried vinyl seats torn and opened like scabs over new wounds. A man sat propped against the Chevy so naturally he seemed part of the landscape, his back against the frame of the passenger door, legs splayed, his boots sticking straight out into the encroaching rays making them appear as to have been suede in two variant tints of tan, hot white and sandy shade. An arm cradled a plastic container of gin while the hands rested intertwined on his swollen belly. George Jr. watched for several long seconds from behind a nearby oak tree. The man was either dead drunk or just dead.

C’mon, he said to his companion. I want to see if he left any in that bottle.

Willy shook his head.

Fine, but I ain’t sharin.

George Jr. swept the hair from his eyes and left the other boy behind, traipsing through the knee-high chaff. After five or six steps he heard Willy begin to follow. Grab a stick or something, he said to him.

Willy paused, leaned over and kicked around the brush with his foot until he found a fallen branch. It was gnarled and tough in his hand. Satisfied he continued towards the body. George Jr. was already standing next to it, motionless, arms resting at his sides, sneakers wearing the dust of the day. Willy had the distinct impression that George had been struck immobile by some alien affectation wafting off the body but as he came closer to investigate, George stuck out his arm palm up and out, signaling stop in one quick burst as if blocking an unseen attacker. He then pointed to the earth just next to the man. Willy had to take two more steps and squint through the cresting light to see a small pistol with the walnut bulge of a seven-chamber nestled underneath the drunk’s left forearm.

Holy shit.

Shut up! George said without sound. He smiled and it made Willy nervous.

George. Let’s go.

George put a finger perpendicular to his lips.

Willy gripped the branch tightly like a bat and held it in front of him.

George lifted his left leg so that he stood straddling the prostrated man. He bent and reached, paused and watched the man’s chest rise and stutter back, rise and stutter back. He smelled the fecund rank of the man’s odor and the stale liquor on his uneven breathe. He gripped the neck of the bottle just beneath the cap with his middle and forefinger the way his father removed longnecks from a six-pack and tugged. The bottle didn’t budge.

Willy shifted his weight from one leg to the other. C’mon.

Pipe down. He’s done drunk hisself out.

Willy readied his branch and took one defensive step back.

George turned his head and mouthed, Quiet, and began once again at the gin, this time with more force. It slid out like a sigh from its flannel holster. When he saw the two fingers of liquid left in the bottle George felt such a surge of adrenaline he nearly laughed.

Willy said, Great. Let’s go.

Pivoting at his torso and still very much an arc over the ravine that was the passed out man George said, Catch, giggled and tossed the plastic bottle at Willy. It was like trying to catch a water balloon with his hands full. Willy dropped the branch and the bottle, which landed with a hollow melon thud in the dirt.

At the sound the man suddenly shifted, heaving his bulk to the right. George bunny hopped to avoid the crossing legs. And froze. The man didn’t move again.

Jesus, George. Willy snatched up the gin and began to back pedal. There was no doubt in his mind that George would follow but like an act of God stunning and awesome George just stood there. Jesus, George, C’mon.

For another moment George stood still. The man wasn’t moving and the gun lay revealed in the indented weeds. With the decisiveness of an involuntary reaction George grabbed the firearm. Although he’d never admit it, in the end there was really nothing to it. The gun was simply in his hand and then he was huddled behind the oak tree, adrenaline a heartbeat in his neck, watching Willy wide eyed offering the gin to him like a pagan effigy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everybody Loves a Winner

When I was a kid my dad, my brother and I watched a lot of sporting events together, mostly baseball, but also football, tennis and the olympics. After every big game as the TV cameras predictably panned to illuminate the radiant faces of the victors and the jubilant hysterical crowd cheering them on, my dad always said the same thing: "Everybody loves a winner." At first I equated this phrase as kin to a coping mechanism as we were fans of some awful home teams in San Diego in the eighties. But when we moved to San Francisco and became Giants and 49ers fans, teams that actually won big games, I was shocked and somewhat disheartened to hear my dad say the same thing after they won a big game. It immediately took the wind out of my sails, the emotion produced by the win trivialized as pedestrian and unremarkable.

I was unable to watch last night's baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers in which the Dodgers suffered a crushing, convincing defeat at the hands of the Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia. I Tivo-ed the damn thing, but before I could watch it my ignorance was spoiled by a careless mistake on-line in which I saw a picture of the entire Phillies team hugging and celebrating on the mound. In one moment I experienced the physical reaction of a ten year old whose team has just lost a little league game; my heart sank and the world seemed like a cruel hopeless place.

But interestingly enough what I didn't think was "Everybody loves a winner." Instead I reflected on the one hundred and thirty some odd games I watched this year and how many great moments there were to be witnessed: comeback wins of every glorious type, nail-biting ninth inning saves, mind boggling defensive plays, and of course the melodious voice of the Dodgers color man, Vin Scully, calling every play and scrutinizing every player . This year was a fantastic year for baseball in Los Angeles and I am proud of our team. Not everyone loves a winner, I discovered, because I love the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I'm not sure how this is next bit is relevant, but it popped in my head the moment I watched the ending of the game in real time. There's a scene in the movie Life Aquatic near the conclusion of the film in which Bill Murray sits alone on the curbside outside of a giant auditorium. Inside his contemporaries are viewing his latest deep sea documentary. When the film is finished the audience erupts into uproarious applause. The applause is so deafening that we hear it very clearly as the camera slowly pans in on Bill Murray's sad, sardonic face. And then it hits us, that instead of being inside to accept this glorious appraisal of his work, he is more alone than ever, ostracized from his accomplishments by their thunderous approval. And I wept for him and for myself, knowing how difficult even the most joyous of times can be and our eternal inability to properly honor them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ping Pong for Charity

Back in October of 2006, Summer Darling played a benefit show for the charity Invisible Children at the Alpha Gamma Omega house just off the USC campus. While we are the first ones to play for a great cause, the real reason we agreed that night was far more serious: Ping Pong.

Dan and I had been in a shit-talking ping pong battle since 2003 when we were rehearsing one night and the subject of ping pong came up. Dan nonchalantly said, "I'd destroy you at the ping pong table." To which I responded, "No way, man, I'd annihilate you. You wouldn't stand a snow ball's chance in hell." And so it began that any time the subject of ping pong came up, Dan and I would launch into our familiar repertiore. It became almost a party trick performed by Heather and Loop, as in, "Hey let's get this place jumping by inciting a mini word-war between Dan and Ben." Finally in Fresno in 2004 we happened to play a venue with a ping pong table. We battled a best of seven match in which I proved victorious, but the legend grew that I had somehow got lucky or cheated Dan out of a win. I denied these speculations and called them exactly what they were: cheap shots from a sore loser.

Two years late, we would settle the score. After playing our set, Dan, Heather, Loop, and I adjourned to the fraternity house's game patio and we battled again!

It was a fierce match!

Until finally it was over, and I, once again victorious, consoled the loser.

Now to be fair I will mention that this past fourth of July, Dan beat the pants off me in Palm Springs, but I will forever cry "Dehydration!" and "Drunkeness!" as the reasons for my defeat. History is written by winners, I don't see Dan with a blog anywhere. . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Music Tuesday

Ah, Tuesday, the best day of the week for music lovers! After listening to near-final mixes last night with producer S Foye and making a few precious last minute tweaks, we decided to let you all in on a new Summer Darling jam by performing the song live for the blog. The song is called "The Author" and it will be on the new record.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Can't I Just Be Happy For You?

In 1995 I got into a band called Sunny Day Real Estate, and while they are currently trying to revive their glory days, in the mid nineties they were tops for me. Sunny Day's records were released by seminal Seattle label Sup Pop and ever since then my dream has been to be in a band signed to Sub Pop. In my younger years I would mail copies of my band's records to the address on their mailing list, I would want to listen to anything they put out. And for a good five years after Sunny Day they put out their share of crap. Although my interest in Sub Pop waned I still thought of their label as the place to be.

Fifteen years later, I unabashedly hold on to this link to my teenage years. I love Sub Pop, I love the bands on Sub Pop, I can't help it, they're all just so cool!!! And yes, I still dream of being in a band on Sub Pop. So when I heard local band Avi Buffalo was recently signed by Sub Pop I found myself instantly jealous. Now I consider myself a pretty rational guy; I've never heard Avi Buffalo's music, I don't know them as people; I shouldn't care one way or another that Sub Pop signed them. In fact, if anything, I should be happy for them! But why wasn't I?

After thinking about this question all weekend, the answer that I've come up with is undoubtedly embarrassing and a bit indicative of a deeper problem. All this time I've thought of myself as a guy who supports local music. I mean, shit, I've been playing in local bands in southern California for twelve years now. I am a local musician who shares the same hopes and dreams with hundreds of other fantastic warm hearted like minded individuals. And as friends and acquaintances have succeeded around me I tricked myself into thinking I was happy for them, when the truth was that I always felt that stab of envy. I've basically been disingenuous to a ton of people I've called friends and contemporaries because of this one fucked-up thought (and here-in lies the answer to the above question): If I am honest with myself I feel that Summer Darling deserves all the good things that happen to bands more than my friends' bands.

This realization has sent me into a minor tail spin. Not only is this thinking flat out wrong, it's highly counter productive and damaging to any sense of community I have always thought of myself as supporting. Why is it wrong? First, I don't believe any one really deserves anything. Any success, however much it may be viewed by others as "well deserved" is just that, a subjective opinion. Everyone has different versions of success, and I wouldn't doubt that some people I thought of as successful may not think that way about themselves. This constant game of comparison and the resulting feeling of entitlement gets in the way. I don't want to be a slave to my own subjective opinions, I want to be the person who is generally happy for those who have the opportunity to be successful, especially since I want people to be happy for me when I am given that opportunity. At the risk of turning this into my own personal indie rock after school special, I am determined to undo this poisonous way of thinking that I have been ensconced in the past decade.

So let me be one of the first to honestly and sincerely congratulate Avi Buffalo on their upcoming opportunity and cheers to all my friends who are still fighting the good fight. I really do wish you all the success I believe you deserve and may we have the courage to continue following our teenage dreams.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fiction Fridays

On Fridays I will be presenting excerpts, in order, from a collection of stories I've written entitled Central, Remote. As it will be serial I hope you can come back every week and pick up where we all left off.

Central, Remote

The Reminder.

The young man stood and took a long look at the land, the difficulty of it. Knotted cherry trees lay to the east shrouding the two-lane highway; before that a concrete irrigation duct splitting two sides of caked dry earth, paths to fishing holes and forts made from splintered lumber and leftover produce crates. To the west behind the house of whose porch he occupied lay an infinity of weeds, golden in the heat and worthless. He peeled the sweat from his neck balling up in his fingertips a gnat or a fly and removed the soft cigarette pack from the breast pocket of his flannel shirt. He lit the Marlboro with a steel-plated lighter, although he mused it might have just lit itself in the mid-morning scorch. His throat opened arid against the invading smoke. After some minutes his moustache felt wet against his forefinger as he held the cigarette to his lips. In his other hand he absently flicked the stiff edge of a photograph with his thumb. There appeared a moment when he nearly tapped the crown of ash on the picture but seemed to think better of it. Instead he allowed the cigarette cinders to collect in the dairy dust of the gray boarded porch.

The tractor plow hibernated in the fields to the north, rust entangling its limbs like kudzu or ant trails. He’d spent the night sitting in the shell cab with a bottle of Early Times and a tall boy, the picture right where he’d taped it some odd years prior, to the left of the steering mechanism next to his father’s makeshift cup holder. A curious thing is a forgotten memory rediscovered. His head pitched to the right as he waited for eyes blurred by alcohol and sky-gazing to focus. There was no reason it would have moved; still, it caught him off guard. The Polaroid picture. One edge curling apart from the clear tape. As he remained in the cab drinking he didn’t try to ignore it. He would occasionally look down at it in a sentry-like fashion, as if the photo were a dormant spider or a slumbering ghost.

Later stumbling drunk through the house he felt like he was looking for something without a name. In the kitchen there were yellow Post-It notes littering the room like polka dots, with direct yet vague imperatives like “Paint” or “Scrub” written on them in neat block lettering. He bent at the waist to pick one off the sink plumbing and came back up too quickly. With the blood surge sugaring his head he crashed unmanned marionette-like to the linoleum, still checkered forties yellow and sea foam. The room spun slowly until he closed his eyes and righted his body against cabinets nailed shut to keep out the prying hands of drifters. He looked about the room and had the feeling of gazing upon a lost lover instantly familiar but wholly changed. The distant vacancy of it brought tears to his eyes, which he repelled with a snort and a stretch of his jaw.

He took the picture from his front pocket and spent a drunk’s minute scratching the remaining vestiges of tape from its white frame. He closed his eyes again; he didn’t need them to know what the picture captured. Dizzying brightness. The teeth of a wide childsmile, sky so pale blue it’s nearly nothing, a thousand shards of sun skipping on the water. His mother held their hands, his brother to the right, he to the left. Her left arm appeared pulled, nearly hyper-extended by his grasp. There was something just out of his reach on the rutted dock. His caramel apple had slipped off its tongue depressor and fallen victim to a yellow wasp. To her other side his brother, slightly smaller, fit underneath her right arm using it as a canopy from the heat, smelling her linen and the lotion of her tan bare legs. Of the three he’s the only one looking forward with an expression of quizzical understanding. It’s a simple look, a philosopher’s envy. His father took the picture.

The tears welled up again and for no other reason than the complete absence of anything else the young man had begun to sing the hymn his mother wrote until he’d inexplicably forgot the tune of the refrain and trailed off into the hummed engine silence of the last few stragglers headed home to violent beds from the highway beyond the orchard.

He put out the cigarette and placed the picture back in his jeans pocket. He had tried last night to make sense of it, to name the emotion the picture evoked, but he was foully soused and unable to stop the slow rotation of the world around him. But now, head full of ache and clarity, he defined the feeling as the memory of the bee sting he suffered during the moments the photograph developed and later the strawberry welt and the small chip of distrust impressed upon him. His mother remained a figure stenciled into the backdrop of his memory dead before he was eight while his brother he imagined perpetually sheltered, maybe holed up somewhere a few miles away in the town they grew up in.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Born Again and Again and Again

Sometimes it can take years to get a song right. Back 2005 we began messing around at rehearsal with a song I'd been working on. It had a relatively complicated riff and dan and I struggled with how we were going to come up with a second guitar part. After two or three attempts at different rehearsals that went nowhere, the song was abandoned. What usually happens is we start work on another song and if that one goes well it's completely normal for us to never work on that aborted idea ever again.

In this case I didn't forget the idea. A few months later I demo'd the song at home under the title "Bad Blood." In order to make the main guitar riff more unique I split it into two parts and hard panned them in the mix so that it would sound like two battling lines. Here's a listen:

I emailed the song to Dan, who liked the idea of the two intersecting parts, and began writing his own call and response guitar part.

In July of 2007 we went in to record our EP Good Feeling with producer Frank Lenz. Due to contributing factors like being devestatingly hungover from Dan's birthday the night before and a catastrophic computer crash, the sessions were scrapped. We tried again in the winter of 2007/08 to better results and the song was renamed "Born Again." However these sessions were marred by lackadaisical performances and production, mainly on my part. I wasn't happy with some of the tones, nor was I happy with my vocal takes. Nevertheless the EP was due and we didn't have the time or resources to re-record it, so the song came out on Good Feeling in June of 2008. Here's the second version:

When we went to begin recording our full length in October of 2008, I brought the idea up that maybe we should redo a couple of the songs from Good Feeling that we were never happy with, one of them being "Born Again." The stories from these marathon sessions that have lasted nearly a year will undoubtedly come to light in later posts, but for now I'd like to share the lastest version of "Born Again." It's the way we've always heard it, and we accomplished it by spending hours getting tones, recording much of the guitars live, Dan and I head to head in our sweaty studio, and with the magic touch of producer/mixer Sean Foye. Hope you enjoy! PS Turn it up! This shit ain't mastered yet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Getting It Done While Coming Undone

Lately over drinks with friends I've been expressing my concerns that I'm an alcoholic, or more precisely, some sort of new hybrid alcoholic. You know, the kind that has a job and relationships but has to answer that awkward question at the doctors of office--"Do you have more than three drinks a day?"-- with an affirmative. The kind that enjoys picnics, but really enjoys picnics with a forty. The kind with an extensive yet tasteful koozie collection. It's a surprisingly spry conversation to have over cocktails, usually right after politics and right before religion. (There is certainly a sliding scale of number of drinks to heaviness of metaphysical conversation but that is another post we can examine in the future.)

The consensus from my friends has been two fold: A. You're not an alcoholic because that would make me an alcoholic and I'm not an alcoholic--and B. You're not an alcoholic because My so-and-so is an alcoholic and believe me, you'd be doing X, Y, and Z if you were an alcoholic.

While the second is the more sobering, the first of these scientific conclusions is the far more entertaining of the two because it inevitably leads to my friends recounting tales of wild inebriation. For example, my friend told me a story about an excursion he took to Reno back when he was in college. The trip was loosely affiliated with a soft fraternity (to me a soft fraternity are the ones tied into a specific major, like the fraternity of business majors of the fraternity of competitive math theory) and was primarily an excuse for the pledges to get wasted at the expense of the upper classmen's amusement. The story begins with a recounting of all the different beverages he drank and how much he was forced against his will to do so. He vaguely remembers meeting some girl and taking her back to his hotel room. From there it's all a black nothingness in the space a memory should hold, but he does distinctly remember having a dream that he was pissing a river of Nile proportions and man, did it feel good, until he awoke and discovered he had urinated all over the coed in his bed. Thinking surprisingly clearly, in my opinion, for one so intoxicated he went to the sink, filled a 32 oz. Big Gulp with water and proceeded to dump it all over the girl. She of course sprang awake with a confused and angry what the fuck? to which my friend explained that he had got up to get a drink of water and spilled it all over her and how he was very sorry but he was reeeeally drunk and maybe she should just hit the road. You see, Ben, if you were an alcoholic that would be happening to you on a regular basis.

Thankfully for my wife's sake, that is not an average Tuesday night for me. But the more of these stories I hear and the more I can recall about myself, and so many of them having to do with playing rock and roll, I've begun to suspect that I've allowed my lifestyle to dictate my habits. I drink every night because I don't have to wake up and be productive before ten in the morning. I drink every night because I feel looser on stage after a couple of beers. The trick is figuring out if I am continuing to do the things I do, like play in bands and wait tables, as an excuse to drink. It's a disturbing hypothesis, and one that I plan to examine. As soon as the World Series is over. Because I like baseball, but man do I love a baseball beer!

Historical Footnote

On this date in 2007, Summer Darling played an acoustic show at Koo's Art Cafe in Long Beach. There are two brief things I remember specifically about this show. First, that Koo's in Santa Ana was way better than Koo's in Long Beach. And that the opening band Coho somehow broke the tuning peg on my acoustic guitar. To this day I carry around pliers in my acoustic guitar case to tune my B string.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Gotta Claim That Fuckin Trophy, Mate.

My friend Nico came and sat on one our amps after last night's show at the Echo. Noticing that I was the only member of my band tearing down, he asked, "Where's your drummer?" I explained to him that I felt uncomfortable after shows and needed a few minutes to let the post show vulnerability wear off. The feeling is akin to leaving the podium with your fly down after a speech or bumping into a parent in the house of your date on the morning after. Furthermore, the unwritten tried and true Summer Darling post show formula is I tear the equipment down while the rest of the members go smoke cigarettes and mingle with friends and fans. Sometimes these trajectories intersect, but on this night they did not. So Nico comes across sweaty post show me tearing down by himself and not knowing the SD protocol, assumes I've been dealt a shit hand. Upon my explanation he bluntly asks why. Why do I feel uncomfortable? I told him some sarcastic thing about having heard too many "good show" comments in my life time.

I thought he'd laugh it off, but instead he grew very serious and explained to me that a good show accolade by a friend or fan after a show was like a trophy. These people wanted me to be successful. They wanted me to accept their award graciously yet confidently. By dodging all the "good show" comments I was effectively ditching the trophy. And Nico then explained how confused and agrovated the public would be: "We tried to give him the trophy but he just kept putting the fucking thing down. We don't get it." He ended his diatribe by telling me to claim my trophy because if I didn't believe I deserved to be successful then why would anyone else?

I definitely needed a drink after that one.

Upon loading up after the show I reflected that I found it easy to gloss over the fact that self confidence is different than arrogance and that constant deference toward congratulations were a backwards form of pride. And why the fuck not shouldn't I claim my trophy? I'm sure I'm not the first balding bearded thirty something indie rocker to realize they need to put a little more belief in themself, I'm just the latest.