Monday, November 30, 2009

Motivation & Relaxation + Link to Live WTF show at the Echoplex

I took a walk around the Griffith Observatory on an insanely clear day this past weekend with my Dad and my brother where we had a lengthy discussion about motivation and relaxation. The conversation started with by brother relating a similar dialogue he'd had with someone at the airport during his layover. When the man asked my brother what he did for a living, that was easy; I'm a personal wealth banker, he replied. However, when he asked my brother what he did for fun, my brother admitted to being stumped.

"How sad," he would tell my father and I, "that I don't have anything to do for fun. I go to work and to the gym, watch the occasional baseball game or movie with my wife but I don't have a specific outlet to relax."

Our discussion then turned towards the question of what specifically motivated us, and I must admit to being stunned by their answers. Both my father and brother claimed that making money was their primary motivation in life. When I think about it objectively I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; I mean, after all, my father is a real estate agent and my brother is a banker who sells financial investment packages to the wealthy. Both of these occupations are intrinsically built on making money through salesmanship.

So perhaps more surprising than my family's motivation to me was my motivation to my dad and my brother. I told them my motivation and my mode of relaxation were all tied up in the same things--being creative, making music, and traveling. It got us wondering whether or not it is necessary as an artist to not care about making money. It's an interesting question that I plan to explore in future conversations with other artists and hopefully post some results.

A brief disclaimer: when I say I don't care about money, the proof is in the pudding. I work as a waiter and my wife and I's combined income is less than 60 grand a year. I used to think that was so much money! Anyone living in LA, NYC, or SF knows that's not the case, especially if you are in a band, as we tend to spend between 5 and 10 grand a year on music related expenses. However, even though money is not a predominate motivating factor in my decision making, I do not dislike money and I do recognize that I need to make some money in order to live in 2009 American society. The crux of the situation is knowing that if someone offered me an opportunity to make twice the amount of money I currently make to work in an office or manage a restaurant, I'd turn them down. But if someone offered me a ton on money to write a jingle for Jack In the Box, I'd have a far tougher decision to make. Man, talking about money just feels icky, but it shouldn't. We all have to deal with it, we should be able to discuss it freely.

Lastly, in a completely unrelated topic, I came across a link that enables the savvy internet surfer listening access to a live show that Wait.Think.Fast. performed at the Echoplex on Saturday November 28th. It sounds pretty good and it is packed with new jams from their upcoming record. You can check it out here. Just click on the Travel Tips for Aztlan show midway down the page. The WTF show is about 30 minutes into the podcast.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgetting: The System Is Rigged Against You

I'm aware of how over-the-top the title of this post sounds, and while there is a certain amount of melodramatic affectation involved, I am a bit concerned for all of us. Contrary to what many people believe, we are not a Christian nation, we are a Consumer nation. Our national brand of capitalism has ingrained this philosophy into all walks of American life: the more you have, the happier you are.

When stated that frankly, I would hope most people would cry "bullshit" to our national credo, but whether we're aware of it or not, we still seem to operate as if the above statement were true. Especially after our latest economic downturn it seems blatantly obvious that greed is god here--for goodness sake, we've taken a holiday founded on a principle of giving thanks and turned it into a day that excuses gluttony and personifies consumerism. And let's not forget that the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year; that's not an accident.

Ok, Ben, what the hell is this commie crap all about?

I want to be content. Not happy, but content. Happiness depends largely on outside circumstances, but contentment is something that comes from within. However the system I'm living in is rigged to prevent me from being content if I live by its confines. But if I can be content without continually needing more than what I already have, then the system begins to crumble. In this new system, getting more becomes a blessing instead of an impulse that once fulfilled leaves us empty.

Therefore, this year I am going to truly celebrate thanksgiving by being thankful. I find it difficult to be depressed if I am thinking of others, and I've found it very difficult to feel dissatisfied when I am thankful for all the things I've been blessed with, materially, yes, but more so, relationally. I am thankful for my wife and my family and I am blessed beyond words for all the friends that I share this adventure with. Thanks to you for reading, thanks for coming to shows, thanks for listening to the records. I know it can feel self serving from time to time because music gives us pleasure, but know that everyone who's a part of the Chain Letter Collective, Summer Darling, Kissing Cousins, Death House Chaplain, Past Haunts, and Vicious Scully is very grateful for your time and thoughts.

Have a fulfilling Thanksgiving. If you can't think of anything to be thankful for, give me a call, because I am thankful for you.

Chain Letter will resume Monday, November 30th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Summer Darling

Dan and I got together last night at his place and had some fun recording alternate versions of some of the songs on the new record. It especially makes us laugh that we are releasing alternate versions before the "real" versions! This jam is called "The One Who Loves You." and it's the first Summer Darling song in eight years to feature a banjo! S Foye is putting the finishing touches this week on the mixes and we expect to have it ready for mastering next week, which means our long wait is nearing an end! So many other exciting things happening in camp SD, but I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. For now enjoy this video.

The Terrapin at Silver Factory Studios

I met Rufo, the drummer of the Terrapin, about two years ago, but I honestly can't remember the precise circumstances surrounding our meeting. I do remember hanging out with him at KXLU with Sean from the Voyeurs when Summer Darling played on air and I do remember playing with the Terrapin at Que Sera in Long Beach pretty early on in our relationship. On Friday night, Death House Chaplain had the pleasure of opening for them at Silver Factory Studios. I enjoy the laid back house party vibe of Silver Factory. Many thanks go out to Rocco and Danny for providing such a comfortable fun setting for rock and roll shows. The sound keeps getting better and better there as well. (Just as I was about to post I heard that Silver Factory was shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department Saturday night but hopefully they will be up and running again soon.)

While this post definitely recognizes the swift progression the Terrapin continue to make towards being a very exciting noise pop group, the focus is actually on their affable, kind spirited drummer. Anyone who's been in the east side scene the last two years probably has met Rufo knowingly or unknowingly. The guy oozes friendly positivity. At a show a few months back I was down in the dumps about something or other and over all just discouraged about music and bands in general. Rufo allowed me to pile my bull shit on him, and then gently reminded me why we do this in the first place: because we love it and nothing else means as much to us or the people around us. It wasn't that I forgot these things, but I needed someone outside of myself to confirm them.

Often I find that all we need when we're confused or depresesd is to know one other person who's struggling with the same issues that can reaffirm our convictions. Growing up in the Christian church there was much hoopla made of the importance of going every Sunday. I haven't been to church in many years, but now I recognize the importance of having a support group of like minded people to lean on when you're struggling. I'm proud to be a part of Rufo's church and I hope he's a proud member of the church of Summer Darling as well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Conclusions on Sobriety

My month long trek across the barren desert that is sobriety comes to a close on Monday. On a run around the Silver Lake reservoir today I reflected on what's different, what's the same, and some tips for next time.

What's Different Drinking definitely contributed to a low lying complacency I had towards my goals. This last month I've played more music, wrote more songs, and practiced my playing more than any other time in recent memory, all while Summer Darling has been on hiatus! Alcohol is not a bad thing for me intrinsically, but I discovered when I use alcohol as a replacement for what really gets me off I become listless and uncreative. I certainly believe there's room to enjoy alcohol while playing music, but my days of drinking all afternoon without picking up the guitar are over.

What's the Same I've enjoyed all the shows I've played and attended and the music I've made this past month sober as much as when I'm drinking. I wasn't what to expect from being a sober musician because I suspected that part of me played music as an excuse to be a mild drunk. There's a certain temptation to continue the "lifestyle" because it affords specific freedoms, one being drinking at all times without that much guilt. Had wanting to be a musician just been an excuse for me to live like I was 21 for the rest of my life? Happily the answer to that question is no. If I was given the choice to either be able to play music in some capacity for the rest of my life without alcohol or to have an infinite supply of free alcohol but no musical outlet I know now what choice I'd make--and it would be an easy one. I'd sure miss those brown Kentucky liquors, but I'd thrive no less. With or without booze, playing music is everything.

Next Time There are some side effects to ditching the brewskies cold turkey that I want to recall for the next time I afford myself a month long bout with clarity.
1. No sauce makes you testy and this can compromise your close relationships. Man, I snapped at my wife about everything that first week, but unintentionally so. I was under a constant cloud of annoyance, the feeling that something inside was off and had tainted the world around me. It's important to be aware that this feeling is natural and it does no good to express your frustration by being a shit head to those close to you.
2. There's a unique thirst that comes from drinking on a regular basis. The only non alcoholic beverage that works to semi-quench the thirst is sparkling water. I recommend Waiwera from New Zealand. Delicious! Contrary to what I suspected, non alcoholic beer is not all that good for this. While beer is tasty, most non alcoholic beers come across flat and lifeless to the pallet, plus you get all the calories and none of the get up and go.
3. Speaking of calories, this brings me to number three: I am hungry all the time. My normal routine has me eating only one real meal a day, usually in the afternoon or early evening. When you're off the sauce this ain't gonna cut it. My challenge was to not binge on Chubby Hubby Ice Cream or cookies from my work every night. Heather can attest to how often I failed this challenge.
4. Depression. I was surprised that I could feel every bit as hopeless and lost sober as when I was drinking. Those feelings, I've learned, are inherent to the human condition and a necessary by product of thinking critically about the world around you. As long as I chose not to let these feelings define my reality I am able to embrace them for their ability to inspire creativity and keep me humble.

I go back and forth on whether I am excited to start drinking again. I'm concerned I won't be able to keep it under control. I'm afraid I'll be re-enslaved. I'm nervous about feeling that first buzz. But then I remember the way beer tickles the nose after a long pull, the way Bourbon warms you from the inside, the smell of a luscious red wine as you breath in and sip simultaneously. I have my hunch; I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catching Up with Tracy from Twilight Sleep

Heather and I got the opportunity Tuesday to drop in on Twilight Sleep as they record new material in an ultra plush, brand new studio in Silver Lake. I'd love to say more about the details of the studio but we were sworn to secrecy! Anyway, after a long hiatus spent writing and recording new material and assembling a new band, we were pleased to hear Tracy and Company are going to start playing shows again! Twilight Sleep's new line up features Davey Latter on drums, who also plays for Everest, Nicole Gehweiler on guitar, who also plays guitar for The Comas, and Nicole Fiorentino on bass, who also plays in Light FM, and of course our dear Tracy Marcellino heading things up with her spectacular other-worldly vocals and synth lines.

While a January show is planned with Kissing Cousins, you can catch Twilight Sleep before then at Spaceland Nov 30th supporting the Happy Hollows residency.

Here's the song "Don't Fire Your Guns" from their last EP Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Expect new amazing jams early next year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We Can't Both be Right, Can We? The Chain Letter Mission Statement

Recently I got into a discussion with a band mate over a post I did on this blog. While the details of the argument are somewhat irrelevant, we were able to boil it all down to this question: Who do I represent when I write this blog? My friend was of the opinion that whatever band I am writing about, if I am in that band, then what I write must be interpreted as representative of that band. To use a elementary analogy, if I write in my blog that Summer Darling played a show at a bar and that the show sucked, this can be construed as the opinion of Summer Darling.

Is my friend right? Well, yes. His opinion is correct because as a member of a band my opinion makes up a portion of the opinion of the band as a whole. However, the things I say and do, especially things not advertised or presented as the official opinion or stance of the band (i.e. thoughts and feelings expressed on my personal blog), must at best be recognized and scrutinized as only part of a band's opinion but not the whole opinion. This of course would be a hard sell if I were the only member of the band, but luckily in all the bands I'm in I share the experience with other people, so to equate my opinion to the opinion of the band's as a whole disregards the opinions of the other band members.

Do my personal thoughts and feelings influence those of my bands? Absolutely. But let's allow room for opinions to be expressed that may not be in the best interest of the bands, because after all, that's what this blog is about. I want to share with you the good and bad that happens before and after a show or during the making of a record. It's dishonest and not in the spirit of this blog to follow the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I find it fascinating and edifying when other people in bands share their discouraging moments and disparaging thoughts and what venues suck and what booker is an asshole and what band just plain ruins their day just as much as I savor and enjoy those same peoples' triumphs, positive tips on where to play, who to play with, and how in the hell we can possibly continue to do this without giving up. Let's make a commitment then to really examine and think critically about what happens around us, and let's realize that I'm not always going to say things that will make everybody happy. I do pledge to avoid intentional shit talking but because this is inherently subjective, I can't guarantee what I write won't sometimes be interpreted as such by others. If you have to stop listening to my band or stop booking my band because of something I write on Chain Letter, that is certainly your prerogative and I will respect that decision as much as I wish it to be recognized that some separation exists between my opinions and that of the bands I'm in. It may be wishful thinking, but I'd like to believe as it pertains to this discussion that we can both be right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Vicious Scully

Sean Foye and I have begun a new recording project dedicated to Vin Scully, the color man for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year, Sean and I watched over 140 games together. This project will be our musical interpretation of the 2009 season as seen through the eyes of the greatest baseball announcer of all time. The first song we came up with is called "Deuces Wild" (rough mix version below) and hopefully there will be plenty more to come. In the works already are "Nmbr Sexy," "My Bison," "Wherever You May Be," and "Fuck Victorino." As the songs are finished we will post them for you to listen to and then collect them all at one convenient location for download. No official band name yet, but for now Vicious Scully will do. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Telegraph Canyon Wins the Award for Most Ingenious Band in the World

On Friday night Kissing Cousins played a show in Riverside, California with the band Telegraph Canyon from Forth Worth, Texas and they are the most ingenious band in the world. A quick note about Riverside if you haven't been there: people get wasted and they get wasted early. Upon finishing their set a herd of drunk frat boy wanna-bes bombarded the Cousins with this phrase over and over: if you wanna make it in rock and roll you need to learn the first rule of rock and roll--don't have boyfriends. Class acts these dudes. To be fair to Riverside this kind of behavior is evident in bars and clubs all across America, but seemed more apparent on this night due to the continual close proximity these boys held to the stage.

Earlier in the evening we pulled up to the venue at the same time as Telegraph Canyon. They travel in a giant Four Winds motor home, which is reason one why they are the most ingenious band in the world. They have no need to procure hotel rooms, driving around a foreign city drunk at 2 am searching for a place to stay. They are always at home. Genius.

They then proceeded to fit a full size Hammond B3 organ, a full cabinet sized Leslie speaker, a 6 piece drum set, two guitar amps, a bass amp, a separate kick drum, no less than 8 guitars plus a banjo and a mandolin, and six people including a violin player onto a stage that could not have been more than 15x15 feet! To top it off, they sounded incredible. To pull off this life size Rubik's Cube and make it sound good are reasons two and three why they are the most ingenious band in the world.

Lastly, they are nice. Oh god how many bands have we all come across over the years that may not necessarily be flat out assholes but are either pretentious or self deprecating, awkward socially or smelly, overly gracious or completely self serving? They were normal, they were nice, they were good but didn't stick it to you. They sold vinyl. All huge pluses. So next time they come through think about checking them out. Here's a sample of the music from their album The Tide and the Current out now on Velvet Blue Music. The song is called "Into the Woods" and is in parts beautiful, sorrowful, stirring and finally joyful.

Friday, November 13, 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 arrived before them. A flat hot breeze trickled in from the west bringing with it the smell of cow manure and blood. It was a smell most found repugnant, but BB had lived her whole life a mile from Dickie’s and to her it recalled many summer afternoons past. She enjoyed a child’s momentary flirtation with nostalgia, even though she knew where the train of thought would bring her. She’d spent the better part of two summers coming to this spot, a forgot wooden lean-to that at one time held tools and extra feed for the old farmhouse that was torn down to accommodate the new set of rails Dickie’s required to ship in and out the goods of the day.

She’d taken to smoking cigarettes with Willy and George Jr. last summer. George had discovered his father’s cartons of Pall Mall filters in the bottom of George Sr.’s sock drawer. Each morning his father would grab a soft pack along with his daily choice of thick white athletics. George bragged to BB how he learned to time his thefts on the days when there were less than eight packs left but more than four. Never been caught once, never will, he’d said.

A month went by and BB became quite accustomed to their afternoon smoke. Willy would bring a juice box or a beer if he could score it from his older brother and BB would bring some sort of snack, a trio of Gala apples, a packet of trail mix, or a box of candies stolen from her Grandmother’s crystal bowl put out whenever entertaining company. The three would lounge on old wooden crates ducking the sun slicing through the slits in the wood, sip on their beverage, and share drags of the cigarette in between mouthfuls of chocolate or tart oranges.

One day, to the surprise of all, George Sr. showed up to their afternoon soiree. Upon seeing the truck pull up in the gravel, George Jr. cursed and grabbed the cigarette out of Willy’s mouth. The cherry popped off and landed in his lap burning a small hole through Willy’s Dungarees. Willy swore and George swore and BB sat stock-still and wide eyed and they all heard the work boots approach their fort and George Sr. call out, Junoir!

Obviously caught but unsure of the gravity of the situation, Junior hesitated in responding to his father’s call. Junior, gimme a smoke!

BB’s heart sank as she immediately projected the inevitable string of events that would lead to sitting in her bedroom waiting for Daddy to come upstairs and whoop her with the belt upon discovering his daughter was a smoker.

I don’t have any of yer smokes, sir!

Junior, if I have to open up the door I will take your entire pack, or you can just man up. open it yerself, and perhaps I’ll only take a couple.

Junior paused and looked at his compatriots. Willy shook his head. BB was sure it was a trick to get them to admit they were smoking. She wasn’t accustomed to lying but knew how to convince herself of a half-truth well enough to escape the consequences of previous misdemeanors. But Junior was something of a stubborn little shit (another of her father’s favorite phrases) and he stood up, squeezed the soft pack open and removed three of the six cigarettes left in the pack, opened the door and presented to them to George Sr.

George took the cigarettes from the boy, put one behind each ear and methodically placed the last one in his month, reached into his shirt pocket and removed the nickel plated liter with the emblem of a 18 wheeler on it and lit it. Well? He said.

Well what, sir?

You’re welcome.

Thank you, sir.

Don’t let me catch you corrupting little miss Boughlugsby again with this filth.


And you figure a way to buy your own damn smokes from now on, you hear?


And that was the end of BB’s adolescent smoking career. George Jr. later told them as it happened that day his father’s delivery route had taken him by Dickies and, having been delayed through lunch earlier, he had been unable to return home to procure a second pack of cigarettes. Apparently their secret clubhouse was well known to George Sr., who, to BB, seemed to know just as much about the town and it’s people as the sherriff and the preacher.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One quick correction before we begin today. In the post about Laura Ann's benefit show I erroneous attributed the drumset signed by Jimmy Chamberlain as having belonged to and having been donated by Billy Corgan. The set was in fact Laura Ann's, but it was used on the Gish sessions, and it may have belonged to JC at one point in time. I will contact Laura and figure out the specifics. My thanks to the reader who pointed this out to me.

Today's post will run next week as I have just learned that a member of my extended family passed away in a car accident this morning. His name is Richard and he is married to Beth, my wife's cousin. I have happy memories of Richard sitting around Heather's Grandmother's table playing Rook. He and I beat the pants off of his wife, Beth, and Heather's uncle, Reggie. While it may have been just another game to the three of them, that day held a very special significance for me. Winning that game was fun, but the interaction I shared with Heather's family members that day symbolized my acceptance into their clan. Ever since that moment I know I am accepted, loved and respected as family and there is nothing greater than that.

In a world where I often forget that relationships are the most valuable and important thing in our lives, Richard, Beth, Uncle Reggie and Heather's whole family are a beautiful example of well placed priorities. I am deeply grieved at the loss of Richard and I am saddened to the point of speechlessness when I think of Beth and their two children, Seth and Brianna. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers and try to connect with someone today you may have lost touch with in observance of this terrible tragedy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Map: A Link To The Past

Checking my electronic mail this morning I received correspondence from my friend Loop. He wrote a rather heartfelt and well worded soliloquy about drinking Tangueray at his office and how it reminded him of our tour of 2004. In 2004 Loop, Heather and I, along with playing in Summer Darling, also played with Josh Dooley in the band Map. The Tangueray tour was one we did in the midwest where we were forced out of broke-ness to steal Loop's roommate's bottle of Tangueray and drink that every night at the hotels, usually mixed with Sprite or Squirt.

The great thing about this tour and all the tours we went on with Map was my ability at the time to realize how special they were in the moment. Often times I am guilty of looking back on times of my life and saying "Boy I was sure happy then, but I am only realizing it now." The Map tours were different. I knew how happy I was as they were happening, even though at times they were immensely difficult and disheartening (i.e. burned down hotels, band members arrested, no people at the shows, a week in Peoria, IL wtf?).

There are many memories I'd love to share and perhaps more will come to light as the days of this blog continue to unfold like the endless Texas back roads we thought were shortcuts or the ubiquitous songs of Johnny Cash, which every bar across America played in tribute the summer of 2003. For now maybe we can share a story or two on Friday night when Kissing Cousins play with Map at the Royal Falconer in Riverside. You can have a beer and I'll have a Tangueray and soda minus the Tangueray and I'll tell you about the time Jason Martin from Starflyer 59 peed on a venue right next to the Green Room door.

Here's the single from Map's new instrumental album Speechless. It's called "Avalon."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Touch Me Judge

Everybody is in a band now days. A few reasons for this are immediately obvious to me; the first being how easy it is with digital technology to record songs, burn CDs or email Mp3s, make a website and get your music heard. But this only accounts for some of the proliferation of bands surrounding me. Yes, I attribute some of this to the fact that I live in Los Angeles where if you're not an actor or an artist along with whatever your day job is then what are you still doing here? Perhaps the explosion of people in bands has to do with the glorification of the mythical band lifestyle presented to the masses by dumb ass television shows and ad campaigns. But what else?

My other band Death House Chaplain recently played a warehouse party hosted by Ambiguous Skate Clothing Company. If you were to check out their website and click on the concert series link you would happen upon an array of photos displaying this very idea that being in a band is cool, that there are young chicks everywhere at your shows, free beer, and other hip looking people crowding around you, partying it up and celebrating the sex drugs and rock and roll culture. (Ironically other members of Summer Darling can be found in the giant party scene photos looking hip and drunk.)

Then you get to the photo of Death House Chaplain:

Not too cool. The other couple in the picture owns Ambiguous and wanted us to pose with them. What I find amusing about this photo is that it's one of the few photos that accurately expresses what being in a band is really like most of the time. My face is goofy and I'm soaked in sweat, awkwardly hugging Paul because I didn't know what else to do. Paul's face holds in it all the embarrassment of a photo op post show with people you don't know. Matt somehow looks pregnant and I look like I am feeling the baby kick.

Furthermore, while accurately depict that there were a ton of people at the show, the reality of the show was this: we played to thirteen half interested people and three friends while everyone else migrated outside to drink free PBR. Our set time got changed on us last minute, there was no gas money, and for all intents and purposes nothing good came from the performance at all.

But to us in Death House Chaplain, it was a good show. We got to play music and we felt we played well. And in this simple statement lies the best reason why there are so many bands. Playing music in and of itself is worth while. It can make you feel wonderful or it can make you feel miserable, but it always makes you feel.

And who am I kidding, being a musician is cool as hell.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Laura Ann's Benefit Show: Backwards Clock Society Featuring Billy Corgan, Kissing Cousins & More

Sunday night at the Echoplex I was witness to a perspective changing event. In the past I've been skeptical of human nature, the first to argue against any inherent "goodness" that might be inside all of us. I tend to believe people to be no greater than the sum of their selfish biological urges, enslaved by envy and greed in a way divorced from ethics or morality; it just simply is the product of the human animal. That's Laura Ann in the above picture. Her, Billy Corgan, and Josiah Mazzaschi would teach me a lesson on human nature.

A couple of months ago my friend and co-worker Laura Ann was in a serious motorcycle accident that nearly claimed Laura's foot below the ankle. After a number of surgeries and with plenty more rehab ahead of her, Laura Ann has been left out of work and wheelchair bound for the forseeable future:

Strapped for cash and buried in medical debt, Laura Ann's good friend Josiah decided to do something about it in the way of throwing her a benefit show at the local club Spaceland. His band Light FM had just finished a residency there and he knew a number of other acts connected to Laura Ann that would be willing to donate their time to make it an awesome show. Through his perseverance and big picture thinking, Josiah was able to get the show moved to a much larger venue, secure amazing raffle prizes from a variety of local businesses and book Laura Ann's long time friend, Billy Corgan, to headline the show.

I must also admit I have also been skeptical of benefit shows in the past, even though Summer Darling has played their fair share of them. But people showed up in droves and supported the cause last night. By my count at least 350 people paid the cover, bought raffle tickets, bought merch from the bands (all proceeds going to Laura), and ate BBQ (also donated by the delicious Pasadena Pig Shack, or something like that).

The bands didn't disappoint. I of course caught the Kissing Cousins set, who despite being a bit nervous to play a large stage that would soon be occupied by one of Heather's musical heros, stomped out some viciously conceived rock and roll.

I happened to catch some of the Pity Party's set and Light FM. The Pity Party played a stonier, darker set than I've seen before while Light FM masterfully cruised through their catchy power pop songs. The stage was then relinquished to Mr. Corgan and the Backwards Clock Society.

Some of the songs were downright hooky, some of the songs were soaked in delay, but all of the songs featured Billy Corgan fucking melting faces with his guitar. The solo is a tired worn tool of the modern rock song, except when the artist is able to breathe a fiery new life into it. Corgan played each solo with a mix of impassioned gestures and wicked nonchalance, even looking up from time to time to smirk at the audience as if to say, "Yeah, I just pulled that off and I made it look fucking easy." His on-stage demeanor was one of solidarity and respect for Laura Ann, the audience and the cause. He said some very nice things about Laura and seemed genuinely proud to be a part of the function. We later learned that Corgan donated the bass and drumset used on the Gish sessions to be auctioned off on Ebay with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Laura. That's classy.

The night ended with a tearful thank you from Laura Ann, who somehow managed to get herself in her wheelchair up on stage with the help of Josiah and Corgan. The night forced me to reevaluate my perception of human nature and more specifically, benefit shows. I am proud to have been a small part of a truly successful and inspiring evening and woke up this morning knowing that a huge difference was made in Laura's life.

Friday, November 6, 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.

Downtown Poplar St appeared deceptively vacant at two in the afternoon. As he rode, Willy often imagined his town being struck by a rapture-like occurrence of biblical proportions. Cars lined up on each side of the road but not a one moving. Shop lights that read “Open” “Sale” or “TV Repair” burned neon peach but no front doors opening. The steady historical rhythm of the green yellow red of their only traffic signal beat on like the heart of a coma patient. Occasionally a woman carrying a bag of groceries or a man hauling garden tools from a flat bed truck would break the spell of Willy’s fictional solitude, but today there was nobody about. Willy felt as if he were riding through the thin atmosphere of some distant hot planet. The air was heat vapor that dried up his lungs and slapped him on both cheeks like two simultaneous handclaps.

Up ahead was Hal’s Drug Store that held inside it the Post Office and the Notary Public. Willy turned his bike towards the entrance ignoring the red light as he coasted through the middle of the empty intersection. George Jr. pulled up next to him and they both propped their bikes against the glass of the storefront that was decorated in advertisements for the weekly specials.

I’m thirsty, Willy said. I’m gonna go in get a pop.

Where’d you get money for that?

My mom.

George just humphed in response. I’m gonna go around back and check something out.

George strolled to the narrow opening between the brick building of Hal’s and the adobe-like stucco of the video rental store. It was cooler by degrees in the shady alley slit and George made sure to walk deep into the indenture before he removed and examined the pistol. It was heavy and squat with nickel plating and a worn leather grip. There was a small insignia above the grip but it was smudged with grime; he couldn’t make it out. Perhaps it was a dragon or a motorcycle gang sign. George imagined for a moment that he’d stolen a weapon of Arthurian significance and he was now the leader of some secretive and dangerous commando force. He knew enough about guns from his father to make sure the safety was engaged before examining it further. He flipped the cylinder release latch and was impressed how easily the five bullet housing popped out. The thrill of holding a lit firecracker trilled up his stomach and into his throat as he discovered the gun was loaded with two bullets. He replaced the cylinder and held up the gun and aimed it at the back wall of the alley.

George! What are you doin back there?

Nothin. George put the gun back in pack and returned to Willy and the bikes. Let’s get the fuck outta here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview with Matthew "Biggles" Beighley of Wait.Think.Fast.

Turns out, I'm the asshole. I sent Matthew a snippy hey-where's-my-interview-answers email yesterday only to have him respond that he couldn't get to it because THEIR VAN GOT STOLEN. I'm still waiting to hear what gear if any was lost with the van, so we will definitely keep everyone posted. But being the good sport that he is, the ever amusing Mr. Biggles was kind enough to fill us in on the last week of his life with Wait.Think.Fast:

CLA: Where have you been and what on earth were you doing there?

MB: Tucson, AZ / Wavelab Studios / The honorable Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Neko Case , Iron & Wine) presiding over the next Wait. Think. Fast. record.

CLA: Tell us a little about the producer.

MB: Lets see. Craig Schumacher is our talented and spirited producer. Within 5 minutes of meeting him we were sipping on Tres Generaciones and discussing the image of a vagabond ejaculating on a box of kittens as a possible record cover. We knew we were going to be best friends.

CLA: Talk about the process of recording. PIck one song and walk us through it briefly.

MB: Craig likes bands to track live, which we love too. So when we recorded our new song "Covina Parque," it was essentially us playing live, like at a show. + Wavelab Studios is packed with beautiful old instruments. So when overdub time came, Craig was pulling vintage old F-hole guitars off the wall and handing them to me and saying: "play this". His ideas were always inspiring. The final overdub for "Covina Parque" came from Jacob Valenzuela from Calexico- he played trumpet on the track and just completely blew us away. He's a great guy.

CLA: True or False section: Tucson is a shit hole.
MB: FALSE- Tucson is rad! Cool kids and great places to eat. We strolled "The Avenue" for Halloween- everyone was spilling out into the streets and going crazy. I love the spirit of that desert town. + lots of artists. We were lucky to meet the guys from Calexico and Giant Sand and actually get a private show from them in Wavelab one morning. So fucking rad. We were speechless.
CLA: You are in a side project called Fuck Fuck Cobra.
MB: TRUE- Fuck Fuck Cobras will soon reign supreme. Ben Heywood (drummer) slays any instrument he decides he wants to slay.
CLA: You are also in a side project dubbed Fuck Fuck Moo Moo.
MB: TRUE - Fuck Fuck Moo Moo will soon record a new gem : "Have You Seen My Country? (Support Our Troops)". It's fucking AWFUL. Should rake in a cool 7 or 8 million in sales.
CLA: You can draw.
MB: TRUE - I think I can draw. People who went to "art" school and have "talent" might disagree. Editor's Note: I have a "drawing" done by Matt hanging on my fridge. It depicts fighter jets bombing NYC with a hailstorm of black kittens. Let your imagination run wild with that one.
CLA: You're my favorite member of Wait.Think.Fast.
MB: TRUE - I am indeed your favorite member of Wait. Think. Fast.! Polo's a close second. He spent the entire week at Wavelab imitating Aaron Neville impersonating Richard Nixon. Guess you had to be there.

I am told by the band they will be returning to Wavelab to record vocals and mix sometime soon, so look for an early 2010 release.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Link Between Worker Bee & Sobriety

I've been involved in a number of discussions over the years in defense of music as a higher art form. To this day my argument remains grounded in music's ability to be deterritorialized by the listener. Literary critics Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari wrote about the deterritorialization of a major language when that language is used by a minority within a culture. The act of a minority using that major language instead of the author's native tongue ultimately subverts the major language. It's a process of empowering a minor cannon within a larger a majority that would seek to marginalize the significance of minority writing. While I am oversimplifying their argument, these brainy professors pick apart the works of Franz Kafka, who wrote in German despite being born a Czech Jew, in their fascinating book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. As it pertains to my discussion, the major language is the song as it is created by the musician and the "Kafka" within the culture of the song is each individual listener.

Music has the unique ability to be claimed, owned and reinterpreted in a manner that is truthful and legitimate by the audience, so much so that the song obtains a new territory that is at least equal in validity (if not more so) to the original idea presented by the musician. Everyone has an example of this if they think about their favorite songs for a moment; more often than not a song becomes tied in with a specific memory or feeling and thus takes on a new meaning for the listener.

I've been listening to Worker Bee's new record Tangler quite a bit since we played together last Friday night. I've also been doing a lot of sober living (day nine!). I've begun to realize that months from now when I listen to the Worker Bee record I will be reminded of the thoughts and feelings I've been experiencing during my month long trek into the wilderness of sobriety in the same way that when I listen to Blonde Redhead's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons I am transported back into Heather's mom's Chrysler Seabring driving in the dead of winter through the country roads between Nashville and Heather's Grandmother's house in Nauvoo, Alabama. Or how when I hear Jimmy Eat World's album Clarity I think of the Glass House in Pamona and the way 2nd street looks so empty under street lights and how my college roommate had a dream that we were performing the song "On A Sunday" in front of a stadium full of people.

None of the authors of these songs is aware that their songs now mean something completely different to me than they meant to them and that ultimately as the listener the meaning and the memories tied to the song make the song greater. I'd even argue that a song as a work of art is incomplete until it is shared, until it is reterritorialized by the listener and made into something new and other. So in this grand tradition I offer you the track "Cold Rat" by Worker Bee to listen to and create your own meaning and memory.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Music Tuesdays: Wait.Think.Fast.

As I write this, my good friends in Wait.Think.Fast. are in the lovely desert city of Tuscon, Arizona recording a full length record.  I did an interview with songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Matthew Beighley that I'll post later this week or next.  But for now let's enjoy this video they recorded for their new song "Trouble."

Dan and I spend much of last night holed up alone in our rehearsal space.  With Heather under the weather and Todd back east, Dan and I took the time to discuss album and song titles and work out an arrangement for one of my personal favorite tracks on the new record called "At The Edge of the Earth."  While we did shoot some footage of us performing this song, ultimately nothing we shot turned out all that well so we'll revisit it at a later date.  

What we did accomplish was naming a few of the songs.  Usually Summer Darling songs will have numerous names through out their life span.  Their first name often refers to a prominent word in a song--"Blazing Fire" is always referred to by the band as "Cheated"--or an action--"The Reminder," a song on the new record, is referred to as "Tabletop" because of the motion Dan made with his guitar in order to originally be able to play the part.  Final track names typically get added once the song is done, recorded, and ready to be shipped out to the masses.  It was great to be able to bounce ideas for song names back and forth with Dan and we came up with a couple of winners.  

The album title remains an illusive specter existing in the nether-regions of someone's unconscious waiting to be summoned.  We've gone through roughly three titles that we all agreed would be the one, but sooner or later I get bored or unsatisfied with them.  Dan helped me at least come to the conclusion that I'm trying too hard to think of a grandiose title.  His point, which was well taken, was that the songs themselves already demand to be taken seriously and an overwrought title would actually detract from their impact.  So the search continues, but I got a couple of ideas that I can't wait to get sick of. . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kissing Cousins / Past Haunts / Future Ghost / Worker Bee @ Silver Factoryhehe

What a night friday was! While Heather and I spent all day collecting the necessary decorations for the Kissing Cousins' second annual Halloween show I sensed a minor feeling of anxiety. Often times it's tough to get people out to the Silver Factory especially when the show is guaranteed to go late. Luckily my anxiety as usual was baseless. Probably induced by five days off the sauce! A brief recap of the evening has the Past Haunts opening the show.

The Past Haunts is Travis from Piebald / The Duke Spirit's new project that features Heather and I in the backing band roll. The crowd reaction suggested that we stole the show.

Next was our out of town band, Worker Bee. These poor guys had their tour van break down outside of the venue right before the show. Add that to some sound difficulties and a lesser band would have gave a lackluster performance. But these kids did just the opposite. Their set was moody and infectious as is their new full length record Tangler.

The Cousins headlined and treated us to two Halloween-esque covers. All dressed as witches and the bar serving witches' brew it was only fitting to open with "Witchy Woman" and end the set with "Devil Inside." I've had the pleasure of watching these ladies evolve from a one off novelty act to a thunderously evil live act. Their new record Pillar of Salt should make quite a few top ten lists this year.

The night was capped by the newly minted three piece Future Ghost. They are another band that I've followed from their first show and I am happy to report they work better as a three piece than a four piece. Having one guitarist allows Brandon's riffs the atmospheric space to be gigantic while Kim's bass lines are now clear and driving behind Brandon Hardy's pulverizing drum playing.

The adventure continued after the show as we made trips in our volvo back and forth to our rehearsal space where we stored Worker Bee's equipment until they got their van fixed. Thankfully it was in need of only minor repairs and they were safely on their way on Saturday.