Sunday, September 27, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #4: Dave End

The first time I saw Dave End perform, I was literally astounded. I may be misremembering, but I think he only played a half-hour set, and yet he jammed in a full program of songs (although he has said Ani Difranco is an influence, he has a punk-rock-ish tendency to keep his songs under 2 minutes) along with a heaping helping of hilarious, ingratiating banter, into the brief time. A tremendous showman and a heck of a songwriter; I would normally be jealous, if I wasn't so happy just to watch him do what he does.

He is also a willing member of the Mutual Appreciation Society: he dug the No-No's CD that I gave him upon meeting. He has also said he's a big fan of My 3 Addictions, especially what he described as the "essay" structure of it, which he thought was kind of similar to the way he structured his own (extremely excellent) albums.

Before I had an exact idea to collaborate with a bunch of people for this album, I decided I wanted to do a duet with Dave. I hadn't really written any duets since "Nobody's Wife", but that didn't stop me. I took a song I wrote about a conversation I'd had with Daoud Tyler-Ameen, the bespectacled leader of Art Sorority For Girls, discussing the fact that I wore glasses throughout my childhood but now I am glasses-free. The song is called "Hey 2-Eyes." In the song, I turned Daoud into "they," as in the lyric: "'That never happens,' they said, when I said, 'They got better.'" In real life, it was Daoud who said that never happens, although he was far less strident about it than the "they" I created for the song.

Anyhow, I thought I would try Dave End out in the role of "They" -- giving him all the dialogue in the song credited to "They" -- and he did a marvelous job, adlibbing taunts to me during the live performance, some of which we kept for the recording (such as his cry of "Liar!" during the third verse).

During our initial rehearsals of "Hey 2-Eyes," Dave mentioned that he wanted to co-write a song about perceptions of masculinity with me. I always kept a spot earmarked for that song on the album, but circumstances -- such as Dave moving to Philly -- intervened and have prevented us (so far) from writing a song like that. Nonetheless, I think Dave's offer to co-write a song put me in the mindset of wanting to work with other writers on this album, and it led me to co-write songs with Thomas Patrick Maguire (a fella I already told you about here), with our electric guitarist John Mulcahy (also of The Telethons), and with Brook Pridemore (a fella I'll tell you about soon enough).

Anyhow, Dave: if you still want to write that song sometime, I'm still up for it.

In the meanwhile, if you'd like to hear "Hey 2-Eyes," it is streaming now from our Myspace page, at this link.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"A Boy Named Snommit" and other songs about my friends

"A Boy Named Snommit" feat. Debe Dalton on banjo (final mix, unmastered) - free mp3

One of the first songs I explicitly wrote about one of my friends was called "Jeanette Is Working". It's about a woman named Jeanette, and how she... you know... works and stuff.

Jeanette is one of my high school friends from Toledo, Ohio, and once that song was done, there was much clamor amongst my other high school friends to write songs about them. Nonetheless, I did nothing of the sort.

I did end up writing a song called "You Think It's Wrong", about people who are too afraid to sing along to songs because they are afraid to expose their less-than-perfect singing voices to the world. I was admittedly inspired to write this, in part, by watching some of my Toledo friends play Karaoke Revolution (if you are unfamiliar it's kind of a singing-only forbear to the likes of the current slew of Rock Band/Guitar Hero games). In fact, my friend Evelyn assumed the song was explicitly about her, despite my protestations that it's not about any single person.

Since then, her husband Steve -- one of my very best friends from high school -- has been on me to write a song about him. When Steve told me that he and Evelyn were going to have a baby -- making them the first couple in my direct circle of friends to procreate -- I figured I had something to write about.

The finished song, called "A Boy Named Snommit," is about 60% fact-based, 15% false but based on some sort of inside joke that makes it poetically true, and then 25% completely false probably just because I needed to make some rhymes.

It is the longest song I've written, taking up four pages of typewritten lyrics and lasting around 8 minutes, and it also probably took the longest to write of anything I've ever done. To give you an idea, I started the song when Evelyn was a couple months pregnant and I finished writing the song when the kid was nearly a year old. That is, of course, if you don't count the fact that I had to redo the final stanza AFTER I HAD ALREADY RECORDED THE SONG because I got some facts incorrect (if you listen carefully to the recording, you can hear that the last verse was recorded in a slightly different ambience).

Because of the fact that I was writing this song through most of the planning, recording, and so forth of this album, I thought it was fitting to end the album with it. So that's why it is the final track on disc 2.

However, I know it might be hard work, when you're listening to the album, to get all the way there in a timely fashion, so I'm providing you with an early listen at the link up at the top of this entry.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #3: Thomas Patrick Maguire

"The Congregation" by Elastic No-No Band and Thomas Patrick Maguire - free mp3

The first time I met Thomas Patrick Maguire was at the Anti-hootenanny open mic (now called "The Open Stage") at the Sidewalk. I don't remember many specific details of the night, although I do remember he gave me a copy of his first full-length CD, Pissing Streams. It's a great CD. Not only is it a great CD, but I found it very inspiring as both a performer and a recording artist. This is because Pissing Streams is ultra-lo-fi (a lot of times the drums are overmodulated and there is plenty of hiss) but it does not affect the quality of the album. The awesome songwriting and performances hold up well despite the low-budget circumstances.

Tom and I didn't immediately start hanging out after that, but at some point, we started going to movies in Queens (where Tom is from) together -- because I am a movie addict, and because tickets are mad cheap where Tom lives.

I also wound up shooting 2 super-low-budget music videos for Tom, from his latest full-length, A Slight Return.

One was shot in his apartment, for the song "Unemployment Dreams":

The other was shot all around his neighborhood -- "Evening News":

Sometime last year, I had a couple of pieces of instrumental guitar that I wasn't quite sure what to do with. I thought, since I was I trying to do a bunch of collaborations, that I would try them out on Tom and see if he could come up with any words. And boy, he sure did.

For the first, more developed piece of music, he sat in my living room and started spinning lyrics about a religious fanatic inspired to murder his fellow parishioners by an insane preacher. Not at all the kind of thing I would write about, but hey -- that's why you collaborate, right? I wound up writing a couple of lines myself. The one I am most proud of -- because it seems like something out of a Johnny Cash murder ballad -- is this: "And the choir sang 'Hallelujah'/ But that ain't much good when my bullets cut right through ya." I also gave the song its title: "The Congregation." Click here for lyrics and an mp3 of the song.

The other guitar bit wasn't really very developed and was more of a repetitive rhythmic thing -- which is partly what made think it would be a good choice to work on with Tom. A lot of the guitar parts for his songs have a strong rhythmic quality that is part of what makes them so entertaining.

Tom couldn't really come up with full lyrics as he sat in my living room, so I quickly recorded about 45 seconds of the guitar part on my laptop and put it on his mp3 player to take home. The next time we met up, he had composed a terse little tribute to Omar from The Wire, a character and a show I am completely unfamiliar with.

In the spirit of keeping it real, we recorded both songs on my laptop using Garageband -- going so far as to record "Ode To Omar" in my bathroom to get the right reverb.

I haven't talked to Tom in a little bit, but I think our next collaboration will be a new music video for a song from his new EP, Corporation Town. Keep an eye out for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Probable tracklist for disc 2

Last month, I put up the finalized tracklist for disc 1 of our upcoming double-album. It's in this entry:

If you've been paying attention, I've also edited that entry several times in the past months, rearranging the order slightly. But I'm pretty sure we've got the final finalized final tracklist up there now.

Well, I think I've got disc 2's order pretty much pinned down now too. Here goes:

1. Emotional Tourism (go here to get a free mp3 of this song)
2. Making Out At Work (Don't Work) (feat. Toby Goodshank)
3. Oh Magali
4. Go Tell Aunt Rhody (feat. Debe Dalton)
5. Something You Should Know (go here to hear the original 2004 demo of this song)
6. No Elephant Likes Cheese, Baby (Homage To Brion Gysin)
7. Hot As I Are (go here to hear the original 2004 demo of this song)
8. Another Day, Another Night (feat. Octavio Lafuentes)
9. I Wonder How Many People Are Screwing Tonight
10. I'd Love Just Once To See You (Beach Boys cover, feat. Toby Goodshank)
11. You Make Me Sick
12. The Worst Thing On My Resume
13. Turn Out Right Rock
14. New River Train (feat. Debe Dalton)
15. Snap Snap Goes The Mousetrap
16. I'm Gonna Treat This Room
17. Frankfurt, Frankfurt
18. Red (Ramshackle, Live Version)
19. Ode To Omar (feat. Thomas Patrick Maguire)
20. Americana Feg Meloxany
21. A Boy Named Snommit (feat. Debe Dalton)

It's interesting listening to the two discs and seeing the similarities and the differences. Disc 1, for instance, is much more distinctly batshit crazy, while disc 2 is a bit more conventional with a few oddities sprinkled here and there. Also, disc 2 has significantly fewer cover songs and fewer collaborations.

However, both discs feature a version of the song "Red" (an unconscious tribute to "Don't Cry" from Use Your Illusion I & II?) and both discs feature a song with a city's name listed twice in the title: "Abilene, Abilene" on disc 1 and "Frankfurt, Frankfurt" on disc 2.

I'm sure there's more interesting idiosyncrasies, but if I sit here thinking about them, I'll lose what's left of my mind.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recording Update

So yesterday, I went over to Major Matt's with our electric guitar player John Mulcahy (also of The Telethons) and laid down the last bit of electric guitar for the album. I also recorded the last bit of lead vocals (barring any potential freakouts on my part, where I will be so ashamed of my voice that I will replace all my singing with Kanye West and a vocoder). This means... we are WAY CLOSE TO BEING DONE!

All that's left to record is just some backup vocals on 3 or 4 songs, and any random sound effects that the band can dream up (and trust me, our percussionist Doug Johnson, does just sit around dreaming of sounds he can layer onto a song -- and so far, all of it has sounded great... so we'll let him keep dreaming.)

Also, only 7 of the 45 tracks on the album have not had a final mix done. Yet.

So, in other words... we are WAY CLOSE TO BEING DONE!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Profiles in Fandom and Collaboration #2: Nan Turner

Some time back, a year or more ago, I went to a show featuring Nan Turner and a backing band called The One Night Stands (so named because the band line-up changes for every show, depending on who is available to play). At one point in the show, Nan sang and played a solo song on her electric guitar: "It's Different For Girls" by Joe Jackson (not Michael Jackson's father).

She even told a story about the song: she used to have the cassette tape version of the album the song is on, I'm The Man, and would try to emulate Joe Jackson, shouting "I'm the Nan!" She might have said something about wanting to dress up in a jacket like the one he wears in the cover shot but I might just be making that up.

It was pretty exciting for me, because not many folks I know like Joe Jackson. I came to like him as an Elvis Costello fan. You see a bunch of the folks from the same era have sounds comparable to Elvis: Graham Parker, Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and, of course, Joe Jackson. And I've grown to like at least some of each of these guys' songs quite a bit.

Watching Nan play "It's Different For Girls," I immediately decided to try to do a Joe Jackson cover with her. I wasn't sure how exactly, but that would work itself out. Nan loved the idea, and she stated her preference to do a song off I'm The Man. I offered something upbeat and silly, like "Kinda Kute." She replied, "Why don't we just do 'It's Different For Girls?' " Not my favorite JJ tune at the time, but, upon reflection, it was the choice that made the best sense.

So we worked out a version where Nan played the drums and sang (kind of like she does in Schwervon!, although -- as you can see in the illustration -- she tried to work out a way to do it where she could stand up while playing), and I played the guitar and occasionally pretended to sing backup. (Also, as visible above, during my illustrious appearance as one of Nan's One Night Stands, I wore only long underwear.)

We played it live once this way, and then we got into the recording room at Olive Juice Music (the apartment Nan shares with her bandmate and manfriend Major Matt) and just did a couple takes before deciding we had created the ultimate document of our version of the song. A little sloppy, somewhat lo-fi, but full of fun energy and humor. You can hear our recording streaming from ENB's Myspace page.