Dec 17, 2013

Saturday at the Farmers Market

Saturday at the Farmers Market

Colors of the market
The vegetative rush
Vines reach aground
Flowers strung a blush
Each one, turning out
In crowds of faces
To cymbals, pools,
Melting off reaches
The shaded colors
Sing of summer
Brushing one cheek
Against my finger
My heart fills
To buy each one
Had I the money
Or place to set them on.

Dec 11, 2013

Fiery Indignation. Family Pt. II

So we can all be family bands. But still there's something different, something unique about a band of blood.
I am two years under Abe, three over Jaime. That's some distance, not as much as others but enough. As I went to middle school, Jaime still in elementary and Abe into high school, the three of us drifted.
Sure we hung out all the time on weekends and after school, but it wasn't close. I don't remember any deep talks, we played video games, watched tv and movies, had our inside jokes, but the personal stuff was kept private. Maybe that's because our parents were private people and we inherited that, but maybe it's because middle, elementary, and high school kids just don't hang out.
I internalized. I kept a lot of things hidden, not just from my family but from everyone. Anyone that knows me from that time, knew I had a temper and a tongue. It might be hard for friends now to picture who I was, or for those people to realize I've cooled off... but I have, and I was.
I was a fighter, quick to fists, quick to fits. My teenage years did me no favors either. My tastes in music and books,pushed me further from the friends I used to have. Deeper into my own thoughts, until I was happy being on my own. Happy living life on the fringes. Making jokes under my breath. Keeping my thoughts hidden away in secret journals, of fiery indignation. Turning isolation into creativity. Turning reaction into desire. My purpose: to observe, to write, to find inspiration to live fully in dreams and thoughts.
My brothers were always there, but not as close as we are now. It wasn't until we found music that we drew back together. We shared CD's, shared bands, stories, dvds, and became friends. And from there it was unstoppable.
I can't tell you how other bands feel about their bandmates, but for me, it's about as perfect as I can hope. I get to carry home with me when I travel, which is good cause the road is a distant and lonely place sometimes. I get to collaborate with artists I respect. I get to laugh all the time. But most importantly, I get to be myself.
My brothers know me. Know my jokes. Know when I need space. Know when I need to talk. I don't pretend, I don't have to be anybody else. This industry has a lot of pressure to be cool. To dress cool. Talk cool. Drink cool. And I hate that. Might be one part of the job I really hate. Cool is nothing. Cool is substance love. Cool is a form of control other people throw on you. Cool is as real as Dirty Harry, or The Fonz. Cool is a dream to laugh at. Cool is trading originality for fad. And writers shouldn't suffer that. I'd take honesty over cool any day of the week. 
Family gives me honesty. Luckily my work is family, so I get reminded when I'm being fake. When I failing myself. When I'm falling into traps. When I'm running off cliffs. When I'm losing. Cause it's so very easy to go.
Dirty Harry worked in a shop
Every day till his hands were shot.
His stomach grew wide, his hair fell thin
And his wife gave up counting his chins.
Her heart, alone so many years
Malnourished, shrunk, fed on fears
Of loneliness, but holding right
Like long winter's root, for spring's delight.
It should be no shock, this young sun
Found her, with a little time, and won
What was so long lost. Harry kept on
Squint-eyed at work, pushing it down.
Away, away, waiting for the morning.
A bell to strike 3 or 4. A warning
To Harry with force, get yourself home.
To lover to leave. To wife alone. 

- Don't... there's still a few minutes... -
and how do I feel? Like the wind over the shoreline, clouds under stars. I move nothing.
- ...not till the guard calls. -
and she smiles again like we have hours. When the night begins, and dawn is no closer than the body that should be warming this spot.
- and tomorrow? When he goes... -
she doesn't need to ask. That's not the when we need to know.

- here again. And you, Elaine. When will this be over?  -
the bell rings.
- Don't make me, - she says in a breath. - You need me here. Like Harry for his work. Like the author for this story. Like the bell in the tower. I'm struck. -
I don't know why she would bring the story in to this, having forced me to break my meter. But she is right. Never blame someone else for you writing. Especially your own character. It's cowardly. So I nod. Finding my shirt, the bell rings a forth time. Then a fifth. And we hear him on the stairs.
- Tomorrow then. -
- Tomorrow. -
I left the window open a crack. Moving softly down the fire escape. The metal floor creaking beneath my steps. I hear the door close. And he doesn't say hello. He never does.

Nov 27, 2013

The Beautiful Decay of Family Life

What is it like working with family?
I get this question a lot. The whole band does. It makes sense why people would want to ask. I imagine it's like a single child asking a friend what it's like to have siblings, or vice versa. And the answer is probably the same:
it's all I know... how else could it be?
That's usually my answer when I don't have time to elaborate, but that's only part of the answer and here I have time.
I have worked with other people outside of my family. Having had a few jobs other than music. I've been a teacher, a writing lab coach, a pizza maker, a waiter - the only time I've been fired so far...- a photography assistant among other odd jobs... did tile work, built a patio, etc.
All jobs with strangers and friends. I found in all my jobs a closeness bonding co-workers, whether or not I personally liked them. We spent hours grinding away together, doing our jobs, helping each other out. Sometimes competitively, sometimes cooperatively.
There are also the small moments, the lulls when daily conversation reveals more and more until you really start to know people.
But in all my other jobs, that closeness ended with my shift. With a punch-out-the-clock goodnight wave and  "see ya tomorrow," as the door closes at my tired feet.
With a band there is no end of shift. You are the band at every moment. An intense intimacy that could only be compared to a few life experiences. One of them being actual blood family, and military. On the road, at home, day in day out, there's always each other. There's only each other. And like every family, every band is different. Each with unique bonds, unique stories, unique dynamics. Forget what you think you know about the way bands operate.
I will give a secret, the image of the band you see in press or on-stage, "Lead" Members, "Support", who is in charge, who does the work, who takes the credit, is mostly a story pulled from strands of truth and woven into a web of quotable press releases and stereotypes. Don't believe it. Don't worry about it. Just listen. 
There are moments to bind together in the absolute machinery of compulsive searching, and a continual tension eating away at weak resolves of empty hearted hunters.
A knowing that goes beyond words. To feel what your band mates feel. To know what they will say before they say it. To intuit each other's playing. All of these are components of band relationships. All bands are families. Blood or no. You're in it together. And just like families, some survive, some divorce. For reasons only they know. They grow, together, apart. In the dynamic of all life. Every day. Every show. Every rehearsal. Every shared hotel room or long van ride. Every lunch stop. Every fight and laugh in the late-night, drunken re-birth. *
Sitting together after doors have closed. Gear packed. The unforgiving lights pushed off the last stragglers, and in the salty after-show sweat, sore-foot release; a night ending sigh and a cold beer. Words between soldiers. Re-affirming the fight, or a look like  death on our faces.  
I see it in other bands, not just mine. I can't speak for everyone, but I see it. The connections. All bands of siblings. Every other band cousins. It's love, wounded pride, surprise, disappointment, and all the beautiful decay of family life.

to be continued....


On a walk along the Cibolo
The Path. Bent legs extend across the green tides.
Life in-absentia.
Looking to the water for so long years grew under me.
River cut by generations of wakes. 
Weak leather souls worn down
Raised grass slid between my toes along The Gone Path.
Great white legs of the south lawn stood and left
While I wait for your return.
I want to walk you again.

*Image Source:

Nov 20, 2013

Past Life: Clinically, Scientifically Naked

See the man with the stage fright, Just standing up there to give it all his might - The Band

Past Life:

I've never been scared to be in front of an audience with the band. But that doesn't mean I've never felt the chest-thumping, quick breath fear that can overpower any performance. I've just learned to live in it.

Once I had an assignment for a high school speech class...
I hated that class, not my teacher she was great as were the other kids, but I was just out of place. Having been lifted up two years I was 14 taking a summer class with 17-year-olds giving speeches about my life, politics, and drama readings. As you can imagine it was awkward. I wasn't living their life, I didn't know their music, their movies, their parties... to all my classmates I was still a kid. It's amazing the social gap between high school-ers.

...  Anyway, every time I stood in front of the class seeing, what then looked like men and women, adult faces wearing too much make-up and the beginnings of very bad mustaches, I wanted to disappear. To run out the door. To hide underneath my hoodie and stay in the back of the class reading. But you can't do that in high school, because for some reason, the more you hide the more teachers try to get you out of your shell. So instead I had to stand at the podium with the feeling of my lunch crawling higher and higher up my throat, with my hands shaking holding my note-cards, and the words failing to come. Receiving a flood of rolled eyes, smirks, and sarcasm. But this assignment was different.

We had to record ourselves as a Radio DJ, making a commercial segment between songs. So I grabbed a portable tape recorder, sat in my favorite spot: my bedroom had a window on the opposite side of my bed, I could sit look at the sky and no one could see me from the hallway, and I drained myself out in to the microphone. Recording songs off the radio, writing my skit, complete with a commercial break for Fizz Bang Cola

I got wild, gave my best Wolfman Jack impression:
Heeeeellllloooooooo, San Antooonne! So happy to be in the land of a thousand dances, a thousand chances, and the thousand lovers making gooood romances... hawr hawr...

There was no one watching. No faces to look at. Just me, the recorder, and my imagination. I wasn't thinking about what everyone else would think when I had to play the tape on Monday. I wasn't thinking about the grade. I wasn't really thinking about the assignment, cause I kinda went overboard making twice as long as needed. I was only thinking about the performance. I don't know why this project, why this time I decided to really try, but it felt different. It felt real. It felt comfortable.

There is a moment when a song finishes, no matter how quick the response is, there is a moment while waiting for the audience reaction that can be nerve racking. While the note is ringing out, and the heart beat raises a little. Waiting to see if you get applause or the silent death stare - I don't think people boo anymore. It's not that the audience controls me, I've played plenty of shows when the crowd and I just don't connect, and it doesn't mean we were good or bad, we just either connect or not. Still, in a performance something is given away and it feels so good when people receive it openly. I think that's where the tension comes from. Wanting to be understood. And the moment of uncertainty, that place can be scarier than first stepping out on the stage in the first place.

I was in that moment when my tape stopped. And I, the over-achieving 14-year-old watching the faces of the apathetic summer school 17-ishes and my teacher, waited for the verdict. 

Then the teacher laughed, the students laughed, I laughed, some of the kids paying attention even applauded, of course there were others who didn't really care. I was happy with that little bit of respect. But I gained something more than just my highest grade of the class.

I'd put myself out there and earned the response I wanted. They laughed at the jokes, they heard the words, it sounded like a radio program - poorly recorded - but legitimately like a radio program. It was a creative expression fully realized... Ah what a moment... And it was armor. And it was strong.

Making something without purpose and conviction will leave you feeling naked. You are exposed to every flaw of your humanity. Clinically, scientifically naked.

I go on stage believing in every song, in every note. That gives me strength to go into uncertainty.  To stand in front of people and sing myself. To write these words and give them to you. I have faith in my creation. In my ideas. I don't get my confidence from some in-born ability -  maybe others have that but I do not. I have honesty, and hard work. I have conviction. Living in the fear, is to free yourself from it.


Mother. At Mass
All of the wraps and knots a riddle.
This is the moment. She kept her fingers twisting threads
turning gold, her silken mind. Each thought golden
and each look... as the wick burned down.
What was it to know like she knew?
What was it like to turn a key?
All the answers I could never give.
The skill to unravel.
Understanding when we unravel, we go.

Nov 14, 2013

The Living Text pt. 3 And What I Heard

How do you become a band?
How do you become a writer?

The tough questions I've been asked. And my answer, not just mine but many others agree, is easy: bands make music, and writers write. That simple.
* You want to be a band: grab some friends and bash away until it works. You want to write: all you need is pen and paper. So what stops us (even me sometimes)? I guess the half-asked question wasn't really honest... what we really want to know is:

How do we become a money-making band? How do we make money as a writer?

That answer is hazier. I'm still not sure, though I'm looking - Maybe I'll write the answer in a post if I ever find out, let you guys know

Most writers and musicians who are successful have a unique voice, perspective, to set themselves apart. Being, or doing something new can you get buzz. I think that's a great, but the flip-side is that all the buzz building won't do any good if the substance is weak. You can get everybody's attention: perfect. Now what are you going to do with it? You have to have meaning. Something to give to your audience. I find that heavy buzzed often comes with light substance. Maybe that's what some people feel is lacking from big selling music.

A prospective, a plot, an opinion, anything, but it has to be something you believe in. Conviction is real inspiration. To feel something deeply. Maybe that's what tragedy gives. It's a fire. A burning understanding. The work burns away pain. The more you give to it, the more the fire will take. Let the flame take it all away. Give to it completely, be completely transformed, and it will give back something new.

The questions of success may never be answered. There is only you and the words. The thoughts you have incubated. The life you carry waiting to be heard, to be read, to escape.

I have grieved. Am grieving. And with every song try to burn more of that away. I sing about the places I knew, and my trying to re-build. That was Shakedown. The match being lit.  That is writing. Audiences are fickle, fame and money are a delusion. Writing can be real if you let it.

It took me a long time to be comfortable with being a writer. Saying it. I always wanted to see one of my poems in print, but I've learned that being printed doesn't make writer. Being recognized doesn't either, by news or people.

The words, the work, that gives me the title. It gives me everything I need. No one else can. No record deal. No publishing company. Let everything else burn away. Sure, I take the opportunities that come, work them hard. Unafraid to chase, to game, put myself on the line, but never need it. Never depend on it. Never make it the purpose, or else substance will fail. And empty words, quick words, never last.


PS. this is a special post. the reason: 11/13/13 Ulysses R. Villanueva

For you are all-things

All around the fire light, the feel pound
giving us freak ambition, feverish pulse.
All around, in every body, hidden sounds
flash morning. Your little light. Your lighting form. 
Do you know what's waiting? 
Who made you your crucible?
Can you see the hammer dreams the anvil?
The time of fire is gone, let the bell ring all
bouncing against my own forgotten tones. 
The signal, the warning, a beautiful song.

* Image:

Nov 6, 2013

The Living Text Pt. 2, What Banksy is Telling Me

There's no right or wrong in making, but music is more than just making, music is connecting. With that thought, from my home in Texas, I've been keeping a half-eye on the October Banksy art attack. And though I'm not so much a visual artist,  as a writer I was drawn to something in his work.


A lot, not all, but a lot of his work involves writing. At the very least the titles, but some works actually incorporate textHe lifted words off the page and put them in a new context, and by doing so has given new life to their meaning. This is not so different as trying to put elements of artful writing into song.

His writing is not poetic. There's nothing drastically interesting in the words, or arrangements. Simple clear statements accompany the meaning of the graphic, but the text is critical to the understanding of the piece, and the work as a whole is saying more. And that's poetic. 

Writers, even the most fore-thinking, are traditionalists. Why else use such an ancient form of communication for your craft? And by being traditionalistic, it becomes hard to adapt. There are many of the global literati, who oppose eBooks as a form of distribution. Who prefer the printed text - Or like me, the handwritten document - Who shy away from changes in dialect, or the improper jumble of texting language. Who see language as right and wrong. There's nothing bad about being so stern, but without change, without adaptation, we risk losing relevance and falling into extinction.

So there's a need to be adventurous with our work. We could start by thinking about writing in different ways. Transmitting in different forms. Don't start to graffiti on my account, but that is one idea. Banksy reached a whole new level of cultural acceptance and notoriety by moving beyond the canvas and onto the streets. More people are seeing his art, not because of content but because of presentation. Because of style. Because of context.

Achieving the sort of immediate viatality most artists crave but will never have. His work isn't in a museum. Not relegated to a small genre trade zine or blog. He is in the news, he is vital. That is not to say good or bad, but alive. It is a great achievement.

As a poet, I chose to move to music to spread my writing. I felt as a songwriter, my writing had a wider audience reach than I ever could as simply a page writer. 

Now I'm thinking about what it means to be a songwriter... How can a band reach a wider audience, in a climate where the doors are closing? Opportunities narrowing. The internet is quickly becoming more and more selective. As does media in general. And audiences too.

I'm not a bandwagoner, don't expect a rap album from us, but it's hard not to ignore what's happening. Are rock bands necessary? How do you compete with DJ's, million dollar pop stars, and a unstable shapless industry?

Banksy might not have an answer specifically useful for musicians or poets, but he does give some inspiring presentation. Proving the world is hungry for creative output. For unique perspectives from artists with the guts to try.


The street in roar by foot, fire, mesquite
Her tongue jumps from tooth
to sweet tastes sunk in bone.
Bells, un-even hoofs fall, a wooden moan
Head down in the black iron café. Sheathed
No words drawn.
                            Something's are not to-be.

*Image Source:!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/banksy15q-3-web.jpg

Oct 30, 2013

The Living Text pt 1.

What would you say makes the writer different from other people?
Well, one has the urge, first of all, to order the facts one observes and to give meaning to life; and along with that goes the love of words for their own sake and a desire to manipulate them. It’s not a matter of intelligence; some very intelligent and original people don’t have the love of words or the knack to use them effectively. On the verbal level they express themselves very badly.

I've always loved hand-writing. Completely beautiful. The preservation of thought. The symbol scratched into existence, an idea wholly represented to the world. I once felt the written word, carefully chosen, was our best means of communication.

Spoken language is easy and quick, needing little effort, and often produced carelessly; however, a handwritten expression carries more thought. Artful at every level. The more meticulously attended, the greater density of information. Giving life. Words become action, sentences become experience, and pages become memories.

I love that.

The same person writing in haste, or anger, or love, can write the same line several different ways. Everything about the way we write. From the words we choose, to the medium- letter, note, pen, or ink- can give deeper information to our meaning. *2

I used to think the job of a writer was to be as clear as possible. Consciously controlling every detail.

My quest for perfect writing was a great ambition. But the hunt was all wrong. Impossible. Especially for lyrics. The mind is too tricky, even for written words. They will fail, be misunderstood. Translations muddied. Intentions subverted. And I have found more often, especially in songwriting, preciseness is less important than the feeling behind the words.
Some audiences care more for the sound of a word than its meaning. They look for NEW with a heavy thirst for style, not clarity. Especially in rock. I try to fight this... I prefer clarity. Many songs do not make any sense when read out loud, but they can still convey a semblance of meaning in the mood of the music (i.e. glam rock, grunge). 

Fads will always be coming in and out and I won't advocate trend following. But learning from the purposeful invention of these new ideas. We can learn a lot from unrelated genres- I'll get back to this later.  Directness is too boring, but know that a good story will never lose its value no matter what style it is wrapped in.

Maybe that's why I'm attracted to handwriting. The human element, the penmanship is itself a beautiful natural intensifying effect. Style, a facet of overall technique, can give an edge in the short run but the advantage fades quickly without substance to back it.
                                                   Nothing ages as well as substance.

But like I said, substance isn't the lone ingredient. Every writer has a complete love of words. Not just the ideas they give the mind but the full audio/visual spectrum of a well arranged piece. The sounds and rhythms of words entrance our spirit. As writers we need to know the impact style has on the audience's understanding and appreciation of a text. But we should apply style, without letting the technique-love get in the way of story. The effects should enhance the message, not blur it.

This is like having too many effect pedals on an instrument. Our instrument's sound should fill the melody, not replace it. If done right, our writing style will resonate with purpose of message. Everything balanced. Using and not being used. Controlling and not being controlled.

It would be no good to read an instruction manual for a blender written with the mad freedom of Burroughs, though it would be a fun read, nothing would ever get blended. Just like it would be a bore to read a novel with the straight-clear formalism of an instruction booklet. There is art in purpose. 

I love to write lyrics by hand. On the move. Whenever an idea hits me. I like to look back and see when I was writing furiously, or when I was taking my time. I like to be able to see where I paused to think of the next word, and when I was thinking so fast the words attached together in a long chain. But my handwritten notes have no purpose for anyone else. I always retype for others to read my ideas. That doesn't mean I should write on a computer to begin with, just that writing is not a one step procedure.

Writing, though it seems stationed, is a living art. Free of change. Free from the limitations of its own form. Read a passage out loud vs. quietly and see how much the same words can change. Write a line by hand, and then type it and see how the look changes the feel. There are limitless potentials to writing and its impact....


On a ledge
her bronzed hand silks the banister
like her descent against the fullest night
could raise the sun right there. A push, a tilt.

        I believe I had a premonition
            and talking. decided.
            taking her by candle-lit smoke, and tea.
            My finger ripped against white stones
            rocking the gums. Then I,
            before I was through with my glass,
            spit on the table stone white words.
            Growing the timpanic change
            rolling in the yaw of my stomach
            I watched her come in.
Her heel clapped the tile. Poised beautifully.
Momentum arrested. I swear she was
the fiery sword itself, cutting away hands.
'Nothing is still,' she said
'but you will remember me like that.'
And never did her lips move
I swear

*1: Quote Source: Aldous Huxley, The Art of Fiction No. 24 By Raymond Fraser, George Wickes

*2:  Image Source:

Jul 17, 2013

The Next Song, Sense and Nonsense

Now it's time for some new writing, new songs, new statements, new questions. It's been a long time since I've had a clear direction where I want my songwriting to go. It feels good to have prospective, like I have a map in front of me, leading off to unknown regions, leading to an uncharted area, I only have to begin.

There are a lot of ideas about what I think the next songs will sound like floating around, but I won't give that away simply because it can all change in a moment. Once the three of us start working together, plans will shift and change, and the map of uncharted imagination will become clearer and clearer, and very different from what I could predict. Filling the landscape in ways unimaginable to one person alone. If I knew exactly what I wanted and only recorded those thoughts, than the process would be far less exciting.

I can say this next album will be an attempt to culminate all the ideas we have learned so far as a band. All the experiences we've been through will be absorbed in. Up to and including the last shows we have played, and this blog.

The best knowledge starts by knowing yourself. And this blog has allowed me to do that. I've seen how much I've changed as a writer, and how much is the same. Looking critically at yourself, maybe the hardest part of being an artist. At every point, I have questioned myself and I think it has made me stronger for it.

Words are my medium, my art. I don't think I'm the best, but my desire to be better has given me some great moments. I'm proud of all the songs we have released so far, and I hope to only do better as we go. Reading someone else's words is a very personal experience, and should be treated that way. The words we choose, the words we give, are very powerful, and should be handled with more caution than what we normally do. I'm guilty of that too in casual conversation. When it comes to writing of any kind, careful attention should be given to diction. The right word at the right time can mean the difference between good and great, or even more importantly, sense and nonsense. I've heard a lot of songs, too many actually, with careless words tossed around. So I will promise to do my best, in hopes others will also be mindful.

I'm thankful to all the people who've helped bring these songs to life: Dan, the band, alive records, collective sounds, my parents, and my wife. And thankful to the people in my life who have been teachers to me.

When this blog started I had no idea how it would progress. I really hoped I wouldn't just abandon it after two weeks, and I'm glad I forced myself to stick through it. I feel I have accomplished what I wanted  to with The Word Is A Bell. There's something very powerful about assessing and looking back on the past. This blog gave me new prospective, and new confidence as a writer, so thank you for joining with me and participating too.

The Beating Drum
of Existence, bashes on
an infernal beat.
Hellish snare of angels
snap two and four.
Infinite kick
pulses a moment,
alive then lost,
like solitude in failed words.
She played
ecstasy in unknowing
She played
reason in brevity
She played
the end no.13
to demons
and starry-eyed shadows
spilling drinks on the dance floor sky
I passed myself leaving
but unrecognizable to me 
 I let him go on
things like that shouldn't be touched

Now I feel ready for the next song
much love,


image source:

Jul 10, 2013

Let Me Go, The Insatiable Machine

morning paper, filled with nothing to say
silent paper or anything to look away
are you happy? if you are tell me so... or let me go
you're not silver, your tongue must be lead
it's not slipping, must be sleeping instead
are you happy, could you even begin? to let me in, let me go
Roaring quiet, so loud the neighbors can hear
Smoke intentions, so thick that nothing is clear,
are you happy? if you are tell me so, and let me go

A big part of being in a band is letting go. Above, I wrote the complete lyrics to illustrate what I let go for this song. The final version came from a change suggested by Dan, cutting down the words in order to fit the new vibe, and one I carried out. It wasn't easy to edit out half the story, but with the new tempo and feel of the song, it really was necessary.

Though the story suffers, the stomp is stronger for it, a balance I was more than willing to maintain. Of course I am happy with the way it came out, the feel is heavy, and moves like a well oiled machine tearing up the road underneath. But a part of me will always miss the fullness of the story, not that the meaning can't be felt in the final version, and in fact, in its edited disjointed version- the feeling of poor communication is perhaps even better understood.

Let Me Go is about communication. A narrator who can't tell his own story clearly, would definitely have a hard time communicating. To me, it's interesting how other people can influence what we produce. I can't help but wonder what the Wasteland would be like without Pound's input? - more importantly does it matter?

The final statement is the released one, I have a demo with the original lyrics, but that is only an artifact of the process not the result.


I've always felt that honest collaboration makes the best music, and a band, any band, should be a mixture of the people, not the ideals of one. A lot of times I have to put myself aside and let others do what they do.  

Sometimes it's a difficult dance, because there are somethings worth fighting for, artistic touches that should be expressed- but honestly most things aren't.

I don't know if science or psychology can back me up on this: I feel like the creative process is a machine. Like any machine it requires fuel. I prefer to run off of life-experience, and study...books, movies, music.. but it can be fed by anything or anyone. It is an insatiable machine, always thirsty for any bit of life it can suck down. 

The brain collects, I have felt drained/empty but never full, which tells me that more is never enough. It even collects subconsciously. Everything and everyone we encounter is up for grabs- be careful of who and what you surround yourself with because your creativity will be affected. 

Having extra people to springboard off of, to work with, seems to be some of the most potent fuel available. Even if it is an unused idea, different opinions help rapidly evolve a project in ways unimaginable to only one creator. We start off heading in one direction and before I know it the wheel is out of my hands, we are miles off the beaten path and I'm trying to look out a window and find out if this is a good place to be or not.

It's a frightening feeling, one some people can't handle. That is part of what makes songwriting in a group setting so explosive and powerful. And maybe why a lot of our favorite songwriters are actually teams of songwriters - examples are everywhere.

As scary as it is though, I will keep putting my words in the hands of my collaborators, walking a line of individual pride and group identity.

Sometimes it feels like giving away children, though only in my imagination...I have no children as of yet. It all comes down to trust. Do I trust my own opinion? Do I trust my friends? My band mates? My ego will continue to scream from every inch, "it's wrong, it's all wrong!" and "No!" but after a bit, it will quiet down its tantrum and go back to it usual nonsense. Letting me hear what is really happening and make a good decision on whether or not I actually liked my own idea to begin with.

listen to Let Me Go

Nothing needs explaining; to slave my words is vain
with each thought straining to what eyes take plain.
Then what do I have to add, that hasn't yet been told
in every showing inch clad, by passions now embold'?
What texts could I fashion, to accent the clever look-
every intent compassion, Nature carefully put?
You too know me by cloth,
Truth is not easily disguised,
betrayed & caught in suit where I hide


* image from:

Jul 3, 2013

Angela, Partners With The Dead

She held to her heart
the image of man
some wicked as you
might reach for her hand,
she ran to the door
past the pistol he held
fell to the floor
as the smoke would dispel

Angela is about the power of collaboration. I remember Abe brought me some chords and a melody he had written. I put words to it. I was wanting for a story and found inspiration in a Keats poem -The Eve. Of St. Agnes, which I highly recommend reading. It's a strange and creepy poem and ever since I first read it, it's stuck with me.

O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
"When they St Agnes' wool are weaving piously."

    St Agnes! Ah! it is St Agnes' Eve---
Yet men will murder upon holy days:
Apart from giving me the title character name, it also gave me the idea for a mystery plot line. The song is sung from the prospective of a detective. Except for the beginning of the second verse -It is impossible to know that unless you are me, but that was always my little joke to myself- Then returns to the detective in order to finish out the unanswered but fatal question.

- good Angela,
believe not my tears
just trust my smile
I'll keep young your years -
good Angela,
why did he laugh?
to understand this
to figure out that...

Keats has always been a big inspiration for me. I've always had a huge romantic streak in me and he is probably the reason. It doesn't make sense why a kid from Texas born in the late 1980's would be so interested in his work, or Chaucer's for that matter, but some things just click.

In the same way music from the 60's spoke to me. If you ever wondered why we are so into 60's music. It's not from nostalgia, I never experienced it and from what I can imagine I don't think I would want. It's not from my parents, who really grew up more in the 70's and who always liked country-western a little bit better.

The music just hooked me somehow. My mind synchronized to that sound, that style, and those words. It's as if I found or discover something that I knew to exist all along but never saw, heard, or read before till that moment.

The background vocals are pure Dr. Dog. Thanks Frank and Scott for all the hard work you gave to four kids you barely knew, you guys are awesome. Also of note, Jaime is a great guitar player in his own right. I should've mentioned this on other songs, Officer and Little Girl for instance, where Jaime wrote the Harrison-esque solos, but he is just a madman with inventive melody. This is another one of his solos, though I think Dante added some country flourish to it. In the original demo we made, there is the sound of a gun going off right after the first verse and before the solo. We had recorded it using a cap gun, which sounds really funny when you first record it, blew up the sound and ran it through reverbs turning it from a pop to a BOOM! Unfortunately we weren't able to recreate this, time and such, at Dan's place.

The music is the way I write, because it's the only way I know how to write. The way I choose words is because of the way I think. I'm not sure if I could change it if I wanted to, or if I would ever want to change. Though I am always trying to evolve. Every record we make is part of a living evolution. And now, as I try to write new material, I can feel us evolving even further. Just yesterday I feel we took a big leap.

Any artist should not dwell in past works, but stand on them, and see the world a little clearer from it. If you must, tear it down first -refer to Savage, but never try to just recreate what's already done. There are new places to go. New ways to work. Imagination feels in-exhaustive right now.

Writing gives me a true freedom unlike any other. It is a strength, but it doesn't have to stand alone. There is inspiration from the people around, and the past. Make the greats your co-conspirators. Make partners of the dead and long lasting. Be a thought collector, and a trap for times of love and pain.

To ever end days
in quiet hours, typing
the measures of thoughts,
My heart's last dream.
Finished symphonies
brass words and wind stories


image source:

Jun 26, 2013

Degree of Murder, Nothing Known, Nothing Certain

Woman don'tcha know what you do?
you just sold me out, left there no doubt
of what I should do.

A plaintive cry. The weight of injustice in the greyness of Truth. Degree of Murder is a heavy song. Though not one that draws a lot of attention to itself. It is like the quiet kid in the back of the class with a dark story. Avoiding the spotlight. Keeping to itself. While others talk and make themselves known trying to interesting, this one easily is the most interesting.

Woman wicked and cruel
your kind evil lips, strange words you do hiss
in the ears of a fool

Pistol, sticks to my hand
a deafening cry, your tears shine delight
cause they can't prove it's you

Sometimes Truth seems so concrete. So certain. He is there. Pistol in hand. Smoke rising from the barrel. The body beneath him, still warm. Truth is clear. The hand that pulls the trigger is guilty. But it seems that the moment the event happens. Everything becomes much more convoluted. The solidness of the past on which we have built ourselves with certainty becomes flimsy. Becomes hazy.  I'm not sure if I remember last week clearly.  Is he working alone? What were the motivations? The intentions? What was the victim doing there? Is it murder? Self-defense?

Degree of Murder has a slowness. The story is reveals , with no sense of urgency. The droning church organ. The watery guitar. The country bass line, all moving together in pace. The song is played very tightly, I'm proud of that. I remember approaching Dan with the idea for the harmonica solo. He asked me to play it for him first. I did. I think he laughed at me, cause without the music the solo sounds like random chaos. But he indulged us, and I recorded it. Afterwards I think it fit in really nicely.

That is why I chose to write about a murder. By now you might see why this appeals to me. Not for the murder itself. - Which I find detestable. I feel regret even when I step on a bug. - But for the questions that inherently live around it. It's probably also why I am so drawn to a good crime drama.

Woman what have I done
I took with my hand the life of your man
for a moment with you

Explanations. Theories. Reasons. Of all kinds and types can explain what we do. It was a past trauma. It was genetics. It was evil. It was justified. They can all be thrown in. They all separate the act from the actor. They create a boundary of what we perceive happens, from what happens.

Often we hear of two-sides to every story. But as I have been writing I've learned that is not accurate. There are as many sides to a story as there are minds to view it. Every person takes in the event, experiences it in their own way. Some of them do overlap, and would seem to be one consistent perspective, but each truth is tinted with its own personalities and histories. Every character, every person has a unique understanding of what the truth is. And as it grows, and as more people try to understand, the truth becomes less and less clear. And what is a simple act becomes much and more.

If one thing has kept me sane through this path of being a musician, Which is filled with a lot of craziness - fair warning if ever any of you decide to try, It has been my understanding of this: Nothing is known. Nothing is certain. My Truth is for me alone, and others may never completely understand it. Words try to help us convey what we know. But words will fail us. And most of the time they do. So I try to chose mine carefully.

the black moth bore no ire
belonged to none but fire
follow me, follow me in
the fire, the moth, the touch,  a twin


image source:

Jun 19, 2013

Little Girl, A Full Heart

Little girl, your tongue turned black when you spat at the world.
Little girl, you drifted away. Long after the music started to stray away...

There is a slight difference between a song that tells a story and a song that is a story. A musical. The kind in movies and Broadway. Maybe it's the difference between being the character and the narrator. Or perhaps its having several characters in one segment? Where the music is enhancing not only the overall story but also personalities of the characters. Whatever it is. There is a difference.

Little Girl, for all purposes, is a song from a musical that never existed. An attempt to portray characters as themselves. Though not completely. I didn't want it to be too over the top. Less actual Broadway, more the impression of. I don't think it would do to have an actual musical number. There is a fine line. Some great songs have come out of musicals, but few stand on their own as something I would dig on a record. Most need the context of the full story.

You think it's better lonely, isn't that what you told me?
You want to make your money. You better think of me only

The main key keeping this song falling in to full chorus-line being I narrate about the Little Girl character, rather than her singing her own part. Without the visuals the story is more ambiguous. So we had to set mood with music. That is the main reason for the dramatic shifts in style that move through the song.

There is the main section about the girl. Running away from her problems. And a violent antagonist who's holding her back.  Who is the character of the bridge played by Abe. - Who did a great job getting in a villainous character voice. - This is set by the walking bass line, the rolling piano rhythm, and the high-hat hit. Then for the bridge, the music gets a lot more aggressive. Everyone playing on the same pulsing attacking beat. This is the villain theme.

Then there is a dance interlude. Imagined to be her deciding on what to do with her life. I pictured a dancer moving back and forth across the stage. In throws of confusion. Her choice to stay captive to her past. Or venture to the future. It felt like a classic musical storyline.

The bossa-nova break is actually tricky to get. The time switch. The feel change. It all depends on how the drummer can handle it. I loved the octave piano solo Abe does. My bass work was really fun. Scaling up and down. Writing a McCartney-esque  melody. Check out a live version from Hear Ya:

Finally it ends in the solo. Which is the culmination of the parts. The moment she decides. I felt it was important to leave it up in the air. I like the idea of not-knowing what the future is.

Little girl, you're a flat back woman with no where to turn
Little girl, take a chance make a run, you better hide from the gun

I always wanted to give writing this kinda piece a shot. It was an itch I had to scratch. One I'm proud of. A real fine moment on the record too. I think the idea might sound too lame for some. But songwriting has to be fearless. Regardless of what others might say or think, ideas should be explored. With a full heart. Unashamed. It would be impossible to work with fear of rejection. Not that it doesn't cross my mind, I just don't give in. Be bold. Be daring. Most important, Try something new.

her face, like I had never seen before
beamed into the dark. a song, cutting
the corners of our hearts. with a collective gasp
of an audience unaware of her art. of stripping us,
cleaving off and discarding our worst parts,
leaving their seats lighter than at the start.


image source:

Jun 12, 2013

Another Day, The Lull Of Having

Another day, another night
The moon's clear but too high to reach
As I lay in the dark
I wonder where it is you are
 Another day, another night

I've always been a fan of taking the mundane and trying to make it more. On first glance it seems there is not much to Another Day. An honest criticism, but it's hard to fault a piece for it's subject. Like disliking someone for simply being a person. I wanted to use an average day, maybe that is a boring idea to some. To me it was an opportunity to express something different. Something honest.

Another night, one more day
She'll be home to stay
But for now, just for now
It's seems too far from me
Another night, another day

Pop music lives in a hyper reality. Flushing out the real drama in life. That is why it is so easy to write about falling in and out of love, losing relationships, death, social issue. High drama is blood for inspiration.

This was my first bass-solo. I remember how exciting it was to be able to take the lead of the song. It's a different feeling to be standing out. When you are in the rhythm there is a lot to blend into. It's easy to hide in the background. But the solo stands on top. It demands the spotlight. I used a vintage Fender Bass VI with flat wound strings, and came up with the lick. The song is about space, and tension. I tried to push that in the solo. Also another great background arrangement.

I remember when the idea came. A lazy weekend. Cleared cause I was expecting my girl back home from a semester abroad. It had been so long since we had seen each other. I was supposed to go over during a holiday break, but I wasn't able to raise the money. And skype/camera phones weren't what they are. So many blurry shots, and dropped calls later, we had finally made it through.

 And I was waiting, with nothing to do. I cleaned. I watched the walls. I walked. Then I got an email: Her home coming was even further delayed by weather. It was going to be another day or two before she came home.

Sweep the floor of gathered leaves
And things that I once believed
Wave goodbye with the sigh
As they float away from me
 Another night, another day

I spent the rest of the weekend waiting. I read. I was into  -and still am- haikus. There is an ingenious spark I found there. What makes them easily dismissible is also their strongest attribute. The simplicity. The boldness of being direct. It is the poetry of life. The simpler it is written. The more the reader can project into it. The trouble is giving them enough to want to project into the lines. And though I didn't use the 5-7-5, I did find inspiration in the brevity.

So I wrote a story, not about the details of the relationship- but the pain of the in-between. The pause. The rest. The lull of having and not being able to have. There is importance and symbolism in our daily rituals. Cleaning. Cooking. Working. We only have to flush it out.

a light pluck,
luminous dissonance. I
hear it all again 


image source:

Jun 5, 2013

Got To Get Back Home, The Good Path

-got to get back home to you, little darling. Of all I've done it'd be my biggest sin, if I never could make it back home again.- I'm fallen and weak in this hot desert heat. My skin holds my own blood boiling. I'm blistered and red, but a promise I said, keeps pushing me on through my toiling.

Some get into rock for fame. Some for money. Some for attention. Yes it can have all that, though it is so rare, you might have better odds with the lotto. It seems attainable. A personal El Dorado. A hint, a fragment of a clue to a direction. Always a step ahead. Always out of reach. Until it isn't, and that's what makes the dream so enticing.

Hacienda has been my Quest. Travelling. Hunting. Exploring my world, myself, and the people around me. Battling obstacles, pitfalls, clichés and naysayers. Always jumping to the next thing. I don't know if it will ever end. Or what the end would look like. It is just something I do. If you are familiar it is a lot like Pellinore and the Questing Beast. What good would it be to reach the end? What if Pizarro found El Dorado? Would he sit at home with his treasure, and wait? Would he ever be satisfied? The spirit, for more. The drive to discover, and conquer is human. Some stay in, and some go out.- I don't think of Conquistadors as idols, their history is a disturbing one, and the result of Desire taken beyond the bounds of decency and compassion.- I have a searching spirit. I'm looking, and have been looking for a long time.

Got To Get Back Home is the end of a search. The hero(ine) went out. Found adventure. Lost their self. Corrupted by the search. Now desiring only to start over. To get home. This was me projecting myself into a story. I am not the character, but the character is me. I am not ready to stop. I have more to give. More to offer. I have had moments where I have lost my direction. Where I lost my purpose. Where I was in danger of losing myself. I think I have held on fairly well considering these are treacherous waters.

One of the most interesting arrangements we have done is on Got To Get Back Home. Abe was playing accordion. I did two bass lines with harmonizing melodies. The sound is barren and lit like a desert. I love the jarring and the odd. I love the unexpected. I love when songs exist because they should, not because it's what is expected. This song is unexpected. Don't be afraid to not be serious. Don't be afraid to have humor, it is equalizer of our sanity.

When I imagined getting lost, I thought of where I would go. Going back to where course was lost. To where I would've last known myself. I think it's a pretty classic storyline. To leave home. And the sense of yourself behind. Romanticizing the past. The people left behind, when you are away.

I got into music. Into writing because I had something to say. Growing up with a musical background, gave me a platform to say it. My journey is to keep writing until the words leave me. Right now I'm trying to maintain pace with how fast the songs come.

It is easy to get distracted by other objectives. Temptations thrown in front of our eyes. These are only distractions. Keep the words. Keep the music. That is the good path.

some stranded Sunday
the last day of loss
I thought like melted ice
I thought, like beginning
making a still spark
that was our start
the back seat of a civic
watching the world turn
I thought like turning
I thought, of smiling
cause Sunfall is only our back turning
 so much happening here
I won't understand


*Image source:

May 29, 2013

Prisoner, The Hand Of The Bold

Scars scratch the truth
helping you through everyday
on walls that surround you
can't confine you to any place
Let your mind drift far, far away

There are a lot of traps and mental prisons in writing. Rules and limitations from society, genre, friends, band mates, producers,  and even ourselves. Each one boxes in the writer a little more. The creativity becomes a little more restricted. The possibilities less. The outcome more solid. This can be great. It is necessary to wrangle imagination in, or songs become unmanageable.

Prisoner is about living inside the cell. Understanding the condition. Moving beyond without violent resistance. But with creative resistance.
There are no worse punishments than ones given to ourselves.
No greater depths of hell than in our mind.
And freedom is only granted from within.

Wanting success can be one of the toughest cells in a creative prison. On one hand the writer -usually- wants the audience to like the work. But writing what you think people want often produces the worst ideas. Writing for money does even more damage to the spirit. The other hand, writing for completely for the self, can give some of the most creative ideas a chance to live. It is the hand of the bold and the dangerous. It is the abstract. The mysterious. But that can leave piece indigestible. Flighty and over intellectualized. And worse yet, writing for an audience of One, leaves the writer with an audience of One.

I wish we had more time to work on this song. But that is the consequence of working fast. Our albums were all recorded in under the span of two weeks. This pressure can provide great conditions for spontaneous creativity. The pressure drives the mind. The imagination. Reaching new places. It's tough. It's exciting. It's not for the feint of spirit. But it does have draw backs. Sometimes the songs are just beginning to cook, but we are on to the next piece. I wouldn't say I have regrets or disappointments- I love all our songs and I have pride about the work we have done on each one. I feel lucky to not have a song that I am embarrassed about releasing. But sometimes I wish I could work on it more. I am really happy with the new arrangement we are using for Prisoner live. I wish I could record that. Maybe a live record would be good for us...

Songs suffer from trying to do too much. Trying to cover too much ground. Trying to express every side at once. That's when rules help. But which one's to listen to? Which one's to fight?  It's hard to take outside criticism because it feels like a personal attack. It feels like the idea wasn't given a good shot. You can fight for every inch an idea, but I think songs will suffer more. I've learned the problem is not the prison. Just how we feel inside of it.

Gone are the old friends
whose time they won't spend anyway
here are your new friends
who you can depend, won't go away
Let your mind drift far, far away

The truth is, there is no right answer. Only what things we can live with. There are some limitations we shouldn't tolerate. Some walls must be broken. Some amount of personal identity must be asserted. It is up to the artist to decide what is tolerable. Knowing that: resistance to others only further alienates the project.

There are times I have felt trapped. Stuck. Like everything is moving on a schedule. Like I'm unable to move for myself. It is not a good feeling. It's also not easy to break out of it. The worse part is you want to blame others, but it's only the self. It's only the mind confining itself. This song is to remind myself: let your mind drift far, far away.

falling, together.
never knowing a part from the self,
the water, and the rain
we are bound
racing to end, heavens of earth and black tar
they will take us, but at least we can go together

May 22, 2013

Mamas Cooking, See The Flow.

Mama's cooking on the big piano
Been cooking on the big piano
Come back home and that's where I found her
She's knows I should be sleeping but to stop she'd need a better reason
Mama's cooking on the big piano
Ny mama she's a lovely teaser, way she's banging I'd love to please her

Live vs Record. Everything changes. Writing for either takes a different approaches. Mama's Cooking was originally written for Loud Is The Night. There is a version recorded from that session, different from the one on Big Red and Barbacoa.

It was a mistake to leave it off the first record. If I could go back that might be one change I would make. Live, this song was already a staple of our show, often working as the closer on the set. Getting bigger and louder the more we played. Becoming a sweat soaked rampage capable of blowing down the garage rock door. It didn't start that way.

It was written as an acoustic song. I wanted to be sort of a weird White Album earthy drone. When I was first working it out, we weren't playing a lot of shows so I was more focused on sounds. But as time between writing the song and recording increased, and more shows were played, the sound evolved.

Three in the morning and the neighbor's calling
Ain't no peace when we start balling
Dogs all bay and the dead start waking, she's got soul that can't be faking
Three in the morning and the neighbor's calling
Better stop before the cops come over, but me and my baby gonna play it all night

There are some bands with live shows sounding exactly like their records. Some completely different. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Great records can sound like they were recorded live. I've only rarely been a fan of live records though.

I've always liked treating them as different but maybe that's changing. I love the sound of a band planning together, but not listening to uncontrolled jams. As a musician I love to jam, but as a record listener I don't have the patience for it. It's not that I think songs need to be short. I just like the song to be thoughtful in it's progression.

The wildness of experimentation easily wears thin on me. My patience can be extended for a live show. The experience, the energy, the visuals all permit the song to travel, to breath, and to live beyond the length and precision of the record. I can watch that journey. It is a story. To see the faces...Is it fluid? Is it a fight? Are they worried about where to go? Are they happy when they got there? It's all over their bodies.

When you are that involved in music, you can't hide frustration, joy, or terror. It just broadcasts. Seeing that keeps the jam interesting for me. On record everything seems purposeful. It's too easy to say -I meant to do that. Making it less of a trip.

The second version of Mama's Cooking was done all live in one room including vocals. Probably not too different from an early Little Richard, or Elvis track. The first version we did featured Dan on Background vocals singing harmony with me, how cool is that... I love hearing the double kick stomp to kick it off. The bass line is furious. I always play it hard, like I'm attacking the strings. I know I've had strong performance when my right hand bleeds a little bit, usually from the index.

In a live show, I look for moments where we can reach out beyond the song. To interact with the audience. To say- this is happening only tonight. That type of playing and arranging can sound flat on record, without a good audience to interact with. So it becomes about building flow. It's hard to say if what you are recording will work at all. There is not that initial reaction from the audience. Just like the faces of the musicians give away how they feel about a song, so does the face of the crowd.

Keys are flying, and the walls are shaking
ain't gonna stop till the whole place breaking
doors are banging and the phone keeps ringing
Keys are flying and walls are shaking
Me and my baby go for bacon fat, don't you know we're always down for that

Recently we've been narrowing our sound. For the first time we have a sound that is cohesive. More focused. We are going to keep the sound of playing together in the studio. Drums and bass have to be locked in. No other way about it.

The best way for me to lock in with kick is to track my bass while watching the drummer. I keep my eye on the movements. Watch the energy. See the flow. It's not anticipation, but co-operation.That is enough to give a track life. I don't know if we will record another song all live with vocals. But never say never, right?

Mama's Cooking sounds live, because it is. It also makes it stand alone a bit. It's also the only song written from Loud Is The Night onto a later album. Anyway you cut it, it is one of my proudest songs. It is rock and roll thru and thru.
The old star-eaten sky
sends no safety
means no harm.
Night waits,
wanting to be used.
His eagerness
persists in the air
like breathing late-Saturday
atmosphere. Not to offend
the next, once her edge drops a bit.
-The night'll go where you go.