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: http://www.history-map.com/picture/003/pictures/America-North-Old-001.jpg

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: http://electricliterature.com/blog/2011/06/28/those-are-pearls-that-were-his-ipad-review-of-the-waste-land-app/

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: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WK_PvmlBAP8/T4Rh9oDI0tI/AAAAAAAAAIE/0P2qElLkArc/s400/StAgnes-ArthurHughes.jpg