Stories Behind The Songs #6
This was the last song recorded at Robin Wilson from the Gin Blossom's studio in Tempe, Uranus, before Four Peaks brewery bought the building and he kicked us out, so we had to finish it quickly and he was sort of rushing us, so I am glad we pulled it off. The song ended up ripping it across the globe that year, which was 2015, and our video for it was nominated for best music video at 2016's Phoenix Comicon Film Festival, which was when we recorded our album 'Live At Phoenix Comicon' at Last Exit Live after the screening.
Bedrock City, a Flintstones-themed kiddie park just south of the Grand Canyon, where the video was shot, is closing now, so it's probably okay to tell this story...
We very clearly explained the song, and what the video was about, to the owners of Bedrock City. We shot the whole thing in a day, had all our props out, the beer cans and everything, and these hot girls cosplaying as Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone are making out in one of the rooms at this kiddie park, and we're shooting the thing around the families coming in.
Some of the production photos came out on Facebook and showed all this stuff and the Bedrock City people freaked out. We had to make a compromise with them where we put the disclaimer in the beginning of the video, saying that it was a parody, so that it wouldn't reflect badly on their business.
While some people got the thing we were going for with these parody videos, which was this sort of satirization of American popular culture and poking fun at things, a group of people thought we were promoting patriarchy and rape culture, or it was otherwise just too shocking and in your face, and the momentum of both 'Super Drunk' and '#Datass' I think suffered because of those things. It wasn't what we were doing though. They were meant to be comical.
We've stepped away from the parody angle and are more into experimenting with film right now. As far as the song goes, it's really rhythmic, and that's all Tevin. I was going for something akin to the Beatles 'Revolver' but it sounds a bit like Elastica to me, which is cool.
Stories Behind The Songs #5
Contrary to some fan theories of recent years, 'Donny' is not actually about Pres. Donald Trump. We wrote it way before he was relevant, back in what had to have been around the same time we did the bulk of our early recorded work, like in that 2006-2008 window, because we recorded it in 2009. It was actually about a friend of ours named Donny who absolutely hated our band, and loathed me for what could accurately be described as an air of arrogance that I had about me in my early twenties. Now I'm just sort of set in my ways, and try to be as chilled out as possible. There is no reason to stress.
But back then? I was a total asshole, and I am almost positive my negative attitude at times repelled people from our band as quickly as our music drew them in, because a lot of people liked us, but as soon as they got to know me became turned off. I have a pretty loud mouth and I tend to rant about shit sometimes, and back then I was on a lot of drugs and was drinking a lot, so I could get pretty crude, and all of that just became a part of my personality for many years. I was also in the army and was a young and angry male, and I wanted my band to work out, so when Donny talked shit about us to our friends I wrote a whole song making fun of him out of sheer, childish revenge. In retrospect, it was a very negative thing to put out there in the world, so I'm not too keen on performing it anymore, but I do like the recording and the composition.
I want to say that this was the first real song at that style that I've been after for a while that I really get with 'Action Pants', off the new record, which 'Roll With Me' has a bit of as well. I love the British Invasion. I love the Beatles' songs the most, but I love the way The Kinks and The Who sound more as bands. The Rolling Stones are just sorta there for me. I brushed them off for years because I felt they just existed to compete with The Beatles. It's true that The Rolling Stones will never have the cultural impact the Beatles have had, but they're in there somewhere. I just love the sheer Britishness of The Who and The Kinks, and the whole mod thing. That aesthetic. I didn't realize the Stones were British until I heard Mick Jagger speak in an interview.
There's a bit of The Strokes in this tune, and a bit of the Arctic Monkeys and the Hives. It's really fast and manic, sorta like 'Kick It!', which is cool if you're into the punk thing.
Stories Behind The Songs #4
There was a time in like 2004-2006 where I committed myself to developing my own approach to rock and roll in songwriting by going back to the beginning of rock and roll. As with any subject in education, you start at the beginning, so I checked out the early rock and roll stuff, and I loved all the Chuck Berry singles. He also had that song in 'Back To The Future', and let's face it, for better or worse, Chuck has always been a major part of American pop culture and rock and roll in general.
I found Chuck because I was digging into who influenced The Beatles before The Beatles became a band, because I was obsessed with the Beatles, and there has always been so much music out there that sounds like The Beatles, my goal was to escape that Beatles-y trap that had befallen Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene and bands like them, because everything that sounds like The Beatles that isn't The Beatles sounds like ELO, but The Beatles were my favorite, so I dug around in the back of their bin to see who influenced them, to see if I could pull my own thing out of it. 'Kick It,' 'Motorcycle', 'Hot Rod Girl' and 'Boogie Machine' all come out of that period of writing, where I was listening to Chuck Berry and all that good old time rock and roll.
When I wrote 'Kick It', it had to have been after 'Motorcycle.' It sounds on record the way we played it live, really fast and punk rock, but we started to veer into a bit of rockabilly style, and I like rockabilly, and psychobilly has its place, but I didn't want to get stuck in that aesthetic, I just liked the way early rock and roll did these blues scales sped up, and I liked these songs. I do use a bit of British slang in the words. 'Rack jobber' is a British slang term for someone who worked in retail, for example. Ben Holladay and I worked overnights at Wal-Mart for a spell, and so I had to have written the song then.
What appears to be a common theme in a lot these songs about girls, like with 'You Don't Even Know' and 'Braindrainer', is that in each little story there is this heat early on that fizzles out before anything else can happen. The narrator is self-involved, typically anxious, grows bored too quickly and opts to hang out or party instead, but there is still some sort of intimacy happening.
Stories Behind The Songs #3
When I wrote 'Stone Heavy', it had to have been back in like 2005 or 2006. I remember I was high on marijuana and I was in the shower, and for whatever reason the acoustics in there were so great. I just kept saying "Stonnneee....Heavvvyyy..." over and over again as the water came out. It was like how your voice sounds when you speak into a fan. The lyrics are about partying with our friends, which is a common theme in some of the songs from this time. 'Deathcrawl' is the nickname of a person we were friends with.
This song came around when the British Invasion/Britpop influence really started to take hold, and we used to rock this one live. We made the recording when the song was still in its infancy. In the early days of the band, songs took a lot longer to form because we had no clue what we were doing. I love how it blasts immediately into 'Kick It!' after it slows down. It was like that on High In The Low, which was the original demo, and we kept it that way for the master on The Gork...And How To Get It!
Songs back then barely made it past two minutes. Our original sound was out of that post-punk/garage rock revival of the early 2000's, so the Britpop and British Invasion influences were later blended into that. We formed the band the same year that The Strokes came out with Is This It?, The White Stripes came out with White Blood Cells, and there were those cool records by The Vines and The Hives, and then the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came out, and all of this music poured into our ears and we tried to imitate the best we could on cheap gear that together would be worth less than a few hundred bucks.
We loved that whole indie/post-punk scene, and then when bands like The Killers and Kings of Leon came along and ruined it we turned our eyes and ears to England. That's where we picked up on Arctic Monkeys, that first Bloc Party record, and there was The Libertines and Babyshambles. England kept the rock and roll authenticity in the revival that had been lost in the US on synth pop lines and boredom with the form. We quit paying attention to American indie rock and attached ourself to what was going on in England, and then psychedelic music started really taking off, and we found a lot of inspiration in that and in the 60's. The revival was headed to the 80's and we were headed to the 60's.
With 'Stone Heavy', I thought we were doing psychedelic rock, but it ended up more like The Stooges than what I was really going for. For like the first decade of the band the only effects I used were clean and overdrive, and I never used pedals. If I had known then what a reverb pedal or a tremolo pedal could do, this song would have turned out a lot different.
Stories Behind The Songs #2
'You Don't Even Know'
I remember I did write this one in front of the amp. I used to have this huge Crate 4x12 speaker that was enormous and ridiculous because I wanted something mega like Marty McFly or Bill and Ted did in their respective time travel movies. I have always loved the theme of time travel.
This song was really the start of that style that echoes in 'Braindrainer' where you have those chirpy riffs doubling off of power chords, in that sort of power pop format that also has that post-punk revival aesthetic. I really like power pop in the style of Weezer or The Dandy Warhols, and I think that's as close as we can ever get to pop punk, is doing that kind of power pop. It's all over the place in "Mathemagician," only with that record it's mostly barre chords instead of power chords.
I was obviously in my peak Strokes obsession when I wrote this. I really dug Julian Casablancas' voice, but I was also listening to the Jam a lot, and I was really into Iggy Pop and The Stooges' 'Raw Power' record. It had to have been like 2006 or 2007, right after I got that Crate speaker. I remember standing in front of it, working out the chords, and writing the whole thing in an hour or something in the garage. That was a real rock and roll moment for me, writing a song using an amp for the first time.
It feels like a teenage anthem somewhat, because everyone in those days started saying "you don't even know" and it became this common parlance, which I guess is a Millennial turn of phrase that has subtly worked its way to the broader culture. I was really into writing teen anthems for a bit. That might've been Taking Back Sunday's fault. I really liked their record 'Where You Want To Be', even though we sounded nothing like them. We sounded how we sounded. There's only been a couple other bands like us within 120 mile radius, and we're all friends, so there was no real scene to compete against. We just made the kind of music we liked to hear.
I do think I wrote another song around this time called "I Know, Right?" that was centered in that same theme of jargon. I think the words are about some kind of strange relationship, but the details of the characters are somewhat vague, which I guess explains the title. What's missing is subject to interpretation.
Stories Behind The Songs #1 'Braindrainer'
A 'braindrainer' as an object could mean a couple of different things. It could be a drug, a cell phone, or maybe a song. Whatever it is, the word is meant to signify something mindless you do that gets you out of your head.
I don't remember exactly when or how 'Braindrainer' came about. I want to say I wrote it in 2014, because it was one of the first songs we played with Tevin in the band. When I play the main riff, it reminds me of another song of ours, 'You Don't Even Know', because it has that basic, two-chord punk thing going on. I must've written it standing in front of the amplifier, because I've only written a couple songs that way, but when I do they sound a lot like that. Most of our songs have been written out on my acoustic, but not always. Not this one. Maybe.
There's a bit of a story in this tune, which is what I strive for with every tune. Sometimes it doesn't turn out that way. Any song you write can be like a mini-novel, really, or it can be something more abstract. It comes from that anxiety-ridden youth thing, where the guy in the song tries to meet up with a girl, and it's looking good but then it doesn't work out, so he just does his own thing and they sort of ghost each other. But then, there's still this sort of melancholy going on inside of him, because it just kills him when she ends up going out with someone else.
My voice sounds weird on the recording because I was sick with allergies when we made it, same as 'I Wish U Was My GF' and 'Megalodon,' but it had to be done. We'd braved all this crazy shit getting to Phoenix that I'll touch more on later, but overall I like it, and I like that it opens up the first record.