I was hitting a little stride there for a second. But alas, other things to do, along with getting myself back in shape after debasing my body and mind since early November have left me with little time and focus to commit towards my verbal excretions. So I’m going to do something that is very… “not me”. I’m going to take my girlfriend’s father’s advice. I am going to… journalize? Journal? Can journal be a verb? I haven’t looked in a dictionary in a while. I’ve been busy.
What I will attempt to commit to written word will be a log of my recent musical endeavors and explorations.
Let’s start at Beerland.
Beerland is one of the clubs in Austin that hold a special place in my heart. Thanks to my first job at a Mom n’ Pop pizza restaurant, as a newcomer in Austin a little over 5 years ago, I fell in with a very friendly crew who used to frequent this Red River establishment. When I started at said restaurant, I worked with a good number of musicians who were members in bands that played a lot of shows in this club between the years of 2010-2015: OBN III’s, Flesh Lights, John Wesley Coleman III and A Giant Dog were some of the acts who came through the doors here more times than I (or they) care to remember. Long story short, there was a lot of sweat, Lone Star and cigarettes involved, as well as some the best times I could ask for, being a stranger in a new city.
I found myself back in it’s dimly-lit embrace on January 19th to witness the debut of a new project, Trying Science: a mostly instrumental 4-piece who take conventional notions of what time signatures should do and say, “Nope!”.
Very experimental and effects-driven, they have more pedals than you can shake a stick at, lest that stick goes all “Staff of Moses” on you, turns into a serpent and bites you on the penis. These are some of the thoughts that you might find crawling into your mind while watching this band perform.
As for myself, I was there mainly to see what my musical compatriot, Ryan Collins (who plays saxophone alongside your humble narrator in Muchos Backflips!) does with a chain of expression pedals and a bass guitar. It’s impressive. Just don’t call it Math Rock.
Honey & Salt, a similarly rhythmically-exploratory (can’t we just call it Math Rock?) 3-piece opened the show. This was my second time seeing these guys, and I was again impressed by their experimentation with time signatures, interlocking melodies and ripping fuckin’ drummer. My only beef with these guys, and I hate to say it because they’re such nice dudes, is the vocals. There’s not really any power behind them. They’re nasally and dare I say, whiny? But hey! Some people are into that, and honestly, it’s not enough to queer me away from going to see them again.
I was hesitant to mention Flower, the third band of the night. They just didn’t do anything for me. Which again, I hate to say because they’re really nice guys. If this were 1990, they would probably be blowing the doors off at Sub Pop. Born too late or born too early? Who knows? Maybe one of you folks will decide to click on their link and find your new favorite independent band! No such thing as bad publicity, right?
I ran into their guitarist/vocalist and bassist at the bar and we found ourselves commiserating on the state of affairs of the musical climate in the Southeast. They being from Atlanta and we (my brother and I) being from the Myrtle Beach, SC area, we joined in some shit talk and a couple of dismal head shakes regarding our shared perception of a lack of community in the underground Rock n’ Roll world of The Bible Belt.
They were the only touring band of the night, and I always ALWAYS take heart in some good guys getting out on the road and “fighting the good fight”. So if early Nirvana meets Sonic Youth and Teenage Fanclub is your cup of tea, check them out. Buy their stuff. Do the right thing.
My night ended after their set, and I missed the headliner, Ballerino: in Ryan Collin’s own words, “the best band of the night”. Listening to some of their stuff on Bandcamp, I won’t say whether or not they were the best band of the night, but they are highly recommended if you’re into Math Rock (I’m sorry guys. I had to say it. It just makes my job here easier.).
And that was that. It was best that I left. I was fuckin’ beat and I had to be up earlier than normal for my first stab at session work at White Room Studios. But before I go, I will say to you, my beloved Beerland: I’ve missed you. I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve dropped in. But come on… Why did you take the vintage smut off of the Men’s room walls?
The Next Day (1/20/2016) – White Room Studios
Names will not be mentioned to protect the innocent.
I rolled into the session a half hour late. But apparently that was okay. So was everybody else. Never let anybody tell you that musicians can’t be consummate professionals.
As I mentioned before, this was my first go at session work. I had become familiarized with the demos sent to me via email, so I felt well-prepared to handle the job. The engineer/owner had also informed me ahead of time that several of the songs were basically going to be re-written in the studio, so to come equipped with my “Improv Gun”. That was cool, too. I can roll with the punches, and I’m versed enough in music to put a song together and make it interesting without getting into wankery.
Only difference this time around? It was a country record.
Just kidding. It’s been a long time since the days when I thumbed my nose at anything that wasn’t comprised mainly of distorted guitar and drug references. However, if you had told me when I was thirteen that I would be playing bass as a hired gun on an Alternative Country record in 16 years, I probably would have shouted something about not being “a sell out” and gotten violent. This was, of course, before my first dead end job, and long before I had to feed, house and clothe myself. Oh, to be young and right about everything!
I was eager to delve into this side of the music industry which until now had seemed a bit of a mystery. I was also excited to prove that although I’ve spent the past decade and more playing mostly Progressive Heavy Metal, that I still knew enough about the classics to make a generally pleasant sounding record. I was schooled on Lynyrd Skynyrd, after all. I remember how to play major scales.
Generally speaking, the sessions went well. I got along with the drummer, and we were able to find good sounding grooves without very much effort. And we didn’t mind taking direction from one another. Never let anybody tell you that musicians can’t be consummate professionals, after all.
We wrapped up the drum tracks ahead of schedule. After two 10-12 hour days of subsisting mainly on coffee, beer and cigarettes, we had the rhythm tracks (bass and drums) knocked out. Physically, I felt like shit, but I was happy that the plan had come together.
Fast-Forward One Week.
Band practice was cancelled because one of our band members works with kids, and kids are goddamn disease factories. So we opted instead to have some pre-recording re-writes and vocal practice at the studio.
While I was there, I talked the engineer into letting me hear what had become of the songs I had recorded the week before. He didn’t seem too excited about it, but I felt like I had at least some creative input on the record, and I like to see a project as it develops. He hit play.
You ever have to get over the feeling of working together on something with a group of people as opposed to doing it yourself? How about letting an opinion on something go because you don’t have enough emotional investment in said project to hold up the production process? Ever feel let down even after all that is said and done and you’re left with the rough draft? Yeah…
He (the engineer/producer) told me that he was pretty sure that the songwriter/vocalist had taken some drugs that he didn’t tell him about. It sure as hell sounded like it. The songwriter also wasn’t taking direction. From anybody. Not even the guy he was paying to help produce the record. According to the story, there were several instances when my friend had to get up and leave the house for a couple of hours before he “smashed [my] mandolin on [his] face”.
But even after all of that, I still felt positive about the whole experience. Years of toiling away in places where I felt no connection or desire to progress have taught me the importance of professional detachment. And when it comes to music, even music that I’m invited to record, there’s still that part of your brain that you have to go to in order to keep from feeling completely ignored.
At the end of the day, you just have to be happy that you got to spend your time doing what you love to do, and paid to do it.