So- points of reference in terms of music include two expansively epic instrumental groups: The Mermen and Explosions in the Sky. The massive Mermen songs always remind me of growing up in Dana Point, where much of the story takes place, and I did actually compile an all-Mermen soundtrack to play while writing. Explosions is the powerhouse quartet from Texas who most famously played the music for the "Friday Night Lights" movie and TV show, but their proper albums are some of my favorite recordings. They manage to bottle the wide open spaces of Texas in the same way the Mermen seem to encapsulate the feel of California.
Other influences include Nathan Johnson's soundtrack for "Brick," one of my favorite films (which also takes place in South OC); same for Neil Young's music for "Dead Man." The first two albums by Tortoise also figured big, because they always remind me of nighttime in Isla Vista, another main setting. The U2/Eno "Passengers" collaboration was influential too, not only because Eno is the king of ambient, but because that album came out right in the middle of when this story takes place: late 1995/early 1996.
As for the new Low Tide/WOYG songs themselves, I'll just say that "First Set At Strands" is exactly that- the sound of waves at my favorite childhood beach; "Backwards Fear" is dorm-drinking music based on a piece of Brian and Luke's that I reversed and grafted onto a jazzy beat of Billy's, plus a bassline from me; "It's Quiet Up Here" is refuge-music, looking out toward Catalina from my grandparent's backyard; "Calaveras Desagradables" is nightmare music, and "Starting Fires" is less about arson and more about ambush.
I plan to release the whole shebang in March, definitely on the web, and maybe as a CD. Anyway, the audio:
Tonight's wisdom comes from my brother, and Honey White's singer/guitarist, Bryn DuBois. As always, you may skip to the audio if you wish. --Keir
The band hadn't played together in months. There were a number of contributing factors, naturally, but the bottom line is that I no longer had an easy creative outlet. Boredom is not something that troubles me often, but it was certainly lurking in the background.
It had been a grey and overcast tail end of winter in Southern California. My ongoing soundtrack for this relatively uneventful but unoppresive gloom was a complete immersion in instrumental surf rock. Which, actually, seemed just as appropriate to me on a foggy day as on a brilliantly sunny one. And sure, Dick Dale and the Chantays were in there, but I mostly saw the classic surf of the early '60s as the framework; after all, most of the musicians were younger then than I was now! What really interested me were the more recent extensions of what had been done earlier: the Mermen, the Insect Surfers, the Halibuts, the Eliminators, Los Straitjackets.
Of course, the more I listened to it, the more I figured I could do it myself. And so, against this backdrop of impending boredom, the echoing space of reverb-soaked guitars, and grey afternoons in my apartment, I began churning out song after song of simple, surf- and blues- inspired instrumentals. I enlisted my brother's help in recording them, which barely took as much time as the composition did. We took care of it in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment, with me playing the drums with brushes rather than sticks so as to keep the noise down in deference to the neighbors. Our eternally-abused four track recorder was all we had in the way of recording equipment, and the lo-fi homemade quality of the recording is readily apparent on every song. They were done one track at a time, built up from drums to bass to rhythm guitar and finally lead.
Some have aged, in my opinion, better than others -- they aren't, with only a few exceptions, particularly complicated songs, and relied pretty heavily upon the formulae laid down by the music done in the past. Since very few people (other than myself and possibly Keir) would find a complete song-by-song description interesting, I'll satisfy myself with... half? Yeah, half should do. The More Noteworthy Ones, I think.
"Windward Mark" was basically my attempt to take a page more or less directly from Dick Dale's book and write a fast, dark-sounding song like "Misirlou." I even followed his "low E string, then high E string" approach. But in the end, there tends to be a reason why a cliche was copied enough to become a cliche -- the music certainly isn't Beethoven, but I'm satisfied with it as a pop song. Enough, in fact, that I sneaked it into Honey White's playlist for a while (played nearly twice as fast, since Billy actually can play the drums, unlike me; hell, I just bang on them with passable rhythm). Now that I'm writing this, I recall that this song inspired one of my favorite moments on stage. We had just torn through one of the best versions we'd every played of it -- good enough to be included on a live CD Keir later put together, even -- and with a final deafening crash, brought the song to a halt.
After the scattered applause had died down:
My friend Jeff Hinck: "YOU GUYS ROCK!!"
Me: "Thanks! I know."
"Whitecap" had been recorded already with the Mojo Wire, but I wanted to include it here too. My retooling of it made it fit in with the rest of the CD, but, though I'm proud of this song, did nothing to improve upon the job already done by Keir, Adam, and Brandon.
"Those Aren't Oil Rigs" eventually found its way into Honey White's setlist as well, under the title "My Second Shipwreck." It's a better title, after all, and since it was my own damned song I figured I could steal the name from the song bearing the title here. I will forgive you if this is confusing. Anyway, this song is undoubtedly the single most complicated song, musically, that I've written. Its genesis was in the movie "Dead Man" and the soundtrack that Neil Young had composed for it. I found his music so powerful (especially enhanced by the content of the film, the smoke in my head at the time, and the fact that it was around two in the morning) that when I arrived home in the early morning I was compelled to play the guitar. Keir was already asleep, so I took my electric guitar out to the living room, sat on the couch, and played it without amplification. I must have played for no more than an hour, and out of nowhere came three different musical themes and a chorus, including both lead and rhythm guitar. I have never experienced a creative outburst like this, before or since.
The title, in a completely unrelated fashion, comes from an argument between two of my friends at three AM somewhere between Dana Point and Catalina Island. Being the cautious young men that we were, we had decided that, for such a short trip ("It only takes eight or nine hours to get there!") we didn't need to utilize the formal navigation skills that we all had learned, and would just find our way visually. In the dark. While trying to figure out whether we were, in fact, still on course, a muted but long-lasting argument arose regarding whether or not lights on the horizon were stationary oil rigs (and thus points we could navigate by) or other ships.
"My Second Shipwreck" (the song titled so here, that is) is music that I've been meaning to resurrect ever since. I am still pleased with the music, though finding another place to put it may not occur any time soon. "Eleven O'Clock" is a Morphine song, and I was proud enough of the idea of converting it into a surf instrumental that I didn't actually put much thought into how to do that conversion in the first place. "Mariel on the Beach" is one of the prettier songs I've written, I think. And as such, I was proud to be able to play it at Lis' wedding! I wrote it the last summer that I lived in the Corvalian house in Dana Point, when I was getting tan by day teaching sailing, and occasionally getting drunk by night. (I remember one night clearly -- well, figuratively speaking of course -- when I returned home... Mom took one look at me and said, "I think you'd better go to bed, Bryn." So I did.)
So there. All of these recordings, whatever they may lack in recording quality or compositional acumen, are fun to revisit. An audio photo album is really what they are. But damn, the recordings are only eight years old, and I'm only twenty-nine. Why the hell do I feel old after having written this?
Audio: Bryn's solo "My Second Shipwreck" album, from April 2000.
So tonight I'd like to tell you all a story. If you want, skip to the audio and play the music while you read it.
A long time ago in a student ghetto far far away, the bass player for a band called The Mojo Wire sat bored and listless as his bandmates decided to do other things than play in bands. That this was 99% his fault, what with his managerial ineptitude and absolute lack of basic social graces and self-promotional skills, had never entered his head. He was mostly depressed and preoccupied with the brutal vagaries of life in Isla Vista during the final days of the decadent American Century, and so he successfully disregarded the outside world in favor of pursuing one of his favorite pastimes: playing the bass guitar through an echo pedal so as to forget a slew of nasty rejections by various and sundry Babes Of Rock.
He did this echo-bass guitar thing quite frequently in those days. Indeed, he had already seen fit to subject his band to this device in the form of one of his (eventually) best songs, and little did they know what would result from their enthusiastic encouragement of his efforts. Oh yes, simple compositional efforts were just the tip of the trash heap for this dude. He wanted to churn out splendidly epic feats of sub-woofing power, and so he did, so much so that eventually another band member couldn't help but notice.
"Fucking hell," said the drummer. "We've created a hideous, insatiable monster!" "Sorry," said the bassist. "Hey, would you mind recording some drum tracks for me?" "Uh, okay man," said the drummer. "Sweet," said the bassist. And so they hauled out the trusty Tascam 4-track and went to work. Unfortunately, the results were not necessarily splendid, nor epic, but they did woof with the subs and consume billable amounts of electric power. Nevertheless, the bassist decided to assemble the recordings into what, in ancient vinyl days, was known as an "E.P," and so enlisted the help of his guitarist's recording software and CD burner.
The guitarist's patience, or perhaps his aesthetic sense of taste, was sorely tested by the bassist's chosen design for the CD's cover. "Dude," said the guitarist, "that's just your new girlfriend's photo with some cheesy Photoshop 2.0 filters on it. That's not a CD cover." "Maybe not," replied the bassist, "but it's an E.P. cover." The gutiarist rolled his eyes and went back home to run his militant dictatorship in peace. And so it was, on July 28, 1999, three months after the belated release of his band's third album, the bassist celebrated the release of the "Dive" E.P. by the ad-hoc "band" he christened "Low Tide."
Needless to say, it did not light the world on fire, not then, and not anytime in the future. However, one of its songs, "Saturation" did go on to become the Mojo Wire song "Peak Of My Career," and another, "Whatever Gets You Going," eventually became the intro to the Honey White song "Lightning Rod." Of the rest, only the "Dive" title track would retain a fond space in the bassist's musical heart, but the last song on the disc, the 2-year-old "Monsoon," did earn the appreciation of Honey White's guitarist many years later because of its "pure, unashamed druggy weirdness." And that, as everyone else hoped and prayed, should have been the end of it, but of course it wasn't.
You see, 9 years later, the bassist was trying to think of things to do during another band hiatus, so he began writing a novel. He became entirely too wrapped up in this hopelessly gimped effort, but missed playing the bass guitar, so he decided to compose a soundtrack for the unfinished novel, and foist the sub-woofing wankery of Low Tide on a new generation of unsuspecting humanity in 2008.
Soon, very soon, the rafters of Southern California will rumble again with the vibrations of the Fender Jazz Echo-Bass. Until then, anyone silly enough to consider themselves an eager listener may wish to endure the original Low Tide "Dive" E.P. as a reminder to what depths Jean-Keir DuBois can sink when his lyics fail him and his massive ego consumes him.