Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Cocoon" and Torchy's Breakfast Tacos

We had plowed through Prince, The Afghan Whigs, Stevie Wonder, and Phoenix in between conversations about Dave Ramsey, health insurance, and how many times we had been the "dumpee" or the "dumped" in romantic relationships. After we had exhausted our collection of alluring records, and our throats were scratchy and dry from talking, I decided to do the inevitable, "O.k., let's listen to it." With questioning eyebrows followed by a stern nod, Nick slid "Cocoon" into the cd player.
I don't listen to Meg and Dia records immediately after we record them. Not because I don't fancy them, quite the opposite actually. I have so much affection for them, and have come to understand them so intimately, that I can't bring myself to listen to them. The record is too tender and raw to my ears. It must have time to settle in me.
I sat there quietly allowing the music we had created in Tillamook, Oregon to fill me up. This would be the first time in months that I had listened to "Cocoon", and the very first time I listened to the "mixed and mastered" version in proper track listing order. With each new melody, memories from the "Cocoon sessions "flooded my mind, and I thought, "How did we ever manage to get THIS record out of THAT experience?"
I remember coming to the recording sessions empty handed. My brain works in slow, meticulous circles when it comes to the craft of song writing. It is necessary for me to spend long hours meditating over melody, rhythm, and words in a secluded space. But, this wasn't the case recording "Cocoon". We had decided before hand that we would write songs as a group "on the fly".
There were fabulous "ah-hah!" moments of success, triumph, and collaboration as well as farces between like minds. There were disagreements, heightened emotions. Sometimes one of us would be struck with a fabulous idea. Feverishly we would all begin adding to it, removing from it, expounding upon it, only to find ourselves stuck only a half an hour later. Charlie would try to keep our spirits up and suggest that we try to play songs based on whatever words he called out from his upstairs producer's cubicle. "Country...swung...funky" he would shout. Clumsily we would watch each other with wistful eyes, each trying to follow the other band member's lead only to find that no one was leading.
At this point we found that the best way to move forward was to stop gritting our teeth in frustration and to put our instruments aside and take a little stroll down to the water. We would sit in our dimly lit corner booth at "The Schooner" and feast on ill-smelling chilled oysters and a mug of frothy pale ale. The Schooner always played classics. "Tom Petty" and "The Rolling Stones" vibrated from the boomy speakers. It was hard to tell which was more inspiring: Tom Petty or the oysters.
This method was how "Bandits" was born. This song literally came out of nowhere, just the five of us jamming in the living room. Dia started humming this song about this runaway couple, so madly in love with each other that they would turn themselves in, suffer forever behind bars, and promise that once they got out, they would find the other again. Of course, after I payed closer attention to the lyrics, steady tears streamed down my face, and I had to distract myself with old reruns of Southpark, and Nick's monteray jack bagel sandwiches.

Nick is driving and not like his usual self at all as he slumps in the driver's chair, silent, his eyes glued to the never ending highway ahead of us. We are exhausted. The dark night envelopes us, and there is not much to see aside from the occasional glowing eyes of wandering deer. We are on the final stretch of this journey. I peer ahead at all the forest green road signs as we pass them by, their snowy white letters blurring with the speed of our trusty vehicle. "Waco", "Lubock", and a small town called "Abeline". I could sense that we were nearing our destination. Finally I saw the word: "Austin". And suddenly, to my surprise, delight and excitement were not the first emotions that crept into my insides. The first feeling was "panic". I was ecstatic and happy while we were munching on bad huevos rancheros earlier in the morning, but now that our destination was drawing near I found myself second guessing my plans. I felt like telling Nick, "Well, this is nice. Now if you please, let us turn around now and head back home" Home, I thought to myself, where I can wake up tomorrow safe and sound in my comfortable and luxurious pillow-topped bed, and where my mother will call up to my room from downstairs, "Meg, would you like some roasted honey and fresh blueberries with your oatmeal?"

I forced myself to allow my worries to evaporate and focus on our creation: "Cocoon".

Earlier on in the drive, somewhere in the great barren stretches of New Mexico we passed a fleet of modern windmills. Those great giant beauties reminded me of Don Quixote's giant dragons and the lovely epithet that story contains. They were giant planes of glistening white metal. Their arms were supposed to be pounding and orbiting with the wind. On this particular drive, for the first time, the propellers were still and lifeless, instead of a giant army of powerful machines intended for a specific task and fulfilling it beautifully. They were lonely. They were bored. They were still. I imagine this might have been my lot had I not gone after my passions, had I not driven all this way to fulfill my desires, to battle my imaginary dragons.

"So, what do you think of our record?" Nick asked me. I looked over at him, barely able to spot his glowing irises in the dark.
"I think it's good" I said firmly as I returned my gaze back to the comforting headlights in front of us, a faint grin growing on my face as Austin's city lights began to glow in our field of vision.
"Me too".

7 comments:

  1. And this is why I can't wait to listen to it.

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  2. I guess you've left the "Cocoon".

    Glad y'all are safe. The recording and music making process for the newest album sounds very fun and frustrating too. I can imagine blank stares, bursts of laughter, and moments of musical epiphanies. The story behind bandits sound really good. It reminds me of something but I don't know what exactly.

    Anyways, only a few more days! Your birthday and a album! The Youtube raid has been working out. I dare you to find a video without comments about "Cocoon" ;)

    P.S. IF you do find a video without it, go to the boards. We'll fix that! http://tinyurl.com/3pmnrox

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  3. I listened to the song "Here, Here, and Here" as I read this. As much as you guys got burned out on that record, I forget how beautiful the song truly is. Seeing you all grow as musicians has been a privilege. "Cocoon" will be the best yet.

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  4. I've got chills already. I really love these background stories so much. And it's very good to hear that you guys had a safe drive and are now nestled back in your favorite city!

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  5. I can't wait for the album! Even the name sounds magical!

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  6. I Can't wait too hear bandits now!!

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  7. roommate just walked in, stuff to do, life is offline, after all... i'm leaving this page open and hope to come back to catch up before i must turn off the laptop or another years goes by :)

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