Archive for February, 2010

Unearthing The High School Band

February 27, 2010

It’s been a stressful month…let me rephrase that, a ‘beautifully stressful’ month.  It’s all about to come to an end however, which is good…let me rephrase that, which is good AND sad.  Good because I’ll have more time to do things like write blogs and record music.  Sad because school will be over, and school was awesome.

Now…bear with me here…what I’m about to talk about is a bizarre subject, and if it comes across as being anything other than excitedly nostalgic I apologize.  It’s just VERY easy to take a subject like this and make it sound like the discovery of a new Charlie Chaplin film, or a lost Beatles album.

I’m talking about discovering the COMPLETE Brillohead here in my very house.  That’s right!  I was rummaging through some tapes, and there they were: I’m A Rock ‘N’ Roll Mama, the 1996 Demo and a rare and almost forgotten acoustic session of the last songs Brillohead wrote but they never had the chance to record with the band.

Oh, I should mention…Brillohead was my first band.  Well, not my first band.  My ‘second’ band, but…let me explain.

In about 1993 (or was it 1994…) me and a very cool dorky guy named Ryan McLarnon (note: I was also a dork, I’m not pretending to be anything more) got together and hung out thanks to the love of music, store-bought brownies, and bad movies.  We both had an off-the-wall sense of humour that bordered on childish…that ‘was’ childish.  Looking back I put ALL the talent on Ryan, but I guess the way it started was that he could come up with neat chord progressions, and I could come up with catchy melodies and ridiculous lyrics off the top of my head.  It wasn’t long before we came up with a name, ‘Overgrown Spatulas,’ and started recording.  We made two albums…and probably about…50 or 60 songs.

Not long afterwards we decided we wanted to play live…but our songs had a lot going on.  I mean, there were TWO of us, but we used a Fostex FOUR track machine, so we could multitrack and make it sound like there were…well, at the very least two more of us!  Ryan found two other guys (gah…I was lazy!) – Ben Pinkney and Kevin Kindness – and after toying with the idea of a fifth to play bass (which eventually I just picked up myself) we had our Overgrown Spatulas stage band.

One problem…we were writing new songs now.  And Ben and Kevin weren’t really into playing those older songs live, especially since we had a whole new sound.  Ryan and I were goofs but also heavily influenced by Radiohead, R.E.M. and Ryan’s brother’s band, Wendal.  Kevin and Ben, they were classic rock and blues fans.  It didn’t take long to realize we were no longer Overgrown Spatulas.  I can’t remember if we changed the name upon formation, or at this switch, but we played our first live show as Brillohead.

Fast-forward: we played Guelph, Hamilton, Ancaster (Ancaster?), and for boys from Erin, Ontario to play Lee’s Palace AND Toronto’s historic El Mocombo (twice!) it felt like we’d hit the big time.  We had recorded an album, a demo, and randomly Ryan and I recorded an acoustic session in his basement.  Memories are flooding back…it’s insane!

I remember during our last show at the El Mo TWO of my new circle of friends showed up to watch us play, and played two of my old circle of friends at pool.  Keep in mind, my old friends are very open minded…but this was two very flamboyant queers from Toronto and two country boys raised on the farm.  The queers won.

I remember at a show at the Bullring when we were bumped to headliner position ’cause the actual headliner (Troll) wanted to get out of the show early.  We were SOOOO excited…I mean, HEADLINER!  It never occurred to us that Troll was the headliner because they draw the crowd.  We played a show for Ryan’s brother (Jef…fucking amazing guitarist and songwriter) and the bartender…but Jef came on stage and played with us, AND we got to play our cover of the theme from the movie Deathstalker 2!

And there they were…two weeks ago…three little cassettes representing the happiest days of my high school life, practically forgotten about till now.  It’s weird: back in the late 90s we recognized the need to save the Overgrown Spatulas albums, actually remixed them to tape and immediately digitized them and made CDs.  Brillohead, I think, was meant to be the next project…but we kinda…forgot.

Now you can find Brillohead online, tape-hiss and all, for free, to download in pretty much any format you’d want.  I love the internet.   I told my old high school friends online about it…and Brillohead downloads are actually now outnumbering downloads of my solo music.  A friend from Austin, TX brought up a song *I* forgot about…I had put it on a mix tape and sent it to him back in 1996, he still remembers it to this day.  I guess we were pretty good for a bunch of goofy kids from rural Ontario.

Nothing is more powerful to reignite (or pour gas on) your love of music than finding pictures, or tapes, or some kind of souvenir of your musical past.  And it SHOULD be treated like finding a lost Beatles album, or unearthing a new Beethoven symphony, because it is!  The importance is just localized to you…and your old fans…and your new fans…and in today’s world, that high school band from the 90s could become a hit today.

…even with lyrics like “Xylophone mama come home.”

Check out the music at brillohead.bandcamp.com.

The Screwed Up Roller Coaster

February 11, 2010

Consistency…I remember that!!!

When I worked at a coffee shop (…I love the term ‘coffee jockey’) I had consistency.  Even if shifts shifted (wheee!) it was always the same: take order, get coffee, take money, give change.  On lucky days I’d be on the espresso machine…you know: take order, make order, ring the bell.  Somedays I’d be runner: clean tables, hear the bell, come get the coffee, bring it to the table.

…almost five years!  It was great for socializing, for goofing around with friends, the PERFECT University job because I didn’t have to think about anything complicated and could actually discuss stuff with co-workers (being at a coffee shop next to a University meant everyone was a student…and most were in the theatre program to boot!)

I had several jobs before and after…tour guide (drive bus, boat or train in big circle, say speech, answer questions, repeat); library page (get books from rack, put on shelf, check that books are in order); diner bitch (like coffee jockey only with food and tips).

Now I’m back in school, and it is a school that does its best to mimic the real life of the industry we’re being trained in.  If there’s one thing that has been brought up consistently…it’s inconsistency.  That is, there is the boring routine on occasion, but overall the industry (as is the school) kind of follows a screwed up roller coaster motif: up, down, swirly bit, you’re upside down, slow part before the climb, fast decline, coast, corkscrew, etc.

It does some funky things to your brain, but if there’s ONE thing I say inconsistency does is it makes you sharp.  As a coffee jockey (especially after I graduated) my brain just started dulling.  At the diner I made some great friends and had some great times but I could FEEL myself getting dumber and simplifying things so they wouldn’t be too hard.

Now…I find myself piling stuff on…I feel like I did just before my move to Toronto when I was juggling a dozen projects at once. And my brain is working again!

Feeling dull? Make your life inconsistent.   Get on a screwed up roller coaster and see where it takes you.