Archives for category: Das Piumas

Yesterday JP (Das Piumas bass player, musical genius) sent me two recordings of himself playing guitar to the accompaniment of birdsong outside a house in Thornbury Ontario. He asked me for some vocals over top of both of them. Here are the two songs, with accompanying vocals, and the lyrics I wrote:

Forget Me

Summer Frame

Here are the lyrics:

Forget Me

You were right to leave me, wrong to love me,

I was never even close

To being the man you needed me to be.

You were right to love me, wrong to leave me,

You could never even see

How deeply I fulfilled your every need.

I am of two minds, I see I’m blind,

Love you ‘cause I never loved you right.

And it started out with all those doubts,

I’m better off here worse than I have been.

 

If you ever loved me, please forget me,

Like you did, like you did already dear

If you ever loved me, please regret me,

Oh, and never let me hear.

Yes forget me, forget me, forget me every moment of the day.

Forget me every moment of the day. Moment of the day.

 

And dreaming of the ocean shore

Reminds me of the land we wore

Like boots we built of concrete and of clay.

We never would have walked too far

I hope you know you were the stars

I watched while you just looked away.

 

Summer Frame

How delicate the face we see

Between the lines of light

We dreamt of heat and woke to it

And now the day is bright.

Falling in the fields the birds

Are swiftest on the wing.

We listen for the sounds of home

To reach us on the wind.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

You’re a fever. You’re a summer frame.

Paint is peeling. The old days peel away.

 

Intricate the latticework of

Shadows where we stand.

Beading up like teardrops

On the cool drink in your hand.

We were once

Miles across.

We were once

Wildly lost.

And we were once

Miles across.

We were once

Wildly lost.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

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I had a great weekend catching up with all the people I didn’t see when I was in Europe – and a person or two I haven’t seen in months. Also, some great conversations. My sister told me about a theory that’s got me off on yet another experiment.

The theory is this: if you do something every day for 21 days, it becomes a habit. So if, for instance, you were to exercise consistently once a day for that length of time, you’d end up treating it as something natural, rather than a chore. I’ve seen some evidence of this – it takes me about 50 minutes to walk to work, which felt like an eternity for the first couple of weeks, but now seems to pass in the blink of an eye.

But what my sister was suggesting doesn’t relate to exercise – it relates to mood. Basically, the idea is to try and form the habit of never complaining about anything.

When she explained the idea to me, it got me thinking about the way that I talk. As a Canadian, I feel most comfortable when I’m complaining to someone about something… the weather; my job; the new 21-day no-complaints project I’m trying out. It seems to put other people at their ease, and it gives you things to talk about.

It’s pretty bad for your psychology, though. When I see everything as an opportunity for complaint, I also find myself believing what I say. All the stuff I’m talking shit about becomes a burden, instead of a boon. So I’m trying it: no complaints for 21 days. But it has to be 21 days straight – if I complain once on day 19, it’s back to square one.

I don’t know if I’ll manage to stay focused enough to form a good habit. Still, it’s given me a new perspective on life, and it keeps reminding me how good things actually are. Any time I’m tempted to reach for a negative comment, I pause and think about what I’m about to say. And I always realize that I’m wrong: there’s nothing to complain about.

So there you have it: no music, but a new path into the future. And the bassist of Das Piumas was here all weekend. We wrote two songs (because it’s that easy), so I’m going to try and work on them and get a version of at least one of them up at some point. Exciting stuff. There’s life in this thing yet…

There’s been a regime change here at FiveFourEleven headquarters. I have a new boss. His name is Allan, and he is going to whip this place into shape.

I got an email from him this morning, the basic message of which may be summarized thusly: QUIT FUCKING AROUND. And I thought to myself, “hmmm…when did my inner monologue get an email account?” But then I looked closer and realized that it was in fact my best friend telling me that he believes I can succeed in fulfilling the ambitions of my project, but that I have to buckle down and get serious.

He proposed some new rules. Here they are:

1) I will completely record one album per month from here on in. At the end of the month, I will deliver said album to Allan for review.

2) I will write no new songs. I’ll have to get by on what I’ve already written. I may rearrange things that already exist, but nothing new.

3) I will not worry about mixing the albums before the end of this year. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, but it does mean that if I don’t get there, it’s not the end of the world.

4) I will prioritize. That doesn’t mean giving up the other things I’m doing, it means deciding which of those things takes first priority. And since I started this project, and since I’m the only one who is doing it, this has to be number one.

Thus: it’s almost the halfway point. As of next Wednesday, half the year of FiveFourEleven will be gone. If I don’t get down to it now, I’m not going to make it. But thanks to Allan’s swift and well-thought-out kick in the pants, I now feel that I have the focus and direction (and firmer and more immediate deadlines) that I was lacking.

June’s album is Saga City. By the end of next month, I will have an eleven-song recording. It will not be perfect. There will be rough edges, it will be unmixed, and there will probably be things about it that I’m not completely proud of. But it will be, for all intents and purposes, finished. And I will go from there.

So thanks to Al for his help in reorienting me, and taking on the role of taskmaster. Much appreciated. And I’ll leave you with what strikes me as incredibly germane and extremely inspiring quotation from Ira Glass, which I found here:

Once again, today did not afford me any time to make music. I did get to talk, via Skype, with JP, who is still Das Piumas’s bassist, albeit in absentia, so that’s band-related. And I listened to Sloan’s new album, The Double Cross, for maybe the tenth time. If you don’t have that album yet, stop reading this and go and buy it. They’ve been making music for twenty years, and they’re still better at it than most other bands on the planet.

Anyway, lest you think I’ve been slacking off and avoiding making music out of sheer sloth, here’s some proof that other, less lazy things than sloth have been taking my attention: http://www.empirella.com/934/tina-feys-bossypants-feminism-only-funnier/

Empirella.com is officially live, and it kicks a whole bunch of ass. Obviously, I’m not the target demographic for the website, lacking as I do things like organizational skills, career drive, networking abilities, and a uterus. But I’m proud to be writing for such an exciting publication, and I intend to enter all their contests, even when they’re for Hermes scarves that frankly would make me look odd and creepy.

So that’s been keeping me busy. Also, my job, which, to be fair, does require roughly eight straight hours of work every day. Apparently the money they pay isn’t just for being nice and turning up approximately on time: you need to do things to earn it.

But I’d say the underlying ultimate reason I haven’t made any new music this week is that I’m not ready. I started writing some lyrics for my first “commissioned” hip-hop track last night (the one about my friend John), and suffice it to say you never, ever want to hear what I wrote coming out of my mouth. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. The lyrics are absolute shit.

Which is fine. I reserve the right, as an artist of middling talent, to produce the occasional unmitigated stream of crap. It happens. What I don’t intend to do is settle for crap. I’m going to keep fighting with myself behind the scenes until I’m ready to make something that I actually believe in. Whether anyone else will believe in it is anyone’s guess, but I’d rather be pilloried for something I really care about and put my soul into than for something I phoned in.

It’ll hurt so much more sharply if I care.

I failed to post last night due to end-of-season Dodgeball drinks. We were celebrating our seventh-place finish (out of ten teams! Woot!) by avoiding all the other teams and drinking by ourselves at a Jack Astor’s. Which is probably the most appropriate way to celebrate coming in seventh, come to think of it.

By the time I got home, I needed to dodge consciousness by going to sleep, which I did. And I awoke to glorious sunshine and slightly humid warmth. The sudden appearance of that big hot thing in the sky is always a good thing.

So here we are, on a sunny morning (swiftly morphing into a foggy one), with rain on the way. So Young is getting together for rehearsal tonight (hopefully with drummer this time), which should be lots of fun. I’m feeling good about the possibility of actually achieving my five album goal this year.

I still don’t know how, for instance, I’m going to actually record the Das Piumas and So Young records – will I need to rent a studio? How do I contend with the case of the missing bassist? – but I have faith that it will all work out.

The sun does, after all, rise each day, and sometimes you can actually see it.

Well, it’s almost the end of March. Three months of 2011 are behind us, and now is the time for my promised first-quarter reassessment.

A broad overview: I’ve done nothing at all with Broke, I have some beats for Expensive but no rhymes (or even a rhyme style), I have managed to cancel Paris Hotel Wars in favour of…something else, I’ve worked on the first song on the Saga City record, and I don’t know how or when I’ll be recording Das Piumas.

All in all, not a great start. But I feel good for some reason. Next step: get down to work. Here’s my plan for each of the five projects.

Broke Rich (a.k.a. Hidden/Filthy Rich) has just had a baby, which is wonderful news, but which should definitely take priority over making any basement hip hop for the next little while. So I’ll work with what we’ve made so far. My plan since the beginning has been to rework the existing tracks, in some cases by rejigging the beat a little bit, in others by restructuring to vary the chorus/verse/chorus/verse structure a lot of them fall into.

Expensive On the Expensive front, I’ve been thinking a lot about the starting point for that record. I’ve considered making an entire album about the things that interest me in my heart of hearts. The tentative title is “S.N.F.O. (Strictly For Nerds Only).”

There are moments when it makes a lot of sense to, for instance, rewrite the Star Wars prequel trilogy as a series of interconnected rap tracks that contain nary a mention of a boy named Annie, or a racist caricature named Jar-Jar. Then there are moments immediately after those initial moments when I think, “but what about girls? And normal people?” and I wonder whether this is a good idea.

The real problem is that I don’t know whether I’ll be able to sustain the concept over a whole album, and also that I don’t really want to make conceptual joke-rap. It doesn’t seem like having a concept along those lines would lead to honest and heartfelt music. I have another idea for generating ideas that I’ll be sharing with you soon. It involves you. Prepare yourself.

The new band (formerly Paris Hotel Wars) I’ve spoken to Allan about working on some songs, and I got an exciting email from Jaclyn, who I haven’t seen in several years, offering her vocal and keyboard talents to the project. I have to get in touch with Josh and ask if he’d be interested in drumming for us.

Basically, I’m hoping to put together a group for fun and play some shows this summer. If I succeed in getting the people on board, we should be able to record the record together, too. Right?

Saga City As for Saga City, nothing much has changed. I still know what the songs are, I still believe in them, but I have to get on rerecording them. I even have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with them for the most part.

This is the dark secret of a lot of artists, I think: if you work too hard on a concept, to the point where you know exactly how it will be, it suddenly becomes very hard to actually make it. Because you’ve already done it in your head, so what’s the point? But I know what the point is: creating a completed album, one that expresses a lot of the emotions and thoughts I’ve had over the last six or seven years.

Das Piumas This project presents one major geographical challenge, which is that my bassist lives in the Dominican Republic. I suspect that for the purposes of this year’s project, Allan and I may have to play his parts on the record, but the great thing about technology is that at some point, he’ll come here or we’ll go there again, and we’ll get him to record them properly. One of these days, J. One of these days.

So there you have it.

A tentative plan, a snapshot of not very much progress as of the three-month mark, and a way forward. It feels good to take stock, even though my stocks are probably falling pretty rapidly. It’ll all come together in the end, and hopefully even before that. As always, thanks for sticking with me as I meander through life bumping into things. It means a lot to have you along.

Sadly, I missed basketball AGAIN this weekend. It’s almost as if I’m an incredibly unathletic person whose recent physical activity has been an anomaly. Almost.

My good friend is feeling under the weather, which left me without a ride to the game. And therefore, I had no excuse not to try and turn the vague idea I came up with yesterday into an actual song. Here is the result (full disclosure – I made some changes to the track including new vocals and reuploaded):

Das Piumas – Country Moonlight


For some reason all my guitar would give me yesterday was vaguely country-inflected song ideas. This is not usual for me. Although I grew up in a town whose motto is “Country Close to the City,” I was much more interested in the second part of the equation than the “Country” bit. But I guess wherever you spend your formative years ends up getting pretty deep inside your heart and mind.

Either way, the chorus and chords for this one wrote themselves yesterday, but I had to fill in the verses, the bridge, and the structure today, as well as working out a pretty sketchy bass line and lead guitar line. It’s obviously not a country song in any way, but it does grow out of my memory of that feeling of being young and stumbling around in cornfields. And the thing is, although I spent some time in cornfields, and a lot of time stumbling around, I’m not sure whether that memory is a conflation of various different moments.

It probably is. It seems the older I get, the more the past is a pastiche. I don’t have a great head for specifics, but I definitely remember moods and scenery and invest them with ridiculous amounts of retrospective nostalgia.

I think if I had a band, I could turn this into a better song, but I like it as a beginning. I hope you enjoy it. Now, here comes Monday.

Another Friday night got away from me – between preparing dinner for friends, eating dinner with friends, and drinking copious amounts of wine near friends, I lost track of time, my mind, and the blog. It was a nice evening though.

And now we have another day of shooting ahead of us. We got almost all the footage we needed last weekend, except for the all-important opening scene. So today we’re going to pick up where we left off and hopefully get these first two episodes in the can. I’m looking forward to it, but getting everything organized (yesterday, naturally, because we’re a professional crew!) has already felt a little bit exhausting.

Also, my run of destroying electronic devices with my mind continues. My iPhone is working perfectly now, but when I plugged in my guitar pedals to record the track I put up on Thursday, I discovered that my Boss DD-6, a great digital delay pedal, had become delayed permanently. There’s no power, I can’t play through it, and it’s altogether failing to do what it’s designed for.

I’m pretty sure I know what I did this time: I have an external power supply for three of my pedals, with a 9-volt adapter. Last time I was playing my Tele, I was out in the living room. Not remembering this, I picked up the nearest adapter plug, thinking that it looked like the one I normally use, and figuring that if it was the wrong voltage, they would almost certainly make the connector a different size to prevent idiots like me from plugging it into the wrong devices.

They didn’t. I plugged in my chain of pedals, discovered that they weren’t getting juice, went in search of the actual power adapter, and the rest is unfortunate history. All I can say for my string of recent electro-deaths is that I’m pretty philosophical about it now. I really, really wish my pedal wasn’t destroyed, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

So now the question becomes: how badly do I need a delay pedal? And the answer is…pretty badly. At least eventually. Several Das Piumas songs rely heavily on the effect, as do some lines on the Saga City record. Also, I love the sound of it, and I don’t want it to fall out of my line-up. Oh, credit card. I’m sorry to have to send you into battle once again so soon after you returned from the front, melted and warped. Why, God? WHY?

For some reason a few days ago a voice in my head told me I should write a song called “Young Legs.” That’s probably a pretty creepy inner voice, given the title, but when a voice speaks up inside you, it’s usually best to just do what it says. Unless it’s coming from the neighbours’ dog and it’s telling you to kill them all.

Anyway, here’s the song. It’s in that Strokes-y, summer songs vibe, I think, a bit like “Fit For a King.” The vocals are extremely dodgy, but they get the idea across for now.

Das Piumas – Young Legs (Demo)

I’m really enjoying writing these, and I’m wondering about a possible shift in direction – if this continues, I might switch up my whole project, and let this music (whatever it is) take over the Paris Hotel Wars slot. This is a big decision, of course, and there’s no guarantee I’ll continue in this vein, but I have these dreams of getting a new band together to play this music.

As I think I’ve mentioned, a lot of my music tends towards the miserable and desperate, and while that’s fine, I’m just as interested in getting drunk and dancing as I am in getting drunk and crying. I guess if I’m completely honest, I’m probably into doing all three at once, which just looks terrible.

But yeah, I’m harbouring dreams of getting a four-piece together and playing some fun summer shows in Toronto. I saw my friends’ Dave and Jono’s bands last week (Battle Plan and Atlas, respectively) and they were both ridiculously awesome. It reminded me how great it is to be onstage and rocking out.

We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m going to keep hitting my guitar as often as possible and trying to make good things come out of it. I’ll update you with the results as they arrive.

Now that I’ve written an upbeat Libertines/Strokes-esque tune, I’m developing unfortunate dreams of starting a band and writing some more songs like that. Which doesn’t fit into either my overbearing plans or my overstuffed schedule. At all.

I’m sure it’ll pass. It’s just something about the (almost) comfortable temperatures and the exceptional sunshine. It makes me want to get drunk and dance and help others do the same. It inspires a spirit of generosity and not giving a fuck.

Plus, The Strokes have a new record out. It’s leaked already, naturally, and I’m listening to it right now. It’s good – not up to their first record, but then it’s a little unfair to compare all the work they’ve done since then to that zeitgeist-defining album. I feel kind of bad for bands, like Bloc Party, Maximo Park, and The Strokes, who made an unassailable classic right out of the gate. What do you do? Either you try and repeat the success, and get accused of being a one-trick pony, or you try and expand, and get accused of betraying your loyal fans.

And those loyal fans? They’re ASSHOLES. I know. I am one. I’m still mad at Bloc Party for putting down their guitars and picking up sequencers. Is that fair? No. They’re following their musical interests. It’s what I’d do. But I’m still obsessed with what they started out as, and for some reason I feel I have a right to force them to keep being that. I don’t.

In fact, the subject of this post is my own inability to pick a singular focus and stick to it. At this moment, all I want is to make a record that combines the best bits of early Kings of Leon, Strokes and Phoenix, play it in clubs, and hopefully cause a whole generation to make babies with each other in the bathrooms. Yeah. Might not happen.

Next week I’ll probably be back to obsessing over Kanye’s production style, Shad’s rapping, and Black Star’s non-cheesy consciousness. Well, I guess the Internet age is designed for those with ADD. As long as it’s still fun, I’m just going to indulge these whims of mine and trust that I’ll somehow meet my original goal. I will. It’ll just happen in a mad rush in mid-December. Oh god.