Currency was one of the first songs David and I wrote together and at a time when we were living and working in separate countries. I was acting in a few productions up in Canada ('The Vow', with SpyGlass Pictures, and Steven Spielberg's, 'Falling Skies) while David continued his day job teaching guitar and piano back home in LA. Recognizing we had formed an unlikely union we were still dedicated to our collaboration. It actually became clearer with geographical distance that David and I were committed to writing music together, and that our partnership could take the music we had written independently to the next level. Our artistic strengths and weaknesses complimented each other, but there was also an odd sense of purpose, even family, as soon as we started playing.
We were sharing bits and pieces of musical ideas over email when I sent, 'Currency', the original poem. Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect, and was anxious when I didn't hear back from him right away. But he reached out the next day suggesting we do a Skype session where I learned he felt equally as humble sharing the music and song structure my poem had inspired in him. I loved it. We were so turned on by the ease of our creative relationship, we decided he should fly up to work with me in person. Together we discovered the vocal melody and harmonies for 'Currency', began work on 'Magdelin', a love song David brought to the band, and also produced our first two music videos for songs off of our ep record, 'Carnival Tracks'. The videos for 'Brand New Truth' and 'My Reflection' were two miraculous guerilla shoots in just two days with no budget thanks to our good friend and great director, Randy Ross, who just happened to be in Toronto at the time. Those shoots are a story for another article, but I'm mentioning the videos, which have become quite popular on youtube, only to say that the stars were aligned for SanguinDrake at the time 'Currency' was written, and our time in Toronto turned out to be instrumental in building our foundation as a band.
When one of us is solely responsible for lyrics, as was the case in 'Currency', the first thing we have to do as a band is analyze the poetry to discover what it wants to say through and start feeling it's expression musically. When I write, I tend to let it be a stream of consciousness at first as opposed to launching into a theme or any kind of structure. Recognizing 'going with the flow' isn't a sure fire technique to create a valuable piece of work, 'Currency' happens to be a success story for this somewhat effortless process, but with this style, even I, as the writer, have to study what the words are actually saying. Ultimately, I do like to practice creative deliberation, vision, intention … but it has to be said, 'Currency', the poem, came through pen to paper, over coffee one morning in it's almost exact final form.
To pin point the specific moment of lyrical inspiration simplifies the story even further. It's conceptual context is certainly not romantic or dramatic. It's just that when I went to pay for my coffee that morning I realized I had forgotten my wallet. It was a cafe I had been to several times before and developed a familiar rapport with the barrister. He said it was no problem and didn't charge me. I was lit up by his generosity, then noticed I felt indebted to him. The exchange triggered a realization in me that generosity of spirit is empowering, more empowering than anything material. Having been a part of several communities of artists I was already accustomed to the practicalities and possibilities of human beings surviving off of trade. It continues to frustrate me that money has become the only respected currency in most of the the world outside these somewhat enlightened communities. People, for the most part, have forgotten the power of kindness, gesture, endowment, encouragement, inspiration, and skill trades. There are several ways beyond money we fulfill and nurture each other's needs and desires that we habitually allow to money trump, and often to our detriment. So while I was enjoying my debatably 'free' coffee, I opened my journal and began to write: 'Nothing in life is free …'
There is a driving, even haunting, tone to the song, especially in the bridge, as it paints the inevitabilities that come with our human nature: manipulation, interdependence, greed … we are all vulnerable to temptation, we all have needs ... but the blessing that comes with our condition is that we each have something to give, the catch is recognizing and contributing. The bridge describes an equally available choice, complete isolation and blissful dissociation, but in that place comes a powerful connection to death and perhaps an epiphany that life is about the give and take of it all no matter how painful or risky the trade offs may seem. It is up to the individual to discover their value and also limitations so that one can live life without a sense of entitlement, or the egoic flip side, a fear of being inconsequential.
This is why it made sense to me to build a music video for 'Currency' set in the Warhol Factory. Andy Warhol seemed to thrive on his understanding of how to manipulate by feeding into shallow temptations and weaknesses in exchange for devotion to him, which ultimately became tragic exploitation. To me, this is not unlike the financial superpowers and systems we are subject to today. The song illuminates our individual propensity for power corruption, as well as the sweetness our human condition allows us to experience when consciously honored.
It does not go unnoticed to David and I that the song can also be interpreted as a metaphor for SanguinDrake. As in all great poetry, however, it's meaning to the listener is what matters most, our relationship to the song will surely grow and change as we evolve, but it's a great first single to enter the world with as a band.
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