Since college, I have maintained a shoe box filled with scraps of paper, clippings, polaroids, found objects, cartoons, but mostly hastily scrawled lyrics all assembled during phases of living in St. Cloud, MN; Merida, Mexico; Hamburg, Germany; and Switzerland. After having settled in California, I began to mine the box for songs to complete and discovered that the easy part is the hook, the gotcha line – and the hard part is crafting a song that sticks together and keeps the audience interested and if possible off guard.
Access Royale were headlining a festival in Warrenton, VA and the crew hadn't supplied a proper mat for the drums to stay in place. Mid way through a song, the bass drums started to slide away from Robzie (drummer). So the bass player thought to place his foot on one side of the drum head to prevent it from sliding any farther but it started to slide sideways instead. Robzie's foot was fully stretched at this point, still trying to maintain a bass drum rhythym.
When we started writing "23", we had been talking a lot about fugue states--psychological phenomenon wherein people inexplicably wander off from their lives and find themselves somewhere else later, with no recollection of the time in-between. (I think it started, actually, from talking about the use of fugue in music, where various melody lines work together to create a single, complex melody).
Fans of MOTU recognize that many of MOTU’s songs have a political or social message. An example of this is “A Better Day” from the “MOTU – Time Runs Faster” CD. Seeing the hardships that have come out of the housing collapse, and subsequent job losses that resulted from this recession, reminded me that we live now in a much harder time then the world I remember in my youth. The erosion of the middle class in America is a sad truth. However, America has seen tough times before and I do believe that better times are ahead. So this hope for tomorrow was the inspiration for this song:
The song All the Things is based on two friends that grew up with me around Philadelphia. "All the Things" .... "we do for love" refers to their relationship. For the sake of all we'll call them Jack and Faye.
Jack, fitfully brilliant, possessed a charisma people tripped over themselves following. The very intensity that people swooned over was simultaneously what isolated him. Everyone loved Jack, wanted to be him, around him, but he had a mysterious fire within that fueled him. No one better understood how it burned him up than Faye.Faye was one of those rare souls brought into this world with an extraordinary amount of kindness and compassion for others, almost to fault. Despite the various hardships she endured, Faye's gentleness never calloused. Thinking back to our childhood, Faye only had eyes for Jack; their relationship grew so strong I began to imagine Jack whispering secret words to her one childhood afternoon that bound them together forever
The most amazing place I've ever been...... I'm from a small town, things are slow here and if you don't pay attention, this place will take time away from you. It's all so the same that weeks can go by without ever noticing it and no one really notices you, which I guess can be a good thing at times. All of these people who have accidentally acquired responsibilities and worries and addictions in the form of bills, kids, spouses (whether you like them or not), the bar, drugs, gossip etc. All of them with limited knowledge of the outside world and all so opinionated and uninterested in learning cause.......they all already know.
So for me it's become a bit of an addiction, the most amazing place. A place where every second is valued by everyone there. Everyone in your presence, taking in the spectacle that is your art. It can be 5 seconds away but things are so different once you get there. It's your place.
Black Dimes by James Gilmore
There are many things I'd like to see before I die. As a generation, we've been a part of incredible change, a two steps forward one step back progression that frustrates and inspires all at once. I was born in the opening credits of the 1990's, January 4th. By the time I could crawl, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait which led to the Persian Gulf War. I was barely forming sentences when it and the Cold War had ended, and Los Angeles was ablaze with riots. When I was a toddler Bill Clinton was sworn in as the President of the United States.
Talitha Cumi - The Inspirational
A certain miracle from Mark chapter 5 became the inspirational focus for what is now our favorite song. A synagogue ruler by the name of Jairus came and begged Jesus to heal his little girl, or else she would die. This early in His ministry, Jesus was doing miracles day in and day out, and He didn't refuse the request of Jairus. As it happened during the travel, Jesus was interrupted by another person in need of Him, and maybe that appeared to be enough of a delay to prevent Jesus from arriving at the house of Jairus. When He arrived, the people were already in the makings of grievances because the little girl had died.
They always say write what you know. So I did with my song “Never Look Back” from my debut album “Dancing With Shadows”. Over the past 15 years, I've been working very hard to make it in the music industry like so many other musicians. It's tough to navigate and easy to be destructive if not kept in check. One day I was working in the studio and starting writing a new song. I hadn’t even titled it yet but it seemed to have a very powerful bass line and groove the more I worked on it, and it practically wrote itself. Like so many other singer/songwriters we put all our emotions, feelings, life circumstances into our work and I was going through a particularly difficult time-- but was determined to push forward.
The inspiration behind Go For It started when my agent approached me and said he wanted to book me gigs in LA. I was extremely excited about the opportunity to perform in that market. When I begin doing shows in LA I noticed that there was a whole lot of competition. It didn't make me feel intimidated nor did it make me doubt my ability to perform on the big stage. But it did motivate me to examine myself to see what else could I do to become a better artist and rise above my competitors.
Our fourth album, Window Dressing, is a concept album about how things aren't always as they appear. The song cycle travels from the simplicity of youth to the complexities of relationships and modern society. During the songwriting process I was reading "Owl at Home" by Arnold Lobel to my 6-year old daughter. The book has five separate stories but she would always ask me to read "Tear-Water Tea" over & over.
I wrote the song Thin Air last summer (in 2011) while my boyfriend was away on an extended trip. We were spending a lot of time together and so I missed him quite a bit when he was away on his trip. It was still the beginning of the relationship at this point, so some of the inevitable anxieties began to surface when he was gone and I was stuck in New York feeling all Bananarama "Cruel Summer." (I literally had that song in my head for weeks.) There is a lot of vulnerability at the start of (almost) any new relationship - whether it's a romantic relationship, starting a new job, buying a home, moving, etc.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 4, 2011, a group of us were gathered to celebrate and play music in a friend's backyard here in Marfa, Texas. One of my friends played a song called No Soy De Aqui, by Facundo Cabral, and it moved me so much I asked her to play it again. When I got home I looked up his song and music on the internet and found he was a beloved folk singer from Argentina and an icon in all of Latin America, much like Bob Dylan. He was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1996, the same award given to Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.
I was immediately inspired and I began hearing the music to a song and picked out the melody and chords within two days, but the words would not form within me. That following Thursday Facundo Cabral was mistakenly and brutally murdered in a drive by shooting in Guatemala on his way to the airport. I felt like I had lost a newly found friend.
That night I struggled with the words and music. I sat outside beneath a black, star-filled sky at about 3:00 a.m. The words began to form within me. I said aloud to the night, "this song will be called For Facundo Cabral, and the first words are the dance goes on, the song goes on". Immediately after I spoke the words a shooting star sailed across the sky above me, from north to south almost to the horizon, leaving a green trail of light. The next instant, another shooting star split the night from over my right shoulder, traveling east to west leaving a golden trail and almost seemed to skip out of the atmosphere. I laughed aloud. I felt like Facundo Cabral was telling me, thanks, see ya.
The words formed easily after that and the song was finished the next day. It is a tribute to him and his vision of a beautiful world that sings to us, if we only take the time to hear it.
Ever book a show at a place you never heard of just because you're excited you finally got a gig? And then once you get there, you see a teenager unloading an instrument out of a car with a dad in the driver's seat saying, "good luck at your first show, son!" Well, that didn't quite happen to me, but it came pretty close.
To begin with, let's be honest. What am I?
I am an avant-garde, weird, silly song girl
I don't write songs you're going to hear on the radio
I don't write songs that make sense to sing at a bar (unless it's an oxygen bar)
I write songs about fruit and pasta and enjoy covering Syd Barrett songs
Essentially, I write the kind of music that makes you want to laugh
So I had played live only a handful of times before one of my first shows in Seattle several years ago. I was pretty nervous because I was sure I had been booked with the wrong crowd -- hardcore punk and rock bands with 4-5 members. Then here I am -- the 3-piece piano songstress group with a guitarist, a MacBook, and a badass drum machine guy.
That's right -- drum machine, baby. No live drums here because that's how I rolled back then!
I am the first band to arrive to the venue, promptly 3 hours before my starting time. I inquire about being given the opportunity to sound check. I'm given the glance over and then asked where my drummer is. "I don't have one," I say, "I have a drum machine." The guy nods and says to hold on a bit. Then the other bands arrive. Immediately, the headlining band is starting their sound check and this goes on for 45 minutes. Then the opening band gets to sound check for 30 minutes. And whaddya know -- it's time for the show to start!
The opening band was loud and awesome yet I'm positive all 4 guitarists were plugged into chorus pedals to sound like 8 guitars instead. By the time I had to start, I was already "late" by 15 minutes because the opening band played extra but of course, I was told that I still only had until 10pm. This gave me 30 minutes total -- including setup and breaking down around everyone else's equipment. Gotta make it good...right?
Admittedly nervous and frustrated, I start the set with "Out of Me." Anyone who had moved closer to the stage to check me out had already disappeared back to the bar. This song is not popular live. We move onto "This Breath Breathed."Ho-hum, ho-hum. Then I sing "Until I Drown" and I guess the explicit lyrics caught people's attention. The crowd takes notice that someone is on-stage and isn't singing punk. I shouldn't be surprised that a song about drowning in *** is going to cause people to listen. In what felt like the longest 15 minutes ever, I forget what I opened up the set with. We proceed to end with "Out of Me."
Halfway through the song, I realize I am singing the same song twice. The same song that drove people to drink. At this point, my mind came up with the following solutions:
Which one did I go with? NATURALLY I WENT WITH OPTION 3. Did I learn anything from stopping mid-song in a panic and running off stage just because I sang the same song twice? Yes. I learned that:
I had very patient and accommodating band members back then.
I am going to start playing my music live again to help promote "Honeymoon On Neptune." In the meantime, I am happy filling the role of bassist and/or keyboardist in other bands and not being in charge of scheduling band practices...and booking shows.
Our worst and best gig experience:
We were on a tour in Asia last April (2012), and we rented a van to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to play at the Blue Jazz Café. We were all tired and crazy hungry after a week of gigging every night when we finally got to the border and were finally asked for our documents. We were all given permission to enter Singapore after our luggage was meticulously searched and we had to throw out OUR CHEWING GUM!!! Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore, who knew?! Only Avishai, our drummer was kept for about one hour at the border. The border patrol was telling us to play the show without our drummer, and not risk having him cross the border, and then not be able to return to KL. To say the least, we had a stressful time in the car arguing about what we should do. We just knew we weren't going to leave anybody behind. We decided to wait and hope for a miracle to happen that would enable all of us to make it to the gig on time.
Two hours later, the border patrol changed shifts and we sent our drummer out once again to try and get a temporary visa. Luckily, this time there was a lady interviewing Avi, and he managed to charm his way through and get his temporary visa in less than 10 minutes!!!! We continued driving to the Blue Jazz Café to find the city of Singapore to be a labyrinth of streets filled with expensive tolls! It was a huge challenge trying to avoid spending all of our money on these tolls and still somehow get to the club on time after all of our delays. We just made it to the gig last minute and we ended up playing for a huge crowd and making new fans that eventually came to see our gigs in New York last fall. The trip was a mess and it was the most stressful we ever had while touring. In the end, the show we played made it all worth it. By the time we started playing, all of our worries and stress were transformed into energy and excitement, and we played the best gig of our tour in Singapore.
One of the most memorable trips in my life was backpacking in Mexico, taking a semester off from college. And though there's a myriad of experiences that rank high, including playing music on the street during carnival in Mazatlan, learning the subway system of Mexico City getting around one of the biggest cities in the world for pennies, and standing atop the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan; the spring equinox at Chichen Itza was probably the most amazing. I had been in San Cristobal, Chiapas for some of the peace talks between the Mexican government and Zapatista rebels. Then caught a ride with some Canadians in a VW bus up to Chichen Itza. I sat in the back with a guy from London who also hitched a ride, he proceeded to roll up huge spliffs all through the night on the way there.
Arriving the next morning on the day before the equinox I found the place to be out of rooms. But it was fine because the few hotels there allow people to pitch a tent or lay out a sleeping bag in their grass lawn area. I had no idea that many people showed up there, it was easily 20,000. You have your run of the mill tourists whom the locals would call "human carbon copies". But then there's all the cool Mexicans from all over the country joined by an international croud of people from all over the world and all walks of life that makes it a unique event. I had the epiphany there that, rich or poor, from whatever part of the world people seek some kind of fun and meaning with their lives. And all the wars, death, and destruction comes from clinging to a bunch of baggage we've been taught to believe. Whether it's religion, government, or pursuit of money, it's all just human concepts passed down through the generations, but all illusory. The great equalizer is death, no matter how many houses you own and no matter how big your bank account is, it won't matter when you're dead.
So you sure as hell better use the short time you have in this world to put out something positive and find what really makes you happy, because when you're at the end and facing death wondering where your life went, you don't want to look back in regret realizing you just spent it all serving someone else's agenda and that you're nothing more than something you invest in.
Marfa Texas. The most amazing place we’ve ever toured. We found it by accident on our first-ever road trip from NYC to LA.
While crossing the deserts and open plains of west Texas into New Mexico, with a day in between our shows in Austin and Phoenix, we set out for the state border. We stopped at an old gas station and met up with another band randomly. They recommended that we swing an hour out of our way to Marfa, Texas, the city where No Country For Old Men was filmed, and home of a mysterious unexplained phenomena called “Marfa lights”. The little town of 1,000 people sounded just strange enough to try going to check it out.
We drove another 5 hours into the setting sun and landed in Marfa. It was dark, and there was nothing but a couple of rows of houses and a pizza place. iPhone internet had one bar of reception, barely workable. We decided to talk to the locals and ask around to see if there was a bar or any place we could try setting up and playing a gig. We found one place.
Planet Marfa, a fantastic little bar and restaurant with an old-school rural Hawaiian feel to it. We drove up and there was an employee waiting for us and ushering us into the driveway , where there was a giant Norwegian flag. That freaked out our singer, Ben (from Norway), a great deal. And we all knew it was an omen of some sort. Validation that we were meant to play here.
Turns out one of the owners is from Norway too. They treat us like long lost family from minute one. We played a whole set, and then we played blues with the owner. Even though only 20-25 people were there that night, it was astonishing that a band can still roll up into a town and play blues somewhere in the middle of west Texas, like a folkloric tradition of rambling musicians. Considering that our band members come from Norway, Finland, Malaysia, California, and Seattle, with thousands of performances collectively, and yet still we all agreed this was the most memorable of all. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but we plan to return there soon.
The Room is a song which deals with the inevitable loss we all have to face at some point in our lives. Growing up, we're taught how to deal with loss, how to move on, how to cope. There comes a point for everyone where no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we need to, the loss is too much to overcome, too hard to bear, too inconceivable to look past.
Written from the perspective of a man who has lost the love of his life, The Room depicts the desperation and heartache of a lifelong loss in a small chapter of denial. The man refuses to deal with what has happened, instead convincing himself that his loved one's hospital room is now his waiting room, his refuge, his church, and he won't leave until he can leave with her.
The Room is wrenching, brooding, and heartbreaking, but at the same time carries a message of unity for anyone who has lost something they can't accept.