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Traveling along a long and lonely road with the guys, I can barely see for the sea and the sand in my eyes. Tears and dreams can indeed both blind a person to the life right before them, prisming vision kaleidoscopically into myriad other possibilities for what you could have become. Middle manager? Letter carrier? Scientist? Illustrator? Homeless? Crazy? How sane can it be to keep making noise in a world inundated with it? What are we doing here, man?
Something was not right with The Lights Out two years ago. We were as tight as ever, made the slickest, tightest, punchiest record imaginable and elevated our live show to tour-level execution for South By Southwest. We were ripe and rotting. I could feel it in my own conviction onstage, wondering how to believe hard enough to put it over. I could feel it in my conviction to put pen to paper. Were we excited enough to still endure walking four hundred pounds of gear down a flight of stairs at six at night, into Tim the van, onto the stage at some club, back into the van, and back up the stairs at three thirty in the morning? Were we getting anything across to anyone at all? And so forth. Every band has its time. Maybe ours had come to an end.
Except, we never really got to that point. Somewhere in the preparation for the band’s annual vacation to Burning Man, the true depth of Jesse’s tinkering compulsion began to reveal itself in the crazy light-up EL wire madness of our Border Patrol costumes, which even in that sea of lights, made everyone who saw us stop and say something nice. The visual edge is a lot, lot farther out there than black jeans and t-shirts, or even sequins and rhinestones. A more bedazzled and illuminated band began to take shape in my mind. Why not let the creative genius at this stuff just run wild? Jesse is the kind of guy who is easily bored, maybe this will hold his attention for awhile. Well, Jesse decided to take it on, to all of our eternal gratitude. But why look this way from now on? What’s the motivation?
Running in parallel to preparing for this trip, it began to blossom in my mind that we all exist, not just in a universe, but in a multiverse. I’d heard Brian Greene on NPR some months back on this subject and it caught my attention for being the second time I’d ever heard that word, the first being from Michael Moorcock’s “The Dragon in the Sword.” Unlike Moorcock’s fantasy flight, Greene argues there is mounting evidence that we really live in a multiverse, where every choice is taken, as originally posed in Dr. Hugh Everett’s Many-worlds interpretation. You are reading this now, but there is a you that stopped reading one second ago, and another one minute ago, and another who never started because you realized you were running late for that thing. Better hurry!
What this means is that any possible kaleidoscopic facet of an alternate reality you can concoct in your dreams (or nightmares) is literally true somewhere in the infinity of the multiverse, as long as it obeys the laws of physics. You’re never a god, but somewhere, a quantum offshoot you literally rules the earth as a pharaoh. Suddenly there was again an endless bounty of things to write about. Everything possible is true!
It’s dark in the space that separates this reality from the rest. You need a light to find your way through.
A new focus led to rediscovered joy in making music together, and we went back into the salt mines with willing hearts: two years of writing, rehearsing and tightening a new body of material, with Jesse building a void-shattering light element on top. A visual illustration of every moment of every song. If you’re going underground, really go. So we laid low, and waited. We still got after each other sometimes, but mostly we lined up. Finally, we began playing out a couple months ago, starting with a few warm-up, kick-the-tires shows in our beloved sister city of Worcester. The new, visually- and conceptually-enhanced The Lights Out is working as planned, and we’re finally ready to share it with the world at large, and Boston in particular. On May 22, we are pleased to take the stage at TT the Bear’s Place in Central Square. We are even more pleased to share this special bill with new friends City Rivals, good friends The Luxury and our especially simpatico friends Planetoid.
The Lights Out came unmoored from linear causality somewhere in the spring of 2012, when we were imbued with the power to travel among parallel realities in the multiverse, and the responsibility to report back and rock out. When we don the goggles and the gear, we are your dimensional pilots into alternate possibilities of reality, any of which could be true here as well. When we take the stage, we are in the space between possibilities with you, and who can say what will happen? Whatever it is, it will certainly rock.
A few months ago, I wandered into the jam room a little late and found myself in the middle of a conversation between Adam, Jesse and Matt. Jesse was amused and delighted. Delighted because his little sister, Roxana, was marrying the guy of her dreams! Amused because Mr. Right-for-Roxana Salucci’s name in real life is Vincent Staria. Just two crazy kids from Long Island starting their life together, ain’t it sweet?
I don’t think any of us remembers quite how it began, which is the way it can happen when things coalesce in that special way that is the beginning of a creative burst, but Jesse thinks I said it, whereas I think he first said it and I just ran with it. It doesn’t really matter. SOMEBODY said, “Seriously? Vinny and Roxy? That sounds like the name of a song!” And you know, it really did. To all of us, it immediately sounded like a retro-Springsteen Jersey Shore tale of two young, about-to-become-special-to-each-other people, told as though they were a couple of gearhead muscle car freaks and sung in the spirit of Phil Lynott arisen from the dead in all his “andiftheboyzwannafightchubetterLETUM!” glory. Once it became clear that there are exactly two awesome rhymes for Roxy (“foxy” and “moxie.” There might be one more somewhere, but not without contorting yourself to make it fit in a sentence, like, “epoxy.” Not so much that last one.) I realized that two verses were essentially done, and this one was going to basically write itself. It did.
That’s when we started thinking it would be fun to record it and give them a little surprise wedding present. So up to Silver Top studios in Georgetown to record with Jason Meeker (drummer for OldJack, and also kickass producer of other people’s stuff). The drums were all set up and ready to go, we were ready to go, and eight hours later we’d laid down all the tracks we needed, and it was over except for listening to mixes over the next few days.
This whole thing has been a great example of how having a laugh and not worrying too hard can really help a thing along. It’s possible to get bogged down in your magnum opus; it’s almost impossible NOT to get bogged down if that opus is more than seven or eight songs long. Trust me, it happens. But when it’s only one song, and you’re primarily doing it for someone else’s happiness, and it’s got to be quick because the wedding is approaching, it can add up to a whole lot of, ‘let’s just get it together fast and have a great time making this,’ which cut away a lot of care and let us all relax. Which made for a superior result. Meeker was all, ‘that is one of the more fun days I’ve spent in the studio’ precisely because of the efficiency of it all, and I agree.
We could say it was a present for Vinny and Roxy, but it just as easily could be said that they gave us the present of inspiration, and now we have something to show for it. So thanks, Roxy, for picking a dude with an awesome name. And of course, good luck you crazy kids!
That’s right, I said gazebo. As in octagonal, open-air and usually reserved for oompa-pa brass quintets with handlebar mustaches while kids frolic on the lawn on a dusky summer night, their faces sticky with blue popsicle juice. When we heard we were going to be rocking in one, a first for all of us, Jesse‘s first words were something to that effect. But make no mistake, that thing was bleeding sap and trace amounts of arsenic (they build ’em with pressure treated lumber, you know) by the time we finished having our way with it.
Our latest foray out of town was to get up to New Hampshire for the 9th annual Keene Music Festival, and it was as picturesque a drive to a show as I’ve ever been on, traveling two hours through quaint New England farmland to get there. Did you know that butter and sugar corn is still in season, for example? Well, we didn’t either. But we didn’t have time to stop at any of a dozen roadside farmstands, and they were going to feed us when we got there anyway. Kudos to Kevin and the rest of the small but dedicated festival staff for a nice perk, along with the BEER. You know we feel about this golden libatious ambrosia how any self respecting indie band does: it’s like cigarettes in jail, or in other words, a very valuable alternate currency in our weird little Shakes the Clown style bizarro world. On learning that Magic Hat was onboard to float the festival (and us) on a wave of Burlington-brewed goodness, those last few miles were extra-thirsty. So we roll into town, pass two or three other stages set up along the way with music going on, and find the aforementioned gazebo (I just love saying that word) in the middle of a rotary in Central Square, and check in. Then we met up with Zach from Keene State, who came to interview us for the Keene Equinox, and who also turned out to be a good dude with his own band in the area. So we’re talking the same language, and he and his buddy wound up hanging out with us for the better part of an hour, just talking shop.
And of course, the show itself. Well, we’re getting better at putting on a show all the time, and this was another great opportunity to see how that translates to a bunch of people who have no idea whatsoever who we are prior to seeing us hit the stage at nine. But like Adam said, we rocked that gazebo like it was the Orpheum in Boston! The sun was still setting about half way through the set, and so we could see the most beautiful sight of all: a stream of people coming across the street to find out just what in tarnation was happening over there. It was a real “if you build it they will come” moment; very encouraging. We were gratified to see everyone paying real attention throughout our hour long set, and even more so to talk to a lot of excellent music fans after we finished. And yes, there were even a couple of cute little kids running around on the lawn while we played, to complete the Rockwellian scene.
Back at festival headquarters, they plied us with all the extra beer we could handle. By the way, how could that be? A music festival with beer LEFT OVER?! Well, we did our part. It was good to hang out with Kevin a bit more, and to hear some war stories from some of the other staff about their band days. Kevin asked us on the way out if there was anything we would recommend to improve the experience, and would we like to come back next year. Respectively the answers to those questions are no and yes! A great time, put on by people who really care about making a great time happen, in a smoking little town out in the country. Sounds worthy of a repeat performance to me. Thanks guys!
..and everyone was invited. That’s about the size of the racket we all generated last weekend at the first (and hopefully not the last) Provincetown Rocks festival at the very fingertip of Cape Cod. By now, anyone in the know about Boston rock has heard that there were potential problems, cancellations, scheduling issues, nobody got paid, etc. So let me just state for the record that we were slated to appear at 10:30pm on Thursday at Good Times, and at 8 on Friday night at Vixen. Well, amazingly enough, we went on at 10:30 on Thursday and at 8 on Friday, to pretty good crowds each night (and I mean it was more than just other bands there to see us). So frankly, I have no complaints about this thing, and I salute Martin Doyle for sticking his ass on the burner and leaving it there until it was good and blistered. This was a worthy endeavor that a lesser man would have been unable to pull off. Thanks Martin! Great work man.
Following a nice writeup in the Boston Globe, we all rolled down on Thursday afternoon in two cars (one for the band and one for the ladies), found the traffic over the Bourne Bridge to be mercifully light, and were at our cozy little bayside motel by five or so. We unpacked, cracked a beer to prime the pump, and then it was time for Ptown proper. I don’t know what you’ve heard about this place, but I think it’s all true. Yes, the love that formerly dared not speak its name is out and about, and proud about it. There is actually a fast food joint called Burger Queen, and there’s a jewelry shop called Spank the Monkey. I also saw a lot of families with their kids walking the strip, some old salts, some townies, and of course a bunch of Boston musicians all looking for another place to party. The overall vibe of the town in general, and the strip in particular, is that of a big, neverending street festival. The streets are Europeanishly narrow, and mostly devoid of sidewalks. The cars don’t get going much faster than five miles an hour through town because there’s some topless body-painted dude passing out flyers for henna tattoos, a cop directing traffic while spinning around in the street (that guy’s been at it for at least fifteen years now, I’ve seen him before), bicyclists riding against traffic, people wandering. Typical beach town stuff like homemade ice cream, overpriced doodads involving shells, a lot of mediocre art (and some really good stuff too) in any of twenty-odd galleries, salt water taffy. There is only one beach town in all the land, you know. It’s always the same, but it’s always awesome.
And of course, like any good musicians, we brought the party with us. Adam and Whitney somehow managed to find a house, as did Boston super scenestress Abby, so it was all night every night. We made it out of Thursday’s hijinx around 4:30am, which was about ten minutes before the cops showed up. Just like playing the stock market exactly right, we sold high! And we managed to get about twice as many people into the “hot” tub as really had any business fitting in. It was more of a “luke warm” tub, but still a worthy effort. As for the next night, it turns out Abby and Ryan found a place that was built circa 1773(!) and is still in excellent condition. There’s nothing like an ancient dwelling with tiny rooms and doorways to make you feel tall, and dizzy, because there is not a right angle left in that place. Or maybe that was the beer.
In our three days, we saw solid performances from our friends The Luxury, Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, Aloud and The Shills, and caught up with intrepid sonic chroniclers Playground Boston. We summed up our time out there in an interview with The Boston Herald. It was an odd experiment, but a great time and a worthy effort by Martin. Too much beer, not enough sleep, just enough rocking. Let’s do it again next year!
Oh man, my head! I shouldn’t even be using exclamation points. Too loud.
Well, we popped our NYC cherry on Saturday, perhaps having just a little too much fun in the process. Of course I’m joking; there’s no such thing as too much fun when you want to rock for a living. But after a banner year of 38 shows all in the Boston area, we thought it time to start sending scout ships out in ’09. So we managed to snag a Saturday night slot courtesy of Matt’s stellar salesmanship (and presumably also on the quality of our music. I mean it’s not like he’s selling wood stoves in the desert or anything), crawled into Tim the van around 1 in the afternoon and rode down to the sweet strains of Jesse’s comedy iPod and the smell of Jack Links’ beef jerky, which is pretty much the same going in as it is coming back out, if you know what I mean.
We arrived in town on the heels of an enthusiastic fan response to our write-up on the excellent NYC rock blog, “Big Apple Music Scene.” After some minor finding-the-hotel boilerplate, we were on our way to pizza and then to the show. So between us, Just Bill the photographer extraordinaire and Jen and Deanna along for the ride, we’re all seven of us squished into a booth at Marabella’s in Sunnyside, Queens, letting the grease from the slices drip onto our paper plates when we hear a piping little voice behind us break out in song: “I am Iron Man. NA na NA na NA na na NA NA NA!” We all look at one another in minor disbelief, like, “did…was that Black Sabbath we just heard?” It was! Little three year old Isaiah has one very cool mom to be playing the Sabbath for her little dude, and he was doin it justice, let me tell ya. So we turned around and started talking to him and his mom Cheryl, who was as proud as could be, and she says, “you guys must be in a band right?” Which is exactly the equivalent of your hookup asking you if you’ve ever been in porn once you’ve done the job on her, as far as I’m concerned. And by that I mean totally the right thing to say. Anyway, Isaiah sang a couple more of his own impromptu compositions and we were out, but not before promising to dedicate a song to him at our show that night, which we did!
The Trash Bar used to be an upscale dance club, but you wouldn’t know it was ever anything but a well kept and very stylish dive. Old backseats of vans line the walls, there’s a dead spot in the beat up floorboards that I wasn’t too comfortable standing on, and it’s a bar with a jukebox up front and a live venue in the back, through a curtain and down a short hallway and through another curtain. Christmas lights and more van seats, a long low room and a low stage, a soundguy named owen who looked a bit like a droogie name Alex, what with his porkpie hat and blonded luscious glory. he turned out to be not psychotic though, just very good at mixing the room. We were up first, and thanks largely to Adam and Jesse, we had a really strong turnout of Jersey girls, relatives, ex-bandmates and their wives, and my buddy Alan from the band Ten Minute Turns (thanks Alan!). The show itself was strong. I thought we actually did better than we did the night before in Boston, which was a strong show as well. There’s just something about being out of town to make you feel that next level, you know? Then it was time to relax and bask in the glory. Thanks to Aaron, the bar owner, for the shots of Jameson’s! Good dude, that guy.
So the next day, we discovered that Brooklyn is as hipster as you’ll ever see anywhere, and it just goes on for miles. It happened to be a great day out, so there was some dude cruising around singing Sinatra at the TOP of his lungs, and all manner of nattily dressed, creatively bearded, horn-rimmed glassed, polka dot dress wearing, hair combed forward, courderoy panted and velour sport-jacketed…well, you get the idea. These were our people! We had fun poking around for a bit — stopped inside Sound Fix, recommended to us by NYC music guru, Jenn Pelly — and after some baked eggs at Fabiane’s, it was off to Hartford to drop the drummer off at a conference for his day gig, and then home. But at the last toll, as we pulled up, the dude was singing Sweet Home Alabama, again at the top of his lungs. As I payed the toll, it was, “well I hope Neil Young will reMEMber/ a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow!” So I sang the line with him, and we were back to the space fifteen minutes later. It must have been the gravitational pull of our heavy, heavy load, but between three year old Isaiah and the tolltaker we got bookended pretty good. Let me say that we’ll be reading about that Isaiah someday. Just not before he reads about us!
and found it very good indeed. What a show. WHAT A SHOW!! We got on stage, looked out at a sea of young fresh faces jammed from the front to the back of Great Scott. Before we even finished the first song, the dancing(!) was in full swing. Getting high-fived between songs. Screaming applause. Devil’s horns being flashed at us all set long (DJ Mike, who organized, informed me afterwards that there have never been devil’s horns flashed at a Pill show before. We’ll take that as a compliment). Seriously, we were on stage, I looked out at the mayhem, and I turned to Matt and said, “now THIS is what a rock show is supposed to be!” In honor of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, we all got shitty. My crazy stage dad, who came all the way from Oregon to see it, took it one step further by getting cut off at the bar, thus reinstating a one night personal prohibition for himself. We’re so rock and roll that our DADs can outdrink you! OK, actually our dads can outdrink US, but that’s really saying something, you know what I mean? Thanks so much to DJ Mike for letting us come do our thing, and for giving us one of the signature shows of our still brief careers. It was an absolutely smashing time, and a great success by any standard you care to measure. See you all in ’09!