Skype to Phone Interview with Curt Kirkwood
May 16, 2012
Transcribed by William Jergins
Matt- I turned on Palladia, and there was Bruce Springsteen on Story Tellers. It was funny because in our interviews you often reference Bruce Springsteen as someone you admire, and here he was. So here’s Bruce and he’s singing a song and he’s stopping literally word-to-word, line-by-line explaining the entire line to the audience. I can’t imagine you doing something like that.
Curt- No. I don’t think I’d be able to. I don’t think I have as direct an approach. And when it comes to that kind of stuff he is more of a story teller. I’m a cut and paste guy.
M- Anyway, last time we talked about Up on the Sun and now I’m skipping forward to Forbidden Places and Too High to Die. The reason for that is because, as a sociologist, I’m interested in structural things and it doesn’t seem, I mean artistically you guys had lots of changes in those years, but it doesn’t seem that structurally you did. As a band not much changed between Up on the Sun until you get to Forbidden Places did it? Like the way you did things?
C- Well, not really. We were just kind of, not unconsciously moving ahead, but definitely stuff was just going pretty quick. We were putting out a record a year, two records in one year there; touring more and more. And then with Forbidden Places, at least the way the record was made, was a huge difference from the way we had been doing it.
M- How did you end up on London as opposed to some other label that might have been interested.
C- I had gone around to just about every big label. I was talking to, I think it was Elektra, and they were sending some people around to look at us. They were a little interested. I mean literally, every big label, and we were managing ourselves, so doing some foot work there. And then Peter Koepke, who wound-up signing us to London, was interested. He was at Atlantic at the time, and he just got interested. He was the only guy that really ever got beyond sending people to gigs to check us out. And you could tell he was pretty interested. But he was getting ready to get started doing London U.S. and he was opening the London office over here. He made plans to wait until he did that and then we could be his first signing. So he had a personal interest in it. We were unsigned and lot of our other friends were getting signed, but we couldn’t really get any attention. We’d been trying to get signed since probably ’86. Whenever Cris and I went and had a meeting with Gary Gersh. I think he was at Geffen at the time and they had just put out like that “Sledgehammer” Peter Gabriel song, and signed Gene Loves Jezebel. He was a nice guy. He said he had all our records and all that stuff but he couldn’t figure out how he would market the band. I always get a kick out of it because he was saying how he went and saw Gene Loves Jezebel and they had these twin brothers fronting the band and they had style. And he said it was easy to see like, “Boom!” sign them. That was a no brainer. But he couldn’t figure out, as much as he liked us, how he would push the band. So that was that. So we’d been trying for a while. It wasn’t the main push. We were still working, but we saw that other people were getting signed and it just took a while.
M- There was some momentum building. This is all before Nirvana, at least before Nevermind. And as you said, a number of bands in your cohort start getting signed. Some bands like REM or Red Hot Chili Peppers or Violent Femmes, they go straight to the majors, but others like Sonic Youth or Hüsker Dü or Pixies did their time and then went to the majors. So there’s some kind of momentum building apparently.
C- We were always going up in terms of how many records we were selling and how popular we were, just a steady slow increase. We were never languishing during any of that time, but I could definitely see how it’s hard to meet the supply and demand on the indie label at that time. We weren’t seeing our records in stores as much as we’d like to and started to see the difference there. Hüsker Dü got signed to Warners. That was the first punk band, like, “Wow, that’s real punk rock!” They got signed. Chili Peppers were going along but they definitely had a style and a marketable thing that was easy to extract from the whole punk rock blur. And REM of course.
M- Replacements are in there.
C- Replacements seemed to be getting the pop band treatment. Jane’s Addiction was another one that was sort of late nineties, it was like, “Yeah cool! It’s comin’ from the heart of the LA scene.” A lot of it was kind of punk rock. I had done shows with Perry’s band, Psi Com. We could see how this was starting to be viewed as a viable, commercial thing to the suits at these labels, or the more money labels anyway.
M- Do you remember a month or a date when you actually signed a contract and were officially on London?
C- It’s about a year before Forbidden Places came out. It took a while to get it out, to make it and get it out.
M- So mid-1990 maybe?
C- Yeah. Monsters was ’89. Yeah. And Koepke actually wanted to get that one, once we had done it. He wanted SST to make a deal with him. He started the label up. He had been an A&R guy at Atlantic for, like, Pete Townshend and Robert Plant, on their solo stuff. That didn’t work, getting it away from SST, and getting it that way. So Forbidden Places is ’91, when it came out.
M- July of ’91 exactly.
C- Yeah. Okay. So that’s actually more like a couple of years after we tried to get the Monsters thing, because that would have been Summer of ’89 when that stuff was happening. We tried to make Forbidden Places on our own. The first thing was like, “Of course you guys have to produce it, because that’s what you’ve been doing.”
M- The label was trying to get you to do it on your own?
C- Yeah. We made some demos. We did a few different ones. We did “This Day” and a few other songs in Phoenix the way we had always done them. And they were like, “Nah, it’s not very good.”
And we’re like, “Okay.”
Then they started trying to get producers in there. We didn’t try out very many. I don’t know how Pete Anderson came up. It was maybe in the offices there or something. I think he heard that they were looking for a producer. We had played with Dwight Yoakam some years earlier and Pete was like, “Yeah. I’ll do it.” He was doing a lot of outside production from Dwight stuff at the time and was pretty respected. I thought that was a great idea, because I really liked Dwight and Pete.
M- So, let’s see, you recorded sometime around April of ’91, Forbidden Places comes out in July of ’91.
C- Ah man, they got it out that fast? That could be right. It took a while until we got started, and then once we did get started we just plunged in. We were definitely in L.A. for about a month recording it at Capitol and mixing it at Sound Castle. It was all done right there in Hollywood, Pete’s calls on all that stuff. I just let go and watched. I had no idea how you would spend that kind of a budget. To me it’s I’ll just go in and record it. This, you know, I had to let go and become more of a cog. It was pretty fun really. I was definitely in over my head in terms of how much I scrutinized stuff and compared that to the engineer there, and Pete’s assistant Dusty, Dusty Wakeman. Between those three guys it was amazing ears and stuff. It was like being an actor on a film set with a director. And we were at Capitol Studios which was somewhat intimidating to go through security. You’re in this amazing studio. Lots of cool people have been in there, right in the belly of the beast in Hollywood. We still had our little hiding place area. We’d just hang out and let the stuff go on around us. “Ok, time for guitars,” and so we’d come out of the hiding place and do some guitar stuff. Pete set up, like, twenty amplifiers, and had this amazing drum doctor guy come down and bring all kinds of different drums and what naught. It was pretty intense. It was a lot of fun for sure.
M- Were the songs all written and rehearsed before you got there?
C- Yeah, everything was nailed down totally. That was definitely not the kind of place you want to be sitting around too much. I might have done a little bit of tinkering with it but pretty much I think I had it all.
M- Do they still feel like your songs as he got through with them or do they feel like more of a collaboration?
C- Pete changed some arrangements. He’d go, “Why don’t you lose one of those verses, or one of those chorus rounds,” that kind of arrangement stuff that he was suggesting to make it more pop friendly, the structure, which was cool. He likes things to be quick and I could step back outside my stuff and see how that’s useful. I had been making records without anything like that. I never argued with Pete, though. I just didn’t know enough. I knew what he was trying to do so it’s just like, “Okay. Okay.” He could do that kind of editing. It was before Pro Tools but they weren’t afraid to cut pieces of tape out and do all this and that. It was educational.
M- What other things changed with signing to London? You must have had an advance of some kind, maybe a touring budget of some kind. Anything like that?
C- Not really. We never did that. We never took an advance like that. We always just P.O.ed them for the expenses and never got our hands on a big bunch of cash. They would give us tour support occasionally. But that came later. If we were on a big tour then they would give us enough to fill out the bus budget or something like that. But we never got any bundle of cash, and never did a publishing advance.
M- Was this your choice? Did you bring this from your punk rock ideology?
C- Yeah pretty much. They weren’t looking to hand it out either. It was just being careful. I’ve had friends who’ve got those incentive things, went out and spent some of the budget on cars or whatever. I think those were usually publishing budgets that people were spending, because you get the recording budget and you don’t want to spend that on anything. From my understanding, you got the producer there acting as the treasurer, watching the money. If it goes over the producer has to go into his own budget to finish it off. So he gets the recording budget, part of which goes to the producer, and the rest of it he’s supposed to plan that out. No, there was definitely no more money involved at that point. Not for our first release.
M- But the recording budget was a lot more than you were used to.
C- Oh yeah, for sure. We didn’t spend a huge amount on a record until No Joke!, but I think the budget it was probably like under a hundred for Forbidden Places. Like I said, we didn’t waste any time. We did it at Capitol, which was probably expensive, but I don’t think it probably cost more than fifty, something like that. I don’t know. I wasn’t keeping track of it at that point. I was looking at it like, “It’s not really my money. They’re paying to have this record made,” and I didn’t really care.
M- So the historical circumstances of Forbidden Places, of course, is that it came out just two months before Nevermind came out. I’ve seen interviews where you say that everyone was happy with Forbidden Places, but it didn’t sell very well did it?
C- No. It pretty much tanked, and just got ignored in the whole whirlwind of the Seattle thing. It wasn’t stylistically within the trend. We made something that was pretty unique to us. To me it was more of like an Up on the Sun kind of record, a listener’s record. Something you want to put headphones on to, and get into the details. And it was completely overshadowed by the trend, which wasn’t just us. It was like, you had all those hair metal bands, Guns ‘n’ Roses was huge, so there was the hard rock scene and then all of a sudden there was this new kind of hard rock which made dinosaurs out of just about everybody that was signed, that wasn’t wearing a punk rock sort of look and playing a little more aggressively. Suddenly this is the new thing, grunge or alternative. I don’t know that that record got really taken in that way. It was basically no more successful than anything we had ever done on the indie. There’s probably some resentment there from some of it because we were so indie, and then people are like, “Oh, there’s this nice pop record.” I don’t know, it just didn’t make any waves.
M- There were all these other bands, whether it’s Sonic Youth or Hüsker Dü or whoever, and then all of a sudden there’s Nirvana and there’s a new way of looking at the whole thing. You guys were not Nirvana, yet.
C- Well, we were never anybody. I don’t care how much money was involved at that point. Everybody else did. They were like, “You’re not Nirvana. Why can’t you sell out these. . .” We were on tour a couple of days behind Nirvana, sometimes just one day, same clubs, on that Forbidden Places tour, in the fall of that year. Club owners would straight up say stuff like that, “Oh Nirvana sold out. What’s wrong here?” It’s a little different really, if you look at it. We had been involved in this and that and we had done shows with a lot of different kinds of bands and a lot of different kinds of music. It’s just not that. Forbidden Places was probably our sixth record at the time, something like that. I’ve always focused on my own thing. I’ve never liked scenes. I can’t say, “Oh I like all the bands in that scene, or I get that scene.” It’s beyond me, just too self involved.
M- In what ways did the record label start talking to you differently after Nirvana and as you start thinking about Too High to Die and what songs you’re going to put on there?
C- Well the first record, Forbidden Places, not doing too good definitely put us on the back burner of the label. They were like, “Maybe we’ll put out an EP of some of your older stuff done acoustically.” Which was ironic. “We’ll put it out on our indie imprint there at London, and not spend any money.” They didn’t know what to do. We had just spent money on this and they didn’t want to go ahead and make a whole other record. So we went to Memphis, their studio that they had a deal with there, the Warehouse. It was an old cotton warehouse, and a cool place. The Bar-Kays were in there. It was fun listening to them. I always loved them. We started recording and we did “Lake of Fire” and we did “Plateau”. That would have been in the Spring of ’93 probably. We were, “Okay, that’s what that is. This is what they’re giving us.” I thought it was a pretty cool idea to do these acoustic things, and they wound up later that year getting recorded by Nirvana, and they didn’t have any idea we were doing acoustic versions of those things. So maybe there was something to the record label’s thing. But in the midst of the session we pulled out some punk rock songs, some old Phoenix punk rock just for fun. We were like, “Yeah ok, we made these acoustic things. Let’s blast that.” We did The Feederz “Fuck You” song. That was over the top, and that was another fluke. We played that for them, you know, we sent them the acoustic things, and we played that and they were like, “Holy shit! That’s awesome! Make a record.”
M- Make a record like that.
C- Yeah, they heard the loud punk rock and saw that Paul had made it sound really big and cool.
M- So Paul was in there for the acoustic stuff?
C- Yeah. I got him to get involved. He hadn’t really produced too much at the time. He had done the Bad Livers, Delusions of Banjer, which I really liked. I loved the Bad Livers, just amazing banjo playing. Danny Barnes is the guy’s name. He’s an amazing banjo player, guitar player. Paul had done that and I was like, “That sounds great. That would be awesome for this acoustic thing.” And Paul and I were friends, and they said, “Oh cool.” They thought it made sense, so we were in there on the cheap doing that.
M- Was he the only one considered?
C- With that? No. We tried a few other things for sure. We did some tracks with Tom Werman. We had acquired a manager at that point, you know, sometime after Forbidden Places, or in the midst of it or something, and he knew Tom Werman, our manager Jamie Kitman. He managed They Might Be Giants and Beautiful South and some other stuff. He knew Tom Werman from, I think he used to mow his lawn or something when he was a kid. I thought that was a cool idea. I love those Ted Nugent things that he did, and Dream Police was bitchen. Tom has done some cool stuff, and he did some Motley Crew stuff. It was like, “Oh this will be a hoot.” It’s still that way. I don’t know who would produce, you know? Producers oftentimes jump boundaries all over the place, and it’s more the idea that I’m not trying to make a record that sounds like Motley Crew, just going, “Well let’s see how this interfaces with our trip.” So we did some tracks. I think we did “Things” and we did a song called “Animal,” which didn’t make Too High to Die, but it made a couple of movies. It was one of the outtakes. So we did that one and “Things” with Tom, maybe one more. It was pretty cool. It didn’t really pan out. The record company didn’t like it. I don’t think it was their idea really. They had tossed us the money for that. That was before we had Paul in there. That’d probably be late ’92. Paul, like I said, came in through the acoustic thing. He didn’t really have any ideas about making a big record. Paul really liked Forbidden Places and I think we all considered that to be, like I said, it was an education. He wasn’t there but he knew the band and when he heard Forbidden Places he realized what Pete had done, and he kind of shored up all his production thoughts real fast at that point. I think it influenced him heavily, like, you can be this meticulous, and seeing us filtered through that. I think it made him meticulous. We learned a lot from Pete in terms of the process of getting stuff to sound good without making it flat or taking the life out of it. Focus in on the record with a microscope. But I helped out a lot just by going, “Well here’s how Pete did it.”
“Well how do you do this?”
“Well, check it out. Here’s how we did it.”
M- So they get the “Fuck You” song and decide you can go ahead and do a full on rock ‘n’ roll record?
C- Yep. It was pretty awesome because we had to leave at that point and do a tour with Soul Asylum. We left Memphis and went out for a few weeks with those guys, and they were just starting to get huge off that Grave Dancers thing. Then we went back to Memphis right after that and started in on it.
M- How was it different from recording Forbidden Places?
C- Well, it was a more laid-back environment, being in Memphis. We still put in the hours for sure. We worked long days. In a lot of ways it wasn’t that different. Paul and Stuart Sullivan toted like a dozen of Paul’s amps out there. He brought a huge collection of cool stuff out to Memphis and had it all set up. It was like we did with Forbidden Places. It’s just we weren’t in there, you know, not in Hollywood. We were able to inhabit the place a little bit more. I wasn’t uncomfortable at Capitol, I was just minding my own business cuz there’s, in the other room there’s Donna Summer. At one point Steven Seagal showed up with Kelly LeBrock, and across the hall was Etta James. It was pretty crazy like that. And then go to Memphis and there was more rap, the Bar-Kays were in one room. In the others were local dudes, rappers, like Al Kapone and his posse, Skinny Pimp, and 211. We would play basketball with these guys, play a lot of ping pong, lots of basketball because they have basketball inside. It was an old cotton warehouse so the main area was this warehouse, and then the partitioned off studio spaces, but the main area was vast so you could play basketball in there. It was right on the banks of the Mississippi, up on a bluff. Nothing too fancy but very adequate. Paul brought Stuart Sullivan out. That’s how we met Stuart. He was like, “This guy’ll be cool. You’ll like him.” Pete and I became friends and Pete was real friendly with all of us, and we liked the engineer for Forbidden Places, Peter Doell, and Dusty Wakeman is an awesome guy, the Assistant Producer. But Paul is an old friend, by this time we’d known each other for ten years. We were let go out there with the budget, and that was the first time for us. It’s like, “Oh major label budget,” and for Paul, too. So we had to be careful and not look like we were wasting time, but it was also like you have to suddenly realize, “Oh, they’ve given us this responsibility so let’s take it.” And they’d come out. We’d listen to them, but we also pretty much put on the hat right away like, “We’re producing this.” I have to say, the A&R person Lori Harbough was really cool and always sympathetic, but she definitely wasn’t going to try to sell out her people at the label either, kind of a median that you have to reach. But it wasn’t hard. We were getting good results. It was a little more organic in the long run too, because whereas I wouldn’t do it with Pete, with Paul I could tell him what I thought. This was a coproduction at this point. If you know the producer well enough it means your opinions might carry a little more weight. The record company helped set-up all the accommodations. It wasn’t much of a job to produce for any of us, except just to be there and make the record. They housed us in a nice place. Everything was pretty much set, but it was like kids in a candy store, cuz we were left to our own devices, you know, starting to get the experience of when to know what would work with these people. Because basically on the major, like I said, it was something I hadn’t experienced. They would go, “No I don’t like this. We’re not putting this out,” which SST never would have done.
M- At what point did you think that London was going to start pushing this record?
C- There was a radio guy at Universal London named Sky Daniels, been around for a while. He was into the song “Nail it Down” that was on Forbidden Places. Pete had flown with that one as a potential single and got Tommy Funderburk to come in and sing the background vocals to make it all pro—Tommy had done background stuff on all kinds of different stuff, he’s one of those ringers—got the organ on it and stuff with those studio cats. Sky Daniels was into it and he’s going, “Man that’s almost there. If you can do it like that on the next record. . . You’re getting there. You almost got something there that I can do.” And then I saw, “Oh, it’s like that. They pick a song like that.” So when they first started hearing “Backwater” he was like, “Yeah, that’s it. That’s a thing.” That started spreading a little bit, like, “Yeah, ‘Backwater’.” That’s when our manager was like, “Oh, that’s radio ready.”
M- Was this off a demo at this point, that they’re hearing “Backwater?”
C- Uhm, no, the roughs that we had made in Memphis. Actually it might have been mixed by that point. But definitely it was like, “Okay, you gave us something we can work at radio.” Then a few things happened. We played the WaveFest out in South Carolina, and we headlined on that with like Hootie and the Blowfish opening. It’s a little festival. Really more like seventy or eighty-thousand people. They had a market cornered down there. We had played it once before and this time we got to headline it. Somehow the record company got people who were like independent radio consultant types to come down. And here’s where you start seeing how the in-house thing works. They outsource these people who have a reputation. They get paid. They go back with their endorsements to radio stations and go, “Yep. You should push this song.” They get paid for each station that adds it, and they make a lot of money. They came to that show and we blew it out so they hopped on to endorse what we were doing. That was a big thing. Then we did the Unplugged thing. It was like, “Oh wow! Nirvana likes them.” They had already solicited a testimonial from Cobain and from Dave Pirner to put on the cover. I think that’s the only time I ever said anything. I was like, “Oh really. That’s so cheesy.”
And they were like, “No. It’s just respect and don’t tell us how to do our business.”
And I was like, “Oh I get you. You’re trying to sell it.”
All these things started adding up. You could at that point say “Nirvana” and it would turn heads. We had the consultants on board and the promoters, and then everybody at the record company in their kind of herd-like fashion was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s ok to go over here. The herd is going over here. You don’t want to be stuck out there by yourself.” So by the time it came out January ’94 everybody was pretty into it.
M- There are some other things that smack of marketing as well. It’s the only record you’ve ever done, even to this day, where the cover is a photo of you.
C- Yeah. They spent an arm and a leg on that session.
M- So is this something the label said, “We don’t want one of your pieces of art?”
C- I imagine so. Yeah, I think so. They have design people. They have the art department there and you start getting in with those people. I don’t think they knew exactly what they wanted, but I didn’t really mind because I was glad the record was coming out, and they let us pick the photo. It was interesting because we spent a lot of money. We spent probably a week shooting all around Phoenix and then went up to Sedona. It was definitely a whole shit load of pictures taken and some really cool stuff.
M- So the dresses were your idea? The band’s idea?
C- Oh. I doubt it. I don’t really remember. The dude that took the pictures . . .
M- Michael Halsband.
C- Yeah, Halsband was like a big GQ guy buddy of Calvin Klein, mostly fashion stuff, a really cool photographer, a fun guy. Wound up working with him more a little bit after that here and there. Halsband. He shot Eyes Adrift later, too. But I think it was his idea. He brought all kinds of stuff, you know?
M- So there are a lot of people involved in these major label releases.
C- Yeah, and you can’t just have your A&R person into it, they have to get on board at radio and distribution and promotion, all these different departments have to somehow magically meet, and they don’t do that on their own necessarily. There’s no coordinator. Your manager has to be in there rooting for you and trying to coalesce and then somehow it just kind of does. And there were flukes involved with us. They didn’t really have to spend as much money because we had built-in promotional stuff going on with the Nirvana thing, and that really helped them. They were all happy about that because it went gold without them even trying, and I think they were satisfied. In a lot of ways it was good and bad. They never really pushed it that much because it did so well on its own, and then we went out with Stone Temple Pilots. And I think they thought that was going to bump it up even more cuz we had been having so much of this flukey promotion and good fortune that way. But by the mid-Summer it started to lose the wind, it went gold pretty handily, and then it just kinda kept selling a little bit. It’s like, “We didn’t have to put anything into this and it still did this good.”
“Well imagine if you had put something into it.”
M- And Cobain kills himself not too long after you release it.
C- It’s not the greatest promotion, that. That was like, “Okay, people know who we are. Oh, they’re going to put out the Unplugged record.” But it was also sad and it’s something you don’t want to tie your thing to that too much. So, I mean, I got it all. I never had any feelings really one way or the other how they should do it. It was unfathomable that they can get everything working and they get the regional guys working and the whole thing and it becomes part of their focus and then pretty soon you’re on their agenda. By the time we decided to start doing No Joke! everybody at the company knew who we were, and we had done so well with that that they gave us a huge budget and we became the focus of their Fall release thing, us and Warren G.
M- So, Too High to Die, would you agree it’s a heavier record than Forbidden Places? At least in the production.
C- Yeah. There’s louder guitars on it for sure. It’s more Marshall. It’s my own rig largely. And then you know Paul had some cool little amps, older Marshalls and this and that, but the go to thing on that was definitely my rig and my live sound. I was doing the stuff that I’d learned and the stuff that I was seeing in like, “Oh here’s alternative production.” It’s basically AC/DC you know? You got a guitar on the right, a guitar on the left, you know, make ‘em kind of loud.
M- So you were thinking about that when you just said this is “alternative production?”
C- Yeah. I could see, “There’s how they do that.” You layer these rhythm guitars, you know, not too many of them but definitely kind of pillar them on each side and make the drums and bass heavy. Pretty simple stuff really. Putting a rhythm here, and here’s your lead, kind of identical tracks, and splitting them for the rhythms and making it loud. I just made it a heavier rock album. It reminded me of Huevos a little bit in that way. Another Marshall heavy album.
M- But with bigger production.
M- So, again, you were consciously thinking about making a record that sounded like an alternative rock record?
M- As a marketing strategy?
C- I was definitely aware of what was being played. And what could I do that wouldn’t hurt my feelings to make that happen. I’ve always been flexible. It’s just one thing or another, you know? Everything has been inspired by something that way, something somebody else did, to a certain degree. You come across stuff in the studio, but all this shit’s been done over and over again. It wasn’t as much any of the alternative bands. I saw how those productions were mirroring the basic setup that AC/DC had done, or Deep Purple sort of stuff, seventies rock that we heard on the radio a lot. And I was just like, “That’ll be cool. That’ll work with this stuff.”
M- And so were all the songs written like Forbidden Places? When you went into the studio were they set and ready to go?
C- Yeah for sure. The demos for Too High to Die we did in Phoenix. We called it the Protecto sessions because they had Protecto toilet seat covers in the bathroom. We thought it was hilarious. We did it at some place there. I forget the name of it, but they were really cool. It was a little bit like Up on the Sun again having a template. It was basically that same record, but just kind of blown out a little more. But, yeah, the stuff was all done.
M- And finally lyrically, especially on Too High to Die, it seems like a lot of the lyrics are concerning some of the things that we’ve been talking about right here, about dealing with the major labels, maybe frustrations.
C- I would definitely say that kind of bleeds into it. I don’t know that I would be that overt about it.
M- For instance, “Comin’ Down”, it’s a traditional bluegrass kind of thing but it can be read as, “We’ve been down, now were up with the major label, it’s not as great as everybody says and I might come back down again.”
C- Well there’s something that you can lay over anything “Comin’ Down” is bluegrass gospel sort of stuff. It’s oblique.
M- Or “Roof with a Hole,” “everything gets ruined by” what? By money?
C- Yeah that for sure, or just, you know, that’s another kind of typical one that way, gospelly sort of blues. So is “Backwater” really. I think “Comin’ Down” was inspired by a Che Guevara quote. I think that’s who said “one ascends, one has seen. One descends, one has seen,” some sort of thing that I thought was kind of funny. It’s just like you can’t stay up there, that type of thing.
You know, once again it’s pretty of hard to intentionally do stuff. I’ve been writing since November here. And the lyrics are definitely the real kicker. If you think about it it just fucks it all up. You think about it and get nowhere and then stuff just kind of comes up. It comes and it’s not something that you try to do. Not me anyway.
M- So you’d agree though that, even if you don’t think about it too hard, these experiences are working their way in?
C- Oh yeah. I count on that. It’s not like I’m a shut in. Lewis Carroll wasn’t either. I look at Lewis Carroll, there’s things that he’s talking about. Just like Michelangelo painted satirical shit into the Sistine Chapel. If you know what to look for you can see it. And that stuff for sure comes out in what I do. I try not to point fingers too much. I try not to be specific. I don’t like to have it be dated or that easy to pin down. It’s also just cuz I’m not very good at writing a story, like a Bob Dylan “This is the story of Hurricane.” I didn’t start writing until this band was happening. I only wrote stuff so we could have things to sing. Basically we’re musicians and enjoyed the process of playing music and hearing singing as another instrument. And if you can have something to throw your emotions behind, something you can relate to, that’s one thing. But we’ve never really played much like that. The producers are like, “Do that track again, and this time put some emotion into it.” You know? Like, “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”