We've done a few.
Posted October 15, 2023
Post / Hive / Spoutible
Posted October 14, 2023
Just a few notable things!
Twenty years ago this past July, singer-songwriter Shannon Gunn and I, under the moniker Pet Rock Star^S, co-wrote two folkpop songs over 24 hours while being on separate US coasts as part of the 2003 Blogathon charity event. Last month I rescued the original blog with all of the song snippets and lyric clips from the Wayback Machine. Special thanks to Phil Ringnalda for hosting the audio for over two decades! Or maybe they just forgot?
Also in July but 11 years ago, Jerin Falkner and I released the first Kin to Stars track, "Hello Ohio." Once every so often I'll go back and listen to our small song catalog and pine for the pre-2016 years.
Just one year ago this week: Car Trouble! The new record! Which I'd been working on since at least 2013. Alas, I parked the Car Trouble live band indefinitely, awaiting a future date when I feel safe going back into music venues. I still love this record and listen to it several times a month. I take it as a good sign when I don't get tired of my own tunes.
And finally, this August marks 20 years living in Seattle, and 20 years at my day job. Surprise! I have a day job. I've always had a day job. To stick with it for 20 years though, feels...weird. Sometimes I look around and I feel like a time traveller.
I have no wisdom to share. Let's just attribute it to luck, and an extremely high tolerance for bullshit.
Posted August 16, 2023
Posted March 19, 2023
You can't improve what's already perfect, so if you're going to cover a perfect pop song, at least strive to do it justice, right?
Before his tenure with Guided By Voices and Nada Surf, guitarist Doug Gillard launched his own Cleveland-based rock outfit called Gem. Gem released their album Hexed in 1994 and the only major FM station to have a local music show put the single "Suburban Girl" into rotation.
I'm a few years younger than Gillard and was also kicking around the NE Ohio area playing in bands around that time (we've never met). From the first listen, "Suburban Girl" lodged itself deep in my brain. There's the droll lyrics about being impressed by your girlfriend's dad's lawn. There's the not-quite deadpan delivery. The guitars that feel like summer heat radiating off the pavement as you kill time before your evening shift. There's just something very midwest about the whole thing. Power pop from the land of Pere Ubu and Cobra Verde.
So, this song, stuck in my brain for almost 30 years.
And then, in 2020, while working on Car Trouble songs, I made a demo. And I just kept messing with it for another two years, poking at it, putting my own spin on it and finally pulling Patrick (from Explone, you know that by now) in last year to cut a most worthy guitar solo.
You can't improve what's already perfect. Did we do it justice? I'd like to think so! Please enjoy our version of "Suburban Girl" by Gem, now available on your favorite streaming service. And thank you, Mr. Gillard, for the 3-minute time machine. Ohio remembers!
Posted March 13, 2023
There's a new single over at the Car Trouble website: a loud, pop-punked-up cover of "The Analog Kid" by Rush. I've written about this band's role in my life, and when (drummer/audio engineer) Don invited Pat and myself over to his studio to record this tune, it just seemed like a fun idea. Pat and I took turns singing verse and chorus, and Don mixed and mastered the result you'll hear below.
A confession: I played this bass part with a pick, which may seem like sacrilege, but let me assure you it's just as difficult to play with a pick as with fingers.
There was never a plan to release it, but we almost did in 2020 when Neil Peart passed. Then two years later I had the idea to put it out as a Car Trouble single. I mean, why sit on this? So Pat and Don are now offically ad honorem members of Car Trouble.
Please enjoy our cover of "The Analog Kid." Now available at all your favorite streaming services.
Posted February 27, 2023
It's been 15 years since I released Save You From Yourself, my first proper solo record, and I couldn't let it pass without a little retrospective. This record was supposed to be the start of something, but turned out to be more of a finish line. Which is not a bad thing! I'd been doing the solo singer-songwriter thing for about eight years at that point, and this record was the culmination of everything I'd learned up to then. Sometimes I remember that fans helped me crowdfund this record before Kickstarter was even a thing.
At the time it came out I felt like a solid songwriter and was also a pretty good live performer. But I was lying to myself: I just wasn't wired for things like touring, and I was happy to write blog posts about songwriting to avoid the hard work that comes with actually writing songs. Luckily, pivoting to being a band member brought something into the mix I didn't even realize was missing: friendship! Camaraderie! The satisfaction of being a contributor and helping someone else create. And particularly with Kirby Krackle, a little taste of the Big Time without having to endure a decade of sleeping in the van.
I'm proud of this record and still listen to it several times every year to remind myself of where I've been.
And yeah, I own the domain name!
Posted February 20, 2023
Welcome to 2023, where the new Car Trouble record I've been working on since 2015 has finally been released!
Surprise! It was actually released August 15 of last year!
Yeah, after weeks -- weeks -- promoting it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and a handful of other places last summer, including the official website, I totally overlooked mentioning it here. My own website. Welp!
And if you miss the old days of the early 00's, reminder that the Demo Club tracks are up again and available to everyone!
Posted January 2, 2023
I am pleased to announce the ressurection of the Demo Club, which was a members-only area of this site where I posted demos and work-in-progress songs from around 2003 to 2010 or so. It's now open to everyone, no membership needed! Within you'll find all of the original Demo Club MP3s, along with the Walkingbirds and Pet Rock Stars songs. I've also thrown in Instagram Boyfriend and the unreleased goof track RIP My Mentions, both of which I recorded when the pandemic started.
I stopped updating the Demo Club around the time I joined Explone and Kirby Krackle as a bassist, and mostly because I'd been doing the DIY acoustic pop superhero thing for just shy of a decade and was pretty burnt out on trying to make that work. Listening to these tracks again for the first time in over ten years, I'm surprised at how good some of these sound. I didn't think they'd hold up under Airpods Pro but some of them sound pretty great for decade-old MP3s!
They're not all great, though. Alas, the original high-quality source files are archived somewhere on a hard disk in my closet, relics from a time when I was recording everything through REAPER and a single Shure SM57.
Posted November 21, 2022
This was gonna be the year I was gonna put together a live band for Car Trouble. Oh well! Better luck next year! Or maybe the year after that!
I had my second Covid jab in May 2021. And then, in August, I started a band! I began renting space in the warehouse district and dragged former Explone/Kirby Krackle drummer Nelson Estes back into action. Craig Marois of The Loveless Building joined us a few months later, making Car Trouble a properly-functioning loud three-piece rock outfit.
Smash cut to today, a year later: the Car Trouble record is finally, finally coming out in August 2022.
So...you you like BIG guitars?— Car Trouble - New record coming August 2022! (@cartroublemusic) July 1, 2022
Well then get in loser, we're doing a record.
The new Car Trouble album is headed your way in August. pic.twitter.com/hCC1T7qLLt
I've done the solo singer-songwriter thing, where the only person to disappoint is myself, and I've been the supporting player, where I could just show up, play, and get fired if I messed up too much.
Those safety nets are now gone. Can't just skip rehearsal because you're not feeling it! Can't waste time because it's not just your time anymore!
It also RULES. You guys. It is SO MUCH FUN. If you've been thinking about starting a band, do it. Don't overthink it for five years like I did.
Posted July 4, 2022
I've written about Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" before. This Stereogum article by Tom Breihan is an amazing deep-dive into that song. There are too many great sentences to quote:
“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is a craven pop-chart move from a band who’d previously specialized in exploratory, filigreed pomp-rock. It’s a total betrayal of everything that the band had done before. Not coincidentally, it also kicks ass. Sometimes, things work out like that.
The possibly-apocryphal story on “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is that Trevor Rabin didn’t even think of it as a Yes song, but that he’d gotten up to go to the bathroom while playing a demo tape of his songs for the rest of the band. Trevor Horn heard “Lonely Heart” and decided that it could be a Yes song. I don’t know if this story is true, but I love the idea that all the most important moments in the song’s evolution happened because Trevor Rabin was taking a shit.
There's also a bit on how “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” used a sampled breakbeat from a Kool & The Gang song and basically invented the orchestra "stab" that was so popular in the 80s. The article concludes with a list of rap and R&B songs that sampled “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” in turn.
Some related emphemera I dug up:
Trevor Rabin, who wrote "Owner of a Lonely Heart," shows how to play the sci-fi guitar solo:
Producer Trevor Horn walks through some of the soloed instrument tracks and "whiz-bangs." Utterly charming:
Yes perform "Owner of a Lonely Heart" at their Rock & Roll Hall induction:
Posted April 11, 2021