Musical Mnemonics 2: Songs About Los Angeles

Some classic albums here. They remind me of high school (first two, at least), being at my parent’s house, listening to music like crazy. I listened to music all the time. In my room, when I was drawing, writing, doing math or whatever. Sometimes if I had a “spare” class right before lunch I would walk home, make some macaroni and cheese and blast this stuff on my parent’s stereo. My grandmother must of thought I was crazy. She would be mopping the floors or weeding the garden and I’d be teenaging all around the house, learning Nirvana songs on my acoustic guitar. On a school day, even.

Fucking hell.

Anyhow, this post is about songs that I invariably think about when I visit Los Angeles, California, United States of America, North America, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Local Cluster, The Universe. They endear the city to me. Before I went there, everybody was always saying: “Oh, I hate LA, it’s too big, you need a car, etc, etc.” When I first visited to play shows in like 2004 or something, I remained apprehensive. And during subsequent visits, the city in all its vastitude grew on me. I explored and discovered new neighbourhoods, and would be reminded of cultural references made to the city in movies, TV shows and in music. LA is a behemoth, yes, but it can’t be ignored. In my dream life, I spend my winters in Los Angeles.

Beastie Boys. “Do It” from Ill Communication. LA Reference: “Glendale Boulevard / Boulevard! / Glendale Boulevard / that’s where I’m at.” I listened to a lot of Beastie Boys in high school, and for a while really embraced the skateboarding, slacker culture. Surprisingly, I think the self-motivated, slacker attitude is what granted me a certain independence as a teenager, an inspiration that supercharged my creativity, making anything possible. Slackers were, really, the inspired youth of the 90’s. A slacker lifestyle enabled us to *ahem* stick it to the man, as it were. And I strongly encourage outside thinking (inside-out thinking works too) at all times. Laziness and/or apathy, however, are not acceptable.

A Tribe Called Quest. “I Left my Wallet in El Segundo” from People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. LA Reference: Chorus: “I left my wallet in El Segundo / I gotta get it, I got-gotta get it.” I sympatise. El Segundo is out by the airport. Once, I think we had to go there on tour to get our RV fixed. We did not leave our wallets behind.

Beck. “Girl” from Guero. LA Reference: Well, this is a weird one. While it seems the entire video is set in LA, I always mistook the lyrics of the chorus. I remember at the time there was a bit of a debate over what he was saying there, and even all those sketchy lyrics websites still can’t agree. I’ve seen: my summer girl, my sun-eyed girl, my cyanide girl, maizena girl. I always thought he was singing “La Cienega,” like the name of the street in LA. Listening to the song again, I am assured that I am way off. But whenever I see a street sign for La Cienega, I can’t help singing the name to the chorus of this song. And the video is fuggin’ amazing.

FTW vs. W

Well, I can’t say I never win anything. The Chances briefly swayed in my favour when I won a Twitter contest with L.A.-based print studio Two Rabbits. It’s pretty cool actually: a set of bicycle-themed silkscreened posters. This is the same studio that designed the limited edition poster for our last show in Los Angeles:

I’m constantly searching for things to hang around the house, and have a sort of framed-image graveyard (sometimes referred to as the progeny of an unidentified addiction) from which I rotate what is being displayed. In addition to the etchings, sketches, lithographs, photographs, paintings, maps, framed letters and other mementos, I have dozens of amazing silkscreened posters for The Dears. While these are probably the closest things to actual “art” in my “collection,” the idea of hanging posters for my own band all over the house is kind of, well, megalomaniacal.

And so, while I continue to go for the win in most aspects of my life, sometimes it is fun to actually get the win in some way or another. Thank you to Two Rabbits.

Pilgrimage Details Announced

This morning I’m making oatmeal for breakfast. I make it the old fashioned way, by boiling oats until they’re cooked. Not with the flavoured instant packets that I grew up on. I have to call it porridge for my daughter to eat it, because that’s what they’re serving up in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Everything has to be branded for kids these days.

And by “breakfast” I mean “first breakfast” because I’m about to go meet some friends for brunch/second breakfast. Then going to check out the Puces Pop Xmas Sale, where I’m hoping to find some kind of silkscreened 2010 calendar.

There’s been a lot of music floating around the house, and next week Murray and I are taking a trip to Los Angeles. Maybe you’ve noticed my “pilgrimage” twitter posts, well, that’s kind of a joke. Kind of. Part of the trip was timed with going to see Morrissey, which is actually happening, which I’m a little giddy about. Can you tell?

As you may know, I play in a band, so going to see other bands’ shows is kind of like work for me. The venue/club/bar environment is like an office party. Or like a really long coffee break. And the obligatory alcoholism, made mandatory by boredom, gets tired after 30. I’m actually turning into the old joke we made about The Dears being a bunch of brandy-sipping, philosophy-reading, candlelit-bathing snobs. That’s what parenthood does to a person. Bottom line is: you can’t make porridge and watch The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show if you’re hungover. Well, I guess you can…but according to my particular set of values, Hangover+Parenthood=Degenerate Street.

All guilt issues aside, I’m stoked about going to LA. Maybe we’ll go to The Grove and look for celebrities, go swimming in the freezing ocean while Americans correctly observe: “They must be Canadian,” and definitely hang out here.

Tour Round UP and OUT

The end of this tour is nigh, and I thought I should talk a little more about it. I last left off in Vegas, the heart of darkness. The next day we were in California which made everything awesome. The morning of the 30th we did Morning Becomes Eclectic at KCRW (which you can listen to/watch here). Our L.A. gig was great; we got to meet a lot of our fans afterwards and hung with friends. We also got this incredible room that night at the London Hotel in West Hollywood…which might not seem interesting but the little luxuries are rejuvenating after two weeks of touring.

The next day was Hallow’een. We rented a car (essential to an enjoyable L.A. visit) and headed out to Buzznet/Stereogum for an acoustic session (which is probably somewhere on the internet but I can’t find it). Then we visited the Dangerbird office, went for lunch, then headed back to the bus. It was getting late in the afternoon and we were invited by Steve Nice out to Pasadena for trick-or-treating with his family. Back home we are used to bundling up under our costumes because it sometimes snows on Hallow’een, but out in L.A. that is not necessary. Neptune’s crinolined-and-winged fairy costume was just fine. It was very cute and very fun and by the end of it we were all exhausted. We got back to the bus and a very different kind of Hallow’een was underway in West Hollywood…revelers were just heading out to the annual street party thing that goes down. It was just weird to see so many grown adults dressed up…they take Hallow’een very seriously in Hollywood, I guess.

The next day we woke up in Solana Beach, a seaside suburb of San Diego. We went down to the beach with the intention of just checking it out. But being Canadian and all, we found the water a bit cool but totally swim-able. The whole band spent the day on the beach, swimming, jogging, chilling, laughing that people thought they needed wetsuits; Neptune dug in the sand and went in to, playing the classic “chase the waves” game. That really mellowed us out and Murray and I questioned why we didn’t live closer to the ocean? The next day some sunburns revealed themselves.

Then it was San Francisco. Awesome city but the weather changes so frequently throughout the day. We walked to the park, then went to the theatre to see Zack and Miri Make a Porno because the song You and I (Are a Gang of Losers) is in it. I went to see Hollywood Chihuahua with Neptune so I didn’t see it but apparently the song is right at the end and really prominently used. Anyhow, the next day was our show, which was interesting because the power went out twice: first during the opening band’s set, then again during changeover. We waited a long time for the power to come back on (apparently they were doing maintence and the whole block was out), during which we sat backstage with some acoustic guitars trying to figure out what we could do with no PA, no lights. Then all of a sudden the crowd cheered under the one emergency light and Murray was on stage with an acoustic. He sang Missiles and There Goes My Outfit and the lights came back on halfway through Deuxieme Partie (Second Part). We played a makeshift Bandwagoneers while Laura and my keyboards loaded, the hammered through the rest of the set.

We were parked in some small town in Southern Oregon on election day. The front TV on the bus was CNN and the back TV was Fox News…but eventually they were both on CNN because a Canadian can only take so much Fox News. We ordered pizza and beer and watched Barack Obama destroy the competition. Good job, USA. You’re coming back.