Shameless Self Promotion

This weekend I will be appearing at Strange Brew with No Show Ponies in Austin, Texas at 10pm.  Strange Brew was voted the best sounding room in Austin.  This is a really important show for us and we would be greatly appreciative if any of you in the area could make the journey out Friday night.  We will be unveiling several new compositions and giving away a limited number of free downloads of our new album A Manual for Defeat to those of you that make it out.

You can listen to what we do at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

I will also be appearing tonight with Shinyribs in Bryan, Texas.  We will be at the Grand Stafford Theater.

This weekend Shinyribs will be appearing at Old Settler’s Festival on both Saturday and Sunday.

You can learn more about Shinyribs at http://www.shinyribs.org.

 

No Show Ponies Live in Austin, on TV and Youtube Today

I will be appearing with No Show Ponies today at South Austin Brewery at 12 noon.  We will also be on ChannelAustin which is Channel 10 on your local Austin cable provider.  For those of you not in the Austin area you can find us at 12pm Central Time at http://www.youtube.com/infynithour.  

We will also be at Sam’s Town Point tonight, one of our favorite local bars, at 11pm.  

In the future, when all’s well…

You can also stream or purchase our album, A Manual for Defeat, at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com  

Some Thoughts On Writing and Recording

Blogging has been a little slow the last 48 hours.  As well as other things I’ve been focusing on songwriting.  There are songwriters that can write something almost every time they sit down and then there are guys like Leonard Cohen whose process is really slow.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  Once I find inspiration I will complete a series of things rather quickly.  However in between those bursts of inspiration I may lie dormant for a month or two, sometimes even longer. 

I’m always attempting to write, but if I’m not inspired much of what I write is garbage.  I would say that 80% of the things that I write I toss out.  Another 10% roughly falls through the cracks.  Only maybe 10% of the things I have written ever see the stage or the recording studio.  Even after that, except for our last record where I believe in every song, I feel like only a percentage of those things have reached some kind of definitive form.  Basically it is tons and tons of song writing to achieve those moments that I feel are perfect. 

Even if you write something great there are so many ways it can go wrong.  The arrangement can be subpar.  You could have a great arrangement and the performance is lacking.  You could even have a great song with a great performance and the mix just somehow sucks the life out of it.  As in life, so much is out of your control.  You not only need to write great material, but you need to have the right musicians, the right producer, and the right energy at the time of recording.   

The thing that was so beautiful about our new record, A Manual for Defeat, was that the process itself cut out a lot of the bullshit that can go wrong from point A to point B.  I love creating in the studio.  It drives some people nuts, but it’s actually total fun for me.  It’s also a way for things to go horribly wrong.  You might stumble upon something completely new, but when you don’t have a lot of money especially, you can just as easily over-think things and lose the initial passion of a piece.  So many musicians will tell you that they love their demos more than their actual records.  Until we did this new record my favorite No Show Ponies recordings that we ever did were Ben and I fucking about on Garage Band on my brother’s Mac.  The demos the two of us made sounded thin and cheap sounding, but there was a certain magic captured on those things that we never replicated anywhere else. 

With A Manual for Defeat we made the simplest record possible, which with a low budget worked out better than I could have imagined.  We just rehearsed a lot and then cut things basically live to tape with as little overdubbing as we could get away with.  The beauty of analog tape is that you instantly can tell on playback if you got something or not.  I’m not really a tape or digital guy as it really depends on the project and who is helming the technical side of things.   But for me the problem with digital is that you often don’t know what you have got until much later in the process.  If you don’t have a lot of money there is no time to start over if you realize something wasn’t quite where it needs to be.  Also just as a side note, dear God in heaven stay away from digital reverb. 

I’m always afraid of making something middle of the road, although there have definitely been times when my best intentions have gone astray.  I feel like you should either be trying to make Sgt. Pepper or The Misfit’s Static Age.  By that I mean you should either be as ambitious as possible or you should just try to capture something raw and real.  The universe will give you hints as to what route to take if you can get your ego out of the way.  Often limitations, if shepherded down the right alley, will force you to be creative.  It’s when you force things that aren’t meant to be that you get into trouble. 

I’m working on my 7th record right now, as well as having worked on a whole host of other things such as soundtracks, demos, singles, EP’s, etc.  I feel like only in the last two years have I got to a place where I sort of know what I’m doing, where I trust my instincts to be right more often than not.  Although as I’m fond of saying: Time makes monkeys of us all.    

No Show Ponies During SXSW

And now for a brief moment of shameless self promotion:  My band No Show Ponies will be playing two shows this Thursday during SXSW:

At Noon we will be doing a live TV Taping at South Austin Brewery.  

At 10pm we will be playing at 10pm at Sam’s Town Point

More information to follow.  In the meantime check out our new record, A Manual for Defeat, at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com.  

I Wouldn’t Call it Love

Well the human race keeps ticking
But I don’t know how
I’d have thought we’d have killed
Each other by now
Yet there’s more of us
Then there ever was before
I wouldn’t call it love
But it’s more powerful than war

There’s a creation myth
That some believe
Out of the Garden
God cast Adam and Eve
Which leads me to bring up
A dangerous rumor
I wouldn’t call it love
But God’s got a sense of humor

Got a map of the universe
And no illusions
I’m not looking for order
In all this confusion
I know there’s no reason
I know there’s no rhyme
Just the random chance
There’s someone out there tonight

My baby she likes chocolate
And strawberry wine
Movie stars
And astrology signs
I’m getting older now
But I still like them young
I wouldn’t call it love
But it’s only just begun

This is one of my favorite No Show Ponies songs I have ever written.  It didnt make the current album, A Manual for Defeat, because we haven’t gotten the three piece arrangement right yet.  But it will be on the next one for sure.

No Show Ponies Tonight at One 2 One

If you live in the Austin area tonight my band No Show Ponies is playing at One 2 One at 11:30pm.  We’ll be playing songs off of our new album A Manual for Defeat and some songs we love by Lou Reed, David Bowie, Joe Strummer, and others as well.

I also would like to announce that No Show Ponies has begun working with Little Gotham Media.  This is a company run by Shawn Christian Cochran, who is an old friend of ours.  We are looking forward to a fruitful partnership.

In the future when all’s well…

Link to A Manual for Defeatwww.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

Link to Little Gotham Media’s FB page:  www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Gotham-Media/436445623113554

Angelo Cataldi and No Show Ponies Album Review

Back when I grew up in Pennsylvania there used to be a show called The Ricky Waters Show.  This was a weekly show about the Philadelphia Eagles running back at the time.  The show was hosted by the hilarious Angelo Cataldi.  Cataldi was a local sports radio guy that had the sleazy charm of a used car salesman.  Cataldi would tell Ricky Waters how great he was every week and Ricky would simply say, “He said it!”  This was low budget TV that looked as if it was shot in some south Philly bar.  Most of the audience was pretty tanked if I remember it right.

Anyway, Douglas Hanson, an old associate, has written an extremely kind review of No Show Ponies new album A Manual for Defeat.  All I’m going to say is, “He said it!”

Link to the review:  http://mojolists.com/wordpress/320/

Link to the album:  www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

Lee Harvey’s in Dallas

My band No Show Ponies will be performing tonight at Lee Harvey’s in Dallas.  The show starts at 9pm.  Come out and say hello.

Check out our new album at http://www.noshowponies.bandcamp.com

It a bit of related self promotion an old friend posted a reivew of our new record A Manual for Defeat.  Read it here: http://www.mojolists.com/wordpress/320/

I Love You All the Same

Sometimes I dream of other women
And the end of the world
Sometimes I want to crash your father’s car
And steal your mother’s pearls
I can be greedy
Selfish and vain
But oh my love
I love you all the same

I don’t trust any man
Without conflict in his eyes
I don’t trust any women
Who have never been a pawn to desire
Someone had to bite the apple
I don’t care who’s to blame
Oh my love
I love you all the same

That old river is flowing
It flows to the sea
It won’t wait for you
It won’t wait for me

Lying on your bed
I dreamt of the fall of Rome
I did unspeakable things
It felt like home
Am I the candle
Or am I the flame?
Oh my love
I love you all the same

Listen here: http://noshowponies.bandcamp.com/track/i-love-you-all-the-same

Some songs come easy.  This one didn’t.  This might be the oldest song on the record.  It took us at least ten years to get a band arrangement of this song that we felt was right.  I had to read eight books to write it.  How do I know eight?  I went through a period where I read everything that the author Denis Johnson wrote at the time, which was eight books, and then sat down and wrote the lyrics upon finishing the last one. 

The last few lines in the song, “Am I the candle or am I the flame?”, are paraphrased from Denis Johnson’s book Angels.  Funnily enough that is my least favorite Denis Johnson book.   In that book Denis Johnson asks, paraphrasing here: Will you be consumed by your own personal violence or will you consume it?  . The Garden of Eden story and the prison sequence from A Clockwork Orange were also on the brain.  

There is a lot of mystery in these lyrics.  They are more poetic than some of the other more straightforward pieces.  Sometimes you want to say something very specific, and sometimes you want to paint.  I think it’s some of my best work.  In short it is about loving someone in the face of personal shortcomings, but this is one of those songs that the meaning changes for me over time. 

The bass, drums, and guitar were recorded at the same time in 2 to 3 takes max.  I don’t believe anything on this record went further than this.  If it did it was strictly an arrangement issue where we felt something needed shortening upon hearing playback.  Ben and I, as typical for these sessions, redid the vocals singing into the same microphone with no patching up afterwards.  Again we might have done 2 or 3 takes at max.  This track is unique because everyone seemed to want to play percussion on it.  If you hear Al’s drums you realize that this wasn’t a necessity, but because of the rhythmic nature of the track it just seemed like it fitted.  Keith Langford came in and did a track of shaker, Al did some tambourine parts, and I played some kind of weird looking gourd with beads on it during the breakdown. 

Listen to Ben’s guitar playing on this song, especially in the instrumental section.  It is extremely musical.  Without playing a traditional solo he is able to bob and weave around the groove with lyrical expression.  Al’s drumming is also superb throughout this entire track.  Whether he is just sticking to the groove or playing a flourish of drum rolls, he is consistently on the top of his game here.  I’m proud to be in a band with these two. 

We do magic tricks together
Get sick from drinking from the same damn cup
Love doesn’t always wear a stupid smile

– Paul Westerberg

 

 

San Lorenzo

Riding down through painted vistas
Against the rising of the sun
Either the dove shall be released
Or it’s the cold steal of the gun
Your beauty, it haunts me
Makes me want to do something bold
Last I saw your naked shoulders
Get covered up in San Lorenzo

The kids are burning insects
With lenses in the street
And I begin to feel the presence
Of some divine comedy
Your beauty eludes me
I’ve never felt so alone
I’d give anything to go back
And pass the time in San Lorenzo

Walking past mass graves
Endless skulls and endless bones
Merchants and slaves
All sharing the same tombs
Your beauty it comforts me
Makes me forget all I know
I’m hoping for a chance encounter
On the way to San Lorenzo

You can hear the song here:  https://noshowponies.bandcamp.com/track/san-lorenzo

I wrote this song after going to Italy.  San Lorenzo is a Catholic Church in Florence.  They make the girls cover their shoulders upon entering.  I was also at Dante’s house, hence the Divine Comedy reference.  I have been in the catacombs of many cathedrals in Europe, although not in San Lorenzo.  I remember being in one where it was head to floor skulls.  Riding in a bus to the top of the hill in Florence, Firenze in Italian, I was struck by scenery which I could only describe as a “painted vista.”

However, in this song San Lorenzo could just as easily be an imaginary American or Mexican border town.  The line about kids burning insects with a lens is a reference to the The Wild Bunch.  I tried to step out of the personal and create something that could resonate with people that had never been to Italy.

The song, at its core, is a meditation on love and hope in the face of dark side of humanity.  Musically and lyrically it felt like a good way to close our new album, A Manual for Defeat.  Despite all I know about the modern world, I still believe there is hope that if we right the ship, all will turn out Ok.  You’ve got to have hope.  The narrator of the song, and it is a song written in character even if that isn’t clear, only has the hope of a chance encounter with love in the face of death, but that is enough to keep going.  True love is one of the things that can make life worth living, even the promise of it.

This song was again cut live with only additional percussion from Al.  It is some of Al’s most beautiful and subtle playing on the record.  My brother played one of Ramsay Midwood’s acoustic guitars which seemed to have a spirit all its own.  Both their playing is exceptional and far exceeded my hopes for the song when I wrote it.  Their performances allowed the song to stay minimal and skeletal.

If you listen to this song on headphones there seems to be a ghost in the machine.  I know why this is, but I’ll never tell.  Some things best remain a secret.