We’ve known Ava for more than a decade now, having all been denizens of the Bay Area music scene. But somehow, we all had to move away before we’d actually make music together. Matthias and I live on Cape Cod, as you probably know by now, and Ava relocated to Brooklyn last year.
When we made our wishlist of guest guitarists, Ava was a no-brainer. I’d always loved hearing her play, and it was one of my regrets of moving away from the Bay that even though our bands had toured together, I hadn’t gotten to actually play with her. Now, this song you’re about to hear might stretch the boundaries of your definition of ‘playing together,’ but I’m going to say it counts. She sent us such a fun bunch of musical thoughts to work with, so, let’s just say we smelled each other’s virtual sweat in the great virtual rehearsal space in the sky.
Getting these disembodied guitar tracks in the virtual mail is kind of like getting all of the pieces for a fabulous chair, or a bolt of gorgeous fabric in the mail. You can make so many different things with it… but the key is to really listen to what’s implied in the original material. There is just as much not stated as there is stated. The seeds of the whole song are in there. There are no wrong answers, but somehow there is only one truly right answer. You just have to close your eyes and imagine it’s there already... and then play it.
Here’s what Ava has to say about the whole affair:
I’ve admired Carla and Matthias’ musical prowess for many years. Our bands have toured together and we have been friendly, but we’ve never actually worked together till this song came about.
At the beginning of 2014, Carla asked me to make a guitar skeleton for this project in August. “Think of yourself as a mapmaker for the song, and Matthias, Jon Evans and I will flesh it out,” she said.
This was kind of uncharted territory for me—rock band-style writing where everyone comes up with their own personalized parts, but not together in the same room, or even the same U.S. state. I always liked that game Exquisite Corpse so I felt like it could be fun. I got to work…
I composed a bunch of guitar themes that seemed somehow related to me, but in no particular order. Then I notated them all in Sibelius, and spent a while messing around with the structure. After settling on a form, I recorded myself playing the song through, did a couple overdubs etc. Off went the recording to the Rabbit Rabbit folks, along with a chart of my guitar parts for reference.
Hearing the result is so cool and so bizarre! No one else would have done it this way—the pacing, the clarity and the intensity that they maintain through the whole song. I totally encourage anyone who hasn’t to try writing like this. It’s a little less cuddly than your normal in-the-same-room writing, but you can’t fight with your bandmates when they are far away (unless you’re really psycho), and the resulting music is surprising and refreshing.
Thanks Carla, Matthias and Jon for including me.
From the Engineer’s Desk
Here, as always, are a few insights from our illustrious engineer/bass-player/guitarist/co-producer, Jon Evans:
Thanks Ava, for sending a twisted guitar layer cake for us to play with. And thanks for reminding us that music sometimes comes with a score that describes correct notes and meter changes, so that we can ignore those notes, and chords, and meter changes. Thanks also for an excuse, or a need, to use the normally vertically oriented THUNDER DRUM as a kick drum. There's aren't often times where a 26"x50" kick drum is a necessity, but Ava's guitar track was so monstrous that Matthias needed the feet of Thor to match up.
Special shout out to Carla for somehow finding a great melody, performance, and lyrics throughout the twists and turns of Ava's madness!
Words About Words from CK
When you’re in your twenties, somehow all of your songs are about love in one way or another. When you’re a touring musician, all of your songs are somehow about the road. When you’re a parent, all of your songs are thinly-veiled tributes to your kids, or parenthood, or time passing… Of course, when I say you, I mean me.
This one is for my kids, Tallulah and Viggo. Here are few of the things that went into the stew of this song:
• Viggo is enthralled with lights and ceiling fans. He gazes up at them with a look that can only be described as rapturous. His little body is so soft and so out of his control. He is so very helpless, but armed with heroic determination and strength.
• Tallulah has taken to saying “a promise is a promise,” implying that if you double-cross her and, for example, move backwards in the water as she’s trying to swim to you after promising you won’t, you’re in big trouble. We had a big discussion about the importance of keeping your promises. The word promise also has the sweet implication of a future filled with love and light, adventure and discovery. What can I actually promise them? Everything and nothing. I promise them the world.
• The evening that I set out to write the words for this song, we read Tallulah a bedtime book, as is our custom. It was a book called A Lion Named Shirley Williamson by Bernard Waber, of Lyle the Crocodile fame. Due to a telephonic miscommunication a lion, recently captured from her natural habitat and on her way to the zoo, is dubbed Shirley Williamson. Her name causes some discontent amongst the other lions and alternately outrages and delights the public. It also forever endears her to her zookeeper, Seymour, who’s now-deceased wife was named Shirley. There are a few pages in which Shirley reflects on her lost life in the African plains. She misses her family, her friends, her community. She misses hunting her own food. I was thinking about Shirley, the fictional lion. And about our own socialization. And about my role in that process as a parent.
• We’ve just moved… again. Only 5 miles down the road, but a move is a move, and our lives are once again in pieces. This move, too, is a temporary one, but nonetheless, today we begin to reconstruct our lives in a new space. It’s a bit like seeing a family portrait painted in cubist style, everything slightly askew and disassembled.
We are in pieces.