March 2, 2018
Dear John Francis,
About ten years ago, a nice man named Jason contacted me on this thing called MySpace and asked if I didn’t have any new songs I’d like to record, since he had a couple really nice microphones and guitars and several Terabytes of hard drive space and a sort of chalet slash studio overlooking the open prairie in the Kinnickinnic area of western Wisconsin in which to record etc. etc. Naturally, I jumped right on this benevolent offer. The song that I am writing to you about today (which you can listen to in the player window above) came from that recording session.
But before I blather on about my song and the recording process, I want to address your previous contribution to this little canon we are endeavoring to create under the auspices of the Duluth Experiment. Of course, I am talking about your song, “Atticus.” It is a dandy of a song. Now, I pressed you via text for an explanation of why you got frostbite in the opening lyrics, and you indicated that the lyric was something about “stashing your tam,” and you helpfully explained that a “tam” is a word used by Canadians to mean hat. I thought about texting back something snarky about the fact that I knew what a “tam” was, and the real problem was your handwriting and your diction in the recording process, but I decided to let it go (I had listened to the opening lines while looking at your lyric sheet several times and still couldn’t put it together). I moved on to ask about other references such as Quai Chang Caine from the show Kung Fu (Was that the David Carradine character?), and Jimmy Swaggart. Great song with crazy references. I would still go back and add harmonies to the chorus. Give me a C, a bouncy C!
Now, I feel like I should explain a little better what we are doing here, because I told my parents to check out this website and they said that they didn’t really get it. So, to explain: this is a blog, technically. But we are doing what we have always done since 1987 or so: we are writing letters to each other about our great accomplishments and failures within the context of the times we are living, but now, we are doing this in an essentially public forum— not that the eyeballs have flocked to our site here, or that of the record label that we have created to help us market our intellectual property in the new ways of the world on that old Bandcamp. Yes sir, it is a brave new world.
Indeed, when you proposed the idea of writing to each other in this way, I thought it would make sense to find our old letters as well and show them to the world here, if only to show how themes of the times can repeat, regardless of whether there is an overlord telling all what is trending on a day to day basis. Further, because I have not exhausted every last bit of the entrepreneurial spirit which once beat so fervently in my heart, I recommended that we market this blog as an epistolary novel in the making, and a bromance one at that. (For some of the younger folks out there, that means a novel which is written in the form of letters (epistles) between two characters. I trust you all know what is meant by bromance.) Well, I haven’t found any of the letters you wrote to me when you lived in France or Mongolia, so for now, let us consider these letters that we are writing to each other from 2018 onward as the first draft of this novel, and we will worry about plot and changing names and stuff like that later. (Still confused about epistolary novels? Here is a list of 100 different epistolary novels you can read, thanks to Bookriot.)
And now I intend to blather on about the recording I posted on our label page. The previous four paragraphs were meant to throw the more fair-weather Duluth Experiment readers off our trail, for as we well know, becoming too appealing to too many people too fast can result in a backlash, and neither our blog in general nor our Bandcamp label page needs that kind energy swirling around it now, do they? Let us play the willfully obscure card for a little bit longer before we roll out the bacon and syrup, shall we, John Francis?
So this Jason Keillor fellow invited me to lay down some ideas, and he intended to let me do this for free, in this beautiful recording studio in rural Wisconsin. Wowzers, what a great deal. (I should thank him again for his generosity here: Thanks Jason!) I think this was 2007, maybe 2008. And then the night before I was slated to drive to his bucolic studio, I realized I hadn’t chosen any songs to record or rehearsed anything specifically, and I also ended up having to work late at the restaurant that night. So I got home around midnight, sent a Champagne cork over the balcony’s edge and dug into rehearsing and choosing songs. Around 5:00 a.m., I was out of bubbles, Cava actually, and realized I needed to be awake in a couple hours to make the drive to Sconnie. One more smoke as the sun came up and then lights out.
I woke at 9 a.m. and realized that the bubbles of the previous evening’s revelry had taken up residency in the many micro-cracks of my brain, and they felt less like bubbles and more like concrete with little bits of broken glass dispersed evenly throughout. This was no way to feel for a recording session with nice Neumann microphones and Martin and Gibson acoustics made available for your playing. Herr Schindler, Du Schwachkopf! For this reason, when and if I do release these songs that I committed to disk that day, this record will be called “Of a Hungover Sconnie Morn.”
I still remember the weather as I drove into the valley of the Kinnickinnic; it was pouring and the clouds had come low. The river was violent with the heavy rain and everything was green green green and dark dark dark. And I was hungover something fierce.
Jason showed me around the studio and we got to work. I kept my distance, lest he catch a whiff of my post-prandial prodigiousness. At one point we broke and I remember grilling and noshing hotdogs alfresco with his family. Hotdogs can be good for hangovers, as can a can of pop and ketchup. Slowly, I felt better, thinking about Sinatra and his wisdom— the phrasing!
Bang. This song, it is a little dark dark and green. I am undecided on the title, so I have posted it as “Undecided (In a World with Love.”) I would be grateful, my dear Gooners, if you would peruse the lyrics, listen to the song a time or two, (and perhaps even consider purchasing this song, as you did the “Mediocre Gatsby” (lol)) and tell me if you think there is a better title for this song.
I should add that the previous 10 paragraphs were a ruse to throw Bryan Hanna off the path of having his ego gratified, as I must add that he gets the credit for taking the digital files that Mr. Keillor had given to me, and went about mixing them to really show the majesty of the microphones and the guitars and the room, if not the plug-in. (That is producer humor.) I had asked him to make it sound big, and he did that for me. I sometimes wonder what this one might sound like given a more intimate mix. (Bryan, if you have made it this far, could you do that for me?) (John Francis, I should note that Bryan Hanna produced Kiss Life on the Lips, which Faux Jean, under the auspices of the New Fidelity Records, essentially self-released into the void of 2001.) The working title for this song was “What’s Not to Love?”
And now, the lyrics for
Undecided (In a World With Love)
by your old friend, Matty Schindler
- Life is free but the rules are kind of funny
Don’t have to work but you’ve got to have money
Some say we came from apes, others say we’re made from clay
mudslinging monkeys hating to the grave
- History has a taint
a note to self to suffer
Fiction has love to sell,
to sell itself
Science has her fiction
which has fate
which sells itself
- So what’s not to love
In a world with love?
- But what if such a one can’t find love
Go to the grave no soul to save
Nothing to savor save for your own soullessness
Go to the grave, sad and alone, a mess
- The future has a taint
a note for self-destruction
Fiction has love to sell itself
Science has her fiction
which has war
and death and s-e-x
which sells itself
- You call it porn, we be amazed <<(click here for vocal reference)
So what’s not to love
in a world with love
in a world with hate
in a world with death
you’re standing at the gates.
I know what you’re thinking, John Francis— What does this have to do with the times, as this is supposed to be an epistolary bromance novel divined by the times? Well, I guess it is just a commentary on how two strains are coming to the fore with a very vocal fringe on either side shouting shrilly at each other, with everyone else kind of acknowledging that Jim Morrison was right, you might as well get your kicks and be fruitful and maybe divide before the outhouse goes up in flames. I mean the stories that people believe!
One last thing and then I am out. And this speaks to the science fiction lyric with fate and infinity and war yada yada yada. You and I are not digital natives, but we are Star Wars natives— that is, we were 7 or 8 when the first Star Wars came out in 1977, and we seriously internalized that stuff. (The only thing that I ever shoplifted in my life was an eraser in the shape of the Millennium Falcon, which I nabbed from the gift shop at the Tweed Museum in Duluth circa 1978, and I still feel guilty about it.) But it was a pretty big deal when it came out, right? At the same time, it was still just a movie.
So, last night, Henry and Vivian were asking me to tell them bed-time stories with a Star Wars theme. We were in the living room with the lights out, Viv on the couch, Henry on the floor on a yoga mat. Mom was away, convalescing at her parents in Milwaukee. (You can read Emily’s Cancer Blog here.) I started by saying that the planet that Luke Skywalker lived on was kind of like Mongolia, and Henry said Naboo? Like, he knew the name of a planet in the Star Wars world. I had no idea if that was even a thing, (further research suggests Tatooine was the planet I had meant) but it showed me how quickly and thoroughly he has absorbed some of this fiction fantasy and fate which, I think, science likes to have around to bring in grants and such like. And it made me think how quickly the stories in the Bible must have been internalized when writing— the first science — came to be. What do you think, one generation? Two?
I don’t know… Does any of this make sense?
aka Faux Jean
2 thoughts on “Undecided (In a World With Love)”
I’ll be writing my next entry soon. In the meantime, a couple direct replies:
1. Yes, Quai Chang Caine is the David Carradine character, the only character worth mentioning. Why do you even need to ask? Were you reading on Sunday afternoons or something? By the way, I’m not sure I’ve spelled his name correctly, but that’s okay. Spelling is just a thing. My favorite line from Kung Fu: “My people? I am my people. I am the last.” It’s been 35 years, and I still remember that.
2. “Give me a C, a bouncy C.” Excellent late 80s SNL reference.
3. Tam story. Hope you don’t think my explanation was condescending, but I have to admit this is a word I didn’t learn until I was in my early 20s. I distinctly remember the moment my mom said, “tam,” and I had to ask her several times to repeat it and explain it to me. I’d never heard it before that. It was like Russian. I have this reputation for not knowing very common things that normal people know sometimes. I think it makes me special. My handwriting also makes me special.
4. I’m more than okay with you not finding my old letters, but that old photo of me from my Peace Corps days makes me look pretty awesome. I’m good with that.
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