Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Late Joys with a Little Help from Our Friend

Young Sarah Jingles Our Bells!

The Late Joys played an acoustic set at casa Polgar in early December and, captured in this hubbub of a performance of "Haymarket Rain," is young Sarah -- a Jingle Belle -- ringing her thing and doing it exceptionally well!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is This Spinal Tap?

It's common rock and roll knowledge that infamous British rockers Spinal Tap have had a challenge when it comes to maintaining some sort of consistency with the band's drum corps. Or perhaps I should say, drum corpse, as most of the unlucky throne-sitters have met untimely, nay mysterious, ends. Fairly or unfairly, drummers have a reputation for sudden disappearances, and, sadly, thus it is with The Late Joys, who are now looking for what will be drummer number five (we're averaging one a year, a record of Tappish proportions!). Aye, it's true: Though hardly dead, current skins banger Andy Macleod has left the act.

Sad as it is to report that Andy has picked up sticks and moved on to pastures new, what really has me thinking is how similar his departure is to the others who've been in, and out of, the band: Suddenly, without warning, with some misgivings and for personal reasons that may forever remain unknown, politely, and with all hope for the best for the band and the lads in it. No tabloid acrimony here!

This latest, particular departure went along these lines. Following a really great gig a few Saturdays ago at Jovita's, I discovered Andy'd left several messages on my cell phone. Now, when someone wants to get in touch that badly it either means really good news or really bad news. Being of the dark-and-moody sort it's fair to say that I guessed what it was he wanted to talk about. Sure enough, when I finally spoke to him, it was to learn that he was leaving the band.

The selfish part of me was frustrated and not a little cheesed off, but as I've been through this all before, well, I got over that quickly enough. Besides, this is an outfit bred for fun. If someone needs out, that's okay and no hard feelings. We've kept in touch with pretty much all the ex-drummers (they don't spontaneously combust or die in freak gardening accidents!) and I imagine we'll be seeing more of Andy in the future. It's almost funny this pattern of increasingly talented drummers who simply must leave the band. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this too, too familiar situation all I can do, ultimately, is shake my head and laugh. Drummers: It was ever thus.

So where does that leave The Late Joys?

Well, for one thing, we need a drummer. Andy's a hard act to follow, too. If you know someone with a bit of drumming talent, please have him or her get in touch via this blog or the official Late Joys website. I know of at least one five-year-old fan who's offered to learn the drums to help us out. So come on y'all: There's a competition brewing! We promise lots of fun, good tunes, gigs of all shapes and sizes and nothing remotely as horrifying as a miniature "Stonehenge" or an improvisational "blues jam" at some B-grade theme park. Or was that the Air Force base? Someone needs to rent that movie...

Meanwhile, the three remaining Late Joys continue to add to our repertoire, and we're revisiting some songs once lost to time that sound rather good with guitar, bass and trumpet (if I do say so myself). We'll be looking to play some gigs soon, too. One thing about not carting around the mighty drum kit: we're ready to perform in your living room and not make your ears bleed. At least, not intentionally.

Andy: safe travels (MoPac's rough when daylight savings time ends!). Late Joys: rehearsal next week! Let's go!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Young and Pretty

What is it with our fixation on all things young (and pretty)? Precociousness is highly prized in our world. We look for the next young thing to turn us on. To tell us something fresh. Or to tell us something we already know in a new and exciting way. For an aspiring musician leading (what I think is) a hot little band, this can be a bit frustrating when you realize that the hot little band is not at all a young little band. Three of us hit 40...let's say, in the recent past. I get to wondering if there's a fan base (beyond friends and family, that is) for a band that plays music as if we were in our 20s, but with (I think -- correct me if I'm wrong) a more mature grasp of things like "love" and "politics" and such. The Late Joys play high-octane Brit-pop-influenced tunes: We're sort of the thinking man's indie-rock; cool hooks and smart lyrics. Lots of fun in concert. No, really. We are! But in these label-happy times, is the fact that we're, uh, older, getting in our way? Who's gonna come calling when there's some younger act out there with cool hooks and smart lyrics, etc. Have we missed the boat? The hydrofoil to pop success? What do people think when they think of The Late Joys?

When pigeon-holing my age group, music-industry-wise, there's an array of possible scenarios that are much more common than the path we've followed. For instance:

1. We made it 20 years ago, then flamed out.
2. We made it 20 years ago, flamed out, then resuscitated the act because we need the money/fans implored us/the Maserati-BMW-Prius just isn't the same as 10,000/1,000/100 (depending on our one-time height of fame/infamy) fans screaming your name.
3. We never made it, scrapped that "change-the-world" attitude and started playing the blues/bluegrass/country music to an adoring, loyal, yet oddly inbred fan-base.
4. We may or may not have made it to various degrees but now are earning an almost-decent second income playing cover songs at weddings in the area; yes it's humiliating, but please call for a demo, we're free Saturday night.
5. We never changed our attitude and play to audiences that wonder what the f**k those old guys are doing up there.

Naturally I fear the worst. Or the fifth, actually. But I don't feel old. I don't act old. I wonder if I'm acting my age? And yet, I know deep down that this world turns its head when the next pretty young thing saunters by, throwing itself at the feet of youth and beauty. Why not? If Y&B responds, doesn't that make us young and beautiful, too?

I've thought about this for quite some time. Years and years, really. Can you tell? Does it show? Especially now I'm old enough to have fathered most of those precocious Y&B things you see a-singing and a-dancing on the Top of the Pops* (R.I.P.). I'm not saying I did father all of them -- or any of them, actually -- but I think you get the point. *TOTP is, sadly, another reference that dates me. Yesterday a friend at work took exception to my use of the phrase "these days." "It sounds old," she said. Or did she use the word "fuddy-duddy?" No, that would make her sound old. I should point out here that she, too, is of an age that falls within that "I could have sired her" range. Neigh, but I digress.

I don't mind getting old. I rather like it. Especially as it has come with the realization that I don't have to act that way. I even put it in a song: "Like Big Girls Do," where the storyteller admonishes a fellow person-of-upward-yet-not-catastrophically-infirm age that "Yeah, you're only young once they say. That doesn't mean act that way." And further: "Yeah you grow up so fast, so what? That doesn't mean you get to give up." The level of frivolity in my life has definitely increased as I've aged. Christ, I sound like a zesty cheese. "Taste this zesty, frivolous, yet mature cheese..."

But it's true: There's something invigorating about getting on stage with the other Late Joys in front of our friends and families and jangling that guitar and singing and laughing and, well, playing. I was saying to Andy the other day that we "play" music; the verb implies fun, an outpouring of energy, sharing with others -- it's a game. And it keeps you young.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Late Joys Return to the Studio

Session Under Way at Alta Vista Recording

I think we might have mentioned this before but we're so excited to be back at Alta Vista Recording we're gonna mention it AVR and AVR again. Tom Johnson and Colin MacDonald are at the controls and we're working up some new songs that we hope we'll have ready to hand out to you, dear listener, at that upcoming Jovita's gig.

Those of you who've come out to listen to us may recall our dire enviro-warning with the sweet melody, "Twisty System." That one's definitely in the mix for the finished product. Two new songs, "Everybody's Going Away" and "Honestly" are also sounding ready for sharing. The former is brand-spanking new, written this summer by Mr. P; the latter was an unfinished number from years back -- as far back as Mr. P's Boston days, perhaps (that is, days lived in the Boston area, not, heaven help us, when he (never) played for the iconic 1980s hair-band). Other songs we started include boisterous old faves, "Haymarket Rain" and "Ghost Town," but we think it fair to say that those two numbers may wind up wallflowers this round. We'll see.

For those of you who've never been, AVR is a converted house on the east side of town. To give you a sense of the layout of the place, to record these songs as a band we put Andy and his drum kit in the front room with Patrick on bass. Patrick's amp, meanwhile, was in the wee alcove formerly the home of the washer/drier. Shane played in a mock isolation booth in the kitchen. Robi strummed guitar and warbled in the control room (a converted room at the back) while his amp revved away in a converted bedroom on the other side of the house. How all the sounds managed to find their way to the same place is a marvel of modern wiring, not to mention the handy work of Tom and Colin. (Thanks, guys!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Late Joys Tout Their Horn

Shane Lewis Adds His Brass to the LJ Sound

Robi's known Shane for nigh-on a decade, having played with or against him on soccer fields grassy, dusty or made of diabolically sturdy hardwood. And though we knew Shane performed trumpet for a local outfit (or two), it still came as something of a surprise when, back in the summer, Shane proffered that he had an "idea or two" for adding a little brass to a couple of Late Joys songs. Or that Billy Bragg cover; who can say, really? Taking him up on the offer, Robi taught Shane a few riffs, the man polished his brass, and the rust -- rest -- is history!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How I Wrote The Song: Bloody Little Numbers Game

The first in an occasion series

If you've scrolled about the LJ music on Bandcamp, you'll notice that sometimes there's a blurb that illuminates how a particular song came to be. Oh, okay, I think there's something like that on the All-Night Pillow Fight page, if nowhere else. I can't recall: Quickly, now, go look!

Here, then, a little bit about my song-writing style these days.

By "these days" I mean the days in which I drive to work, to rehearse, to a soccer game -- hours and hours a year spent in the truck, rolling up and down Austin's tarmac maze and the occasional dirt track. Which is nearly every bleeding day. And has been for nigh-on a dozen years.

From time to time you'll see me pull up beside you, singing along to something in my limited jukebox; yes, I'm the oblivious guy belting out that tune, while the truck rocks (rolls?) from side to side as we idle at that red light.

Other times my muse perches shotgun and I find I am humming some unexpected, new melody, usually attached to a lyric (it's a chicken-egg thing) as I drive. This happens rather often, actually: Some line or other twists around the song-writing part of my brain and from it I may derive whole chunks of a song. I don't usually write this sort of thing down -- I'm not studied at reading music, let alone writing it. And, anyway, the chicken scratchings that are left after I drag pen over notepad at the occasional stoplight are often illegible to their creator. What on earth was that word supposed to be? So the best alternative to writing it all down is to repeat whatever line of song happened to sashay between my synapses for as long as I'm driving. Sing sing sing. Repeat repeat repeat. Drive drive drive.

Wherever the mystery melody came from, however, no matter how catchy or contrived, one simple test sorts out the "keepers" from the "losers." If I can recall the melody the next time I get into the truck for a drive, if, after a day in the cubicle or an afternoon chasing a soccer ball or a night working on other material, I can bring that line back to life, it's probably worth it to hunt down a whole song. In recent years this has proven a successful method of song-breeding.

For instance.

Recently I had the line "You better stop beating up on yourself" in my head. I forget exactly what I was thinking that led to the line; I was chastising myself over something trivial, probably, and I thought, "This is hardly a beneficial way to look at your life, mate. You better stop beating up on yourself." I found myself repeating the line, this time with a melody. It mutated and expanded to "You better stop beating up on your-self; there's better things to beat up on." Wry, that. I tried it out over and over again. Pretty solid melody, though, or so I thought. And that's how I left it at journey's end.

Of course, it was not really that good a line, text-wise, but that was what I had and if I could recall it the next time I got into the truck it might be worth pursuing as the basis of a song.

And, as expected, between the time I parked the truck and walked fifty paces to the office I completely forgot the melody that had hatched. Ah well. C'est l'omlette.

And yet, all day long I was aware of that nagging sensation of the promising line. So I wrote down that one bit of lyric. Yes, yes, I said earlier that I never do that, but I was really keen on this one. Alas, or according to form, the melody was gone. I concentrated extra hard on that thankfully slow day and there it was: I found the rhythm of the line and at last the melody came home to roost, too. Though the lyric itself was only a placeholder -- I wasn't about to write a song about self-flagellation. Well, not this time.

And then I lost it again. The melody. Notations on a page in a spiral notebook were useless. Sure the melody went up here and down there, but I'd lost the actual notes. Chicken scratch.

On the hard drive home I drove my mind hard, too, trying to coax the melody from wherever it was. I recited the placeholder lyric and at last the melody ensued: A Good Sign, That. I expanded the melody. And then something else happened and the lyric shifted from "You better stop beating up on your-self" to "Love's just a funny little numbers game" (for no discernible reason: It was what appeared in my head as I repeated the melody, probably as you were staring at me and my rollicking truck at that red light). And that pretty much cracked it: The whole line, "You better stop beating up on your-self; there's better things to beat up on," became, "Love's just a funny little numbers game, a comical calculus." The melody was set. And from there it was relatively easy to stuff all manner of mathematical metaphors into this latest paean to love. The result is the song, "Bloody Little Numbers Game." Which I rather like.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Brit-Pop: Now with 100% More Brit

Scotsman Andy Macleod Picks Up the Sticks

The Late Joys march to the beat of a different drummer these days. Please welcome the newest member of band, Andy Macleod, a Scotsman who keeps things pleasantly up-tempo with his snappy drumming. Andy hails from Glasgow, where he got his early kicks, though more recently you might have seen him strolling les boulevards de Paris avec sa femme. A near-contemporary of the older elements of the band, Andy grew up listening to the same music that warped us in our youth. We like his sound, and Andy's fit right into the Late Joys groove after only a couple of months rehearsing and gigging. Look for a new demo in the fall with Andy leading the rhythm section. Ya bas!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Late Joys Shiny New Blog

Welcome to the site of The Late Joys blog. As you can tell, there's not a whole lot going on here, but we promise there's tons (tonnes?) of things going on elsewhere! Check back from time to time as Robi waxes all philosophical on these pages, on matters musical or at least onomatopoeic.

If you strayed here by accident but were looking for the official website of The Late Joys, click here.

If you're reading this and it isn't Sunday (8/3) yet, come out to see us at Jovita's: 6-8pm, no cover, loads of fun!