The other night, a friend of mine who has played drums in various bands with me over the years turned 50 and threw himself a bash. He invited various musician friends to play at the party, and I dusted off my saxophone to jam the night away.
There’s a moment when three of us are on stage. I am on guitar (along with my friend, John) and the birthday boy, Bob, is in the center. He’s listening to a song that I wrote to honor him (his nickname is Duke Rushmore) as a birthday present.
When I am not teaching and being a dad and husband, or writing, I am playing rock and roll.
Last night, my band — The Sofa Kings — played out for the first time with new lead singer and we created a video for our website to try to reflect where we are right now. The video is a bit dark and sound gets a bit distorted at times, due to the club setting and limitations of my video camera.
But it captures us nicely, I think. (That’s me on saxophone, keys, guitar and some singing)
All of the songs are originals and I wrote or co-wrote all of them for the band.
It is just so strange to hear my words and thoughts and melodies coming out of someone else’s mouth. It’s a sensation that I must come to grips with but still, it can be a struggle.
As the main songwriter for my band, The Sofa Kings, I write with my voice in my head. But in the band, I try to pass the songs along, so that others have a chance to be the singers on our original material, too. And now that we have a new singer — she has a wonderfully powerful voice — we are trying to even the field a bit more than before. Which means that I am giving up some of the songs that I have traditionally sung.
The other night, I listened as she sang, and although I could hear places where I wanted her to go with her voice, I could tell she is starting to make the songs her own, even in the short time that she has been playing with it. It’s both a fantastic feeling and a bit unsettling. It’s like giving up a child that I have nurtured, even though I know she will care for my words and melody with love and passion. I trust her. I do. But there is some separation anxiety that happens, too. I have refused to pass along a couple of songs that have some deep emotional attachment for me. There are some songs that are more important to me, personally, than others. I can’t and won’t give them up.
We are giving her a crash course in our originals because we have a gig coming up in just a few weeks. This is a show being put on by the man who recorded our band for much of last year. We are the headliners of the show and, to be honest, we are still trying to find our new sound, following the decision by our keyboardist-singer to leave and pursue some solo recording. I am now playing keyboards on some songs, along with sax and guitar, and it all feels a bit uncertain. However, the other night, something started to click and come together in a nice way. I think we will be fine.
Remember Interplanet Janet (she’s the galaxy girl)?
Janet is the name of the newest member of my rock and roll band (The Sofa Kings) as last night at practice in the third floor attic where we play, she sang out her heart and won the praise of all of us. This has been a tough couple of months for us as a band. We had spent much of 2007 working on a CD project (now completed) and then the lead singer/keyboard player decided that he wanted to pursue his own projects. This was a bit of a shock to the rest of us, needless to say, and now the CD is on the way back-burner (did I mention it was done and ready for release?) as we have been trying to regroup and figure out a way forward. I am the main songwriter, saxophonist, sometimes-rhythm guitarist and periodic vocalist.
I’ve been playing with a core group of friends for about 12 years now, and we have had any number of people come and go (and we have gone through a few names, too). The addition of someone new always changes the sound and the energy. Therefore, it is a bit stressful. In the past few months, we have auditioned a handful of folks, including one computer science engineer who sang baritone as if he were a karaoke machine. We had someone who has been in the news as a suspected child molester want to audition (he forgot to mention that fact but someone in the band figured it out). We had keyboardist who also played trumpet, saxophone and who knew what the heck he was going to pull out of his Magic Bag next. I was waiting for the kazoo. (He needed a band that was playing out a few nights a week – that ain’t us).
Then we met Janet, who is a singer and, get ready for it (drum roll, please) … an English teacher (two big pluses in my book). She was game for anything we threw at her, including having her sing lead on a couple of original songs. She didn’t complain. She wanted to rock. We wanted her in, even though it means that along with my saxophone and guitar, I now have to dust off my keyboard for a few songs in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of sound. It’s hard to bounce around on the stage behind a keyboard.
It’s a new chapter for the band and I hope we can find a way to get our CD out into the world (did I mention it was all set to go?)
My band (The Sofa Kings) goes back into the recording studio today and probably tomorrow as we work to get down in digital form (it used to be tape, but no longer) the energy of our live shows and the textures of our original songs. We’re planning to record six originals today and we did five songs a few months ago, so we will have a CD in the fall of 11 songs (if all goes well).
Of the six, four are songs that I either wrote or co-wrote, and I am always amazed at how much the songs take on a new shape with The Sofa Kings. Some songs become unrecognizable from their original incarnation and others just get enhanced on so many levels. It’s such an interesting process to bring a song to the band and see what happens. Many songs end up getting tossed (I have this imaginary dumpster in my head where lyrics and chords go, although they are never really gone — like a good Earth-friendly citizen, I recycle my own thoughts into new thoughts, and the melodies I like come bubbling back every now and then).
Last time, I brought the video camera, but I am not going to do that this time. Today, I will just be “in the moment” and not worry about the right shot, or creative angle, or how that will look on video.
My band — The Sofa Kings — has a gig this weekend and we have been learning a few new songs, including one that has been on our lead guitarist’s list for many years: The Average White Band’s Pick Up the Pieces. It’s a great funk song but incredibly tricky for me, as the sax leads the piece right out front and I have been flubbing the darn thing left and right in practice (is that an eight count? or 12? or 4? Where the hell are we again?)
But, hey, nothing like the stage to get you concentrating … Send me out some good thoughts for Saturday night.
I took a small video camera into the recording studio with my band, The Sofa Kings, and cut this small movie for our band website. I wrote or co-wrote four of the five songs we recorded, although I am not in the video much until near the end.
My rock band, The Sofa Kings, is heading into the recording studio this weekend and it is very exciting because I intend to record the experience on video, too. We have five songs that we intend to put down with the engineer, Paul, who has worked as an engineer extensively throughout our region and who plays with a bunch of, well, hard-hard rock bands. Our goal is record about 12 original songs by the end of 2007, so this is just the first batch for us.
Four of the five songs are ones that I have written or co-written.
Here is a quick breakdown:
Gravitational Pull — an older song that I wrote with John, the guitar player, about my wife and how everything seems centered on her (in a wonderful way). I sing on this one.
Katrina Blows In — I wrote this one in the aftermath of the hurricane season and premiered it at my school where I teach during a benefit concert with an offshoot band I am in called The Millenium Bugs.
Beacon in the Night — I wrote this one with John, with a sort of gospel feel to it. Don sings it.
Stubborn Fool — I wrote this one with both Johns and although I do very little on it (just some back-up vocals), I think it is one of the strongest songs lyrically and pop-rock-wise (not a word but it fit).
No More Mister Fun — I didn’t write any of this one. It is by John, the pianist, and Bob, the drummer. I am just BongoMon on this song.
(What is strange is that I don’t play sax on any of these songs. It just worked out that way. I will be blowing some horn on the next round of songs.)