Today and for the next few weeks we’ll be handing the reins over to poet-in-residence J.E. O’Leary, so he can tell the story of his band Trousers as he goes track-by-track through the band’s only release, 2004’s We Pitched a Hut and Called it Providence. Today: Track 8, “Dinosaur”
Trousers was a pretty happy family for most of its existence. We got along great, were all committed, and mostly had fun. Things didn’t start to get bad until Spring 2004, when money was tight and personalities started to clash as people got restless; Joey talked a lot about leaving NYC; Becca was finishing school; George was super into his work. I was laser focused on music and the band, to a fault; it became my personality, and everything I felt was tied to how the band was doing. If we had a bad practice, I sulked all week. If Joey talked about wanting to move, I took it personally, imagined it as a slight. I didn’t realize this at the time, but that kind of behavior pushes people away, doesn’t bring them closer to you.
But in truth, the thought of wanting to leave or do something else was, to me, stupid. Towards the end of 2003, and into 2004, things were looking pretty good for the band. Our demo was good, and had gotten us booked at Sine and CBGB’s Gallery. We were writing really strong material, and were actually growing a following. Things weren’t happening fast but they were happening. There was no one point where it fell apart, maybe a series of bad practices solidified some people’s decisions. And of course, if people aren’t happy in their life, the band won’t change that, no matter how good it is. But I’d say that period of maybe October 03 – Feb 04 was the peak of the band. And that was when I wrote one of our best songs.
In December 2003, Becca, who was studying at Hunter, was going back to Oregon for Winter break with her friend Ange. Ange was our #1 fan and roadie. She was more or less the fifth Trouser. Joey was going back to Washington for the holidays. Maybe George too, back to California. Memory is fuzzy here. But basically the band was on hiatus for three weeks or so. This was fine – it was the holidays, not much would be happening live music wise. We would regroup and come back strong in spring, think about loft parties for spring, roof shows in the summer. I told the band I would hunker down for the month and write some new material. Becca had also started singing, so I said I would write a song for her to sing. She had only one request, that it be called Dinosaur. She and Ange were obsessed with Dinosaurs. They had Dinosaur t shirts, read those Dinosaur comics on the internet, even dressed up like Dinosaurs for Halloween (a picture of which ended up as the back cover for our album).
When I set to work, I tried to think of Lou Reed writing songs for Nico, or “I’m Sticking With You” for Mo. The song had to be really tender, but had to have a monster melody. I wrote it in the key of B, which was pretty high for me, but that was OK since I wouldn’t be singing it (my backgrounds are pretty weak on the record). The lyrics were written from the point of view of a younger woman in love with (or crushing on) an older man and each one had some reference to Dinosaurs. I remember George was particularly fond of the line “You’re so underground now aren’t you”.
When it came time to record it, we couldn’t quite get it right timing wise, so I had to sing the lyrics live while we were tracking. As a result you can hear me faintly in the background as Becca sings “keep me up” and “never miss a chance to dig you”. Becca’s vocal performance here is tremendous. Real vulnerability and emotion. And I always liked George’s snare work on the track. Joey’s guitar work is perfect as usual, real power on the power chords. I always loved the bass part at the end where I hit the chorus pedal. As a whole it’s great. I would have loved the chance to write a song for Becca to sing on every album.
The song’s Youtube video is also the recipient of probably the best internet comment I’ve ever had in relation to any of my work:
I mean, this is the kind of comment I dream about. Some rando from god knows where found our CD in a thrift store and loved it so much they searched it out on the internet. It really makes you think about what else is going on out there, what other people you may have inspired. It really speaks to the magic of art and of human connection. You don’t need to be the best, or the most ambitious, you just need to believe in yourself and put yourself out there. 95% of the rest of it is luck.