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 10, “Becca’s Song”.
I don’t think we ever tried out more than three or four guitar players, but Joey was our clear favorite. According to him, though, he wasn’t sold on us right away. The first rehearsal was fun; Joey took off his shoes before playing, which is the first time I’d ever seen anyone do that before. He had a real distinctive vibe that was referencing a lot of the music we all liked (Modest Mouse, Neil Young, among others) but also had a voice that was very much his own. He vibed real well with all of us. But he wasn’t hyped to join until the second time we got together, when I asked him to play something for us to jam on. He played a simple G major chord progression that became the verse riff for our “closer”.
That rehearsal I remember pretty well. Becca was hungover, as was I, probably. There was a real mellow vibe to the room and I was anxious to get Joey on board. It can be intimidating going into a rehearsal where the band is pretty much all set, has songs, and is just looking for YOU. I wanted to be clear to him that we were looking for a final member, not just a guitar player, so I thought it would be worthwhile to see right away what kind of music he would be bringing to the table. We jammed on his chord progression (I’m a sucker for G major) for a while, it felt real nice. He didn’t appear to have any lyrics (he’d told us from the start he didn’t sing much) so I started improving vocals, starting with describing the room and moving on to describing Becca’s hungover morning. I don’t know all of what we ended up keeping but definitely “woke up with the lights on” “wine stained cups” and “heads or tails of it” were all from that first session. It’s pretty cool to think that vocals I just improved on the spot made it on to a record and then I’m still thinking about it almost twenty years later.
The rest of the arrangement, however, was a group effort. We decided that the chorus should change speeds, not chords, and worked out spots for us all to have solos. The song came together pretty quickly, because it was on our first demo, recorded in the Spring or Summer of 2003. It’s a little looser, a little clumsier, with a couple of ham fisted drum fills and flubbed bass notes, but it does have some redeeming qualities: the chimes before the verses, and a pretty sick bass line (6:09 – 6:15) coming out of the last solo.
Returning to the album version, it’s much tighter. Joey’s sustain is perfect, Becca’s plucked notes really stand out, George is in the zone. My vocals, while stronger than the demo version, are really dragged down by the throat problems I was having that weekend. Josh and co, in the booth, had to really lay on the reverb; the falsettos are thin, the low notes don’t really land the way they need to, and the half-spoken parts kind of disappear in the mix. However I did get one great scream in at 4:00 (“make the best of it”)
This leads into a great bridge solo – first Becca comes in with these huge bowed notes, then Joey crunching these great chords as I lay into some sixteenth notes before the last half-verse. I like my vocals here, including one good last scream at 5:39. Then comes the great finale: a triple solo where Joey, Becca, and I are weaving in and out so perfectly. Its one of my favorite band related things ever caught on tape. During the mixing process, we were all hounding Josh to bring up our parts down to the individual note, which caused him to look over at us exasperated and claim “but you’re ALL soloing!”. He did a damn fine job though.
This was the “hold up a lighter” song for us, the big crashing finale. It had everything that made Trousers Trousers: dramatic lyrics, a mood change, big power chords and crashing drums, solos. It was a seven minute song that never felt like it dragged. It was a story that moved smoothly from one part to the next. The kind of song that would have been in our setlist forever. It’s also fun to think about having so many great songs that you drop a song like this and then bring it back years later and the crowd goes wild.
Some kids grow up thinking about hitting the big home run in the world series or winning a big race, I dreamed of having a band that played to a sea of people, all singing along with the lyrics and having an incredible time. As you grow older you realize that dreams are just that, dreams, and even if they come true, it’s not always the way you imagined it or wanted it. The “coming true” part isn’t the point of having a dream. Dreams and goals are, however, without a doubt important for one thing: they are the things that get you out of bed in the morning, turn you in one direction and pat you on the back – the rest is up to you. And luck.