La Sudar: The Debussy Loops

just in time for your summer vibes~

NEW LA SUDAR! drops 6/22/21


  1. The Debussy Loops 2
  2. The Debussy Loops 6
  3. The Debussy Loops 4
  4. The Debussy Loops 9

I’ve been wanting to make a record like this for a long time.

I’ve been working on writing and composing in the ambient space for a few years now, with mixed results. Listening back on the La Sudar stuff I’ve put out over the years in anticipation of this new record, I’ve found some of it fun, some of it interesting, some of it bloated, and some of it unlistenable. It’s been educational. When working on a piece, the urge to tinker, to add, to dress up the music can be overwhelming. But when I’m able to let that go, and get out of the way of the music, it can lead to some spectacular results.

The best thing, however, about getting into ambient music, and starting to think about what I might want my ambient music to sound like, was being able to browse active ambient, drone, and experimental artists releasing music around the world right now on sites like Bandcamp. Bandcamp makes finding new sounds really easy through its tags; it has expected ones like ‘drone’ and ‘ambient’ but also more intriguing ones like ‘plant music’ and ‘musique concrete’ that allowed me to scratch very specific itches I hadn’t been aware of.

While I’d always loved jammy, spacy music (bands like Pink Floyd, Spiritualized, The Velvet Underground, and Phish have all been favorites since college or before) I didn’t start specifically seeking out ambient music until I bought a synth back in 2015 or so and started to become intrigued by the idea of writing in that space. The first stuff to really blow me away was a series of pieces called The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski. I found it transcendent in a literal way, almost more of a painting than music, a true four dimensional work of art. It made me want to put out a true looping project one day, but I could never seem to find the right music to loop.

Then one day a few months ago, I was listening to an LP of Debussy Preludes (Books I and II) when it began to skip. A lightbulb went off in my head. I grabbed my phone and held it up to the speaker and hit record. When it had cycled a few times I hit stop. The audio file I’d captured was maybe three seconds of actual music, and the sound of the skip. But I slowed it down, sped it up, reversed it, reverbed it, distorted it, stretched it and turned it inside out, and before I knew it I had more loops than I knew what to do with. I’m still working on it. There will probably be a Volume 2, unless I get sidetracked by this new snippet I have from when my Chopin record skipped last week.

So this was a fun record to make. I hope you enjoy listening to it. I’d been wanting to do a homage to Basinski’s loops for years, so this feels like an actual accomplishment. It releases on Bandcamp Tuesday June 22, just in time for your Summer vibes. If you want to know more about it just hit me up at

Audio Saturdays! New La Sudar coming!

If you’re a follower of the Audio Saturdays column here, you know that for the past couple week’s we’ve been exploring the music of early 00s indie band Trousers. It was a lot of fun revisiting that old material, but now that the album is finished we’re kind of at a loss for what to do next. While we mull over some ideas, we’re going to go back to what got us here, at least for the time being.


Going to drop some new la sudar music June 5, maybe drop the first single next week – who can say? But there’s been a whole lot going on in the la sudar world and it’s long past time to give you a taste. Here’s a sample of an outtake – not anything I used, but part of something I used, looped, slapped around and dressed up.

As far as the actual music that’s coming, see the picture below for a hint about the main source of inspiration…

Audio Saturdays! Back to Basics

If you’re a follower of the Audio Saturdays column here, you know that for the past couple week’s we’ve been exploring the music of early 00s indie band Trousers. It was a lot of fun revisiting that old material, but now that the album is finished we’re kind of at a loss for what to do next. While we mull over some ideas, we’re going to go back to what got us here, at least for the time being.


Feeling pretty unfocused in a lot of my work lately. I’ve got three or four different projects I’m trying to run with at once and not really getting anywhere with either of them. I’m loathe to shelve any of them, but I’m tired of being pulled in several different directions.

This particular audio track is an excerpt of a larger thing, which I plucked out and toyed with a bit. Given my failure to see the larger picture with some of these sound collages, I’m hoping that by zooming in I can discover just what about them is not working, or figure out a better way to present them. I leave you to judge just how successful I am at this.

There’s a separate music project I’m working on, unrelated to this except that I’m using this to avoid it (the other project). It’s been a frustrating week, hoping to rally this weekend, or at least catch up on sleep.

Audio Saturdays! Back to Basics

If you’re a follower of the Audio Saturdays column here, you know that for the past couple week’s we’ve been exploring the music of early 00s indie band Trousers. It was a lot of fun revisiting that old material, but now that the album is finished we’re kind of at a loss for what to do next. While we mull over some ideas, we’re going to go back to what got us here, at least for the time being.

“Astoria Sound Collage #2”

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been doing some entry level explorations into field recording, and while the results are mixed, there does seem to be some promise in the idea of taking field recordings and composing some ambient music around them. That’s not what we’re doing in today’s selection, “Astoria Sound College #2” though- here we broke out some samples from a recent twitch stream and combined them with some bird chirps we got from our last field recording expedition.

We’d love to hear from some of you field recorders out there, especially the musicians among you, to discuss how you’ve integrated the two into your art, to see how one has informed the other.

photo of China, photographer unknown, ripped from the internet at some point

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 11: Mountain, Mountain Glowing

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 11, “Mountain, Mountain Glowing”.

We had the hardest time choosing a band name. One of the first we threw around was Simple Machines, which is the name for things like levers and wedges, the simplest possible “building blocks” of applying force. We liked the idea, but by this time (2002-2003) it was super easy to search the internet for other bands, and we soon discovered Simple Machines was the name of an established band in the Midwest; we wanted something completely ours. The next name we had was Sketch, and we actually stuck with this one for a while. I still have plenty of old rehearsal tapes that have Sketch on them. But this too ended up being the name of another band, this time, one out of Philly. It took a very long time to settle on a name. We eventually settled on Trousers during one of our weekly “go around in a circle and say the first thing that pops into your head” sessions at practice, but not before exchanging probably hundreds of ideas at these sessions and over email. There was one that Joey came up with while riffing that I loved, but George refused to consider. But it became something of an inside joke for the band, and when we had a nameless instrumental that we were going to use to wrap the album, George relented and let us use the name: Mountain, Mountain Glowing.

The instrumental itself was the “outro” of a new tune called “The Weed Song” we’d been playing that wasn’t quite ready for the album. I don’t really remember the song, and I’m not about to dig through band tapes to take a listen (though given the nature of these pieces I’m writing, I probably should), but I remember it as a dreamy, kind of Tom Petty-ish driving song, about pulling over on the side of the road to smoke a joint, or maybe being pulled over by cops after smoking? Like I said, not really sure. But this was the instrumental tag at the end of the song. As I mentioned before, two of the songs we recorded for the record weren’t working, so we had to record a few replacement tunes pretty quick. One was “Life as a Movie II” and the other was the outro for this song that worked well as its own piece.
There’s not much to say about this musically. It’s a quiet little two part ditty. Everyone plays their parts well, and the recording sounds fine. It’s the perfect way to end the album; a nice exhale after the emotional drama of Becca’s Song.
And that’s it. That’s the story of recording our album. There are thousands of stories just like this. Small rock bands who had a decent run, recorded an album, then had to break up for any number of reasons, but leave behind a document of the time spent in the band. When I was in Trousers, music was my whole life. Playing music, writing songs, was all I wanted to do. It wasn’t the best band I’ve ever been in (though definitely top 3), and it wasn’t the worst (not even close). But it’s one of the only ones where I actually have a finished album as a statement of our time together. For that I’m grateful.

When I started writing this series, I didn’t really have any goals except to kill eleven weeks of “Audio Saturdays!” on my website, and get some weekly writing in outside of my comfort zone of poetry and fiction. I felt a lot of emotions while revisiting this material, but was surprised at how sad a lot of it made me feel. The thought process went a lot like this: God damn, this is so good. How did we not keep this going? Well, people moved away. But how did I not keep something going? I kept writing, but it would be another 3 years before I fronted a band with my own songs again. I guess on some level I felt rejected and jaded by the whole thing, like, it ended, what was the point? I didn’t understand yet. I didn’t want to go through the whole thing just to end up right back at square one again.

After Trousers, the next couple of years were kind of lost. I bounced from band to band, drinking heavily, sleeping around, doing lots of cocaine and generally being self destructive. First I joined a jam band with one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. But they were weekend warriors, and despite me pushing and pushing, didn’t have any real interest in playing live, which in hindsight is pretty odd for a jammy band. So after maybe ten months of trying, I quit. After that I found a garage rock band with another amazing drummer, and we had a pretty good run. We played live a lot, but when it came time to record, they decided they wanted a bassist with a different sound. Rejected again! That pissed me off and kind of woke me up a bit. It wasn’t until 2007 that I found a guitarist who believed in me and my songs, and we had a great band for a while. We eventually ended up at each other’s throats, but that experience gave me the confidence to get my songs going again. I started playing solo acoustic at open mics, and the whole Joe Yoga project was born.

Regret is an awful feeling on a lot of levels. First off, the feeling itself feels terrible, and, if you’re like me and beat yourself up a lot, it can be twisted into seeing it as an indictment of one’s current situation: if you regret something in the past, something ending, some action you could have done differently, then your life would be different, and the only reason you would feel regret is if you weren’t happy with your current life. If your life was great, you wouldn’t want anything in the past to be different because it would change where you are now. So it becomes difficult to identify just what it is you regret.

For me, with Trousers, I do think a lot about what it would have been like if we got a break, got to put out an album on a label, tour, all that jazz. I think we would have been good and successful. And it would have been the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I first found Alice Cooper’s Love it to Death in 7th grade: playing in a famous, powerful rock and roll band. There’s a lot of that result that’s out of my control, but there was also probably a lot I could have done that I did not, and a lot I did that I should not have done. But at the same time, my life since Trousers has been awesome. I’ve met some of the most incredible people I will ever meet, including the love of my life, had experiences and created art I would have not have created otherwise. All of those things would be different if the Dream came true: different people met, different songs written, different experiences experienced. So where is the regret coming from? Or, what is the regret over?

I think it’s two things (maybe three). The first part is my perception of the experience of Trousers as one I did not fully appreciate at the time. I hope I did. Those nights hanging out, drinking liters of warm beer at Greenpoint Tavern, three hour jam sessions, getting better, growing confident as a performer, singer, and songwriter, were so important to me. I suspect did not ever stop and say “this is amazing”; I was too busy with my foot on the gas. Or if I did, it wasn’t integrated the way I know now that that feeling needs to be. I know I loved those guys. I know we had a great band. Part of me is aware that the dream of doing everything right and experiencing every experience the right was is more of a fantasy than a dream. Now I can say: I know that now. But then I was just a match, burning. I thought the end was the end. But it never is.

The second is that being older, you know how much can change, and just how many different roads your life can take. I’m bummed I never got to live the road where I did everything right with Trousers. I’m also bummed I never got to live the road where I did everything right as a novelist, or with any other of the bands I was in. It’s not necessarily that I wish things were different, but that those would have been amazing to experience. I know in a different timeline, I could have been hit by a bus at 33 and never gotten to experience growing old. But it’s part of the gift and curse of having abstract thought. There’s no way to avoid thinking “What If?”. You can only hope it doesn’t lead to obsessively thinking “Why Not?”

The third thing is that I regret these songs never found a wider audience. I feel regret for the people who never got to hear them, because I know they would have loved them. We were a perfect little fireball of a band, with grace and humor and power. We would have been perfect. But music lovers, though they may never have experienced our band, I know one thing they did do: they followed their hearts to all the music they could find, and they found incredible, passionate music to love – because if there’s one thing this world is not lacking, it’s brilliant artists expressing their truths via amazing music. They say the snowflake never feels responsible for the avalanche, but I wish it would, because it works the other way too – the drop of water can never comprehend that it’s part of the beautiful ocean, but if they all felt that way and went away, what a loss it would be for the eyes that seek beauty.

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 10: Becca’s Song

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.

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 9: Life as a Movie II

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 9, “Life As a Movie II”

This song has a weird life, and almost never made it on to the album. I’m pretty sure we did this song towards the end of the day on the last day of our studio time. We had two other songs “The Breakup Song” and “The Outer Limits” and while mixing them, we had more or less agreed that the takes we had weren’t that great, at least they weren’t as good as the other songs we’d tracked. These two songs ended up on my first solo record a few years later, but it was a drag realizing the takes weren’t good enough, because they were really fun to play. The Outer Limits, especially, would have sounded pretty great on the album in my opinion.

We already had a little instrumental jam that we’d recorded and were planning on using to round out the album (more on that in two weeks) but we felt the album still needed another full length song to beef up the tracklist. So while the rest of the band went and got sandwiches, Josh set me up with a mic and an acoustic guitar and hit record, and we ended up with a pretty good version of a song that the band loved, but we’d never worked on.

I wasn’t too keen on putting a solo acoustic song on the album for a few reasons. For one, I didn’t really play guitar. I’d fucked around on the instrument for sure, but I didn’t even own one at this point. Also, as much as I was the primary songwriter of the band, I was extremely proud of the collaborative nature of the group, and didn’t want to highlight anything on the record that might take away from that. So it was optics to a point. I didn’t want people to think I insisted on including it. It wasn’t even my idea. I’m pretty sure Joey is the one who suggested it, and we only ended up doing it because we needed another song and didn’t have time to set up the whole band again to try another take of one of the two songs we’d decided weren’t working.

The song is actually the third version of the song that exists. The first version, “Life as a Movie” was from the first batch of songs I’d ever written. I recorded it in the basement of my apartment in Canarsie in 2002, when my girlfriend had just left me and I had a whole summer where I had nothing to do but write songs and smoke weed. I’d recently gotten a 4-track Tascam Portastudio, and spent most of the summer learning how to record songs. For Life as a Movie, I’d recorded a version with long instrumental verses which lead into the chorus, and wanted to do a spoken word part for the verses. I chose selections from a long, rambling piece I’d written in my journal about my feelings about my girlfriend leaving me. I would read from the journal, stop when the chorus started, then start reading again. The result was pure lo-fi magic.

But that chorus! Still to this day one of the best things I’ve ever written. This needed to be a song I could play live, but I figured there was no way I was going to be able to memorize all those words, and I wasn’t sure I wanted the song to be as long as it was anyway. So I reworked the poem into actual lyrics, sped up the tempo, and chopped the run time in half, and “Life as a Movie II” was born.

I wasn’t playing shows in those days, but every time I brought the bass out to a park or subway platform, people always loved this song. It was one of the ones I brought to the band, but we never really figured out an arrangement that worked. I would have loved to do a full band version with Becca on backing vocals. But we have to settle for the version that we got done. We never played this one live, but I might have a rehearsal space version of it somewhere.

The actual recording was done in one take, which shocked the hell out of me, because as I said I didn’t even own a guitar and probably hadn’t played one in weeks if not months. But the bottom four string are the same, so I just pretended like the top two strings didn’t exist and just tried to be real careful. My voice was working ok that day so we added some backing vocals which worked nicely. I insisted on leaving in the “All right, take one” part because I always loved the Violent Femmes song “American Music” which starts with Gordon Gano sheepishly saying “Can – Can I put in something like, ‘This is American Music, take one.'”

I guess this is technically a cover of “Life as a Movie 2” and not part three. Not sure what a Life as a Movie III would look like. Eighteen years and a million beers and cigarettes later, my voice is in a much lower register. Maybe a piano version in a different key? It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this song, and I’m happy with it. It’s the kind of song that makes me wish I’d had more success as a songwriter, not for me, but I would have loved it if more people had heard this song. I think as an artist that’s all one can really hope for – that you write material you believe in. That is its own kind of success.

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 8: Dinosaur

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.

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 7: September 10th

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 7, September 10th

One of my favorite things about being in a band and starting out was those hour long jam sessions. No agenda, no “working on” anything, just the band, some beers, some weed, and saying GO. It’s an exercise in improvisation, in creativity, and in endurance, both mentally and physically. We had to physically be able to play for that long – wasn’t the goal headlining shows? We would have to be able to play without taking breaks. We wouldn’t be able to walk off stage in the middle of a set and take a smoke break. Long jamming sessions also tested my mental creativity, and listening skills. If we could keep things interesting for long stretches, just jamming, not working on material, that meant we were listening well and exploring, flexing those creative muscles. These sessions were also great for writing as a band. I loved writing a song and bringing it to the band, but I also loved coming up with something brand new as a foursome. September 10th was one of those songs.

There’s no big meaning behind us calling it September 10th. The jam session where we came up with the skeleton of what became the song was literally on September 10th. We probably passed the tape around and at subsequent rehearsals would label it “September 10th jam”. Also we thought the jam sounded foreboding and sinister, and naming it after the day before an awful day seemed to fit. I don’t remember specifically how it came about, but I remember collecting those basslines from a D minor jam and putting them together – the arrangement just kind of came together. I tried to write words for it once, but the vibe was really off putting. I think in the Tape Box somewhere there is a really early version of me singing over it, but we ditched the idea pretty quick. It didn’t need a vocal part.

I definitely sound like a broken record at this point, but Joey’s guitar parts on this are perfect as usual. He had such a great feel for the dynamics of a song and how to push it forward. And having a classically trained musician like Becca in the band was such a great asset. She was always careful to never overwork any part, and knew exactly how to find her place in a song, even loud of busy parts. I could probably count on one hand the number of times we got too loud/busy/crazy for her and she just threw up her hands and was lost. There’s such a great achy quality to her parts here, especially in the first movement.

There’s a little studio magic happening in the way the two sections were bridged, but listening to it all these years later, it sounds fine. George is really hustling and pushing on the second movement, and though there’s a bit of a hesitation as we come out of the first, you can hear the moment we click, and it really takes off. The overall performance is solid, and, like Nothing Is Wasted, a good representation of what we were doing when we were at our best, and indicative of the kind of collaborative, urgent vibe we would have pursued, given a little more time.

When we walked in to the studio for the first time, we saw they had a gong set up behind the drum kit. “I don’t know what song it’s going to be,” George said. “But I’m hitting that gong on something.” We were all in agreement. When we were listening to the first mix in the booth, we all kind of looked at each other at the same time at the part. George made a hitting-the-gong motion. We did the overdubs right there. It sounds righteous. We were all so thrilled to have a gong on the record, we specifically called it out in the album credits.

None of us were sure where that little curly tail of a note at the beginning came from. It’s definitely Joey, We assume it was a trailing note left on the tape from whatever song we did before, but we did not notice it until it came time to master the recording. We’d gathered at a little basement in Chinatown on a Sunday with a “budget” master guy we found off of Craigslist. The little note is another one of those happy accidents that you find during the process. But by this time we were already aware that the end was near for the band, and the mastering sessions had an air of melancholy to them, even though we were all finishing something we were really proud of.

The one thing I remember from the mastering sessions is that it ended up being more expensive than we thought. I came in to it thinking it was going to be $60 each, but I must have read the email wrong because it ended up being almost twice that, and I went out to one of those bodega ATMs to get more money. It charged me a fee and left me with less that $20 for the week, and that depressed me even more than any of the other stuff going on. I remember thinking, at the ATM, I’m flat broke and I’m losing my band. If this isn’t a sign I need to get my shit together, I don’t know what is.

It would take me a little longer, in fits and starts, two steps forward one step back, but more than anything that was the moment. By that time next year I would have a new job, and more money, but I was in a new band I wasn’t happy in. But that’s a story for another series.

Trousers live at the Acme Underground in NYC, 2003, (probably)

Audio Saturdays! Trousers pt. 6: Nothing is Wasted

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.

“It’s so nice when it happens good…”

Nothing Is Wasted was one of the last songs Trousers came up with. I had the riff – just a basic 1-4-5 plucked with the pick, but really nothing else. We jammed on it for a while before lyrics came, and the bridge is just a minor 6th – pretty standard Songwriting 101 stuff. I don’t even have any drama associated with this song. The lyrics aren’t about anything or anyone in particular, the recording sounds really good, and aside from one vocal miss (there’s supposed to be a big scream on the last “see the worrrrrrrrrrld!”) I’m happy with how I sound personally.

The song starts off with George on the drums, and it’s probably his best performance on the record. The beat is strong and fun and driving. I think had Trousers continued, we probably would have done a lot more stuff in this vein, upbeat dance-y melodic songs. There was a lot of that going on in Brooklyn in 2003-2004, and it probably would have gone over really well. The cowbell is classic – we’d been waiting for a song to use it on, and this was perfect. Joey’s sliding notes really push the song forward, and are where most of the dynamics come from. He always had a great knack for that stuff.

As you can tell, there’s not a lot going on in this song, so we added another track with Becca on the Wurlitzer, split off to the right. There’s a really great off-note at around 1:16-1:18, it comes in flat, but it sounds so good. One of those happy accidents you hope and pray will arrive at recording time. Her call and response vocals are great too. That is another element I think would have wanted to move to the front had Trousers continued. Her voice was really perfect for a lot of our material. I think we had a real streak of optimism, playfulness, and humor in our music and her voice was really expressive in that lane.

I think there’s a relatively celebratory tone to the lyrics. “Nothing is wasted” stands as kind of the faster, complimentary song to “When I go” – there’s a lot of the same tone to the lyrics. Which is interesting to me because when I initially wrote When I Go it had a similar vibe to Nothing is Wasted (though a lot slower). They both had that root-5, root-5, root-5 picking on the bass and a minor 6th chorus.

I think there’s a little distortion on my voice in the low end (?) – probably the engineer trying to cover up the fact that my voice was a bit thin that day. The only thing I’m not happy with in this song is the second “nothing is shorter than June” – where I draw “June” out and it sounds flat (emotionally not musically, though maybe there too). But overall this song stands as a good representation of where we were as a band and where we potentially could move: tighter band, better dynamics, more involvement up front from the other members. Something I learned pretty early on (and shocked me when I did) was that not every emotional song needs to have high drama around every element of its execution. I knew this for fiction writing, but it took me quite a long time to put that particular two and two together. It was quite a relief when I did.

n.b. the song’s title (and main theme) is apparently stolen from Charles Bukowski, whose “Dark Night Poem” reads: “they say that / nothing is wasted / either that / or / it all is” … Now, I don’t remember specifically lifting this, but I was quite the Buk fan at the time, so I without a doubt had come across it. Sorry Chuck. But thanks!

Trousers live in NYC at the ACME Underground. it was a good year for dudes to wear hats on stage I guess