Sunday, June 17, 2007

Avoid Wet Blanket Syndrome

I recently started posting The Plastic Flappybats songs in Hold My Life.

My friend Frank and I recently studied the craft of songwriting from Peter Case. Hold My Life readers will recognize Peter through his songs that have been featured in various episodes of the comic, music fans will know Peter from his work with the Nerves, the Plimsouls, and also through his amazing body of solo music since the Plimsouls disbanded.

Anyway, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Peter Case. One of the first things he told us in the class was "avoid wet blanket syndrome" - basically don't be your worst enemy, don't get halfway done with the song, decide it sucks and give up on it. Finish your songs and if you decide later that it sucks, well you don't have to play it anymore.

Beyond that, he said to write, write, write. Write every day. And he gave us some valuable tools, using examples from songs written by people like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Lennon, McCartney and himself, to name just a few. Westerberg's name even came up a couple times... we really dug into the craft of songwriting, and the things that are universal in great songs. You'd be surprised...

Anyway, he gave us new and different colors for our pallette, gave us songwriting assignments every week and sent us out into the world to write songs. And I appreciate Peter's willingness to take neophyte poserus like us into his world and give us the time of day.

We know we're not ever gonna get a record deal-- and honestly, none of us really gives a shit. We're not gonna get our big break. We're probably never gonna get offered the opportunity to play a show anywhere but at Karmic Calamity on First Fridays (kind'a hard to lose that gig cuz I own the joint)-- and we don't really care. The Flappybats just wanna play songs, and hopefully people dig it as much as we like playing.

So that's where the songs are coming from. The class itself gave me greater insight into the life and mind of a songwriter, and I've begun applying that to Penny's story as well. But part of me kept saying "well if you put music in your comic, why aren't you putting your own stuff in there"

And it makes sense. Kind'a putting our money where our mouth is. Yes, the recording quality is haphazard, they're poorly mixed (I never said I was a producer or an engineer), the vocals aren't so hot (I never said I was a good singer) and there are mistakes a-plenty to be found on the recordings (I never said I was Keith Richards). But I think the spirit is there, and you know what? I like the damn songs. We think (well, most of us think) they sound pretty good when we play them live, and they're a hell of a lot of fun to play. And that's the approach Penny's taking in the comic. She keeps saying that everything in life is so heavy, so many things dragging her down, that she wants to write fun, groovy, poppy songs and just entertain people.

So keep that in mind when you listen to the songs in the comic. The Flappybats have songs titled Stumblin Blind, Due West, Far Away, Little Miss Think Twice, Clove Cigarettes, One Hit Wonder, I Don't Know and High Heel Mary. And coincidentally, Penny has songs with those exact same titles.

I think of those songs appearing in the comic as The Flappybats from the comic covering Penny's music. I like to think of those guys waiting for Johnny to leave the studio, and knocking out a cover of Little Miss Think Twice while he's out buying smokes cuz they like her songs better than his.

Unfortunately, they have no idea how to produce a recording.

Just have fun with it, be kind, and hopefully you'll dig the songs.


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