Thursday, November 3, 2011

girls go to mars

Once upon a time, I wanted so badly to be in a band. Via my dental work at Case by a rockabilly-loving resident, I was hooked up with his prof's daughter who played the drums. They lived in a very nice house in Berea with a room off to the side full of amazing guitar gear and a four-track recorder.

We attempted all sorts of sounds and projects, and at that time I didn't know how to sing (ah the wonders of embracing the alto and learning to transpose to different keys since!) and we had a revolving door of acquaintances with which we played, often with varying results, some lasting longer than others because sometimes they really didn't know how to play and just wanted to say they were in a band or they were in bands with other people or whatever.

After the short-lived punk band in which I played bass and we quit before playing a show that wouldn't have happened anyway, there was a brief all-girl project that resulted in a cassette tape with some Bikini Kill covers and our attempt at sounding like a Kim Gordon-fronted Sonic Youth track. For all the feminist rhetoric of my bandmates, that soon also went down in flames as I really don't like Bikini Kill and wanted to play something with more than four chords, and one of the other girls started dating some guy because most of the uber-feminist-I-don't-need-a-man girls usually end up doing. For those of us who prefer the company of the male species but always seem to end up being the platonic homie, this is frustrating in its irony but that's a whole other post.

I have not played these tapes for anyone for obvious reasons. After that, my drummer friend got sick of all this and went off to an Ivy League college and out of all my former bandmates, I'm still in touch with only one, incidentally the one who took the band breakup the hardest.

Ten years later, I'm driving back to Berea and getting utterly lost. I've been itching to play music in a more noise-making capacity for awhile now, so thanks to the strange connections made over fiber optic cables and a shred of musical commonality, I'm plugging my guitar in, tweaking the tone knobs on the amplifier and my distortion pedal as we try to find some common ground between my absurd college radio eclecticism and ultimate corporate rock tendencies that mesh well with the 90's rocking of the rhythm section and I wonder what the singer who's a few years younger than us and got the whole thing started thinks since none of us are really metalheads or at least that's not the style we play or it's not always that kind of metal.

We settle on the Cure and on Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' because it's something everyone knows, and while my fingers are used to strumming from doing church music and bluegrass, I find that all those years of noodling on my dad's Gretsch in the basement haven't been for naught, as my fingers loosen and I have the back of bass and drums and rhythm guitar courtesy of the girl who just arrived.

I'm tremolo-picking on the upper frets and noodling through pentatonics, bending strings and sustaining notes with the whammy bar and letting the tremolo from my ancient amp reverberate like crush with eyeliner. While the others take a break, me and the bassist mess around with songs that we grew up hearing on the radio but turning them into something more feminine and melancholic and find that our voices harmonize well.

I wonder what this may or may not coalesce into, because there are so many dynamics and so many unknowns and so many ways in which tastes converge and also don't. I don't understand the love of Kittie when there are infinitely better and more interesting women making music. I still don't know how one gets through 20+ years in American subcultural life without ever hearing a song by Nirvana or Alice in Chains, or maybe I'm just more irrelevant than I first thought. It's highly possible.

I'm pondering the infinite strands of subculture and taste beneath the all-encompassing tag or rock and or roll. I have the certain sounds I like, and the things I play, and while I can break out of that, it's still where I ultimately come back to. I want to play songs that would move me if it wasn't me.

I love melodic vocals and strange harmonies, glorious layers of distortion, sinuous basslines and insistent drums. I love guitars that shimmer, crunch, and cry. I'm feeling old and past the point of wanting to make it good, and for now, I will play well with others, and see what comes.

All I know is that I still want to be Kristin Hersh when I grow up.


Randal Graves said...

*flics Bic*


Anonymous said...

dino jr was pretty femme but still heavy and relatively complicated