It’s been some kind of journey. Towards the end there is usually less and less to say. There will be plenty of time to talk more as the walrus suggests- of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and of course, cabbages and kings. But for now…and for this thing we are doing…the words will soon be coming to a rest stop. There will be another time to write again, but this particular chapter is coming to a close…
It is a general consensus that things in life aren’t black and white. No- we instead often refer to the grey area, that area in the middle, to explain things. We like to say things like “The truth often lies somewhere inbetween” or “There is a happy medium” or “Let’s split the difference”. I understand that to a degree. I suppose in a way we live in a grey world. Calling it grey takes into account all the many variables. I suppose it also gives us breathing room to explain what is often hard to explain or define. So I guess I’m fine with it.
My own musical path, and in turn the path of Lickpenny Loafer, was shaped significantly by my Indian heritage. India is the country I was born in and was raised in for the first seven years of my life. Beyond that it is hard to really explain the extent of the relationship that I have with the country of my origin. But what I do know is that for me there is a very deep connection to India.
Putt-putting around the house you find things. In my house anyway…scraps of notes, scribbles on paper…usually end up as scrunched up balls. I fear there is too many to count…they seem to turn up inbetween furniture, under sweatshirts, and of course in laundry baskets. These are most certainly lyrics. And yes, some of these might even be unused
Once in a while you come upon a nice crisp sheet with very clear, legible writing, that’s filed away in an unmarked…well…sometimes a file actually. These types exist few and far between. But once in a blue moon you find them resting neatly in their own cozy space. These are often what become of the few (very few) poems ive ever written.
I often clarify many differences between words put together for the express purpose of lyrics and everything else so I won’t get into all the reasons why these pieces of paper are different. But safe to say, I know the difference simply by looking at the condition of the paper and the manner in which they are preserved:) Yep, these tidy and pristine guys are definitely poems. And believe me, it doesn’t mean in positively any way at all that those crumpled up lyrics sheets are valued the slightest bit less- it’s just that’s the world they live in…you know they interact with music…they’re more chaotic…they stop for a drink or a smoke and hang out wherever they feel like it…freakin’ delinquents…you don’t have very much control over them, they seem to do what they want to do.
But the poems are so thoughtful and well-behaved. Like English school children dressed up and ready for a Sunday picnic.
Here’s a sample from one dating back ten years:
I am an ant walking on the ground,
I don’t complain or make a sound,
I do what I do because I must,
I don’t complain or make a fuss,
All ants work hard,
If we don’t, we die,
If we die, our colony dies,
We do what we must, so we can survive.
Meaning aside, i can see why these guys find their own space and not want to hang with the kids from the other side of tracks if you know what I mean.
Here’s the one i stumbled on yesterday, sitting very neatly at the bottom of a pile of books…unfortunately not dated, and title-less…but i was immediately reminded of that moment in which it came…
In a valley below,
Where the shores won’t go,
Lived a hapless man
who strung beads into wands.
If ever a feather,
Was lost in forever,
It was this man
Whose life wasn’t grand.
Though everywhere he wandered slow,
It was only into secrets he would go-
For therein lies the magic of old,
Simple wisdom for a simple folk.
Yeah, so these guys are a bit different. But let’s try and make space for everything here…especially flotsam and jetsam.
This is a song title that i like. I feel connected to it, for many reasons. Most importantly, because it can’t say what i want to say in fewer words. We want to limit things in a way that makes them digestable. To create a sort of finite structure; to develop ideas that we understand in short, succint, bite-size pieces. I say no. I say we let it go where it wants to go.
In the event of the maiden voyage of star explorer X is an exploration into the space continuum. And yet it’s a song not interested in science-fiction. It’s more interested in what people think. It’s mostly interested in what people think at a certain moment in time, within this limitless space.
Cover it up, hover on up, get in this spaceship rocket…
Remove it from park, set if for far, put on your antennae….
What if we were to make our own universe? One that made sense to us…that ignored the obvious existence we seem to contend with. Or maybe ignore the one we seem content with.
Explode warp speed! This ain’t a picture at the drive-in.
This is your life flashing back.
We had some tough but very good meetings lately. There are songs that will not progress at this time- songs that will not make it on the album anyway. In short, no ” Astronautica”, no “Armour Man”. These are songs that are important to us, and yet must be put on the backburner. That’s difficult to swallow at first. They are still close to us, and there might still be a future for them….but not in this moment.
An album is conceptual. It has ideas flowing forwards and backwards. And everything has a way of being seemingly integrated.
In alien nights,
With alien lovers,
Living alien lives…
I’m proud of the rehearsal that we had today. Three of the new songs have found new life for this record and that is important. Well, more than important…who cares about important. It feels good.
You might realize we’re changing,
You might realize I’m wrong,
In this world you can’t be frozen,
In this world you might fall short.
Uncertainty is the only certainty.
Change is the only constant. We feel comfortable with that- if change is a constant that means align yourself with (or fall into) the rhythm of it doesn’t it?
You could fall into a sunrise,
You could awaken at dusk,
In this world you must be open,
In this world you can’t find fault.
So let’s chill. Let’s sit back and relax and see where it wants to go.
As the walrus said to the carpenter, “the time has come to talk of many things,
of shoes and ships and sealing wax…
of CABBAGES AND KINGS!”
I’m sitting here sipping on a glass of Campo Viejo Crianza wondering if I actually know what I’m doing And part of that is, as a band do we know what WE are doing? ButI’m not interested in making this any kind of serious philosophical discussion. I’m relaxed. I’m enjoying my wine. I just have questions about the day. Questions about tomorrow. Questions about the next several months. To be truthful, I don’t have questions about the next few years – I don’t have time for that.
But ‘unsureness’ always creeps in. The more you understand something, the deeper you fall into it, the more layers you uncover, you stare that question right in the face- do you know what you’re doing? Do you know what you’re getting into? Have you thought this through? Are you in control? And ultimately are you happy with it?
I’m reassured by the answer to the last question. Yeah sure, why not. Yeah, maybe not all the time, but in general this feels like the right thing, the right direction. I’m having a glass of wine thinking about something that I know I am excited to happen, and that makes sense to me. But once you’re past that part…you start to wander
We’re making lots of decisions and adjustments right now as we find ourselves on the last stretch of preparation before we hit the studio. After a considerably more laborious process than we intended, we’ve selected our studio and are booked in for all our time to do our record. We’re basically at the point where there is no turning back. It’s a funny point where you’ve convinced yourselves that you know what you are doing and that’s when a bit of pressure starts to build. So you have some very real fears that appear on cue and show up for the ride.
That’s part of it right? You can’t know everything there is to know about it right? That’s why we rely on each other I guess. One of the best parts of being in a band is the comradery you share with a group of people. Everyone brings something to the table and at the end of the day you build something together. It’s so often that the confidence you have in the others trumps the insecurities you have about yourself, and that’s what motivates you even further to pull your weight.
Questions aside and fears aside, it makes sense that we are where we should be. You can’t know everything, you can’t have it all figured out. That’s not the way it works. There are still a few of the songs that we are not at all sure what approach to take for recording. That’s ok. But as I sit here sipping on this glass of Campo Viejo Crianza I can’t help but brace myself just a little This ship has sailed just a little further out to sea and we are acknowledging the personality of the open water.
Breathe. Double Jab. 10 % energy on the first. 90 % percent on the second. Same speed. Punch in. Bring your right directly back to your chin. Breathe. Jab, straight right, follow through, step left, coil, uncork left hook. Punch out. Breathe. Punch in for combo, left uppercut, step left, left hook- stay low on that hook, drive with your legs. Punch out, cover up, move. Always move. Always breathe.
It is my belief now that following such a sequence of movements in physical training has made me a better musician. I believe further that some of the principles behind such sequences of movements translate seamlessly in the pursuit of many artistic endeavors. Err…I think boxing can help you develop your art…kind of.
Over the last year I’ve incorporated boxing into my training regimen for a variety of reasons – I’ve always been a big fan of the sport, it’s an incredible workout, and it’s great fun to punch something. But more recently, I find that I’m learning more from it than I thought I would.
Boxing and music? Upon initial examination, there doesn’t appear to be much in common between the two. But looking beneath the surface, it’s hard not to quickly appreciate just why boxing is an art-form. Yes it’s violent because your brushes are actually fists, and the canvas is another man’s face and body. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s barbaric; on the contrary there is much that points to it having significant artistic value. (In fact, don’t take it from me – read George Plimpton or Norman Mailer on the subject.)
The word pugilism itself is a top-notch euphemism for a reason; its existence and use is well-justified. (Looking further, even boxing’s cousins are part of a family of skills and philosophies academically referred to as the martial arts.)
People think that when you box that you’re only using your body as a weapon. That’s only partially true. The uppercut and the right hook may be very true expressions of power, but there is much more to pugilism that is closer to ballet than battle. The body as a whole bobs and weaves. It remains fluid, even while shifting swiftly and changing direction, adjusting angles and calculating distances. The feet and legs are constantly moving; it is of little surprise that a first boxing lesson will usually begin with a skipping rope. As well, various punching combinations require very intricate and detailed movements from all parts of the body. Swan Lake they may not be, but they are practiced with utmost grace and balance. And the jab…that pure punch that is the jab…the jab sings and dances with mischief. Mohammed Ali always believed that the jab should snake out and kiss your opponent on the cheek- to control him and to allow you to measure your distance to him, to let him know you’re there and to let him know that you’re coming. Of course, towards the later rounds of a fight, that can feel more like being kissed by flying concrete.
There is indeed rhythm, poetry, melody, and harmony to these movements. The body in such motion, executing powerful and precise steps in a nimble and fluid manner, is a classic muse for any sculptor or creator. But maybe the process of actually building that body is where I find even more valuable lessons in relation to music.
Training. Preparation. Hard Work. Repetition. Practice. Sweat.
Preparing the body for a boxing match is a painfully exhausting exercise. Fighters must do their best to stay in shape all year round and then hold an extremely intense training camp for 6-8 weeks before a fight. Your skill-level and performance is a direct result of the work you put in during practice, both from the years of work and learning as well as your immediate training. Whether you’re preparing yourself for the stage or the ring, the importance of preparation is the same. I remember when we recorded our EP, how much time we took prior to going into the studio to be prepared. It wasn’t just about reviewing all of the parts that we needed to play. It was about ensuring that we could play any part on command, perfectly to a click, and having the mentality and confidence in the material built in to incorporate changes on the fly. It was about having the ability to be in shape and stick to the game plan, while also being ready to improvise and seize unforeseen opportunity.
This time around our undertaking is far greater. We have a lot more songs and so it will take more time, energy, preparation, and creativity than we’ve ever known. We have to take full advantage of every moment available and continue to pour in the work in this remaining time to be ready.
You need to be able to go 12 rounds with him.
Cardio. Endurance. That’s what gets you there. Gets you to the end. You don’t want to punch yourself out and gas the way Foreman did in Zaire. You can’t quit the way Duran did against Leonard.
The hardest part about doing anything is the next part. In music, the hardest part is coming up with an idea for a song. Then the hardest part is creating song structure. Then the hardest part is negotiating the vocal line and finding the right lyrics. Then the hardest part is finding the right arrangement. Then the hardest part is testing it live. And after that, it’s preparing to record it in a studio. And so on, and so on. You catch my drift? The hardest part of anything is the next part. And so by that logic, the truly hardest part is always the finish. The last 10 %, down to the final 5 %, and then that very last thing you need to do to finish – that’s when things get really hard. But that’s when all of the years of learning and training hopefully pay off. That’s when you have to dig deep and finish strong.
I don’t want confuse. Making music and making a record has many, many things associated with it that have absolutely nothing to do with engaging another person in hand-to-hand combat. But if we are to look at how the body and mind works in one way, compared with how it works in another, we can learn and apply a lot of translatable techniques. At the end of the day, whether you’re boxing, playing an instrument, or making a film…you are expressing something. You are creating an expression- of the body, of the mind, whatever.
At the end of the day we must put ourselves in a position or state to give the best in that moment of expression with what we have. That allows us the best chance of producing something authentic. And THAT…that’s the real challenge. It’s like Bruce Lee once said in an interview with Pierre Berton “It is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling, and feel pretty cool…and I can show you some really fancy movement…but to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…To express myself honestly – now that my friend is very hard to do.”
I am always blown away by access these days.
Access to everything. Access to information. Access to immediate news. Access to the inner workings of everything. Answers to questions. Answers to what is on our minds precisely at this moment. The answer to how many different types of dijon mustard exist. We live in an age where access to information is everything. (And access to music? Did I just ask that question? )
So….We’ve been thinking a lot about track selection. There are several songs that are part of our live repertoire which are obvious selections. But…there are others that fall into other categories- they haven’t been tried out live; or maybe, they need to exist as studio songs to find real life. We don’t know. But we’re going through this process right now.
Dev and I spent considerable time last weekend on these ‘other’ ones. ‘Which’ of these ‘other’ songs fit in with the album? Which of these will be added to the live repertoire? Most of all, which of these are truly good songs? We don’t know.
This is what pre-production is all about.
We have 6-7 definitive songs chosen for this album. We have another 7-8 that we are determining, workshopping, trying to understand for ourselves, etc. There is an additional 3 or 4 that are clear dark horses. And to top it all off, we just finished writing a brand new song over the weekend. It is called The Promise, but that’s all we can share so far. No sketch will be posted for now as we are so close to recording. It will either make it on the album, or fade away into musical obvlivion! (Isn’t melodrama lovely?)
But it is exciting. The process of song selection is so much more about actually playing, feeling, working, and living these songs, than it is picking from an imaginary hat. There’s more thought into this part of the process than we figured- well, partly because we didn’t realize that there were this many to choose from.
Yes, songs like Slow Pour, Keys to the City, and King Henry VIII are obvious Yes’s. But what about Lost and Found, Astronautica, and Galaxity/Night Drive? And beyond that, what about that enigma of a song that has excited, indulged, toyed with, terrorized, and challenged us most of all – In Retrospect?? Will we finally commit to recording this one? (For the record, this song has gone through more changes than any song that we have ever written. It started as a simple acoustic expression and after considerable South Indian Classical influence and Stephan Sczeczniakian rhythamic agression has become an untamed, furious, and overwhelming scream. Dev and I are feeling more and more like the truth worth recording about this song lies somewhere inbetween.)
So, indeed we are somewhat in the process of choosing. But choice is not something you just up and decide. Sometimes you have to gravitate towards it, lean into it, get a sense of it, and work with it. Just like most of the choices in our lives.
The more time passes,the more I realize how correct Einstein was.
It was Einstein who said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that our technology is surpassing our humanity”. Today, technology isn’t even the driver- it’s just the vehicle. Information is the guy sitting behind the wheel. And no one can seem to get enough of him.
And so it is with a sense of total fascination, awe, confusion, and excitement about the world around us, that we announce through our Internet website/blog/facebook/twitter machine the officially the beginning of the recording of our first full-length album. Yes, yes I know, we’ve talked about it for a while, but this time it’s different. The timing is right, the method is there, the studio has been chosen, and the writing is on the wall.
Life is about having as few as possible regrets. For some reason I am reminded of Hugh Laurie’s character’s assertion in the TV show House, “Dying people lie, too. Wish they’d worked less, been nicer, opened orphanages for kittens. If you really want to do something, you do it. You don’t save it for a sound bite.”
So that’s mostly it for reflective sound bites on the matter. Sort of. Well, one more thing. The fact is that this is something Lickpenny Loafer has been building towards for a long time. And any which way you look at it, it falls squarely upon our own shoulders to get this thing done. No one is going to come along and magically make it happen for you.
In a sense, you could say “We fought the music industry and the music industry won!” You just can’t waste your days magically hoping for the industry to make your dreams possible. And that’s not because there aren’t good people involved in the industry. There absolutely is, lots of them, doing many important and great things. Especially at the local and regional level. In fact, in Toronto alone, there are so many incredible people who are very dedicated to promoting the oasis of indie music in our special city.
It’s the larger side of the industry that’s having a tough time. Look – the infrastructure of the whole f*king thing – the process of discovering bands, recording music, distributing music, playing shows and touring – is standing on its head. And it will still take a while before new models for each of the pieces are established. And it’s likely that the models of the “new” music industry will move even further down the path of being based on grass roots and Do-it-Yourself methodology. It’s a freakin Revolution!!
But revolution aside, we don’t have the kind of time to wait any longer. I don’t say that because we are in a rush. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think we bade our time very carefully; we have been extremely cautious and calculated about every step and risk. Some might argue too much (but after careful consideration, we would respectfully disagree with them ) No, we don’t have the kind of time to wait, simply because the timing is just right.
I liken it to what Sun Tzu preaches in the Art of War- that you must wait for the chosen moment (in the case of war, when all other avenues of peaceful victory are lost) and then strike swiftly, deftly, and convincingly. Recording an album may not be anything like entering the battlefield, but like confrontation, it does subscribe to idea of perfect or close-to perfect timing. And when the moment is chosen, executing must similiarly be swift, effective, and convincing. If you don’t give it the requisite energy or if the process drags out too long, your music suffers.
So that’s where it is. We’ll keep you posted.
While living in South Africa in 2003/2004, I had the experience of doing some volunteer work for a children’s orphanage in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg. The township of Soweto has over 1 million people, and an estimated HIV/AIDS rate of over 40%.
The experience proved to be both difficult and inspirational. It was extremely tough to comprehend a situation where children are brought into this world already infected with HIV, abondoned at birth, and in all likelihood would not live to see their 14th birthday. And yet, it was incredibly inspiring to be around them and to have the pleasure of watching them being able to still be the kids they are.
What really struck me about these kids was the way in which they treated each other. For one, they shared EVERYTHING. I remember bringing in a box of cookies just as we were about to start a friendly soccer match. I started to hand out the cookies to some of the kids standing close by on our team, and without a moment’s hesitation, one of the kids gently took the box from me, ran over to the other team and distributed cookies. He then made his way back over to our side, and distributed the rest of the cookies till they were all gone. Unfortunately, that means he was left with none for himself but he didn’t seem the least bit concerned and wore quite a radiance about his face. I smiled a sheepish smile; I was terribly embarrassed at myself for not doing what he did first, and blown away by his innate impulse to share so automatically.
Sometimes it is the things you notice but cannot explain which impress you the most. These kids had a magic to them. They didn’t attach a sense of entitlement to anything in their lives whether it be food, a roof over their heads, or the chance to play a simple game. I got to know kids that have been through horrors I can’t even begin to imagine, and they still smiled and laughed more than any group of people I’ve ever met. As I watched them in wonder, I felt small and confused about the sense of entitlement the first world had raised me with. The embarrassing feeling I had on the soccer field that day is one I experienced several times over in my time working with them- and one that has since never left me.
The other thing that was inspiring was to witness all the hard work that the charity staff were doing to make living for these children as normal as possible and for as long as possible. I learned very quickly how tight the operating budgets were for these orphanages. Funds to cover basic needs including food, clothing, blankets, and toys were always in great need. While on their own these are not great costs, the lack of availability of such funds and the large number of children that need care made every day a challenge. It became very clear quickly that a little bit of help could go a long way.
Since returning from South Africa, the idea of doing something for these kids brewed constantly. In the last year, after a more concerted effort and plenty of discussions with several other people looking to help, the idea has came to life. Now in 2009, Lickpenny Loafer has partnered with the Innovations for Humanity network to create the 1st Annual MUSIC FOR HOPE Benefit Concert for orphan children living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.
The benefit concert is being done for the Cotlands Charity based out of Soweto in Johannesburg, SA and as a result all net proceeds from the event will go directly to Cotlands. For more info, please visit www.cotlands.org.
We want you to join us for an awesome night of great live music, dancing (a special guest dJ), door prizes, and overall fun that will in turn contribute to a very important cause.
MUSIC FOR HOPE is ultimately about doing our part to help others in whatever way possible. I am proud to be Canadian and part of a country that has countless individuals constantly making an effort to raise awareness and funds for the needs of others. Whether it’s climbing the CN tower, doing a 10K run, or putting on a fundraiser, there are so many Canadians who try and do their part. When we do, we find that a little goes a very long way.