Album Notes by Mark
– “The Lungs of My Body (12″ version)” is our version of a song I recorded with Alan and our friend, Jim, in 1995. Most of the lyrics were made up as I sang them (surprise, surprise). If I remember correctly, it was Tom’s idea to record and include it in this collection.
– “Athena” is a song I’m yet to write lyrics for. It’s named after the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts, who is the namesake of my birthplace: Athens, GA.
– “High School Backwards” was recorded at the end of our recording session. If I remember correctly, Tom wanted to record something ridiculous we could have some fun with. Through my influence, it became a satire of high school, which I was glad to have in my rear-view mirror.
– I don’t remember anything about the origin of “Ode to Butch Cassidy.” [Alan adds: I recall that Mark told me that he was thinking about the “lameness of repetition,” or the grind of the routine, with this song. The handwritten production notes from Tom’s archive indicate that Mark has considered naming the song “Wishing I were Unemployed,” which seems to corroborate this memory.]
Album Notes by Tom
In the beginning of 1999 I was a new student at Southern Utah University and living in the dorms there. My sister Bethany was planning to go on a church mission and had an upcoming missionary farewell in March. Mark proposed the idea of spending spring break in Palm Springs and that he had some song ideas he wanted to record. He had an album cover idea and a rough track list. Unfortunately, I gave the Tascam 388 machine I had been borrowing from my friend and collaborator Chris May back to its owner right before I started the spring semester (later in 1999 he gave me this machine permanently). I had only my mini-disc recorder which I was using to demo new songs, aided by my old Radio Shack mixer I acquired in 1991, which was probably intended more for DJ use rather than studio, as it had no equalization but could input a few sources with their own faders and had a mono/stereo switch. Combined with an effects unit, it produced good sound quality but no overdubbing.
I explained the technical limitations to Mark but also added that I could make sequences on the family PSR-510 keyboard – I believe it supported somewhere between 4 and 6 parts/instruments. So in a way, MIDI sequencing is like overdubbing, except it is limited to the memory and instrument samples produced by the keyboard. After completing the sequence, Mark could play guitar or sing while the sequence was playing. And I could help Mark by playing guitar and/or singing at the same time. I think Mark was somewhat skeptical that the keyboard could produce a decent bass guitar sound but seemed to find the conditions acceptable.
Mark drove down to Southern Utah University (Cedar City), had a soda with me at the dorm cafeteria and then we both made the six-hour drive to Palm Springs. Actually, I had a lot of fun that week. The song recordings went fairly smoothly, given the technical limitations. I even made a couple recordings by myself using keyboard sequence and minidisc that week since things were going so well. There were of course some ideas that had to be reworked – I recall there was one recording that Mark wanted to start with a guitar and that would have been difficult to do with a sequence already programmed and no way to que it properly.
A trip to Disneyland that week was made possible by my mom, since none of us had that much to spend in the college days. Bethany, Mark and I caught the park on reduced occupancy on a weekday so we were able to ride Space Mountain two or three times in a row with no wait. A few pictures of that day ended up on the album cover.
“High School Backwards” was partly inspired by Mark and David Sanderson’s Death Rock tape, which is ridiculously funny but difficult to listen to for more than a minute. I can normally only listen to a few seconds of this one.
I did insist on “The Lungs of My Body.” And the recording still makes me smile. Mark had to try hard from not laughing when I sang my mock-serious backing vocal.
The bookend of the experience was Bethany’s missionary farewell, I believe and then Mark and I joined a caravan of Sandersons heading through the Mojave back to Utah. Back in the dorms, I know Mark was hoping to get a CD of the album, and it was probably a bit of an anticlimatic end to an otherwise enjoyable week. Unfortunately I think my computer died (this happened two or three times to me while at SUU – rotten luck or junk parts). Eventually, I did get the computer back from the shop and I forget how I distributed the disc but that’s probably of less interest.
As far as longevity of these fragments, I can actually listen to most of these tracks still and they hold up in my ears. Mark and I listened to the tracks in entirety in the Uintas while staying a couple days in the mountains with my dad, a bookend of the 2001 family reunion.
– OUT WEST (2003) – I covered this right before Mark wrote lyrics. It was one of the few recordings I made on my computer using a cheap multi-track software during the transition between Tascam 388 reel-to-reel machine and Yamaha AW-16. The annoying side effect of the multitrack program was digital artifacts during the rendering. Maybe I didn’t have enough memory? I really like the backing vocals and the bass line.
– DISNEYLAND (2004) – This one could have turned out better in both lyrics and recording. I suppose it’s synthpop, similar to Pet Shop Boys
– HIGHWAY 1 (2004) – This is my cover of Mark’s 1999 composition. I took most of the good ideas from the original recording and just re-did the sequence on my then-newly acquired PSR-550.
– CRUISE CONTROL (2002) – (Based on The Drive-In) I was really trying for Michael Stipe with the lyrics and was pretty happy with the way it came out. The guitar solo starts with a slide then just regular left hand after the first phrase
Tom (June 2020)