Thursday, November 1, 2018

I Choose You - the perfect murder/suicide jam for your Halloween party!




This year’s Halloween Hit was inspired by my favorite episode of the FX show, Atlanta: “Teddy Perkins” (Season 2 Episode 6). You can stream it on FX, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu and others. Though consistent with the season’s “Robbin' season” theme, this episode (written by Donald Glover, Ibra Are and Taofik Kolade; directed by Hiro Murai) is an anomaly in that it was horror themed and aired without commercials. The episode was critically acclaimed and fairly controversial due to its bizarre antagonist and cryptic ending. 
Research
I consumed and contemplated every theory I could find online, read all published interviews and analysis (here's a fascinating scene-by-scene with the brilliant director that offered a few insights). I could find very little insight provided anywhere by any of the writers. There remains much conjecture over Teddy's identity, nearly all of which fits into one of these scenarios:
  1. Teddy is Benny’s brother and caretaker/tormentor.
  2. Teddy is a deranged fan/caretaker who wants to assume Benny’s identity.
  3. "Teddy" is Benny and Benny's dad is in the wheelchair.
  4. "Teddy" is Benny and the real Teddy, his brother, is in the wheelchair.
  5. "Teddy" is Benny’s dad and Benny is in the wheelchair.
  6. Teddy and Benny are the same person.
I watched the episode 13 times in total: five during my initial research, six in which I viewed through the lens of each of the various scenarios, then two more focused through the lens of scenario 6, my favorite. With each viewing my appreciation grew, as the episode seemed meticulously designed to accommodate multiple identities and thematic layers.
Writing
I chose to believe that Teddy and Benny are two sides (or "eras" might be more appropriate) of one person. I think Glover is borrowing from David Lynch's playbook here (he did at one point state that he wanted Atlanta to be "Twin Peaks with rappers"), blending literal and metaphorical imagery. They seem to represent opposing methods (or stages?) of coping with abuse and fame; one becomes a recluse and hides from the world while the other wears a mask and glorifies the abuser, perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Those two manifestations are cloistered in a soon-to-be-historical site, gnawing at each other (a situation borrowed from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane). Teddy is trying to capitalize on their pain while also silencing Benny and giving away his beloved piano. Putting them in the same room in the episode's climax is a perfect twist that both surprises and confuses the audience (and seemingly, Teddy himself).

Some observations that support this theory:
  • Teddy is not visible in any of the photos or film footage.
  • Teddy does not appear to have his own music career, despite claiming that their father made them both practice "3 hours a day, twice a day."
  • The two are wearing nearly identical clothes and have the same James Brown helmet hair.
  • Teddy claims Benny has developed a skin condition, even while he himself looks like he be bleachin.
  • When Teddy confronts Darius with the shotgun, there is a very intentional shot of Teddy's profile silhouetted opposite the young Benny.
  • Teddy aiming the gun at Darius: “I want it to look real… The home invasion. You killed Benny because you were obsessed.” Darius: “There is no fucking Benny, all right?” Teddy: "Exactly! Exactly!"
Once I determined how I wanted to portray the protagonist(s), I identified the themes I wanted to incorporate:
  • Some fathers sacrifice their children 
  • Great things come from great pain 
  • The whitewashing of a painful heritage
  • Perpetuating the cycle of abuse 
  • Our culture forgives and ignores abuse that results in great art 
  • Our culture criticizes and ridicules celebrities that fall from grace
  • The trauma and aftermath of celebrity
I also made a list of the musical elements that might comprise something Teddy/Benny would create:
  • The jazz piano of Ahmad Jamal
  • The ragtime melodies and passing tones of Scott Joplin
  • The childlike soulful vocals of Michael Jackson
  • The 70's and 80s synths of Stevie Wonder
  • The rhythm and bass syncopation of James Brown
Iterations
Over two weeks I made four iterations; each new sketch was more somber and downtempo than the last, and contained less and less of the musical elements I'd planned for. I was about halfway done with a version that I quite liked when I abandoned it for the final version. Musically I liked it but lyrically it wasn't working for me; it read like a monologue by Teddy, revering his father and hinting at abuse. The more I thought about the duality I wanted to depict, the more I wanted the song to feature two perspectives at war over one body and one version of its history. The final version used fairly minimal instrumentation and featured two mutations of my voice trading verses (mid-range register for Benny and disconcerting falsetto for Teddy) and eventually harmonizing. I intended the "conversation" of this song to take place before Teddy decides to silence Benny by giving away his piano.
Here are some snippets of those unused iterations:
  • Iteration 1 - combining a chop of Ahmad Jamal's "Piano Solo 11" (heard playing from Benny's room in the episode) with some James Brown rhythm.
  • Iteration 2 - combining a chop of only the passing tones in Scott Joplin's "Solace" (played by Benny in the old footage scene) with a slowed down James Brown rhythm.
  • Iteration 3 - combining a Curtis Mayfield/Marvin Gaye vocal approach with some Motown elements, a 6/8 shuffle often employed by Stevie Wonder and James Brown, and (eventually) a modern-ish hook with Stevie synths.
Production
I tried a few things on this production that I'd never attempted:
  • I recorded the instruments tuned to 432hz (rumored to have been used by Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and others) because there's a mysticism surrounding that tuning that I could see Teddy buying into, and also I wanted to see if listening to it affected my brain state. I don't know if it did but I did find it slightly easier to sing in key, which made me wonder if my voice has some sort of natural tuning that I've been unwittingly raging against my whole life.
  • I recorded the vocals at different speeds and pitches so they would sound a bit odd once played at normal speed—Teddy's vocal (the falsetto) to a version of the instrumental that was pitched/slowed down about 6 bpm, and Benny's vocal to a version sped/pitched up by 6 bpm. To make things weirder (and considerably harder to sing in tune), I automated a gradual 6 bpm tempo/pitch shift for each (in opposite directions) throughout the last verse so that the vocals, played back at normal speed, would evolve back into my natural timbre . 
  • I automated the panning of the vocals to start pretty far apart and end up centered when the last word is sung.
  • I used a very cool Roland Space Echo simulator by Audiothing to make the Maestro Rhythm King drum machine sound more Phil Collins.
  • I used a very cool Vintage Reverb plugin by Valhalla (and some research on gearslutz.com) to model a reverb often heard on old Marvin Gaye records. 
  • I used a free Vinyl simulation plugin from Izotope to add some grit and warble to the final mix, as well as the pitch dive at the end.
The mix most likely suffered a bit due to the last-minute nature of the whole thing—I wrote, recorded and produced the song inside of 48 hours. If all goes according to plan, I'll be a bit bummed on it when I listen back next halloween.
Lyrics
Benny: I keep my piano in the bedroom
so I can sleep that close to freedom, still
sometimes I chew my fingers more than I should
til they bleed.
Father always said to keep my color off the keys.

Teddy: I show my trophies in the gift shop
and pose my father in the billiard room.
I want the house to be a tribute to him—
a museum.
And though some may try,
my father’s love can never die.

Benny: Of all the vampires, kings and thieves
dropping by to harvest me,
none shall pay a higher price
than he who shares my bed at night.

Benny and Teddy (equal): I choose you
I choose you
I choose you to carry his pride
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you to be his sacrifice

Benny and Teddy (dominant): I keep my Hope locked in the basement—
can’t let the dark get out
or the light get in.
I find that hope is not so good for my skin,
or my throat.
I don’t know what it is...
I guess it’s just the way that I cope.

Benny (dominant) and Teddy: I'll get the shotgun from the attic
and leave our body on the lobby floor.
Then when she finds us, Sam will clean up the mess,
drive out east
—somewhere meaningless—
to bury father’s masterpiece.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Letter to a Young Marketer

Hi Jordanna,

So you've got a new band, new album and big record release party coming up—awesome! Rather than give you a marketing prescription for your exact needs (which is probably what you hoped for), I want to lay some high level strategy on you.

Many artists just blast all their networks with whatever content they can muster. If the content is good they may get some traction here and there, but ultimately I think this is a flawed approach. The few successful, completely independent artists I know avoid any sort of magical thinking and embrace the reality that being a musician these days requires a plethora of additional skill sets, business and marketing being two of the most crucial (web development, graphic design, audio engineering, video production, management and concert booking are par for the course). During my time working for social, email and mobile marketing companies, I noticed a huge disparity between the way businesses approach marketing and the way most musicians do. Successful businesses focus on strategy and ROI (“return on investment”) while musicians focus on creative ideas and fan engagement, with less attention to strategy. Perhaps this is why so many of us are often broke and a large percentage of our promotions fall short of expectations. The more strategic you can get, the more impactful your campaigns will be. Rid yourself of any notion that content miraculously goes “viral”—nearly all viral content is the result of a calculated launch by a marketing team. It’s not black magic and it’s not luck; it’s strategy, money and data analysis. Here's how one of my favorite songwriters, Lex Land put it:
“My personality makes me ill equipped for self-promotion, which is unfortunately so necessary as an independent artist. Of course, this evasion led me to adopt the all-too-prevalent ‘pray and wait’ strategy that so many artists employ. After receiving countless "breaks" but never really "breaking," and during a years-long stall in the release of my third album, I adopted a new mantra: "What can I do?" Diving into a ton of different informational resources about digital and content marketing, and specifically in the music space, I experienced enlightening breakthroughs while taking a hard look at what I had been doing and what hadn't been working. To adopt any strategy is better than having no strategy at all.” 
You can find buckets of marketing guides and philosophies online—often as a downloadable pdf behind some obnoxious email capture form landing page—each tailored to what is being sold (goods, services, entertainment, etc.) and what channels it's being sold on (print, TV, social, radio, blogs, etc.). Tasks like calibrating your ads and writing an impactful press release are crucial skills that anyone who can read can learn. Do it. Google. Read.

Below is a 7-step marketing strategy you could apply as an independent musician. Depending on what level you’re at career-wise, this process may feel overly formal, cumbersome or even pointless to you because your budget is $0 or your goal/tactics appear obvious, but I encourage you to build a habit of thinking through these steps and articulating your answers to them; training your brain to switch out of "imaginative artist" mode and into "real-world, ROI-focused, pragmatic business" mode will focus and optimize your team efforts, increase your income, help you assess the value and productivity of 3rd party publicists and make hard career decisions faster.


1) Define your Goal for this Marketing Campaign. 
It should be measurable. Walk through the creation flows of Facebook/Instagram AdsGoogle Adsense and Twitter Ads to help hone your objective.

2) Declare your Success Metrics and key Performance Indicators, as well as how you will track them. 
How will you know if you achieved your goal? How will you know if you’re on track to meet your goal? Don't confuse the warm feeling you get from Likes, Comments, Retweets etc. for success—their only marketing significance is how they influence your ranking in the feed algorithm. Don't be fuzzy about your definition of success for this campaign.

3) Identify your Target Audience.
Who exactly will this campaign resonate with? Who can actually attend your event or purchase your product?
[Note: “customer profile,” “segment,” and “target demographic” all mean basically the same thing in this context]

4) Plan your Marketing Tactics.
This is where your creativity comes in! Each tactic should clearly and effectively help you meet your Marketing Campaign Goal. If your primary goal is to get people to come to your show, then any marketing that is not region-targeted is probably overkill (unless you're explicitly soliciting referrals). If your primary goal is to make money from a new release, then encouraging your audience to listen to your new release on any and all platforms is not as ideal as directing all traffic to the platform that pays you the best percentage (e.g. not Spotify, Youtube or Pandora). What results can be realistically expected? Be skeptical.

5) Calculate a reasonable, realistic Budget. 
Think through all potential costs, even things that seem incidental (like gas, public transportation, staples, tape, etc.). INCLUDE YOUR UNPAID HOURS. Budget will probably be the hardest thing to estimate accurately at first, but you’ll get better at it, and its massively important as your cash flow increases and ROI becomes more calculable/provable. In the future you will use these skills to extract bigger chunks of money from labels and banks.

6) Define a Schedule for your tactics that is optimized to meet your goals. 
This is particularly important when relying on social networks for the majority of your promo, and when trying to inspire action on a specific date. Think through when your audience would actually be most receptive to your message. Don’t blast your social networks all at once; there are ideal times to publish on each network. And since many people will follow you on multiple networks, you’re wasting your bullets when you promote to them across all networks at once… better to stagger your posts so that viewers are reminded periodically. Determine the right order for each task (if you have to wait until next week before sending your press release, you should have a few drafting/revision sessions and an industry contact list gathering task scheduled for this week). Schedule regular reviews of your Success Metrics and Budget. Use a group calendar and set up alerts in your phone for each task.

7) Do a Postmortem. Learn and iterate on what worked and didn’t work.
This is the most important step, and the most often forgotten. Be frank and honest with yourself—it's not a blamefest, it's a crucial learning opportunity.


Here's how it might look in the context of your life:

  1. Life Objective 1: Secure a family 
    • Family Goal: Find and maintain a partner that can pay my bills
    • Family Goal: Acquire a child that can pay my bills  
  2. Life Objective 2: Sustain a career as a Performing Artist
    • Career Goal 1: Develop 300+ draw in NYC so that I can headline small venues on a weekend night, trading support slots with out-of-town acts.
      • Marketing Campaign 1: Secure impactful slots opening for prominent local acts
      • Marketing Campaign 2: Promote record release show <—we are here 
        1. Goal
        2. Success Metrics and Performance Indicators
        3. Target Audience
        4. Marketing Tactics
        5. Budget
        6. Schedule
        7. Postmortem

[Note: At this point you should have already justified how a proposed Marketing Campaign will help achieve one or more of your Career Goals]

And now here’s how your specific scenario might look:

Marketing Campaign 2: Promote record release show
  1. Goal: I want at least 75 people to attend my record release party. The promoter, who also books a larger venue, will then consider us for national support slots in the future.
  2. Success metric: Ticket sales (night of the show)    
  3. Performance indicators: Ticket presales, Facebook Event RSVPs, Bandsintown RSVPs, Songkick RSVPs
  4. Target Demographic: All genders between the ages of 21 and 38 in the NY/NJ area.
  5. Marketing tactics: 
    • Tactic 1 (Physical): Hang flyers in high-traffic areas (above urinals, front window, etc.) at or near venue.
    • Tactic 2 (Physical): Send compelling press release, photo and show details to all local print for inclusion in their Events section and possible feature.
    • Tactic 3 (Online): Synchronize show announcement and centralize Facebook Event traffic. Get promoter and all bands on the bill driving traffic to one Event page with links to ticket purchase, free music, and photos for all bands. Invite only those in the region. Encourage friends to invite their friends to Event. 
    • Tactic 4 (Online): Pay to Boost Facebook Event page, escalating budget the week of the show. Run Facebook ads on various content starting two weeks from show, always promoting a URL with show info and ticket purchase.
    • Tactic 5 (Online): Get a local music scene blog to premier the single from my new forthcoming album and announce show; use blog post as new content and increased legitimacy. 
    • Tactic 6 (Online): Coordinate with all performers to schedule the addition of new content to the Event page every week and stagger social posts and profile photo/banner updates from personal and band accounts using photos, short videos, streaming content, etc. initially driving traffic to the Facebook Event, and eventually alternating between FB page, direct streaming content link, direct ticket sale link, etc. so as not to annoy audience. Be sure all parties involved Like, Comment, and Retweet each other's posts soon after posting to exploit feed algorithms.
    • Tactic 7 (Online): Offer free download (using Bandcamp promo code) to anyone who posts a photo of their purchased ticket (or similar testimonial content) online.
  6. Budget: $80, 40 hours unpaid labor
    • $25 for targeted Facebook ads and boosted Event
    • $15 for color flyers, staples and tape
    • $40 for band photoshoot to be used for social posts and profiles photos
    • 40 unpaid hours (log hours in online solution or phone app)
  7. Schedule: 
    • Week 1 (this week): 
      • Mon: Design incredible flyer/promo images. [4 hr]
      • Tues: Write fascinating press release with show details, ticket purchase info, promo image, and private streaming link. Send to team for feedback and revise. [3 hr]
      • Tues: Gather local print Events Page editor contact list from online search and industry friends. [1 hr] 
      • Wed: Use Mailchimp to send press release to contact list at 9am. [1 hr]
      • Thu: Print $10 worth of color fliers at Staples. [1 hr]
      • Thu: Hang color fliers at the venue and nearby coffeeshops. [1 hr]
      • Fri: Create potent Facebook event page and give promoter and other performers "admin" status. [1 hr]
      • Sun: Everyone announce show and invite friends to FB Event at 9pm.  [1 hr]
    • Week 2:
      • Mon: Tweet link to FB Event at 1 p.m. or 5 p.m
      • Tues: Send follow up email to weekly print Events page editors. [1.5 hr]
      • Wed: Share FB Event to personal FB pages at 3pm.
      • Thu: Post promo image to Instagram at 8:30am. 
      • Fri: Change profile image of personal page, include link in description.
      • Sat: Share FB Event to personal FB pages at noon.
      • Sun: Review success metrics. Adjust budget? [1 hr]
      • Sun: Boost FB Event page for 7 days by $7.
    • Week 3
      • You get the point...
    • Week 4:
    • Week 5:
    • Week 6: 
  8. Postmortem: 
    • :) I achieved and exceeded my goal with 82 paid concert goers!
    • :( I went over budget by $20 due to the fact that I set up the FB ad budget incorrectly. 
    • :( I worked an extra 1.5 unpaid hours due to traveling to and from printer and venue to hang fliers
    • :( I worked an extra 2 unpaid hours on researching and contacting local blogs.
    • :| Facebook Event RSVPs (111) were 35% higher than actual attendance (82).
    • :| Likes and Comments subsided during weeks 3-5; maybe I got too markety?

So there's my stab at it. In reality I rarely take the time to draft something with this level of detail, but the important thing is that you start thinking like a business when it's time to promote your work.

A few other tips:
  • Learn as much as you can about the various social network algorithms and exploit them. For instance,  to determine if users find your video interesting (and therefore worth showing to others), Facebook tracks user behaviors like turning on sound and switching to HD. So it may be beneficial to include text in your video or description encouraging users to turn their sound on or switch to HD (which should also provide better sound quality). The algorithms of Instagram, Reddit and Twitter each have their own interest-ranking metrics that they track, each playing a huge role in your social marketing success.
  • More from Lex Land about her current marketing strategy: “The end-goal is to capture emails of fans or potential fans with whom I can build a relationship, and then monetize that email list by running quarterly promotions and alerting them of live performances in their area. I believe that social media should be viewed as a traffic generation and rapport-building tool rather than the sole point-of-contact for fans. Social sites are excellent for 'blasts' because of the visibility and daily use by most folks, and the ability to use retargeting on Facebook, especially, is invaluable- but, still, an email list is the only thing we as artists can carry with us through the ever-changing landscape of whatever platform is currently trending, or even from being on a major label to going independent. With a strong email list, we have leverage - to get better guarantees, to get better features, to get noticed by industry if that's what we're after. I think it's crucial that we fortify our bond with the consumer of our music to garner that leverage, rather than waiting for 'something nice' to happen to us that might bring the fans our way someday. All of this requires us to be more vulnerable, to open up more of our lives and ourselves to our fans, to be more assertive about that connection we can bridge between us and them through our music. This has perhaps been the best takeaway from what I've learned, to cultivate a more honest perspective about what I and my music have to offer other humans.” 
  • Read this book

Good luck with the album and release show! Don’t quit when your campaigns fail; quit when you stop learning from your failures. You don't get anywhere by having lofty goals—you get there by optimizing the system you use to reach them

Gavin

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Weirdest Trophy

I landed on your golf course late last night
I camped up in a tree, sharpening my knives and aim.
I came to hunt the strangest game.
Rest assured, big man,
I only wanna bring you fame. 

And when the sun came up I was primed for the kill
I waited in a sand trap, armed to the gills
but no,
you never made it to the second hole.

Now I know that we should only hunt the best of a species
and everything about this dude is definitely feces
but none of us have ever seen a skull as thick as his! 

Let me take that big weight off your shoulders!
Let me help you out of all that old loose skin— 
we can make you something great again
(It’s a rare thing to see)
Now your head could be the most peculiar trophy that I’ll ever win.  

I climbed to the window of your penthouse suite and
saw you dancing in your bathrobe, hookers at your feet
but no gun;
nothing you could shoot but crack.
I try to play by the rule: only kill what could kill you back.

But then you walked to the window, dripping in wealth.
Were you looking at me or were you staring at yourself? 
Who knows… 
until you go and drop that robe :(

Now I know you thought that you were simply humping your reflection,
but where I come from that’s a textbook gesture of aggression.
You left me with no other choice but to destroy you from the neck down!

Let me take that big weight off your shoulders!
Let me help you out of all that old loose skin— 
You’ll be more human than you’ve ever been. Please!
Let me take that big weight off your shoulders!
Let me help you out of all that old loose skin— 
We can make you something great again
(It’s a rare thing to see)
Now your head could be the most peculiar trophy that I’ll ever win.  

I smash through the window
and I knock you on your back.
To show you my respects
I disconnect and drop my mask.
Then suddenly I lose you in the room without a trace— 
you blend into the background with your fire-colored face!

Let me take that big weight off your shoulders!
Let me help you out of all that old loose skin!

I’ve hunted everything from Xenomorphs to Carl Weathers…
Special Forces, Tarzan, fuckers with their shit together.
No one ever pulled a spineless stunt like this before—
Cowardice on par with Killers in the Three World War!

By the time I get my mask back on this gorgeous face,
the Orange One is gone and I’ve become a big disgrace!
I don’t care who you are back in the world—

you ghost me again… I’ll bleed you… real quiet

The Man Who Knows Best

Come tell me my fortune, old prophets and priests! 
Come teach from the book that’s so often revised!
Explain how I look from my savior’s eyes!
Ain’t it miraculous how you can preach from your knees?
No food for the beggar, no love for the thief…
No room for the other in the company you keep.
And who is my Lord now: is it father or son? 
Well the old gods are dead and there’s only one left 
to the man who know’s best for everyone.

When will the punchline come?

Come make my life easier, young technologists!
Just outsource and automate all of my needs…
improve the design of my final disease   
and fix all my problems before they exist.
The hand that you build may be used as a fist,
but you’ll define “progress” however you wish
and what kind of world will we have when you’re done? 
Destiny’s manifested—a virtual success
for the man who knows best for everyone.

When will the punchline come? 

You gotta make my hometown safe, brave Mr. Politician!
Who’s gonna save my kids from terrorist commie heathens?
Who’s gonna make them pay the ultimate price for freedom?
Everybody outside’s trying to pop the bubble we live in.
What if their truth isn’t self-evident?
And if they can’t live without what is broken within?
“Well there’s no eye to eye so don’t even try,”   
says the man who knows why for everyone.
  
When will the punchline come?

Come sing me a soundtrack, my artist and friend!
Come make my life feel much more real than it’s been.
You used to sing all that I couldn’t explain
and now you just buy those you can’t entertain,
So march to the drum of the numb and the young…
you’re the man who knows best for everyone.


When will the punchline come?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Team Love

Purchase It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times here

Maybe it’s semantics but I don’t believe in love….
as a noun
I think it’s only a verb
because I know I can’t run out of it,
I know I can’t hold onto it,
but I can own the conduits
and make sure they work.

Well, well, well
well sometimes they do
and sometimes they don’t
and sometimes you have to fix the come and go

I’m just a bit addicted to the tops and tails of loving 
it starts just like a sudden rain
on fields of baked and brittle crop
and ends just like a housing market crash
when delusions finally stop

Ahhhh
I love those twin peaks
that help suspend that thin bridge 
which spans across the most impossible love

But everything between I seem to struggle with
when everything is calm I feel inadequate
I get passive.
Loving’s never passive.

No, no, no, no
I never really learned to love effectively
I only seem to love in ways I want to be
I don’t aim right.
Loving should be precise. 

When love was just a noun I could run up a tab lying down
coasting on the fallacy of constant love
but in reality I think we love in fits and starts
and everything between is just a promised heart. Hey!

I know it’s not romantic but sometimes I think we never truly love another being so much as the sensation of loving 
Perhaps the height of happiness is nothing more miraculous than optimized giving and receiving in perfect rhythm

and it’s hard to find…
it’s so hard to find…
it’s hard to find someone with rhythm like mine.

If I want to be a great man, (if I wanna be a great man)
I will be forever working, (I will be forever working)
and I’ll be fixing up my inputs and my outputs
I will learn to love and be loved from any direction

If I could do that 
I would never be lonely
If I could do that 
I would be so patient
If I could do that  
I would never withhold loving
If I could do that 
I would never concern myself with reciprocation

I’d never let someone be a bottleneck of my loving.
I’d learn to feed the world and by the world be fed.
If I could fix the stitching of our broken language,
I could be sewn into the soil rather than hanging by a thread.

We have one word for so many different relations…
from child love to inanimate objects 
Now is this because we don’t value love?
or because we know it’s a concept so simple and binary
it’s easy to confuse it with the memory or the promise of 

impossible love.

Expensive Love

Purchase It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times here

There's a drip in the tub that I just can't fix
and I can't find a rug to cover up the skidmarks from where your feet kept losing ground.
You were carving up a tomb from the home I found.

I could afford the surgery,
and I could absorb the cost of drugs,
but I just needed some sort of guarantee
that you'd see me through

Dear Lu
Loving you is so expensive
Loving you is so expensive, darling 
Loving you is so expensive, Lumey,
I knew you had to go but didn't know it'd be so costly 

You got a little bit sicker when you came on tour
but still you stood right by me 'til your legs were sore
and it was hard to leave you out in the van some nights…
sometimes you gotta do wrong to make the long term right.

But then you got much worse when I took the job -
I had to leave work late and get up at ungodly hours to get out of all the debts I owed.
Maybe you couldn't see the man for the brand new clothes, 
but everything else was much improved.
We ate our weight in brand-name foods.
I became the father you never knew 
but it was too late

Dear Lu
Loving you is so expensive
Loving you is so expensive, darling 
Loving you is so expensive, Lumey,
I knew you had to go but didn't know how much it’d cost me
Loving you… 
Loving you… 
Loving you…
I knew you had to go, 
but didn’t know
I didn’t know
didn’t know
I didn’t know

I didn’t know

Where Is the Fire?

Purchase It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times here

Everyone says to forgive myself first,
but my heart is as dark as the dirt 
in your black fur 
in the deep hole
in the dark night outside
I don't want forgiveness I just wanna see you again
and I would burn in hell just to hold my friend.

If I'd got there a little bit sooner…
If I'd shut my fucking computer…
You'd still be here 
painting our house with your dander and calm.
Maybe I was trying to keep from feeling out of control
but now I would burn in hell just to feel at all.
I’m so numb I can’t resolve.
So where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Bring me the fire.

Will you remember the middle of things?
Or will I be judged by my butcherous endings,
all clumsy and wrong?
My book-ending shame
I’d sell for a song
to sing in your name.

Where’s my heart in all this?
Is it speaking?
I’ve not heard a thing…
Am I just holding on too tight?
Or letting go too easy?
Nothing feels quite right…
my everything is freezing.

Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Bring me the fire.
Bring me the fire.
Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?
Where is the fire?

Where is the fire?

Watering the Soil

Purchase It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times here

On the stone I carved your name
on my heart, the chiseled flame-like 
permanence 
but there's no permanence
that’s just some shit we say in fear
to help us pass the years

I was lost and couldn't sleep
with you distant from my feet,
my perfect son,
what have I done?
I put you in the ground tonight
out beside the house 
by the window light

I laid out there in our blanket
and imagined you were kicking in your sleep
just three feet below
where your father weeps

In the morning I came to
Did you hear me calling you
I listened then
with pressing ear, 
"You're not alone - I'm here,
watering the soil

just above you, dear"