Track-By-Track: The Gay Blades

October 6, 2010

Track-By-Track: The Gay Blades

 

Frontman JAMES DEAN WELLS (aka CLARK WESTFIELD) tells the stories behind each song on THE GAY BLADES’ Savages.


Rock N' Roll (Part I)
Occasionally, all songwriters have to indulge in the most base and primeval of urges. In our case, it’s turning up to deafening levels and pretending we're some hybrid of “the Five J’s”: Josh Homme [of Queens Of The Stone Age], Jack White, John Bonham [of Led Zeppelin], Jon Spencer and Jerry Lee Lewis. This song felt really smart when I wrote it with all the feel changes, but after playing it for a while, its just sounds naturally sexy and sleazy.  Big ups to the Electro-Harmonix [polyphonic octave generator] for the sickening guitar tones. I'm not sure where the spoken lines at the end came from, but it feels like something Jon Spencer would do, so I'm behind it.

Try To Understand
How can this song not come right after “Rock N' Roll” on the album? One extreme to the next—a punch-up at a wedding as the Radioheads would say. I've spent some time talking about this song—both its production and genesis—but I'll never get tired of it. This song is an example of magic moments that can happen when creating music. I'm not saying this is the most profound art the world has ever known, but to me, it’s a genuinely gratifying effort at which I feel confident in saying we succeeded. I wrote an open letter to my family and put it to some simple Bo Diddley bop drums. It was written a week before pre-production and we didn't think much of it. Our producer Dean Baltulonis was an immediate champion of the tune, and envisioned some insane Adam Ant-inspired horn lines. I was backing the punk rock gang vocal—a tougher Eddie And The Cruisers—but Dean insisted on adding and highlighting the brass. As any good producer knows, all you have to do is name check the right band and you can get an artist do anything in the studio. A simple "Dude, it’s so Bowie" was all it took to get Peter Hess from World/Inferno Friendship Society arranging the horns the next day. There you have it.

Puppy Mills Presents
I started writing this song years ago and could never make sense of it. It lived in the back of my brain, causing clogs and killing plants. It stayed there passing judgment on ideas that were born into fruition and made it out onto paper before it. It was a weird, little number then and it’s only slightly less weird now. But it's one of my favorite songs on the record. How could it not be? The lyrics are beyond upsetting and wonderful.

Mick Jagger
Have you ever seen that Rolling Stones video for "Miss You"? Probably not. But you should check it out.  I wrote the intro riff in 2008 for the one and only [AP web editor] Tim Karan to use on the AP&R podcast. It’s a little faster and discotastic on that record, but I fell in love with the swagger of that riff and decided to finish the thought. What followed was a kitschy and playful lyric about being in a band that might be broke but who love the stage more than anything. Initially, I’d envisioned this white-boy funk jam, but Dean suggested we try a little bit more of a no-wave drum beat, and once again that jerk was right. This song swaggers drunkenly down 2nd Avenue, beating its chest when nobody’s looking and picking up half-smoked cigarettes from the cracks of sidewalk. It’s pretty dope.

Why Winter In Detroit?
This song feels like home to me. The production came out a bit more slick than I had originally intended, but there's something about the songwriting, arrangement and melody that just makes me feel at home as a kid with a guitar. It’s about an experience I had falling in love with a girl from Detroit. In all honesty, I do make it a point to fall in love with someone at least once a day, and that day in the Motor City was no different. Of course, comparatively, New York City seems like a far more attractive place for a winter love affair than Detroit, so in this tune, I pointedly ask my affection to ditch the boarded up everything and comfort of Lake Michigan in exchange for a New York winter. It didn't happen.

November Fight Song
Why shouldn't we have health care coverage? I work hard and care about my fellow man. I'm civically minded and I separate my recyclables from my trash. The folks working at the record label who put out my albums have health care, but I don't. What happens when the lady freaks out and tries to set the bed on fire with me in it? What do I do then? Huh? You right wing Tea Party douche bags…

Too Cool To Quit
I hate to say it, but I think most of the most extraordinary women have issues with their fathers. I don't know exactly what a paternal chip to the shoulder does,  but these women are fiery and smart and independent and all have a big "fuck you" for their dads. So John Mayer can sing all he wants about fathers being good to their daughters. That's just so he can exterminate the ladies who might be able to stand up to his megalomania. I'm sure this will upset someone somewhere, but I doubt anyone got past the “Try To Understand” paragraph. That one was long.

Shadow's Like A Ghost
My little brother was struggling with addiction and like so many other young people, trying to find his identity and his place in the world. I wrote this song, trying to identify my place in his world, and his in mine. Two months later, while I was on tour in Portland, Oregon, he succumbed to that loneliness and desperation and died from a drug overdose. I know someone reading this right now is struggling with addiction and depression, and I hope you believe me when I say, there is better way out. People shouldn't have to talk about you in the past tense. Your love for those around you is your salvation. Sorry for the reality, but I rarely feel actually inclined to give a straight answer, and felt it appropriate.

Burns and Shakes
I love ’90s college rock. This is my attempt at ’90s college rock—like shitty Pavement or good Buffalo Tom. Or like more punk rock Built To Spill or super-early Hold Steady. I don't know. It’s pretty goddamn catchy, though. Don't you think? "It burns and it shakes, so just blah blah blah blah... blah blah blah blah blah." It’s slacker rock. Nothing else to really say.

Wasted on The Youth
This song sounded like a shitty version of a Weezer song when I had a meltdown and just decided to make it acoustic with some cool instrumentation. Everyone should note that besides the chorus, all of the pecussion is sampled from me walking into the room and sitting down to record. It's a great idea that no one will notice unless I say something. Dean created the loops and programmed the sounds into an pretty rad beat. Actually, my favorite part of this song is the triangle hit going into the bridge which was inspired by a Puppy Mills'-then fiancee texting him during playback. His notification "ding" went off at exactly that point in the song. See. It is a miracle. It's also important to note that I quote [Brand New frontman] Jesse Lacey in this jam. I don't think he's going to sue me, but whatever. It would be good press—Alternate Press, if you will...

Every Night Is Like A Revival
Many of you guys know the story of my youth and how I traveled around the country with my father who was a Baptist minister. He: offering hope to the hopeless; me: stealing with my eyes an ears, learning how to work an audience. Well, that story's fake. This song is about that story. Also, me and my girlfriend and Puppy Mills (aka Quinn English, drums) and his wife are in serious, committed relationships. I know. Crazy, right? We're not gay. Unless you're a homophobe. If you're a dirty bigot, then we love cock and cock loves us. Yum. Yum. Yum. Also, stop reading this—go seek counseling and figure out why you think it’s okay to hate. Also, return our record. We don't want your support. Anyway, this song is about being in new love—the kind of love that requires a soundtrack. Yup, I'm going here. It’s sappy and it’s real and most of you know what I mean. Fuck the irony, let's love it up, team! Who's with me? Woo!  L.O.V.E. alt 

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