Swingin' Utters release Poorly Formed via Fat Wreck Chords on via February 19, but before it even comes out “$wingin' Utter$” vocalist Johnny Bonnel and guitarist/vocalist Darius Koski have a song-by-song run-down of the entire album. Stay tuned next week; as, AP will exclusively premiere Poorly Formed on February 15! Pre-order it now via the Fat Wreck Chords online store.
1. “The Librarians Are Hiding Something”
BONNEL: On the May 24, 2007 episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert interviewed Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. During the interview, he showed on the screen the statement “Librarians are hiding something” and asked Wales how he would stop or prevent vandalism to Wikipedia based on that statement. So I got the title, Jack [Dalrymple, guitarist] sent the music to me and I borrowed from Elvis Costello's “Watching the Detectives” a bit. Costello wrote “Watching The Detectives” after he heard the Clash's “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” so I wanted to use this info as a springboard.
BONNEL: After Jack sent me the music to “Brains” I couldn't come up with any melodies to do it justice. This one was inspired by my wife, the Cure and the Velvet Underground's “Sunday Morning.” Weird, huh?
3. “Stuck In A Circle”
KOSKI: I've had a crappy demo of this I made at home for around five years or so. I never really knew what to do with it, the arrangement and how we'd handle it, but I always really liked it. It's got that whole quiet-loud-quiet thing, which we don't really do a lot. There were a few times while we were rehearsing that I was going to just abandon it altogether, but after a while we all kind of clicked, and I'm really happy with the way the recording turned out.
4. “Pour Beans”
BONNEL: An homage to the Velvet Underground's “Run Run Run.” Once I got the music from Jack, 30 minutes later it was written. I love when that happens! There seems to be a lot of young people thinking old people are out of it. I thought that way when I was young and, now, I think young people don't know how to relate to me. I must be out of it!
5. “I’m A Little Bit Country”
BONNEL: I brought the lyrics to this song over to Darius' house and never got around to recording it. Darius found them a couple years later and wrote this incredible song. The original idea for this song is very different than this one.
KOSKI: I was just going through a bunch of lyrics, and a couple of Johnny's were mixed in with mine. This is one of those quickies, where I literally just picked up a guitar and started singing the melody to his lyrics. Totally simple; it's just the same three chords the whole song, until the key change at the end.
6. “In A Video”
KOSKI: I busted this one out really quickly as well. Johnny and Jack were on such a roll, I didn't wanna be left in the dust! I just wanted a tense, robotic punk song. I was going for some version of a song the Spits might write, at least musically—Kind of a Replacements homage too, I guess, which Johnny obviously picked up on at the outro.
7. “Poorly Formed”
BONNEL: Jack sent me the music with an already beautiful title. I hear old science fiction movies, Pixies and Jack Dalrymple. I write lyrics real quick-like when the puzzle pieces have this shape.
8. “Greener Grass”
KOSKI: I use the recorder on my phone all the time for ideas, and this was pieced together with a few different riffs I had down for the last year or so. Initially I thought it was pretty boring, being so mid-tempo and without a whole lot of dynamics going on, but it seemed to work with a little tweaking. The end result was a lot better than what I was expecting. I like the intro with the strings a lot, but I also like the fact that there's only a taste of that, and then it's gone to something else for the body of the song.
9. “Temporary Contemporary”
KOSKI: I've seen this sign on the 101 in LA forever that says “Temporary Contemporary,” and I made a note of it years ago because I just love the way that sounds, and I really love what can be read into that, so I was happy to finally use it. As “Greener Grass” was pieced together musically, this one was pieced together lyrically. There are a bunch of relatively obscure sayings and phrases in there that I've always liked a lot, and the music's just your basic wanna-be AC/DC type of thing. This is one of my favorites for some reason.
10. “A Walk With The Postman”
BONNEL: I deal with USPS almost every day, so I know where I got this title. It's weird, Jack writes these songs with a real positive vibe and in the middle he manages this, almost, spooky musical warning to be careful or don't trust anyone. When he added a whistling part to the breakdown, I got the chills. I rarely have a direct message in my lyrics, but this one is unavoidable! Surrounded by apocalyptic paranoia, it is really difficult to get to know your neighbors, but get to know your neighbors.
11. “Military Barbara Billingsley”
BONNEL: Austin Scarlett from Project Runway gave me this title by his appearance on one of the episodes. Comedy is a necessity for me and I always wanted to write a song about my favorite famous people, like Psychedelic Furs' “We Love You.” I stole some lines from the Velvet Underground and Nico's “I'll Be Your Mirror” and that was it. Everything Jack was sending me was truly inspiring and I love the whole process of writing to his music. Miles [Peck, bassist] came up with the Morse code clap track M-B-B.
12. “Dreadlock Dread Reggae”
BONNEL: This was another quick one. I've always wondered what all the original reggae artist thought about punk rock's version of reggae. This is what my brain came up with. Jack's music sets the manic tone. “Reggae Gets Big In A Small Town” part two!
13. “The Fake Rat Of Dave Navarro”
BONNEL: This was the first song Jack and I wrote together. The title sounds pretty harsh against Dave Navarro, but it's not that at all! Jack sent me the music that had this foreign looking title for the file. I looked at it real quick and then looked away and “The Fake Rat of Dave Navarro” was what I read. I created this collage piece a while back that had an Asian Jesus dressed as a new age biker dancing next to a decorative rat that gave me a visual for the words. I've noticed that a lot of people pour a shit load of time and emotion into the most inane crap. This is just my psychological battle with a fake rat owned by Dave Navarro. I'm sure Dave is a perfectly nice person, but that fake rat…
14. “Sevita Sings”
BONNEL: This was another file sent by Jack that read, “The artist's name was Sevita Sings.” I've always wanted to write a song with some Spanish lyrics mixed in with English, like the Clash, Los Lobos and La Plebe. I wrote “Sevita Sings” and sent it to Darius, and he came up with a beauty. This was the first time Darius and I wrote songs this way, and this song and “A Little Bit Country” could not have came out any better! I just wish I didn't sound like such a pinche guero when it came down to my Spanish parts. I meant for Darius to sing the whole song. Darius' violin and Miles' cello parts are the greatest complements to this song!
KOSKI: Yeah, it's a little strange that the two songs where I wrote music to Johnny's words were written really quickly, right on the spot without much tweaking at all. He sent me an email with the lyrics, and I had a melody almost immediately. I wish it always happened that way, just effortless like that. I made a demo at home that was a sort of blueprint for the instrumentation that I wanted, and I think we pulled it off really well.