Wearing out our soles on the wrong path was the best thing that could have happened to us. Waiting in the Tennessee airport at 5:00 am for my plane ride back home, I had all these questions: Are we supposed to persevere, or are we beating a dead horse? How can something be so right and so wrong FOR US? When do you trust people, and when do you insist? Silent Rival never belonged in Nashville, not that Nashville isn’t dope as hell. We just didn’t belong there.
Back home, management had set up a session with writer/producers Heavy. I’m pretty sure Jordan met us outside wearing something quirky like a hoodie under his overalls. He greeted us with a hug and lead us to where we ended up writing and recording our whole album- the picturesque guesthouse, shaded by huge orange trees, like a chunk of land scooped up from Iowa and plopped into The Franklin Village.
Inside, six or seven house plants are in front of a window. I related to these damn plants. These plants have been through some shit, and some of them looked like they might not make it. Everything was bare bones. One Ikea love seat. One upright piano. One acoustic guitar. One electric guitar. One bass. One desk, one laptop. A kitchenette with just a coffeemaker and an orange juicer.
We started with Sleep like a Baby.
It turned out exactly like I pictured it.
We decided to do a few more songs.
We loved them.
We decided to do a whole album.
I started to feel the weight of the past year lifting. Of course music is supposed to be fun; that’s why we started doing it in the first place, but when you’re making songs that are competent but not a true expression of who you are, we discovered how NOT fun it can get. We worked with people who have had great success, and are great at doing “their thing,” but we had different musical tastes and values, and trying to explain who we are, what we’re about, or what the drum tones should be is like pulling teeth. We just hadn’t been in the right room until now.
When you’re in the right room, you’re jealous of their outfits. For real! Jason even gave Joz a couple of shirts, shoes, and pants that didn’t fit him anymore. I tried to persuade them to give me this flannel shirt-coat. No dice. And we never had to explain who we are, which no one should have to do to anyone. You are who you are, and someone either gets it or doesn’t. What ended up happening, is once we stopped having to explain who we are, we were able to pave the road for who we were going to be.
A few months later, the album was finished. We survived. In fact, I felt like we were about to thrive. I got Jason and Jordan a house plant to add to their collection. I’m not sure what kind of plant it is, but the dude at the nursery said it was very finicky, fragile, and needed a lot of care and nurturing. I’m 100% sure those fools could handle it.
This album renewed my love and passion for music and my trust in people. Writing this album lifted us up. Recording this album lifted us up. And that’s exactly what we hope it does for you. That’s why we called it “Elevator.”
TOO REPETITIVE FOR WHOM?
A lot of people who had fallen in love with the Paranoid version of Silent Rival were hoping for more angst and anger and attitude. While we love Paranoid and attitude, attitude is about a lot more than just screaming on the mic. Sometimes it’s about telling the people who are hoping you’ll scream on the mic, “FUCK YOU! I”M NOT GONNA SCREAM ON THE FUCKING MIC!”
Attitude and rock n roll are about rebellion. And sometimes its rebellious to just keep your cool and be the last man standing. You don’t always have to charge ahead, guns blazing. After all, this is SILENT Rival. So I patiently listened while some suits told me what makes a song genius. (We call the people on the business side “the suits” even though they don’t wear suits. They usually wear cargo pants and steel-toed boots.) Well-meaning suits who had never been, and will never be invited to even audit let alone participate in a single writing session. They were offering to teach me what makes a song genius. HA HA! Conveniently for them, my self esteem is low enough that I actually took it in, and considered it. But conveniently for me, I am smarter than I am confident, and I came to the conclusion that I have come to before: There is no ONE KIND of genius in music. Too much is subject to personal taste. That’s the challenge and beauty of it. More importantly, FUCK the word “genius.” It indicates arrogance and a false hierarchy more than it defines intelligence.
These particular suits were saying the songs were “too repetitive.” Too repetitive for what? For whom? They suggested that I change up the melody in some parts. “If we get together I can explain it to you,” one said. I like how they just assume I don’t understand. Not that I vehemently disagree. It didn’t need to be EXPLAINED to me. I GET it. I just don’t like your idea. I tweaked little things on the songs that I thought could improve them, but they didn’t get any less repetitive. That was intentional. What I love about these songs is they have a clear and distinct shape. You can really light a joint, kick back, and get lost in the current. And I think the tide is rising.
We toured the new songs with Blaqk Audio where they were put to the absolute test. We were going to play them for people who had never heard them, didn’t know Silent Rival, and who weren’t necessarily even listeners of our genre. The entire front row of that tour never changed. It was the same front row from San Diego to D.C. And let me tell you, it wasn’t until Detroit that they learned the choruses. If they were “too repetitive,” they would have learned the songs as early as Portland!
I feel like “too repetitive” is an easy way for us to weed out people who just aren’t Silent Rival peeps. Ain’t no hate or anything wrong with it! And more power to you! Mad respect for knowing what you like and don’t like! But, we can’t please everyone. In fact, the thing that makes this a rock album is that we’ve pissed some people off.
LORD OF THE FLIES
My best friends know that I have this god-given gift of catching flies. It’s a combination of good hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and this disgusting ability to communicate with flies. Whenever we’re trying to watch a movie and some jerk is buzzing around, my friends count on me to restore our environment to a fly-free sanctuary. (My friends are very sensitive artists.) Usually I just open the door and ask the flies kindly to leave and they DO! When they say you can catch more flies with honey, I think they’re talking about ACTUAL FLIES.
Sometimes I just whisper, “Hey man, it’s gonna be ok,” while I slowly lower a paper towel onto them and crush their bodies. I’m dangerous. I am Miyage-level fly catcher and I’ve watched too much Dexter to feel bad about it.
Well, last night while I was in bed, a fly buzzed around my room. I figured he was probably born this morning so he’ll be dying soon anyway and it wouldn’t be worth me getting out of bed. I fell asleep.
SOMEHOW this crafty pervert got under the covers with me. I woke up in the middle of the night with a creepy feeling. I thought I could feel him on my leg. So, I took a shot in the literal dark and pinched where I imagined he was sitting. I felt a crunch between my fingertips. Wow. I actually got him on the first shot. In the dark.
You guys. I am just as repulsed as you are.
BY SPECIAL REQUEST: WHEN DID YOU START SINGING
Most people remember when the music bug bit them because it’s a really big deal that changes your life. If you’re reading a MUSIC blog right now, chances are, you’ve been bitten, so you know what I mean. Well I have no memory of the bite. My mom must have sung to me a lot as a baby because I was evidently always singing. I’m sure it was just a version of cooing, but whatever it was, it was enough that in my baby book my mom wrote “Baby loves… Singing and napping.”
You can ask the band, they can vouch that those are still my two favorite things. “Dawg, Sara sleeps HARD” they will say. If I’m not singing, I’m sleeping. Singing is the first thing I ever enjoyed doing and I sang all the time. I sang along with the radio, or anything Disney (I grew up right next to Disneyland).
It was around 6 years old I saw The Little Mermaid. I loved the movie but could not relate to this bitch at all. She gave up her singing career! Who in their right mind would do that. I even asked my mom about it. “Mom, she gave up her singing career to get married at 16!”
My mom is very social conscious so was always telling me I could be anything I wanted in the whole world, and that girls can do anything boys can do. And then she asked me what I wanted to be. “I want to be a singer.” I would say.
She would reply “No no no you don’t get it. You can be ANYTHING in the world.”
“Even the president?!” I would ask.
“Yes, even the president.” She must have been momentarily assured that I was beginning to understand but I said
“Ok. I want to be a singer.”
I must have been dissuaded by just about everyone I ever met. And for good reason. You work a lifetime just for a chance to roll the dice. It’s a gamble. But for me, a life without rolling the dice would have been a waste. I wanted to succeed, but more important than that, I wanted to sing. Living a life where I had meaningful opportunities to sing was a success to me.
When a band I had two bands ago recorded their first EP, my mom finally told me how I got bitten by the music bug. She was a singer, and came from a whole family of singers. I was bitten in the womb!!!