Posts Tagged ‘Banana Company’

Separate the Happiness from the Happy-nots

November 27, 2008

I am the LORD and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and delivery you from slavery to them.

Exodus 6:6

If there was ever one album that I could post every track of, it would be EKBALLO. The title is an ancient Greek word that translates to “I Cast Out.” According to the liner notes the title had a great deal of significance to me.  I consider EKBALLO to be the beginning of the musical journey that led to The Lights I See You In Shadow. In fact a number of the songs on that disc made their way onto Muffin Parfait.  But it is the songs that didn’t that intrigue me. When I first pulled out EKBALLO to look it over, I smiled as I remembered the various songs I’ve never played again.  India, Hymn, Senses, Ancient Words, October Fling, and Mysticism all appear there. Rain returned as a kind of retrospective piece. Me in the Afternoon and a new version of Blue Sky received their final listening.  The disc is broken up into three parts: “Studio Recordings” (my studio being my room), “The November Performance,” and “Other Performances.”  The entire thing was recorded by The Ordinary Banana Company Band, which was me in many disguises.  For the purposes of the liner notes I was joined by Sebastian “Minnesota” Flowers, Johnny Two Fingers, and Mrs. Frick.

I could probably write for days about the experiences that led to and followed EKBALLO. It’s the group of songs that took over Alex Bittermann’s computer when he left them on repeat for two hours by accident. I planned to record another album following EKBALLO but that didn’t happen until Muffin Parfait two years later.  The summer of 2003 found me living on my own in my aunt’s house, playing sports and working 6 days a week.  There wasn’t much time for music, even though I received a bass for my birthday.

It is tough to decide which songs to post here. I could include Imperial Street, India, or Art or Architecture because they chronicle my early battle with a drum machine.  Some of you may remember the loud hi hat in the latter. Or how about Cleveland, a song no one likes? Hymn was written when my aunt’s long time housemate passed away.  It was the first song I ever wrote thinking about death, and it’s overly spiritual theme seems a little odd to me. Ancient Words was the by product of my religious studies program, as was Mysticism. The latter was influence by the Anthropology of Religion and too many videos of half naked tribespeople.

Although it is a lot to listen to I am going to include the 6 songs that can’t be heard elsewhere: India, Hymn, Senses, Ancient Words, October Fling, and Mysticism. I should point out that Ancient Words and October Fling are intimately connected. I hope you can make it through them all and this will clearly be the largest amount of music I put on here at one time. Tomorrow we get to hurry through fourth year and into the beginnings of Pinstripe Mystery.

In other news, I have just launched a podcast.  The first episode is up and deals specifically with tracks on the new album. I am looking for guests to come on the show, and am focusing on music, art, and other creative endeavours. You can find the podcast here and the RSS feed here. If you have iTunes you can subscribe here. On to the music!

India

Hymn

Senses

Ancient Words

October Fling

Mysticism

A Big Sensation

November 26, 2008

You and I march to the beat of a different drum. Oh can’t you tell by the way I run, every time you make eyes at me.

Michael Nesmith

A Different Drum


The new school year (Fall 2003) began with a show featuring, Matt, Dave Zettel, Dave’s friend, and myself playing for 150 frosh at St. Jerome’s. We played exclusively covers, fell down a little bit trying to be cool, but basically had a great show. That kicked off an emotionally turbulent year for me. Somewhat living up to what the song above talks about.  I did, however, play plenty of coffeehouses at the SLC, St. Jerome’s, and St. Paul’s, and met Max Woghiren for the first time. He would later become a musical friend, and Pinstripe Mystery‘s biggest fan.  I actually put out two albums that year, the latter of which will get it’s own post tomorrow. In and Out of Tune is a collection of “live” performances that took place in my residence room.  I don’t think anyone was present for them.  When I think about that year, I am always reminded of Ken Cheney. He was a wannabe rock star who sang over midi tracks at various coffeehouses.  He did a version of Back in Black that made Raffi sound hardcore. It was hard not to laugh at him, but at least he was genuine about it. Winter 2004 saw a live performance where I played through a broken string to thunderous applause from one person, Jeff Akomah.

I think at this point it might be useful to explain why I went through all this every year for little or no recognition from anyone but my closest friends (who in any event had to be nice about the whole thing).  I really like music. I like creating something that is uniquely mine, but I can share with lots of other people.  It’s a rush when you write a new song, or add a catchy part to the end of an old one.  It is also a great way for me to get out emotions I don’t want to talk about.  People often wonder what my songs are about, and sometimes I will kind of explain them. But really everything anyone needs to know about a song is already in it.  If I wanted to say more, I think I would have.

I have picked up two songs from In and Out of Tune. The first was a fun little song that I wrote when I first bought my BOSS recorder. It’s called Elvis Costello Vs. John Lennon on the Ed Sullivan Show, August 3 1967. The second was a one off song that I never played again called Banana Republic. It was heavily influenced by a course I took on the preferential option for the poor and the plight of Latin Americans. I have never written a more political song. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve written another political song.

As you can tell, 2003-2004 was kind of a boring year musically, except when it came to EKBALLO, the subject of tomorrow’s entry.

Elvis Costello Vs. John Lennon on the Ed Sullivan Show, August 3 1967

Banana Republic

The Eggplant Revolution Revisited

November 25, 2008

She don’t mind the late night, late night radio.

David Gray

Late Night Radio

Second year was an exciting time at university. Chronologically we have reached the fall of 2002 and the winter of 2003.  I played a lot of coffehouses with the Daves, and alone.  I also dated someone for awhile, leading to a song, and a rule that I wouldn’t write songs about people (just recently broken!). It did include a favourite line of mine, which was repeated on the liner notes of Forgotten and Lost Songs Live, a summer of 2003 performance: “And this is a mystery that we’ve been waiting for, and this is our chance to be so much larger than before.” The song, and the relationship, didn’t really work out. The biggest event of 2002-2003 was my acquisition of a BOSS zip disk based 8 track recorder. Suddenly my recordings took one step up in quality and complexity. I was no longer stuck to what I could do through my laptops mic input onto cheap mixing software I got through shareware. I began the process of recording songs that would end up on the very long album EKBALLO, which I will discuss in a couple of days. I also made a tape (TAPE!) for my friends, but I don’t know if any copies still exist.

The CD that I put out at the end of second year seems to be lost in time. I do not have a copy of it and no one else seems to.  Instead I have music from a live performance I did in the summer while I was working at Mission Services (for the first of many summers).  At this point I should mention Ken Barr who will be an important part of the story especially with the early days of Pinstripe Mystery. He was working at the Mission when I started and we shared a love of music. Forgotten and Lost Songs Live features a lot of my old repertoire and most importantly three songs that never appeared anywhere else, Blue Sky, The Garden, and Lonely Soul (mispelled Lonlely Soul on the back). In the liner notes I encourage people to “Watch out for the Eggplant Revolution,” which was the title of a major album I never recorded. It was going to be The Lights I See You In Shadow before I had the means or the imagination to make it happen.  I have included these three songs today, in case you haven’t heard them. The one problem with them is their location at the end of the CD. By that point my voice had become very tired and dry, so the quality isn’t always great. What you can notice is a continuation of the storytelling theme in my songwriting. Enjoy!

Blue Sky

The Garden

Lonely Soul

One final note: This Saturday from 12-3pm on C101.5 FM you can hear one or more tracks from The Lights I See You In Shadow on The Jelly Report. It’s a show hosted by my old pal Matt Jelly. You can stream online here.

In The Frost That Formed On My Window

November 24, 2008

I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll, this time, I feel my luck could change.

Radiohead

Lucky

At this point in the story we have to back track a little bit to the time between the end of high school and the release of Lemon Orange Lime.  A few interesting things happened that led to new musical collaborations and performances, and a lot more writing.  Towards the end of OAC, Matt and I began playing gigs as an acoustic duo, doing mainly cover songs.  We played at our high school, at a Canada Day party (complete with wireless mics!) and at the annual Mid-Summer Festival of Peace and Tranquility (essentially a party in my backyard that has been held every year since 1999).  Very little remains of those shows, except one cover of a Seven Mary Three song called Lucky. We were very lucky to have such great friends who supported us the whole way.  The final show featured a lot of instruments, a ton of cover tunes, an exit sign full of funny ideas, and was a fitting end to high school.

At the end of the summer Matt and I both moved to the city of Waterloo to attend different universities. Our musical collaboration has never totally ended but it takes a back seat in the story.  It was in the first few weeks of school that I met the Daves, Fallis and Zettel, who would be a major part of my music making for the coming years. We would play at coffee houses and other events for the better part of 4 years before sort of going our separate ways (Dave Fallis was in Pinstripe Mystery of course). We “wowed” people at St. Jerome’s when we played Fifteen Floors. Apparently writing a halfway decent song was impressive!

Both of the “acts” I was part of adopted the name Banana Company, an homage to a Radiohead song, and a tribute to the fake (and real) bananas that Matt and I brought to shows. The highlight of the first year of the Dave, Dave, and Peter experience was a big show in front of 400 people at Conrad Grebel college. It was an amazing time and we played fantastically. I should also note that Dave and Dave joined Urban Moon along with Liz Mensa for a show in September 2002 at Fed Hall on the Waterloo campus. It was a benefit for local charities, and was the last time Rob, Matt and I were on the same stage.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any recorded material featuring the Waterloo Banana Company. I do however, have a copy of The St. Jerome’s Demos, a 5 song EP I put together for friends in the Spring of 2002. It features the first recorded version of 15 Floors as well as an early version of Contemplate (that second good song I struggled with). Of particular note is the song that I have posted here. Rain was recorded in one take at 3 in the morning or so. It is the truest song I’ve ever written. What I mean is it captures exactly what I was feeling at the time, and had been feeling recently. I am not proud of the sound quality or the performance, but the content of the song is what matters.  It is also about as “emo” as I will ever be. So take that for what it’s worth. Matt and I also recorded some of his songs, and I wish I still had copies of them. The St. Jerome’s Demos became the first of a yearly tradition, each of which will be discussed in the coming days, for now enjoy Lucky and Rain.

Lucky (Seven Mary Three) – Banana Company

Rain – Peter Snow