Friday, July 22, 2011

emiLy - riverrun CD (plus bonus tracks)

The Backstory:

Doug: Thanks to Finer Time being distributed by Ebullition, we ended up getting in touch with a bunch of people over in Europe. I corresponded regularly with a couple of them, including a French guy by the name of Yann Dubois, who did a zine called Sanjam. In late 1995, he told me that he was starting a record label and wanted emiLy to record a CDEP as the first release*. We went to Miami Street studios and recorded 11 songs over Presidents Day weekend.

We had to cut the CD down to eight songs to meet the time restriction for Yann. Now and then someone made some noise about trying to put the remaining songs (or at least "Trinity" and "Mulberry") out as a 7-inch. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, now everyone can hear these songs!

The original cover design was made by cutting and pasting a photocopy of the first and last pages of Finnegans Wake together in order to position the word "riverrun" about 2/3rds of the way down the page. All the text except that word would be faded out and the band name would be positioned above it. I forget why the cover got changed, but I'm sure it had something to do with my utter inability to do things like color separations.

The live photo is from a show at the Crawlspace in Chicago.

Joe: The photo on the back of the lightbulb is from my bedroom at the Miner St house. The Miner Street house doesn't exist anymore.

I walked around the lot a few years ago (I was interviewing for a one-year job at St. Mary's) seeing if I could find any of my Legos that the neighbor kids played with on our stoop (and ground into the ground and scattered around the block). I didn't find any.

D: Speaking of Miner Street, I think all the songs on the CD were written in the summer of 1995, when the three of us were all living at that house, along with my friend Kevin from PA.

When we played at Prufrock, Kevin made a flyer for the show using photos he took the afternoon that we let the neighborhood kids come in and play my drums. I remember that a bunch of the kids had a good idea of what they were doing, but there was one little kid who started flailing so wildly that half of the other kids ran as if afraid of injury.

Joe: I hate to admit it, boys, but I think that I may have been emo. As a lyricist, riverrun marks the completion of my shift from charmingly strident punk rock incompetence to full-blown early 20's pretentiousness. For my next significant era as a songwriter -- undersexed, painfully earnest graduate student -- please see my late 90's and early 2000's offerings, The Intelligibles and Check Engine.

Fortunately for me, the music on riverrun isn't bad at all, and I can claim just enough of the credit for that that it almost redeems the lyrical belly lint.

D: While poking about online, I found the Maximum Rock & Roll review of riverrun, which I remember reading for the first time in Orbit Records. It's pretty damn good:
Hey, this band really gets props for originality. Mining a vein symmetrical to bands like Mission of Burma, Rites of Spring or Sideshow, these guys manage to report their message to the world in a completely personal and unique voice. At turns, their sound is grinding and transcendent, their vocals poetic yet direct. I'd love to see these songs in a live context. Get this if you're tired of being jaded and tired of what's hip.

The Songs:

1) riverrun

D: I wrote the drum part at the laundromat next to Bai Ju's. I had been listening to a lot of Universal Order of Armageddon at the time. The tin whistle solo at the beginning is the Irish folk song "Finnegan's Wake."

J: Doug's drum part on "riverrun" still sounds amazingly studly.

M: I'm pretty sure the "drum noodling" going on during the tin whistle intro was a clip of Doug sound checking the drums from the Finer Time recording sessions.

2) Atoms Are a Boy's Best Friend

J: "Atoms" works well as a song; Mike's bassline and the sweet sweet aggression with which he plays it is so very nice, as is the kappakappakappa drums on the chorus. One of the very few emiLy songs that I remember how to play.

M: Loved this song title the first time I heard it. When we finished this one, I felt we'd evolved from post-punk quite a bit - this just feels like a great rock song.

D: A frequent show opener. Love the couplet "Drowning in the broth thought to be bread / Drowning in the bread thought to be alive."

3) ayin

J: "Ayin" is like an awesome song and a crappy one locked in a battle for supremacy, making for a song that in the end can best be described as "way too damn long". "Ayin" is the Hebrew letter "O" which means both "eye" and "lust". I thought that was, like, totally deep, so I spent four minutes committing crimes against Rabelais about it.

M: Wait, I thought were done with post-punk. Nevermind. Will never get it out of my system.

4) Little Bit

J: "Little Bit" is some good ol' self-pity pop-punk about aimlessness and a girl. Nice.

D: For reasons beyond my recall, this song was also known as "Sex Cat, " which had something to do with one of Mike's family's cats.

M: Yes. Every time Josh said "sex cat" to our cat, she meowed. I have no idea.

5) A Boy and His

D: The name for this came from a catalog for Wow Cool, then a zine and comic distributor from Berkeley, CA. While trying to come up with a song title, I started stabbing my finger down at random spots on the page and reading out whatever was printed above the spot. This phrase was the first one that sounded good. In fact, I thought it sounded so good that I ended up using it as a zine name and an email handle.

The song has another one of my favorite emiLy lines: "We become more familiar with what we would destroy."

J: The guitar part on "A Boy and His" is one of my favorites, and the lyrics are simple and short enough that I almost didn't embarrass myself. My comment about this song at the time was: "Watching TV like you're casing the joint."

M: This was absolutely one of the most difficult songs for me to play. I'm not sure I ever made it through this one cleanly. Love the song, but I can hear my mistakes too clearly on the recording.

6) Sap

J: Yeah! Pop punk instrumental with Jawbreaker-worship pauses. That little descending line of Mike's rules all over.

M: So much fun to play. I think I stole the line from Mike Watt.

D: This originally followed "Man Made Boy," almost as a second part to that song.

7) The Liar at Work

J: "The Liar at Work". If I ignore the self-important self pity of the lyrics, this song is a hell of a lot of fun. I like how my jingle jangle guitar suddenly goes "rar!" We played this at the NAZZ and the reviewer in the Observer went "tsk" at my cusswords, which impelled me to write a letter to the editor full of half-seriously intended French-philosophy nonsense about what the song lyrics really meant. I think I used the phrase "sous rature". For a while there, writing silly letters to the editor of the Observer was a bit of a hobby of mine. It's really not my fault; they kept printing them...

M: This and "Atoms" were two of our strongest songs of the time.

D: Hands down, my favorite emiLy song to play. One of my favorite drum parts to play period.

8) Talking God, Talking Girls

D: The bit at the end is a recording of James Joyce reading from "Finnegans Wake." A pen pal from Slovenia referred to it as a "sermon."

J: The little warbly thing that happens at 0:56 may be the favorite sound that I have ever been recorded getting a guitar to make. To this day I have no idea how I did it.

It's like this one time in fourth grade I tried to blow through my cupped hands and make a birdcall like I saw some other kids doing. There it was, clear as day, "whoo!"...Then I tried it again. No dice. Every so often I'll remember and try it again, and still can't make it work. Hold on a sec, I'm going to....Nope.

M: Joe's sound effect sounds like a sample from "Star Trek."

J: In conclusion, who's down for 2013?

SBP90s BONUS TRACKS (aka the rest of the Miami Street sesison):

9) Man Made Boy

D: As mentioned earlier, this was originally paired with "Sap," though we ended up playing "Sap" a whole lot more than this.

10) Trinity

D: This seems like it was a staple of emiLy sets for a long, long time. I'm surprised it took us so long to record it.

11) Mulberry

D: The last of the three emiLy songs that were built around drum parts (with "riverrun" and "Minuteman" being the other two).

* The CD is still listed on the SanJam site, though it's now out of print.


see also:
emiLy on MySpace
emiLy on

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