. My eyes are as dull and useless as Canadian pennies in Mexico And they don’t say “In God We Trust” They say “I don’t have the time to make you mixtapes anymore.” You know full well it’s over now “Tijuana 3/28/96” was inspired by the dark day SWC visited Mexico as tourists. On a break from tour in southern California. I had never been to Tijuana before. I expected it to be tacky and touristy — and it was — but I did not anticipate the misery I would encounter. This story is not about me, it’s about a stranger. But there are two things it may help you to know: (1) I was very sick with what I would later learn was strep throat and (2) Hilary Soldati [SWC cellist] and I were a couple in the midst of a painful and awkward breakup. So I was in a bleak mood as we went into Tijuana. Physically, I felt bad. I was tired and I had a sore throat. And it’s hard and sad to be in constant closeness with someone you are breaking up with. Touring in a van with your ex is not something I would recommend. One thing Tijuana was famous for was you could buy prescription drugs without a prescription. I don’t know what I hoped to find — probably something with codeine? — but searching seemed like a good way to pass the time. I bought a bottle of apple juice and set out on my own towards Tijuana’s ugly pharmacies, away from the band... away from Hilary. I passed by a lot of tacky, campy Mexican souvenir shops and street-food stands. All around there were beggars and people suffering. Old folks, all the way down to little kids. Some were grifters, but most were just hungry, unfortunate people. The poverty and helplessness were extremely sad. The combination of my illness, my personal heartbreak, the ugly commerce of the city, the desperate people all around, and the fact I was just some dick hoping to score drugs... made me feel like I was in a kind of hell. Suddenly a little girl — she couldn’t have been older than 8 years old — ran up next to me and swiped my juice bottle out of my hand. She was a very skilled thief. She was deft and quick with the snatching and she kept running. She darted into the crowd and she was gone. I yelled after her to stop! Not because I cared about the damn juice or the theft, but because I was SICK! I didn’t want a poor little Mexican girl to catch my illness by drinking my half empty apple juice bottle! I went searching for her, but there was nothing I could do. She had pulled it off. I felt so bad for her. It was a terrible feeling. I kept thinking that I wanted to buy her a clean, full apple juice bottle and a meal, instead of the infected thing she’d stolen. But I never saw that kid again. As the band drove away from Tijuana, I was depressed. I wrote the song in my head, with deep sadness about Hilary and an unfortunate, unknown Mexican child thief weighing on my mind. That’s the story behind that song. - c
In 2015, we reissued Beauty Pill’s “The Cigarette Girl From The Future,” which had been BP’s debut release. We reissued it simultaneously with the (new) release of Beauty Pill “Describes Things As They Are.” I warned my friends the “Cigarette Girl” pressing (which was lovely) was limited edition and would probably sell out. So, y’know, order one if you want one. A month later, when it was sold out, people were pouting at me like “I wanted to buy ‘Cigarette Girl’!” And I was like, I warned you! Today Smart Went Crazy’s “Con Art” is reissued in a similar manner to “Cigarette Girl.” The music I make is obscure in the larger scheme of the world. The supply/demand economics of vinyl are delicate for independent music. We try to get it right — trust me it isn’t in my interest to frustrate someone who wishes to buy my work! But it’s tricky and delicate. And it’s smarter and more ecologically sound to err with UNDER-pressing than OVER-pressing. So what I’m saying is SWC’s “Con Art” is available now as a limited edition 2xLP clear vinyl, remastered with a new gatefold layout. It is released TODAY. All the songs have stories behind them. That’s my whole thing. If that appeals to you, go forth. I want you to have it.
Unfortunately I am posting this from the hospital where I have been admitted for a toxic reaction to a prescribed antibiotic. I hoped I would recover in time for this tour, but... the answer is sadly no. It got worse. We considered canceling the shows, but this is principally an Arto Lindsay tour. We instead opted to try an idea we've never considered before. The band is going to do these shows WITHOUT me. It's no secret that I write BP's songs and I am the lead singer for most of songs. So, yes, it's a strange circumstance. For these shows, my bandmate Jean (singer of "Ann The Word" and "Dog With Rabbit In Mouth, Unharmed") will sing all the songs, even those that were shaped around my voice. This was my idea and the band agreed to it. Jean went home and learned all the words over night. I'm really proud of her. For dedicated BP fans, it will be an unusual experience I encourage you to check out. My bandmates have been utterly kind and adaptable. It's a dismaying scenario. Their attitude is amazing. They believe in the songs. Beauty Pill is by nature an experimental band. We like to try stuff. We made "Describes Things" in a museum where we were the exhibit. This will be one more experiment, I guess. Here in the hospital I am getting good care. Don't worry about me. Love to you all. And love to the quartet Jean Cook, Basla Andolsun, Drew Doucette and Devin Ocampo who this week are BEAUTY PILL. Chad Clark 10/16/17 www.beautypill.com/live #beautypill #artolindsay #tour #hospitalized http://www.beautypill.com/live
NYC! ARTO LINDSAY + BEAUTY PILL! Tuesday 10/17! Join us! http://www.beautypill.com/live
Getting a lot of email about this. It's true that Beauty Pill's DC museum recording project preceded PJ Harvey's similar London museum recording project. I do not know if we influenced her, but I tend to doubt it. I'd like to think it's more likely a "great minds think alike" scenario. I'm a fan of PJ Harvey. I'm not gonna dis her. I do not take Dave Grohl's recent accreditation of the idea to PJ Harvey as a dis to me. I think far more likely, he simply does not know anything about Beauty Pill. We're an underground, arty DC band. I can't imagine Dave Grohl is aware of us. Why would he be? Does it sting to do something and then have a more famous person subsequently given credit for it? Yes, a little bit. But just at the level of bruised ego. I'll live, you know? I don't think malice or insult was intended. Not on Grohl's part. Not on Harvey's part. There is a page on the Beauty Pill site where you can learn more about Immersive Ideal, the original BP art exhibit that produced the "Describes Things As They Are" album. You can also read my 2016 essay about PJ Harvey. Just click on the bold type. Thanks. - c http://www.beautypill.com/works
This is something you will not want to miss. Trust me. Join us. Tix on sale now. - c https://instagram.com/p/BQx_-HPAKVK/
Half the time the melody comes first. Half the time the words come first. Sometimes you're fortunate to have instruments around. Sometimes you aren't. There is no Way. Sometimes the words carry the thoughts and you feel the melody rush up to invent itself. And it's like watching a toddler stumble into a dangerous chasm, but with a staircase miraculously appearing under each step, ensuring safety. Because nobody else can hear it, all the while you're expected to carry on conversations with people around you and act like a present, accountable adult. The only thing visible to the outside world is you awkwardly spacing out. You don't notice things happening right in front of you, or if you do notice them, you can't remember anything a few seconds later. This behavior is easily misread as disrespect and can alienate people close to you, no matter how much patience they wish to have. This sucks, but you've been doing it all your life. And it seems unlikely you'll stop now. - c
There are two famous, haunting pieces of music from the "Midnight Cowboy" soundtrack. Both have beautiful melodies, but are otherwise not alike stylistically. Have you ever noticed that they blend in your mind, though? You think of them together more than you think of them apart? Me too. I wrote about that curious mystery for the latest entry in my "One Song" essay series. I recommend clicking the YouTube links and listening to the songs as you read. Enjoy. cheers, c
For research, I re-watched "Midnight Cowboy" yesterday. It's a heartbreaking and beautiful movie and I don't really have anything to add about it that hasn't already been said better by other people. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are perfect in this film in every way. And they deserved their Oscar nominations. I was struck, however, by the mechanics of the iconic scene where Hoffman yells "HEY! I'M WALKIN HERE!" Hoffman and Voight play two different types of "low lifes." Voight is a hustler, Hoffman is a grifter. Hoffman is delivering a con man soliloquy to Voight as they walk down the street. A cab nearly runs into them as they cross the street. I learned via research that IT'S A REAL CAB on a real street. NOT part of the movie. Dustin responds IN CHARACTER to the threat. And then he adlibs some dialogue to keep Voight in the moment. RAZOR SHARP instincts. Natural genius.
[This is long and indulgently diaristic. It's of little interest to most people. I posted it to my personal facebook and then realized it made more sense here.] I started writing "Drapetomania!" shortly after Obama was elected in 2008. The song was then called "Morning, Sam." It was a fantasy about me warring with my racist, conservative neighbor. Who was, yes, named Sam. In 2008, mainstream media invented the (wildly delusional) word "post-racial." I was wrestling with a lot of feelings, including hope, but mostly anger. "Morning, Sam" stole lines from several little rants I wrote over the years, trying to process my feelings about being a minority warring (in my mind) with a dominant culture. The song invokes a series of non-sequitur images/narratives. I was able to account for them all, but it would take me an hour to explain each one. The song is like 3 minutes. Blade Runner/my own illness a bull leaping over a matador and into the stands in Spain the Cheyenne-Arapaho war(s) Sam and Ralph, the Warner Bros cartoon dog and wolf that clock in before trying to destroy each other my racist POS neighbor Natalya Estimirova (look her up, don't forget her) the Tupamaros When I was done, the song was packed with so many unexplained allusions, it was a big, stupid mess. The words had meaning for ME, but would feel oblique/impenetrable to anyone else. That's pretentious. That is not the kind of thing I want to do. I'm interested primarily in being understood. I pursue clarity most of the time. I abandoned the song for years. Which was painful because I had put a lot of thought into it. One day in the museum [we recorded the album in an art museum, which is a whole other story], we pulled up the demo file. By that time, I had renamed the song "Drapetomania!" I liked the addition of the exclamation point because it made it look like a Bob Fosse Broadway show or something. Which was funny to me. Many of my ideas are funny to me only. Probably most. Devin argued we should just do the song exactly like the demo and be done with it. But I was too tortured at that point to accept that. So the band began to tear the song apart and put it back together. Everyone learned the component musical phrases and twisted them into different shapes. I wanted the song to feel darkly cartoony... goofy and menacing simultaneously. We busted out a little toy synthesizer (I don't remember the name) and Jean and Abram played it. There's a little film of that here, courtesy of Brian Libby. https://vimeo.com/27221625 I was ecstatic about all the colors and energy the band was injecting into the song. I felt less alone. When you write songs on your own, you go a little insane sometimes. Devin definitely did not share my enthusiasm and lost his patience. It was chaotic and terrible, he felt. He left the session to have dinner with his wife. By the time Devin came back, we had tried a bunch of the ideas. They were cool ideas, but didn't really work together. So we had ended up with a form that mostly... resembled... the... fucking... demo... Drew invented a guitar line by tracing the melody notes of my weird samples. It sounds like we lifted it from a Memphis soul record... to me, at least. This is now the main guitar hook of the verse. But ironically the most conspicuous musical invention from that day came from Devin. He was pissed off and irritated when he was playing, so I don't know if he was doing it out of boredom or spite, but he inverted the rhythm half way through the phrase. It totally changes the feel of the song and feels almost like a tape rewinding. This made it feel more like 90s hip hop to me. I LOVE 90s hip hop. I was into it. If you listen carefully, you can hear Devin mocking my excitement at the beginning of the song. "This one's going to #1. Hip hop #1..." - c
I rebuke any and all "curb your criticism" nonsense in the wake of the shooting. It's a vapid and baseless response. Trump IS dangerous. He IS unfit. He IS a compulsive liar and narcissist. We ARE all in peril as long as he leads. I DO think he poses an existential threat to America and the world. Those are beliefs I consider unassailable and I will not curtail or hush just 'cause some demented Bernie bro lost his shit. Sorry. Not having it. - c
By request, this is a time-limited streaming of BP's cover of Paul Simon's "Some Folks Lives Roll Easy." This is from the still-unreleased score to the 2010 play "suicide.chat.room." The soundtrack album is called "Sorry You're Here." We'll find a label for it and release it someday. I think it will be relevant whatever year we release it.