we coulda been a Laguna Hills Arcade Fire

vulnerable heap

The first of a two part ramble about how to classify The Heaps.  This week: “chamber punk.”

SONGS: the Heaps cover Weezer’s “Pink Triangle” and Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”

When you tell someone you’re in a band, tell will probably ask, “Okay, what kind of band?”  With the Heaps, I often say one of two (non-mutually exclusive) things: “chamber punk” or “Garage rock”.  While you read about “chamber punk” (“Garage rock” next week), here’s the Heaps playing Weezer’s “Pink Triangle”:

The “chamber” part seems obvious enough: this recording prominently features Vernon on violin and Erin on flute (with Mike on acoustic guitar and me on electric and vocals) and if we piled up the instruments of every member the Heaps ever had, we would also have cello, ukulele, bass, keyboards, melodica, congas, and drums.  Okay then, how are the Heaps “punk”?

Rather than harping on the gospel of “Don’t wait until you’re ‘good enough’–come out of the basement and play!” passed along to the British teenagers who would soon become the Sex Pistols and Clash after the Ramones’ first London gig in 1976, I want point instead to a recent Pitchfork Interview with a band rarely called punk: Animal Collective (who of course have a very good new album out, especially if you always wanted the Beach Boys to be from Jupiter).  The members of AC were asked whether they thought they were good musicians, to which Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox replied, “I think we found ways of using our instruments in ways that we really like and we’ve gotten sort of skilled at that style, but we’re not the kind of people that could be studio musicians and have somebody be like, ‘You’ve gotta play a solo on this part.’ I don’t think any of us could really do that sort of thing.”  Said Dave “Avey Tare” Portner: “we just kind of developed our own language in terms of music-making.”  Sounds pretty punk to me.

Last week’s bonus points: (1) Of Montreal / “My British Tour Diary” off of “Satanic Panic In The Attic“.  Perhaps the closest OM have ever come to writing a lyrically straightforward song.  (2) Franz Ferdiand, “Forty Feet”.  When I gave Prax a CD of beats I’d been working on, he noticed a beat called “forty beats remain” for another friend’s rap project using the FF song, and was inspired to write the chorus to “Forty Bees Remain”, but when it came time to finish the song, I went with my OM beat instead because it reminded me more of bees. (3) That’s Elvis from “Fun in Aculpoco”, a terrible movie. The song that this still comes from includes the lines, “Muchas muchachas amigo!”

Garage Rock song title of the week: “Imposters-of-Life Magazine” by The Idle Race.

(BONUS: To commemorate the recent death of Bob Dylan-anti-muse William Zantzinger, here’s the Heaps playing Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”
Erin plays the melodica I got her for last last xmas, Mike plays his acoustic , Matt plays atmospheric keyboards, and I play ukulele.  [We’ve got other recordings of the song, including a great one with our friend Brian sharing the vocals and sitting-in on guitar, but that will have to wait until the next time someone cane-happy dies.]  They tell you not to use adjectives when describing your own work, but I’m going to risk suggesting that the mix of instruments is ‘haunting.’)

Now, Animal Collective is a very different sort of band from The Heaps, but I think their self descriptions represent in the extreme some features relevant to us  in a different register: being “punk” is about trying to make music on your own terms, and letting that chart the course of your development rather than the arbitrary standards of what conventionally makes a “good musician.”  Our non-traditional-rock instrumentation is more than just a point of eccentric pride: it’s a making use of what we’ve got and what we enjoy.  Our band had a flue and violin because the people who wanted to rock n roll happened to play those things.  The standard of membership has always been about a genial “can rock” attitude first beyond any consideration of technical skill–that we’ve had so many members who are also quite gifted at their instruments is just our good luck.

Bonus points if you can identify that fire-breathing cat.

NEXT WEEK: carefully edited blathering about Garage rock, plsu some Heaps originals.

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One Response to “we coulda been a Laguna Hills Arcade Fire”

  1. lol @ beach boys from jupiter; so true. i do like that quote from the animal collective interview; it’s kinda inspiring.

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