Hey Kids! Do you like caaaaandy? FREECAAANDY? Well, pop on into this sketchball tour van and you can have some! Now, I know what you're thinking—you shouldn't get into strange vans, but don't worry I'm not gonna kill you or nothin'. You might get touched though... WITH MUSIC! Relax, I'm just going to take you to see a magical, goldeny-oldeny rock 'n' roll band in a magical, goldeny-oldeny cave made outta boogers. Hey, come back! Not boogers in a gross way! In a cool way! Like the way McDonald's hamburgers were the best food ever when you were a kid; salty and simple. And hey, get this, there's an elf drum circle. Wait, wait, wait, come back! Okay, not a drum circle—but picture a bunch of elves playing the same beat. Like twenty Gary Glitters pounding on coconuts. Okay, now picture John Waters possess the dead body of Buddy Holly... wait, what d'ya mean YOU DON'T WANNA SEE A DEAD BODY?!
Fine, I'll interview this guy MYSELF...
The King of Candy!
King Lollipop plays Pizza Fest 2012 at the Funhouse Friday, 8/3.
More, LOTS MORE, after the jump...
King Lollipop is the guitarist/singer of the fantastic Shannon and the Clams gone solo—his music similar, but poppier. Think Lindsay Buckingham's "Holiday Road" and Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain." Go check out his new LP Woodland Whoopee Songs of Ol' Callowhee here.
King Lollipop: I found the word Callowhee in an old TIME magazine I bought at a yard sale. It had a beautiful painting of Rip Van Winkle on the cover, and it was all about fairytales and American folklore. There was an article about a forest fire and this guy that was terribly burned, and the new treatments they were using on him. They mentioned the town of "Cullowee". It was very mysterious and intriguing to me—a kind of fantastical name that you don't hear much anymore.
Most of this stuff was written between 2009-2010, when I was homeless and living, sometimes, in my van. I lived sometimes at friends' houses, and often on Shannon's couch. I had quit my nine-to-five computer programming job in November 2008 to go on tour with Shannon & The Clams. Six months later, I was out of stuff to sell to pay rent (5-string fretless bass that I'd bought on layaway in high school, and several of my toy pianos), so I got a storage unit and moved out—tricked some bank into giving me a credit card (which I still haven't paid off), and I used it to go to India and hang out with my friend Laurel Gunnarson. When I got back, I moved into my van. It was an easy move. Shannon's roommate had a junky, old, nylon string guitar that I used to play with all the time when I was hanging around there. It sounded so mellow and lovely. I fell for it very hard, and wanted one of my own. I started writing a whole new type of song. Soon enough, Steve Stevenson happened to be cleaning out the original tiny 1-2-3-4-Go! Records store on 40th Street, and found another thrashed nylon string guitar kicking around (rumored to have been owned either by Nobunny or Bobby—a guy who worked for Steve.) I took it, and it fixed it up. I wasn't working, and didn't have anything to do, so I would just drive my van around town—go to parks and stare at the bay through my windshield and write stupid songs—trying to dodge the leering eyes of the other lonely van lurkers parked nearby at dusk (who's intentions I gathered were not as innocent as my own.) It was a great time. Below you'll find the specific tales behind a few of these songs.
Workin All The Time I remember living in my van, and feeling like I could never get anything done because I didn't have my own place to do work. I'd always be thinking about the next meal, or where I was gonna sleep that night—calling people up, in rotation, to see if I could sleep over—weighing the pros and cons of sleeping with some girl so I wouldn't have to sleep in my van that night. If I wanted to get any kind of work done, I'd have to hang out in a library or a cafe until I got kicked out. Or sometimes, I'd find a friend who was willing to let me hang out and work on stuff. Consequently, accomplishing even a few minor tasks made me feel like I was endlessly working all the time. Inefficiency, it's called. And so I would hum to myself "I'm working all the time, working all the time," while I was driving around trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my day. I suppose, to turn it into a game, I imagined myself as a busy little troll, always working, always scheming, always plotting something, always on the move... a thief. I used to imagine myself as Kurt Russell—riding a Speeder Bike around Endor with a cigarette in his mouth, while I rode my little red bicycle down to the candy store.
Then I started daydreaming about India—wishing I was there instead, with nothing to do. I remembered all the shady scammers and grifter-folk who hung around the airports and train stations and taxi stands—offering all kinds of nonsense to travelers and tourists, who all stood out like so many sore white thumbs. Guys would offer to take you on a tour—show you the best of the city—take you to their house for dinner, and you'd end up in their taxi puttering around to all of their friend's crummy stores, where you'd be held captive until you bought an overpriced something. When you walk down a market street in India, people shout all kinds of things at you. They want your business bad. One guy called out to me from across a dusty street: "Come! See! Everything possible!" And then they became the busy little trolls to me, always on the move, always scheming, always working for that next weird dollar (or rupee), and I felt I needed to write their song. I recorded a version of this, one day, while I was staying in the tiny studio apartment of former Seattle-ite, and animator Owen Cook, on his old Harmony hollow-body guitar, which I always lusted after.
You Will Never Find Me This was the very first King Lollipop song I ever wrote (although I didn't know it at the time.) I wrote it when we were recording "I Wanna Go Home", just before I went to India. I presented it to Shannon & the Clams as a new song for us to play, and to consider recording as a last minute addition to the record. But then it sounded terrible when we played it. It didn't make any sense. I wanted to play some sing-song nursery rhyme melodies, and invented a main little riff. Shortly after all this, I came upon the nylon string guitar and discovered how much better it sounded for a song like this. I realized that I needed to write a whole different style of song—a stripped down, percussive, woodsy, and primitive sort of song. This is also the first song when I discovered how to make a really abrasive nasal vocalization. There's an old electric guitar version kicking around somewhere, too.
I wanted to write, what appeared at first glance, to be a sweet love song—a song upon closer inspection, was actually the creepy obsessions of a blossoming young suburban sociopath, who ends up dead and hidden on his love interest's roof while fleeing from the authorities.
Cheeseburger And Fries I recall, very vividly, a 7-hour drive I made by myself in May 2009 from Oakland to Alturas, California. This is near the border of Nevada (also the road to Burning Man) and is the way to the remote Alpaca ranch of my older sister's fiancee's family. There was a wedding there, in August, and family members from all over were enlisted to come work, for a long weekend, and get the rugged little ranch into ship shape, to host my sister's dream wedding. Heavy farm machinery was hauled away, sunflowers were planted, a crude parking lot constructed, barrels painted, and pine boughs hung in the rafters of a barn with paper lanterns to create a wedding dance hall.
My parents had to send me money to pay gas so I could drive myself there. I couldn't afford to eat, so before leaving, I bought two jumbo 5 lbs sacks of Walgreens brand trail mix for the journey—chock full of chintzy fake M&M's. On this alone, I subsisted, during the wearisome drive. Up in the mountain towns of California, there were many charming little burger huts, offering discounts to the beloved California firefighters. They reminded me of a place called Giant Burger in Tualatin, Oregon, where I grew up, and of the swim park on Lake Oswego. I let myself wallow in nostalgia for those places. Soon, lonesome-van-madness set in (surely intensified by the endless handfuls of sugared trail mix sizzling in my belly) and I began babbling, and making fart sounds and singing to myself. The only thing that I still remember singing is "Cheeseburger and fray-ay-ay-ay-ies, cheeseburger and fry-ee-ay-ies," inspired by all the roadside restaurants that I couldn't afford to eat at. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to write it about these weird little places I loved in my woodsy hometown, and all my youthful nighttime delusions of getting girls to meet me in secret places, so we might kiss each other.
Wings Of A Raven I was on tour with Uzi Rash and Hobocop on New Years Eve 2010 (to date, the best New Year I've ever had.) I played drums in a reptile mask, floral dress, and a purple yarn wig, and we had a shitty hungover morning at the new 24/7 house—home of Unnatural Helpers members Andrew Sullivan and Johnnie, and Trashies/Tacocat member Eric Randall. We were in the living room, where many, many framed images of cats and kittens covered the walls. Either a Steven Segall or a Dennis Rodman movie was on the television. I was sitting with a guitar held limply in my hands, and then started playing a weird thing, and got up and danced around the living room. But everyone was in desperate need of material to soak up the poison in their bellies, so we left for brunch. The tune stuck in my head, and I couldn't forget the little bit of music I had just made. Later, one day in my van, I started singing over it the first thing that came to mind; a tiny gnome riding atop a raven, hunting the land for unsecured pies cooling on window sills.
Dumpster Divin' I was literally dumpster diving when I wrote this song. I often invited friends to come with me to Trader Joe's late at night. Not knowing, perhaps, what they were really getting into—we would find a hobo's ransom of bread and eggs, beer and cookies, cans of chili—all manners of wonderment— just waiting to be liberated by our nimble fingers! I think I started singing this song to myself when I was out making the rounds, fixin' to dive. I didn't want to write the song because of punk ethics or anything like that. But it was stuck in my head, so I tried to find a way to write it like Roger Miller might have. It was silly and had nothing to do with punk. It made dumpster diving feel like an old fashioned pastime. I had done it, thank heavens, or my mind may have never been free of that refrain.
Lord Licorice's Lament I distinctly remember bathing in the waves of the Arabian Sea on the South Western coast of India, in the town of Gokarna—staring at the unfamiliar sky, and trying not to watch weird dreadlocked Europeans bodysurfing in the shallows. There, I'd sing this song to myself. The night before, Laurel and I had taken a series of rattle-trap passenger buses from Bangalore to Gokarna and were dropped off, unexpectedly, at 3 o'clock in the morning in the strange town of Gokarna. The bus took off as soon as were unloaded. Was this in our itinerary? We couldn't remember. We found the town square and then set out to find the beach, where we could maybe sleep under the stars, above the surf. Our bumblings in the dark soon disturbed a few street dogs, who barked and howled at us. We ignored them and kept walking. Soon these few dogs summoned more, from some unseen dark corners of the town. Then each dog, in turned, summoned several more. Their numbers multiplied exponentially, and we were quickly surrounded by a terrifying swarm of howling feral street dogs, in the middle of the night in a foreign land—in a town we had never been to. The sound was sublime, a quadraphonic vibrating ring of fear. As soon as we turned around and went back the way we came, they left us alone and vanished back to where they had mysteriously come from. I always wonder what the townsfolk thought of this sudden chorus of howls, in the hot dead of night, that ceased almost as abruptly. We spent the next three hours sitting under a caged and holy tree in the center of town, "speaking" with, and throwing pebbles back and forth with a drunk woman who had been wandering the night, waiting for a cafe to open. Everything in India opens between 4-6 am because it is so hot that you cannot sleep once the sun starts to rise.
I spent the next few days deep in the 90+ degree waters of the Arabian Sea, spacing out, humming the tune of "Lord Licorice's Lament"—daydreaming about a sad man who got exactly what he wished for in a land of sweet candy of his own construction. Later, I came upon the verse parts, when I was at a grocery store in Santa Cruz, on tour with the Half Rats and Shannon and the Clams. The previous night had been a wild, drunken boardwalk adventure, with pirate putt-putt and Shannon's cousin Andy, stripping naked on the beach and running into the ocean at midnight—later followed by the sounds of raucous fucking on the other side of a sliding wooden door. In the morning, the Half Rats played zombie video games, and we sought cheap fuel at a Safeway down the road. It wasn't very good, but while we were shopping, I said to someone "sweet is the road where I come from," speaking about candy or snacks or something. The rest of the day, I was nagged by the feeling that the phrase was more meaningful than it appeared to be—then I realized it should be the opening line to "Lord Licorice's Lament."
Forest Lover I rented a room in my friend's Julia, Steve and Lisa's house for a few weeks in December 2009. It was called "Paradise City Limits" and the basement had a street-facing storefront window that Lisa adorned with seasonal decorations throughout the year. All of this was before I owned a guitar of my own. Steve had a great nylon string guitar in his room, along with portraits of Hulk Hogan, Beavis and Butthead and the Police that were hand painted by an autistic boy. I had just learned to play "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from Disney's Cinderella and I wanted to write a song like that. Late on a weird winter night, I wrote "Forest Lover" with chords from that song, worried that my basement roommate might hear me through the thin floor and be annoyed with me. I don't know if she heard me or not, but, if she did, I never heard about it.
Witch Come From The Water I don't really remember writing this song. I know that I had just heard the incredible song "Lover Please" by Clyde McPhatter when Shannon's brother, Dan Shaw played it, and I wanted to write a song like it. I do remember playing the introduction riff obsessively while puttering around Shannon's house. I really liked how it sounded but it took me a while to take it any further than that.
The Wizard's Heart I distinctly remember hanging out alone in a cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana, one morning, while everybody else was sleeping. I sang this to myself, watching squirrels bop around in the dead leaves. I had woken up restless, bored, and annoyed that no one else was awake, and I went out walking for an hour or two and invented the Wizard's Heart. When I came back, there was scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes, and orange juice and a lot of recently roused dirtbags eating it. I played with a dog and giant yoga ball in the back yard.
Little Pink Troll I kept playing this goofy riff, over and over, and I didn't know what to do with it. I thought it was too stupid to use but couldn't get it outta my membrane. I remember one aimless day driving around Oakland, I parked my van near my old art school and played the guitar until the first lines of little pink troll came out of my mouth. I wanted to try singing a different style—lower, with a pinched throat, like a crazy old mountain man, or a wild hobo. I remember leaving a rhyming note to my friend Laurel Gunnarson (in response to the rhyming notes she often left me and everybody else) at her house after she had let me sleep on her floor when I was homeless. I think I either signed it "The Little Pink Troll" or mentioned him in the note. I imagined the Little Pink Troll as the character who might be singing "Working all the Time"—a scam artist, a magician, a swindler.
Nobody Belongs To Me This is my least favorite song on the record. Maybe it's not as bad as I think. One day, my friend Laurel (who very often is making up delightful nonsense songs to herself, in addition to writing rhyming notes to leave on people's doorsteps or in their shoes) was singing something about everybody wanting a friend, or everybody wanting to fall in love. I was sitting on Shannon's couch with a guitar, and started playing what became the verse part of "Nobody Belongs to Me" and I told her I was going to make a song out of it. I combined it with another song I was writing. Instead of a love song, I turned it into an anti-love song. Like, "Love? Who needs it?" I pointed out the strangeness of devoting such a large percentage of your life and your energies to another person. At the time, I was very excited and thought I was writing a great song. Now it's my least favorite. I think maybe the songs I like the most when I'm writing them, end up being the ones I like the least. And vice-a-versa.
Thru the Woods One Day I wrote this song in weird stilted way, little pieces at a time, in spare moments when nothing was going on while I stayed at Shannon's house. I had the chorus part first. This might be my favorite song on the record; it's poppy but spooky—a little scary, maybe. I remember being self-conscious about using the same chord progressions in a bunch of songs, and using melodies that were too similar, and thinking that this song might not work, or might be a rip-off of myself. And then I realized that almost all of my favorite songs ("Lover, Please," "Brand New Key," many Ramones songs, "Wake Up Lil' Suzie," "Iko Iko," "Goo Goo Itch," "England Swings," "My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died") contained 2-3 chords, and were generally in the same proportion to each other; a lot of fifths. I understood that the chord progression didn't matter, but the vocal melody, and delivery of the syllables (and the amount of satisfaction derived at the end of a surprising rhyme) were the things that made a pop song. I forgot all my worries about recycling musical material. That's a fine habit, as long as what you put on top of the music is new and good.
King Lollipop's Decree I don't really remember writing this song, either. I remember wanting to write a song that made me feel self-sufficient and carefree when I was sad, troubled, or self-conscious. A kind of "fuck it" song. A "I do whatever I want, all this weird stuff, climb trees and get myself lost and sing to myself and it's great and it's all in my own separate world away from anybody that worries me, no problems" song. I would sing these things to myself when I felt bad. I decided it would be my decree, henceforth. I also recall discovering that you can make a solo or instrumental part very very simple, and it doesn't matter. Many great old classic songs have dumb, simple, instrumental bridge parts that are very appealing and sound wonderful. THE END.
King Lollipop plays Pizza Fest at the Funhouse Friday, 8/3.