Swinging Modern Sounds #67: The Franchise Restaurants of Song

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In our household, we play Owen Ashworth (who these days records as Advance Base) the way certain other households play Leonard Cohen. He’s someone we revere. He’s the interior decorating, honest, unflashy, hilarious, genuine, astringent, lasting, true. Each new release is a statement on the maturation and individuation process; each new release is a bulletin on where we are now.

His most recent album, Nephew in the Wild (which has to be one of the great titles of recent years) is no exception. While it deals with the usual cast of misbegotten and heartsick protagonists (many of them located in Michigan), it also refracts Ashworth’s recent condition as father of two young daughters. At least in a veiled way, it suggests this, and the complexities of parenting. The last album, A Shut-In’s Prayer, got better and better with repeated attention, and the same is true of Nephew in the Wild.

From his early albums as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Ashworth has grown into a truly adult artist, not only mordant and sad but also dignified and graceful. (And let’s not forget tragicomic, too.) Because he’s friendly with my wife, and collaborated with her at one point, I’ve gotten to know Owen Ashworth personally a tiny bit, and in my experience he’s one of those rare artists who is every bit as sympathetic and sensitive and accessible as his work is. American songwriting is lucky to have this particular non-unionized laborer in the annihilating franchise restaurants of song; he ennobles the form for all songwriters. The interview that follows was conducted by email over the second half of the summer, while Ashworth was touring (note the fall tour dates at the conclusion of the interview below!), and while my family was trying to relocate. As such, the pressures of adult life haunt the exchange, as they haunt Nephew in the Wild, too, which is—already, assuredly—on my list of best albums of recorded music this year.

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The Rumpus: So as I recall, you studied film when younger, but I’m interested in the literary basis of the lyrics. The lyrics, on this album, as well as albums past, A Shut-In’s Prayer, e.g., are extremely narrative, and very moving, in a literary way. I’m wondering, for example, if Carver or Bobbie Ann Mason or Mary Robison are influences in your approach?

Owen Ashworth: I’m at a Holiday Inn in Bowling Green, KY. I took the day off from tour to attend a friend’s wedding in Lexington. Tomorrow I play in Nashville.

Nephew in the WildThanks for the compliment about the lyrics. I think I’ve probably read all of Raymond Carver’s published stories, and I’ve read Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh and Other Stories. I don’t think I’ve read any Mary Robison. Can you recommend a good place to start? Carver and Mason have both been big influences on the way I write lyrics, along with Lorrie Moore and Shirley Jackson. There are plenty of others, of course, but those four in particular had a big impact on me.

Short stories are my favorite thing to read. I like to be shown just enough of a situation to get a sense of the characters and be lead to some empathetic moment. Ideally, that’s what I’d like to achieve with my songs. I just want to describe enough details to drop the listener into a situation and let them feel something along with the people in the songs, and maybe wonder about what will happen next.

Rumpus: You should try Why Did I Ever by Robison. That’s a novel, but written in very short fragments. Another really good example of someone working your same side of the street is Frederick Barthelme (not Donald, his brother). My favorite one is Two Against One, but there’s also a collected short stories called, I think, Laws of Gravity.

There’s a lot of room between Carver and Shirley Jackson, because what I get from the lyrics is a sense of detail and landscape as a character in the songs. Economic oppression is part of it too. Jackson I think of as having that slightly hyperbolic dread. How does she figure in it for you?

Ashworth: Yep, I think that dread is exactly what I get from Shirley Jackson. Shirley Jackson has this tenderness for her characters in the face of real darkness. It’s a human kind of horror that appeals to me very much. There’s that story in The Lottery and Other Stories about the woman taking the bus to see the dentist and the devil is there on the bus and he’s wearing a suit and he leads her into the city. It’s been years since I’ve read that story, or any Shirley Jackson, and it’s the characters and feelings that I remember much more than the specific language. That dentist story, especially in the context of some of the other creepy devil stuff in some of the other stories in that collection, gave me this terrible feeling my chest that I’ve tried to reverse engineer in my own writing more than a few times.

Rumpus: Have you written stories, apart from lyric writing? Do the natural storytelling chops of the songs extend to prose?

Ashworth: I wrote a couple of short stories as school assignments. None of them were very good. Once I started writing songs, that was all I wanted to do.

Rumpus: So to what extent do the lyrics precede the music? Does the story come first? Is there a routine or conventional approach to the compositions?

A Shut-In's PrayerAshworth: Every song is different. Sometimes I’ll have a completed instrumental track recorded before I have any idea what the song will be about. Sometimes I’ll just have a title kicking around for a few weeks or months before I figure out a story that fits, and the music will be the last piece of the puzzle. Just as examples, the first song on Nephew in the Wild, “Trisha Please Come Home,” started with a melody and a few lines sung into my phone, and I thought the rest of the song out in my head over the course of a week before I sat down at the drums and started recording. I figured out an arrangement and tracked all of the instruments one after another. It took me three months to mix it, but all of the recording was done that afternoon. The next song on the album, “Might of the Moose,” started with a six-year-old drum sample that I’d tried many times to write a song around before that particular story occurred to me. This past winter I recorded that song four times in three different keys, each with a different title and slightly different verses, before I settled on the version that’s on the album.

Some of the songs on Nephew in the Wild I can trace back ten years or more from the initial inspiration. I have a hard drive full of wisps of demos and lyric fragments that I will occasionally revisit, hoping that something will inspire a new idea.

Rumpus: I’m interested in this idea that the title generates the stories, because the titles are often so great. In fact, there are titles on this record I’m envious of, including the album title. “Trisha Please Come Home” gets its particular power from the name “Trisha,” it seems to me. It’d be a lot different from “Penelope Please Come Home” or “Gillian Please Come Home.” So can you get to the name? How you came up with it? And what came after the title first?

Ashworth: There are three female characters on the album that I refer to by name: Trisha, Pamela, and Alicia. I wanted to use similar-sounding names, and it was important that each name had six letters. 666, the number of the beast. The three characters are meant to represent a Satanic, female version of the Christian trinity: Mother (Alicia), daughter (Pamela), and unholy ghost (Trisha). I guess that’s more of the Shirley Jackson influence.

The title of the album came out of a conversation I had with my brother about running into one of our uncles on the street, and how it must have been strange for our uncle to spot a nephew in the wild. I liked the sound of the words, so I decided to make it the title of the album. I could figure out what it meant later, after I’d written the songs.

Rumpus: In writing circles, or at least the circles I travel in, the Holy Grail, the uncompleted task, the hardest possible thing to do, is to be a member of the male of the species and to write in the first person from the feminine perspective. There are a lot of reasons why this should be impossible—there are the identity politics issues orbiting around the strategy, and then there are the experiential reasons why it should be hard—and yet there’s a song where you do this on the last record, “Riot Grrrls,” and then I think there’s another one here, too (“The Only Other Girl From Back Home”). My question is: what’s the secret? How can you do it so well? What do you know that all the fiction writers don’t know?

Answering Machine MusicAshworth: After I made the first Casiotone for the Painfully Alone album, some people started describing my music as “emo.” A lot of emo music struck me as misogynist, with lyrics leaning towards complaints about heartless, vindictive ex-girlfriends preying on wounded, sensitive dudes. Maybe that isn’t fair to whatever emo is, but that wasn’t the kind of songwriting I was interested in, so I really made it a point to start writing from women’s perspectives as well as men’s. It means a lot that you think I’m doing a good job writing female characters. Thanks. I really don’t know what the secret is, other than just listening to women, whether it be friends or family members or other artists who are women. Other than the writers we already talked about, I’ve been very influenced by songwriters like Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent and filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener and Chantal Akerman.

At the time that I recorded A Shut-In’s Prayer, I had ambitions to make Advance Base into a real band. About half of the songs on that album were recorded live in a room with my friends Jody Weinmann, Nick Ammerman, and Edward Crouse. We rehearsed and recorded and played some local shows together, but getting four grown people with jobs and families into a van to tour the country just proved to be too difficult, too expensive. By the time that I recorded Nephew in the Wild, Advance Base had defaulted to just me, with some overdubbed performances from some talented friends, mostly traded over email. “My Love for You Is like a Puppy Underfoot” was the one holdover from the Shut-In’s Prayer sessions, with new vocals from Jody. I’m really glad to have that song on the new album. It’s the only song that Jody and I ever wrote together, and I just love it.

Nephew in the Wild was recorded in my basement in Oak Park, IL, mostly while my kids were sleeping upstairs. Raising two little girls kept me pretty busy during the day, so when I did have a little bit of time to myself to work on music, I had to work fast. It took me the better part of a year to record and mix the album, and most of the work was done in 1-3 hour increments. I did a lot of the writing in my head while waiting for my next opportunity to sneak down to the basement to play autoharp or record drum loops.

Rumpus: What’s the effect of the girls, your girls, on the themes and trajectory of the songs themselves?

Ashworth: I’ve written a whole lot of parent/child relationship songs in the past few years, although”Kitty Winn” is the only one that directly references one of my daughters. Since the kids were born, I’ve spent a lot more time considering family relationships, in particular my relationship with my parents and their relationships with their parents. I wonder a lot about what kind of kids and teens and adults my daughters will grow to be, and I worry a lot about what kind of parent I am. I can’t help but write about dads and moms and kids lately.

Around the time that our first daughter was born, my wife and I revisited a bunch of our favorite horror movies. We felt nervous about and overwhelmed by our new parenthood, and those familiar horror movies were a comfort. Over the span of a few months, we watched Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Don’t Look Now, Halloween, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Changeling, The Others, and The Innocents, among others. We were struck by how much horror is based on parents’ fears of their own children. We could sure relate. Scary kid horror movies directly informed many of the songs on Nephew in the Wild.

Rumpus: I guess I’m interested (especially since you mentioned Iris DeMent and Lucinda Williams) if you see the songs as crypto-autobiographical, at all, as allegories for issues that you are working out in life, or if the “Kitty Winn” reference is inadvertent. I am wondering, that is, about ways that you are like a traditional singer-songwriter, though you don’t appear to be one in the conventional sense. Can you write about yourself in a way that is self-expressive without writing autobiographically?

Ashworth: “Kitty Winn,” while not 100% factual, was at least written from the writer’s perspective, as a sort of fictionalized afterward. As far as my songwriting is concerned, it’s hard for me to explain where the line between autobiography and fiction falls, mostly because it just isn’t so important to me. It’s not that I’m trying to trick anyone. I just don’t feel any obligation to report facts. For example, my wife and I weren’t married in September, and neither of our daughters was born in December. September/December made for an easy rhyme, and in the context of the rest of the album, it seemed thematically appropriate for the baby in the song to be born around Christmas.

I’m curious what you mean when you say “traditional singer-songwriter.” Do you think a singer-songwriter traditionally writes autobiography or fiction?

Rumpus: This is a reasonable question you ask. I suppose my effort is to try to create a framework for interpreting the Advance Base songs, and I’m trying to figure out a reasonable metaphor for how I think they work. I assume that singer-songwriter works of the typical variety are heavily indebted to, let’s say, confessional poetry. There would never be Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell if there had not been Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, who in turn were indebted to confessional poetry. I think Robert Lowell’s Life Studies is sort of the foundational work for a lot of this stuff.

Once you get to the songwriters of the seventies, the ones that David Geffen loved so much, it seems clear that the work is either confessional or simulating being confessional. Hejira and Blue are talking about Joni Mitchell’s life. Late for the Sky is talking about Jackson Browne’s life.Pocket Symphonies For Lonesome Subway Cars But there is another idea of the singer-songwriter, something closer to Warren Zevon, perhaps, where it’s clear, in a song like “The French Inhaler” or “Desperadoes Under the Eaves” or “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” that while he is not narrating a specific sequence of events from his life, he is, in some systematic way, expressing his life. Even when he sings a cover (I’m thinking of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on The Wind) he is somehow singing it as though it’s confessional or expressive.

One never feels exactly this way about (to use some British music as a point of reference) The Human League, or OMD, or the early Cure. These post-punk bands, which seemed to undergird some of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, are never about expressing Robert Smith or the guy in OMD, whose name I am forgetting. “Enola Gay” is not about the OMD guy; it’s about atomic bombs. So my question is: is Advance Base more about expressing Owen Ashworth, as though you were a traditional singer-songwriter guy, or is it somewhat like Casiotone, in which it seems to have at least one foot in talking about the world, regardless of where you, Owen Ashworth, are at the time?

Ashworth: Other people have used the word “confessional” to describe my songs, not that I’ve ever been comfortable with that notion. I’ve never paid much attention to Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, or Warron Zevon, so I’m hesitant to make any sort of comparison. I’m much more of a Cure or OMD fan, but their influence is probably more sonic than lyrical. I always preferred Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys lyrics.

Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska was a big influence on me, and maybe marked some kind of turning point in what I wanted to accomplish with my own songs. I bought a used cassette on a friend’s recommendation around 2000, 2001. I remember driving around and listening to “Highway Patrolman” and thinking “that’s the kind of song I’d like to write.”

I guess the short answer is that I’d rather sing about the world than sing about myself, as you put it.

Rumpus: I understand that recoiling from Zevon, et al., although I came to admire this school, much later in life (I think “The French Inhaler” is a masterpiece), but I guess I think that they sometimes wrote about themselves even when writing about the world, and also the reverse, that the distinction is not exactly as neat as it seems. The singer-songwriters are sometimes not confessional at all, and the punks are even more romantic and pop-oriented (Robert Smith, e.g., is the author of “Friday I’m In Love”).

But maybe it will help to discuss the meaning of a particular song, “My Love For You Is Like a Puppy Underfoot.” This is a really simple song, with a tongue-in-cheek earnestness to it, and you don’t sing it. Where did this one come from? And why have a guest chanteuse? Where does this song sit in the Advance Base songbook from your point of view?

Ashworth: I can’t speak to the meaning of “My Love For You Is Like a Puppy Underfoot.” Jody Weinmann, who sings the song, wrote all of the lyrics. I just wrote the music. Jody played bass and sang in the original Advance Base band, and she played on about half of A Shut-In’s Prayer. We recorded “My Love For You Is Like a Puppy Underfoot” as part of the Shut-In’s Prayer sessions, but we didn’t get around to finishing the overdubs until this past winter. I’m glad we waited to release it, because this album needed it more than the last one did. Jody grew up in the Detroit suburbs, and for an album very much about Michigan, it felt good to have a genuine Michigan voice singing one of the songs.

AB3byJeffreyMarini

Rumpus: Do you feel at this point that Advance Base has a legitimately different flavor from Casiotone? I always assumed that the name change was because “painfully alone” no longer applied at all. Do you feel now that you have settled in Advance Base (in your Advance Basement)?

Ashworth: The name change came about six years too late, to be honest. I started Casiotone for the Painfully Alone with the idea that I would make three albums of torch songs, using only battery-powered, electronic instrumentation. Working with strict limitations was a very attractive notion to me back then. Bands with severe aesthetics like Suicide, Young Marble Giants, and Big Black were big influences. I liked bands with rules. The “painfully alone” part was meant to refer to my imagined audience more so than myself. It always embarrassed me when people would ask if I really was painfully alone. I never meant it that way. I just liked the idea of making comfort music. I guess I still do!

The fourth Casiotone album, Etiquette, was the first step away from Casiotone and toward Advance Base. There were more musicians, more instruments, more ideas. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with my songwriting, and I’d earned myself a little freedom. I stuck with the old name because I was excited by the idea of breaking the rules that I’d established with the first three albums, but also because I was scared of starting over.Etiquette Plenty of musician friends were on their second or third bands, and they all advised me to stick with the name. It’s catchy and people liked it. Why throw it away? Everybody warned me that with a new name, I’d just be starting all over again, and I listened.

Advance Base was the name I gave to my little side room home studio when I moved to Chicago in January 2006. I took the name from Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s memoir about the winter he spent alone in a faulty meteorological outpost in the middle of Antarctica. (It was pretty cold in my little home studio.) The first stuff I recorded at Advance Base was collected on a Casiotone singles compilation album called Advance Base Battery Life.

When I’d finally had enough of fielding live requests for twelve-year-old songs, I pulled the plug on Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. For me, using the name of my home studio as a default band name just reinforced the idea that Casiotone was over. I liked the idea of a fresh start with a new bunch of songs and a new musical instrument. My Rhodes electric piano has been the foundation for everything I’ve written and recorded since.

Everyone was right when they warned me about starting over with a new name. I lost a lot of listeners. Four years in, it’s still tough to draw crowds in towns where Casiotone used to sell out venues. I still regret not changing the name after that third Casiotone album.

Rumpus: I like this paragraph because of how many paradoxes it has.

What about the Fender Rhodes is so good? I noticed it, of course, and to me it’s an instrument that I associate with, e.g., Ned Doheny or Steely Dan. You use it with great inventiveness. For example, on “Nephew in the Wild,” it has an almost Eno-esque stateliness and simplicity (I like the left hand a lot). But to me it will never totally transcend that seventies feel. Why not an acoustic piano? Or, you know, a harpsichord, or a clavinet, or a Korg something-or-other?

Ashworth: I remember seeing Rebecca Cole play her Rhodes in her old band The Minders at a Portland house show back in 2001. I couldn’t believe the sounds she was getting. I’d never heard anything else like it. Rebecca has been a musical hero of mine ever since. I got to play a Rhodes on the Casiotone album Etiquette. Jason Quever had one in his home studio, and I used it for the solo on “Cold White Christmas.” As soon as I could afford one and I had a stable enough address, I bought my first Rhodes 54. I started writing songs on it immediately. I just found it to be a very inspiring instrument. There is just something very visceral about the sound of a Rhodes through a Fender Twin amplifier. It’s an emotional sound. I’m fascinated by its technology: They are fun to fix and customized and I love that it’s an acoustic instrument at heart. It’s also an incredibly heavy and finicky and somewhat impractical instrument. I guess I like that, too. I could have gone for a regular old piano, but I like the idea that the Rhodes was the portable proxy of a bygone era. It’s the underdog’s piano.

Rumpus: But why better than a Wurlitzer, e.g., or, on the other hand, an Acetone or Farfisa?

Ashworth: I never got the same magical feeling from Wurlitzer electric pianos that I got from Rhodes electric pianos. Also, I’d heard that Wurlitzers were hard to keep in tune, and just didn’t travel as well. My friend Jason had a Wurlitzer and he was forever filing or soldering the bells to fix the tuning. The Rhodes tine system, in addition to seeming a little more dependable, was just more interesting to me, mechanically and aesthetically.

I’m not really interested in transistor organs in quite the same way that I’m interested in electric pianos. They create beautiful colors that can complement an arrangement nicely (I even used a little Farfisa on the last Casiotone album), I don’t always find them to be so compelling as solo instruments. Also, by the end of Casiotone, I’d gotten a bit burnt out on buzzy organ drones. As far as keyboard instruments go, pianos just feel more expressive.

Rumpus: Is it the kind of thing where you imagine you have made all the decisions on tone and sound, or is it possible that you will strike out in another direction before long?

Ashworth: I think each record has sounded a little different from the last, but there are certain kinds of sounds that I always seem to return to. It’s a given that there will be electric pianos and tambourines and Mellotron samples and too much tape noise on the next album. I won’t be able to help it. But I usually start each record with some specific new sounds in mind, whether actually they end up on the album or not.Twinkle Echo My plan for A Shut-In’s Prayer was to use lots of autoharp and harmony vocals and upright piano, and at least half of those songs have those things. On the other hand, Nephew in the Wild was supposed to have all of these flutes, and a flutist came over and recorded all of these flute parts, and I didn’t end up using any of it. What was left was a bunch of songs with the ambition of flute parts, which of course sound much different than songs with no such ambition.

Lately, I’ve been listening to The Beach Boys’s Smiley Smile pretty much daily. I love the way that record sounds. It’s very claustrophobic, with some nice Hawaiian guitar and tack piano and clip clop horse percussion radio drama sound effects and quietly humming Baldwin organ and very close and loud whispering from Carl. I think Smiley Smile will be a part of the blueprint for how the next Advance Base record sounds, whether I end up using those same instruments that The Beach Boys used or not.

Rumpus: I have always had some resistance to Smiley Smile thinking (like Al Jardine!) that it was a watered down Smile and thus not as good, but now I’m looking at it from your point of view, as a really beautiful example of what can be done at home, and it is pretty great. I see what you mean. I have always like Holland, of the post-Smile stuff, and Carl and the Passions a little bit, but this does have some great writing and arranging on it.

Okay, what’s with all the Christmas imagery?

Ashworth: For me, the shadow of Smile makes Smiley Smile all the more compelling. The fun and laughter combined with the melancholy and resignation just kill me. Context aside, I really, truly love the home recorded versions of the Smile material, and the stuff that was written specifically for Smiley Smile is just as wonderful. “Little Pad” is one of the very best Beach Boys recordings, in my opinion. I’ve never listened to Holland. I’ll check it out. My wife has living and breathing Brian Wilson lore ever since she saw Love & Mercy. It’s become the household obsession. We’ve been listening to Pet Sounds instrumentals and Smile a capellas over dinner and staying up late watching YouTube clips and reading all relevant Wikipedia pages and the kids walk around singing “Sloop John B” all day.

Okay, Christmas. There’s been at least one Christmas song on every album I’ve made since Etiquette. “Cold White Christmas” was such a satisfying song to write and record. At the time, I felt like it was the first really great thing I’d made Maybe I’m just trying to recreate that same experience with all of these other Christmas songs. I don’t know. I also just really love a lot of Christmas music. In particular, Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas had a big impact on me. The music was the best thing I got out my childhood years of churchgoing. I especially loved the Christmas services. My mom sang in our church choir, and there was always choral music in the house between November and January.

Christmas is such a loaded, complex subject and I just keep returning to it. I find I can say a lot about a character by describing their Christmas. It’s an easy emotional short cut.

“Pamela” and “Christmas in Milwaukee” were two of first songs I wrote specifically for the new album. It seemed to me that a song about the antichrist needed a song about Christmas to counter. I wrote the rest of the album around those two songs.

Rumpus: Two more questions, and then I swear I’m done:

1) What is with the antichrist/666 stuff? It’s not just a shuck? Are you willing to be teased out further there?

2) The Guaraldi rings some bells for me, because I still find the music to A Charlie Brown Christmas really incredible. I assume Rosalie has watched that already. My daughter, Hazel, really got into it when she was two or three, and I found myself really shocked by how great Guaraldi’s music was. I mean, I remembered it, of course, but it’s amazing movie.

So I’m thinking I know what you’re after a little more clearly because you mention this as a starting point, and I think I can hear some shared emotional terrain in “Christmas in Milwaukee” or “Nephew in the Wild” (which I think is a remarkable, remarkable song), as juxtaposed with, e.g., “Christmas Time Is Here,” but maybe you could describe what the feeling is in those Guaraldi pieces (which I assume also means the feeling of the television program itself) that called to you back when.

Ashworth: There’s also this Danzig song called “13” that I thought about a lot when I was writing some of these songs. I guess I was trying to write horror songs. I envisioned Nephew in the Wild as this very dark, sinister kind of record, the shadow of that record of Washington Phillips covers I released a few years back, The World Is In A Bad Fix Everywhere. I ended up backing away from some of the really terrible stuff, but the horror is still there. The undead moose in the woods in “Might of the Moose” was meant to be the album’s first hint of there being some unknowable presence lurking in the shadows. The evil creeps in, burns down the high school, and then recedes again at the end of the album. I wouldn’t say that any of it was for a laugh. I took these songs seriously. Vs ChildrenI was trying to express some very real dread and anxiety. I was thinking a lot about the music of my childhood and my first experiences with heavy metal when I was writing this record. Evil felt like such a real and dangerous thing when I was young, and so much music was attached to my concepts of good and evil. I wanted to write about a world where evil was a very real presence. Evil at the high school, evil in the nursery. Having kids, in addition to filling my life with love and joy and purpose and hope for the future, has also given me moments of dread that I haven’t really experienced since I was a kid. Like a lot of the stuff going on in my songs, I’m not really able to intellectualize it, because I don’t entirely understand it. I just write about the things that are on my mind, in hopes that the songs will lead me to some greater understanding. I’m trying to figure a lot of this stuff out myself.

There’s a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone song called “Don’t They Have Payphones Wherever You Were Last Night” that was directly, blatantly influenced by “Christmas Time Is Here.” There’s a sweetness and melancholy to that Guaraldi tune that encompasses so much that I love about music. It gives me an unexplainable feeling that I just want to fill my own music with. I can hear its influence on a bunch of different Casiotone and Advance Base songs.

Thinking again about The Beach Boys, there’s a beautiful moment in the Smiley Smile version of “Wonderful” where a very Charlie Brown Christmas-esque children’s choir appears for a single “won-won-wonderful.” It might be my favorite moment on the album.

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Advance Base Fall 2015 US Tour Dates:

September 25, 2015 – Chicago, IL @ Pinky Swear !
October 15, 2015 – Columbus, OH @ Tree Bar
October 16, 2015 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr Roboto Project *
October 17, 2015 – Philadelphia, PA @ Sound Hole *
October 17, 2015 – Washington, DC @ TBA *
October 19, 2015 – Manhattan, NY @ Mercury Lounge *
October 20, 2015 – Brooklyn, NY @ Silent Barn #
October 22, 2015 – Albany, NY @ Low Beat *
October 23, 2015 – Boston, MA @ TBA *
October 24, 2015 – Bar Harbor, ME @ Lompoc *&
October 25, 2015 – Portland, ME @ Apohadion Theater *&
October 26, 2015 – Winooski, VT @ Monkey House
October 27, 2015 – Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar
October 29, 2015 – Detroit, MI @ Lager House
November 2, 2015 – DeKalb, IL @ House Cafe +
November 4, 2014 – Birmingham, AL @ Spring Street Firehouse %
November 6, 2015 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn %
November 7, 2015 – Greenville, NC @ Art Avenue %
November 8, 2015 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 %

! with More Ease, Fast Femme & Fastness
* with Amy Bezunartea
# with Julie Byrne
& with Lisa/Liza
+ w ith Elvis Depressedly
% with Nathan K

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Photo © Jeffrey Marini.


Rick Moody is the author of six novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and a volume of essays, On Celestial Music. His most recent publication is Hotels of North America, a novel. With Kid Millions of Oneida, he recently released the album The Unspeakable Practices (Joyful Noise recordings). More from this author →