Sunday, December 29, 2013


I think that I have come to the conclusion that I hate technology. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how technology makes essentially every aspect of my life easier, but the effect that it has on human behaviour is starting to kind of disgust me. There's also the fact that every person is constantly pressured into buying or updating everything they own for fear of becoming obsolete, so technology also gets the wonderful association of capitalism.

This kind of stems from the fact that I've been reading this book over Christmas break:

The book, written in 2010, is set in a near future in which people have "apparats", which are a sort of personal tablet-like device that constantly uploads both conscious and subconscious information from them and broadcasts it globally over the internet. As a result, there are no personal boundaries whatsoever and there's more or less no stop to the release of information. People start to communicate almost exclusively through social media and instant messaging, to the point that speaking is known as "verballing". Online shopping also progresses to the point that people are constantly shopping and bidding on auctions online through their apparats and the pressure to consume skyrockets. 

The book is a satire and purposefully over the top, but the more I think about it, the more it starts to feel like this world is about 5 years away. I mean every time I hang out with people, their phones are never very far from their hands and it's not uncommon at all to have stretches where everyone in the group has their face down staring at Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr on their phone. While they're making a point to take time out of their day to hang out with people! To me this is pretty ridiculous and it's an obvious sign that the human race, or at least the part of it that lives in developed countries and has access to this technology, is moving towards an existence where we communicate through a third party, like social media or instant messaging or whatever, as opposed to actually conversing with someone.

Case in point is how nobody actually uses their phone to make phone calls anymore. Everybody has gotten so used to the idea of texting somebody and having the recipient read whenever is most convenient for them, that people actually dread making phone calls now! I think it's pretty weird and ridiculous that such a wonderful and game-changing invention, the telephone call, is now abhorred because it involves direct interaction with a human being.

Over this break, my girlfriend has been visiting family in Germany. Man, long relationships are HARD! While it's completely astounding that What'sApp? allows me to converse with her in real time while she's on the other side of the planet, to me it totally fucking sucks that our only avenue of conversation is instant messaging, because I find it difficult to have that be the only way to talk to someone. I personally prefer in-person conversation or a phone call, but this has got to do for now, right? There's an ebb and flow to conversation, not to mention body language, that greatly relates to how you converse with someone that is just completely absent in instant messaging (yeah, I refuse to type IMing), and that stresses me out. I also really hate the idea that if you are close to someone, you have to be nearly constantly texting them or else they become paranoid or angry. It has more or less progressed to the point that you have to spend every moment of your time talking to people, with the only feasible reason being that you can multi-task and do things on your phone while you do other things as well. That is FUCKED.

This idea is what contributes most strongly to the satire in Super Sad True Love Story, I think. Instead actually speaking to one another, people either send messages over "GlobalTeens", which is basically skype, or spew out "verbals" that are just a mish-mash of pop-culture references of social media glub that may seem pretty funny when read on your computer, but sound absolutely pathetic coming out of a human's mouth. And seriously, is this even that far away? People my age are already way more comfortable throwing a tweeting at somebody or mentioning them on Facebook and also spend an absolutely asinine amount of time doing things of absolutely no importance or merit on their computer.

I realize that it's a little problematic that I'm using my personal blog on my computer to get my thoughts out, as this would certainly fall into the last category I described in the preceding paragraph. All that I can offer in my defense is that I do put a lot of effort into the things I write on this blog and while my writing is certainly victim to the vernacular, I like to think that this stuff is a little more composed and thought out than what you see on Facebook or Tumblr. I do recognize that IMU is perpetually riddled with grammatical errors though. I fix them when I see them, I swear!

I think the constant need to buy new technology or update what you have is what disgusts me most though. I didn't a cell phone until I was in 2nd year university, which was very late compared to almost everyone I know. Upon getting one, I had one of these for three years, which was the phone equivalent of bringing a Neanderthal's club to a gunfight. After that, I upgraded to a Blackberry which kept me current for about 3 months before the entire world started to get iPhones. Now people chuckle when I pull out my Curve to check a text and then ask me how I can live without SnapChat or Instagram or 2 gigabytes of monthly data on my plan or a phone camera with a higher resolution. 

I was checking the Bell Mobility website the other day to see which types of upgrades I could look into, as my contract with the company is almost up. While at first I was amazed at how cheap I could get a brand new iPhone 5C for (and in my favourite colour blue to boot!), I shortly thereafter realized that in order to get this phone and acquire the clearly essential option of being able to put filters on pictures of my dogs, I had to sign up for a contract that would take me town for services that are much cheaper elsewhere. I realized quickly that my Curve would work just fine for now and could make do for the little while, but it's worth noting that the iPhone is by far the most popular, sexy and "must-have" phone in the eyes of the public and it is only offered by the bigger companies, who charge you up the ass contract-wise. They got what you need and you're fucking buying.

On the other hand, I now have virtually every piece of music ever composed at my fingertips, I'm free to look up any piece of information I'm wondering about and scholarly research is so much easier for me than it was for my parents that the two environments aren't even comparable. I guess I dread a time when saying "I totally heart you." is literally going to replace "I love you.", because it's seriously not very far off in my opinion.

In the mean time can we just please use the internet more for educating ourselves than for looking at pictures of cats and stupid jokes that only make sense on a computer screen?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fruit Stand Watermelon Wheat

One of my favourite nights of the past year occurred during a trip home at the end of the summer. Every time that I come home, Paul, Damien and I make a point to have at least one night out together during which we drink entirely too much and stay out late and end up not coming home until the very early hours of the morning. We started doing this during the last winter break and since then it has it been great every time and has come to be known as "Wardies' Night Out"*. This night in particular occurred during one of our Wardies Night Out.

We started the night out at the Ballroom, which is a bar in downtown Toronto near the SkyDome, for the birthday party of one of our friends who was back in town for the night. However, that bar isn't really our scene, so we left to go to a couple of bars in Kensington Market. We eventually ended up at a bar whose name I will not be able to remember for the life of me, because I am usually a little more than half in the bag when we end up there. ANYWAYS, this was the end of the night and it must have been about 1:30 or 2 in the morning, so the bar was beginning to empty. There was a trap DJ mixing that night and this was also the only time I have seen real, legit twerking done properly. Paul, Damien and I had already spent a ton of time at a few other bars in the area that night, so we were content to just sit down and have a few beers before we started the perilous trek back to Scarborough.

While we were working on our drinks, I noticed that there were these two girls who kept glancing over to our table from the dancefloor. Eventually, while the three of us were speaking to each other, they came and sat down at our table. These two girls were DRUNK. One sat across from me and (I think?) tried to court me. She was obviously at the end of a pretty long night and was saying things like "Yeah, you know we live on Spadina. We're pretty chill and stuff. I'm pretty much down for anything. I just want you to know that I'm not going to sleep with you tonight. But like it's cool when guys come and stay the night and stay to play Bioshock in the morning. So yeah, like, I'm down for anything."^ Her level of intoxication didn't make it the most charming thing in the world and I wasn't exactly interested, but she was probably just drunk and felt like taking someone home that night, so who am I to judge?

Her friend, on the other hand, was one of the drunkest people that I have ever seen in my life. She sat across from Damien and Paul which I assume was to occupy their attention while her friend made her moves on me. Immediately upon coming over she fell onto the bench seat across from us and had a lot of trouble sitting up and putting words together. We were (understandably, I think) taken aback by her and her friend tried to defend her saying "Yeah, she worked like 120 hours this week. She works at Steamwhistle. We have free beer all the time. Our house is pretty chill. But yeah, she works crazy hours and she stretched really thin, that's why she's passing out." Yes, she worked the equivalent of five complete, 24 hour days at a brewery where she was obviously not employed in any type of long-hour position. It was definitely that and not her extreme level of alcohol intake. Paul went and got her a glass of water from the bar to try to help her out, to which her friend snapped that we should leave her alone. I understand that women have to be wary of men that they don't know when they're out at a bar, but we were just trying to help and we all took sips from the glass to prove that we had not tampered with it, which obviously none of us would ever think about doing in a million years.

Eventually, after this enthralling conversation we parted ways for the night. After leaving the bar, the three of us decided that our number one priority was making our way over to Burger King so that we could take in a hard day's munch. What ensued was one of the funnier conversations I've had in my life while we ate what seemed like the best meal of our life at the time. Damien started taking a video of the entire fiasco on his phone and that continued while we spilt out onto College Street so that we could take the streetcar home. Unfortunately for everyone not named Tim, Damien, Paul or Pat, this video will not be seen by anyone ever.

One of the downsides of living in Scarborough is that if you go to a bar downtown, you have the problem of finding your way back to the east end waiting for you at the end of the night. The last subways eastbound leaves Kipling Station at 1:30, meaning that you have to leave earlier than that in order to catch it when it comes downtown. This and the reduced service of Scarborough bus routes (thanks Ford!), means that generally your best course of action is to catch a streetcar, take it as far east as you can and then take a fairly pricey cab ride the rest of the way. This generally takes about two hours.

We knew that this was the most likely outcome of the night and started to try to contact whoever we knew that lived downtown to see if we could somehow avoid that marathon of a commute back to Scarborough. Realistically, the big payoff of this night if the video on Damien's phone, but it's kind of impossible for me to post that here!


But actually though, this night (and all the others like it that we've started to collect) is one of my favourites ever.

*The term "wardy" comes from the American south and is used to designate somebody from your ward. It's used as a term to describe a good friend, notably by the rap groups on No Limit and Cash Money Records. I would point you towards the excellent piece of cinema Baller Blockin' made by Cash Money Records in 2000 for examples of how it is used.

^This is actually what she said to me, to the best of my recollection.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't

This blog has been terribly neglected over the last little while because I've been so busy in every other realm of my life. While I do place a lot of importance on writing and coming up with ideas and writing about those ideas, it becomes difficult when school takes up a lot of the capacity of that part of my brain.

Over the last two months or so my life turned into a cycle of spending essentially all of my time on school, because grad school is hard, man. I would have an essay due/presentation coming up/exams to mark and my mind would be focused 100% on that. Then as soon as that was finished I would have a week or so off. That week would be taken up by girlfriend (YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY FOLKS, I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND) as well as Beat Noir rehearsals and planning out our full length album*. Then, before I knew my relaxing time would up and I would have to start working on my next school project and the whole cycle would start again. This started around late October and continued until this past Monday (December 16th, for those of you reading this in the future), so it was a pretty long time and I'm real tired from exerting myself for that long.

But now I've returned to my native basement in Scarborough and am gifted with a huge amount of free time. I'm planning to spend the entire break hanging out with friends, reading the huge stack of books I've brought home with me and hopefully channeling the creative part of my brain into this thing some more.

Cool beans.

*Hell, you've already scrolled down this far; scroll down a little further and read about that album right below this post.


Something I’ve always loved is when bands make extensive liner notes to go along with an album. I really appreciate when a band will add something to the lyrics, explaining where the band was at at the time, or the inspiration for songs, or little stories that tie into subject.

A great example I can think of it How It Goes by Big D and the Kids Table. They first had a little passage that expanded on the band’s attitude and existence and also what was happening with them up to the release of the album. Then, along with the lyrics for each song, various members would give anecdotes about writing each song and how it came to be. My personal favourite was when former saxophonist Dave Bush mentioned how he was having a lot of trouble coming up with a horn line for a particular song. Whenever he was met with that problem, he would take the first three notes from a John Coltrane, his favourite sax player, and the rest of the song would seem to write itself from there.

I don’t know what is about little bits of information like that, but they really appeal to me a ton and I eat them up. This is a big part of why I love Less Than Jake so much, as there seems to be a tour story or great anecdote that goes along with almost every song (ex: Where The Hell Is Mike Stinkovich, 9th at Pine, Handshake Meets Pokerface, Best Wishes To Your Black Lung, every other song they’ve written). I guess I just get really, really into bands and I love knowing everything I can about them and this is a way to do that.
Duff and I have had a ton of talks about this stuff, as he’s just as into it as I am and we both kind of wanted to include something in this vein with our forthcoming album. We haven’t sorted that side out yet, but I wanted to get this all down before school picks up again and I wouldn’t have a chance.

So these are a bunch of random thoughts and observations about the ten songs (and an intro track!) that will make up the album we’re about to release. Duff wrote all the lyrics for all of the songs, so take everything I say about subject matter with a grain of salt. All of these songs titles are subject to change too; this shit’s a work in progress.

Song For Passivity
This has always been one of my favourite songs to play and I’m fairly sure that that extends to the rest of the band as well. We wrote the skeletons for all of these songs and all the songs on Permanently at the same time during the summer of 2012. I lived in Guelph at the time, so sometimes I would come to practice and Duff, Mark and Colin would be like “Okay, here’s four new songs.” and they showed me this song during one of those instances*. The first thing I remember about it was how stoked I was that it was a fast song, because fast songs are the most fun to play. The second thing I remember is the first time we got to the guitar break after the second verse and Colin started doing the rim shots, everyone had a smile on their face a mile wide. That kept happening for the rest of the summer. It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but I assure you, we still love to play it just as much. I’m really proud of the bass line for this song and it might be my favourite that I’ve written for the band. While we were writing the song, I was thinking that I was really selling myself short and not writing hard or complex enough bass lines for the band and this song was what resulted from that. In reference to the lyrics for the song: “I feel you on that Duff.”

Nicky Driscoll
For whatever reason, when the guys first showed me this song I just could not wrap my head around it. It’s not really that complex or anything, but I just could not play it properly to save my life. It was seriously the bane of my existence. Then we did rough demos of all the songs at the end of summer 2012 and I was able to finally get into them. Once I actually learned this one proper and was able to write for it, I really started to love it and now it might be my favourite song on the record. My influences for bass are pretty weird because my favourite bass players are Roger from Less Than Jake, Royce from The Suicide Machines, James Jamerson, Ebin from Stay What You Are-era Saves The Day and Karl Alvarez from The Descendents and all of them have extremely different playing styles, so sometimes there’s just too many ideas in my head for me to work into a song in any type of logical way. I bring this up because the bass line I wrote for this song is sort of me trying to put a punkish spin on Motown bass, in my mind. If you slow it down and add in a little bit of syncopation, I assure you, you will hear it too. Oh and the song’s title is reference to the most-excellent TV show My So-Called Life. This song is about dead kids.

            Another song that feels like it’s been around forever and has never really left our setlist when we play. This song is one of the original demos we finished and is also one of the songs we played at the first Beat Noir show with Colin and I in the band. This one hasn’t really changed all that much from the version we initially composed, save for minor changes to parts that I, and I’m sure the rest of the band, made to our parts. I have a soft spot for this one because the bass line for the outro is the first thing I wrote for the band that wasn’t a simple eighth-note bass line. CREATIVITY.

Muscle Memory
            I remember one specific practice during that summer when we were writing all the songs where we finished both this song and “Midos”. Duff was kind of fooling around with a riff and Mark said “Hey, should we make a song out of that?” and Duff said “I don’t know, I’ve been playing that riff since I was 17.” (Said in a manner to suggest that it was just some dumb riff). About twenty minutes later, we had the song. It used to be a long, weird drawn out song that had this odd pseudo-folkish part at the end that would bleed into the then-acoustic beginning of “Nom De Guerre”, but we cut it down considerably this summer to turn it into what it is now. I wrote the bass line for this one really quickly at the practice where we wrote and I’m still really happy with what came out of me, though I did have to tweek it a bunch over time. Whereas some of the songs were really easy and more or less wrote themselves, this was definitely one that we had to sit down and work on and as a result, was one of the last ones to be finished before we started recording.

Nom De Guerre
            The only reason this song exists is because we decided “Hey, we should write a song that comes out of that.” when we finished the preliminary version of “Muscle Memory” at practice one day. Originally it was a really long acoustic song that eventually built up into a rocky ending. Then, as with many of the songs on this record, we decided we didn’t like it that much and totally re-worked it, so much so that it doesn’t sound anything at all like it used to, save for the ending. It took us way longer than it should have to release our EP, so I was a little bummed with how stuff was progressing with the band for a bit because we seemed to constantly be hitting roadblocks. With that in mind, I was not as enthusiastic as I should have been when Mark pushed us to start jamming and writing for the full-length right after we were done recording the EP, because we still had a ton of work to do on some songs and I felt pretty defeated about it. Then we jammed and sketched out the framework for the new version of this song, which totally rejuvenated me. I fucking love this song and think it shows a side of the band that we’ve always known is there, but maybe others haven’t seen yet. Also, a story I think is kind of funny and sort of led to the new version of the song is that one day Mark and I were getting ready to head to Colin’s while we were living in the worst basement apartment that has ever existed and Mark just said “Yeah, maybe I should palm mute the guitar.” in passing out of nowhere. LOOK WHERE THAT LED US.  Another sort of funny thing is that we talked about turning this into an electric song for a long time, so the thought of “Oh shit, I need to write some bass lines for it!” was always in the back of mind, along with the anxiety of maybe not writing/performing well enough on the song, which is pretty much always there. I had these weird ideas about using a lot of chords and playing way high up on the neck and then ended up playing something totally different, which works way better for the song in my opinion. This was actually a rare case of me sitting down and actively trying to write the bass line (What a novel idea!), which resulted in something different from what I normally play, at least to me.

            This song has definitely changed the most of any other from inception to its current state. It started out as a weird slow song that then became crazy 6/8 emo, then slow then big heavy ending song that didn’t really work at all and then changed into the groovy, 6/8 then heavy ending song that it is now. I really like how much this song has morphed over time and I think that it shows we can step outside our box a little bit. The ending is also still the most fun to play and is probably the heaviest that Beat Noir will ever sound. For some reason or another, this song reminds of the Constantines. The working title for this song was “Ski Iraq”, which is a reference to one of the band’s favourite jokes on Six Feet Under. During the writing of this album, the band was watching Six Feet Under together and we all loved the shit out of it. The show’s main theme is death and the way people react and deal with it and that definitely influenced the writing process quite a bit. This definitely pertains especially pertains to Duff, as death is one of the main things he thinks about (or at least, that’s the way it seems to me). INTERTEXTUALITY.

Sheltered Town/Bitter Sea
I think this might be our best song, because it has Duff’s strongest lyrics, in my opinion. This one was originally going to be droney, whole note bass song with minimal other instrumentation, but then we realized that it sounded way to much like “Searching For A Former Clarity” by Against Me! Then it turned into what is now. Cool beans.

Ancienne Gloire
I have a really specific memory of writing this song with Duff and Mark in Duff’s old room at Echo Base. During that time I was back and forth between Kitchener-Waterloo and my home in Guelph constantly and as a result, more or less lived in that room. Mark came in with the lead riff and the song pretty much wrote itself in about 20 minutes. It’s funny how music works like that sometimes. I like this song because we were working on some really weird (for us) sounding songs like “Collages” and “The Feeling”, so it felt good to just right a punk song that just stays a punk song. When we were in that room writing this song I felt like I was really selling myself short in terms of the bass lines I was playing and writing, so I tried to write something really hard and crazy. The result was some Matt Freeman-esque over playing that sounded absolutely dreadful. Fortunately, this was rectified in time for recording. It’s no secret to most people that know me that I’m a huge Francophile, so I was really excited when we changed the name for this one from “Midos” to what it is now.

The Wars
More so than any other song we’ve written, I think this one completely encompasses the ethos of Beat Noir. It’s been around for a long time and has been a part of our live set for the pretty much the entire time I’ve been in the band. This song reminds me of “Firefly” by Saves The Day for some reason or another and that’s why I added the “B-slide up to F#/high B” lick at the end of the song. I think everyone in the band would agree that if somebody wanted to know what Beat Noir is like, having never heard our music before; this is the song we’d show them. IT’S LIKE OUR THEME SONG.

            When I first joined Beat Noir, Mark sent me demos of 5 songs to learn for our first practice. Those five songs were “Weight”, “1500”, “The Wars”, “Deathwish” and “Stalwarts” and as a result of being my first experience, those songs have special place in my heart. In fact, “Weight” is the one of those that we finished first and we played it at the first show with Colin and I in the band. It feels like we’ve been playing this song forever, so it makes me happy to see it finally seeing the light of day. Whereas most songs that we’ve been working on for the full-length have changed a fairly decent amount, this one has stayed pretty much the same. My brother, who certainly would not pull punches on anything I do, told me that he thinks this song sounds like Dinosaur Jr and that made me really happy.

So yeah, these are the things I think about while I listen to our album.

*If memory serves me correctly, the other songs at that practice were “Clastic Rock”, “The Feeling”, “Collages” and “Nicky Driscoll”