12:08 PM, bed. Groggily fumble for my phone—holy shit, we’re in the p.m. already? I’ve been living in the guest bedroom at Al and Ali’s Fishtown apartment since New Year’s Eve, a sort of self-imposed Philadelphia writing retreat so I make some progress on this synth pop side-project I’ve wanted to do for a few years. Massachusetts has me down and it’s been nice to see so many friends while I’m here—I spent ten months last year on tour and haven’t seen a lot of these peeps in about that long. Thus far I’ve been eating way too many bagels in restaurants, and staying up every night until around 5 a.m. demoing songs. All the saw waves in my headphones are starting to drive me bonkers. Last night I gave up on a hopelessly arranged song around 2 a.m. and took a double dose of NyQuil, hoping it would put my insomniac ass to bed (and maybe solve my sore throat, possibly caused by Al’s adorable doggy Lulu). Still stayed up until 5. The NyQuil accounts for my severe medicine hangover. I don’t even like the song I started yesterday but I still wake up with a part from the bridge stuck in my head–“historically it’s twice a hornet stings”–which is not exactly a scientific truth. Maybe I gotta change that.
12:18 PM, bathroom. Time for the elaborate facewashing routine I follow religiously. It involves 4 products—Boscia warming face gel, La Prairie toner, Boots serum, and one of three lotions (depending on how my skin’s doing that day). I top it off by assaulting several black heads and making my face bleed. I attempt to extract some sebum from a pore near my eyebrow and yesterday’s brow gel oozes out. Eww.
12:29 PM, kitchen. Boiling water in a pot to make a huge pot of tea. Since I’m a houseguest here I don’t have my usual tea staples: a huge T-Fal kettle and several enormous tea pots. Instead I’ve been using a mug about the size of my head to make some black tea, which I guzzle and re-steep about every hour while I’m confined in my room and working.
12:43 PM, dining room table. Al’s working on his computer to mix some drum samples for a band that’s been in his studio, Fancy Time. I’m eating a slice of Speculoos cheesecake I picked up from Grindcore House yesterday. I intended to give this whole cake slice to Rachel, who’s recording an album with her band Field Mouse at a nearby studio called Headroom, but then I didn’t leave the house for 24 hours and it is so hard to not eat cake when it’s in your fridge. Al and I are talking about different recording studios we’ve visited or worked in, and how many engineers or even interns at those studios have been women. Short answer: not many.
1:03 pm, bedroom. Sam’s band has an interview with a local newspaper today so I text: “how’s interview with the vampaper?” He says, “I like that joke” and I feel gratified, considering I came up with it at 5 a.m. the night before.
1:11 PM, bedroom. Jade texts inviting me to come over to West Philly and have some brunch and play Super Smash Bros. Jade plays in one of my favorite bands, Aye Nako–we toured with them last month and they’re playing a huge show in Philly today at The Church, a basement showspace in the rec room of a Unitarian Church. The lineup is insane–Guerilla Toss, Downtown Boys, Xiu Xiu, and about ten other bands are on it, too–and I’m really excited to see my friends. But I’ve set a pretty strict deadline for myself on this songwriter project, which is one song a day without exception, and I didn’t finish my song last night. I compromise with myself–if I finish yesterday’s song in the early afternoon, I can go hang out at the show all day, and not worry about writing a song tonight. It’s hard having myself as such a harsh BAWSE.
1:12 PM, sitting at my desk. I open up the session file for this song. Ugh, it’s a mess. I make the following notes:
- jousty mayfair guitar for intro–baritone?
- double C#m strum with bass?
- guitar to double vocals pre-C
- picked guitar rhythm on chorus
- high sustain descending synth on chorus – portamento hook?!
- tighten up transition to second chorus
- alternate guitar for bridge
- tighten up vocal melody outro
- add piano to outro?
My work’s cut out for me!
2:26 PM, at my desk. Allison wants to get coffee so I am giving up and putting on pants. Look out, world. Barely accomplished anything on my song to-do list because I spent an hour tinkering around with ring modulation on my synth bells. Whoops.
2:43 PM, bedroom. I’m dressed in a velvet skater dress with a lace camisole underneath, two pairs of tights, and a gold glitter locket with the words “LOL NO” bezeled in. Steel toed boots so I don’t get stepped on when I eventually wind up jumping around at the Aye Nako show.
3:01 PM, E. Montgomery. Allison picks me up and I answer the door chugging my second enormous cup of black tea. We get in her car and drive around listening to A Sunny Day In Glasgow–Allison’s about to record a solo album with the same producer, and from what I can tell it’ll be a great fit. I’m living around the corner from a Flotation Spa (Salon? Shop? What kind of business is a flotation tank a part of?) and we debate whether or not we have too much anxiety or too many neuroses to be sensory deprived for an hour. We reminisce about the first few times we met each other at festivals and shows—some memory lane shit.
3:24 PM, Shot Tower. Grab iced coffees. They’re playing “That’s All For Everyone,” my favorite Fleetwood Mac jam (but mostly the Camper Van Beethoven cover of the same song). I tell the barista they’re playing my jam, and she tells me they put it on just for me. Another barista remarks that that’s a weird Fleetwood Mac song to favor and disses Tusk. Whatever, man. I tip anyway.
3:35 PM, seemingly unnamed antiques store in South Philly. I’m reminded of the Nathan For You episode in which the business model becomes a 24-hour “you break it you buy it” scheme to attract clumsy drunks, because I really feel like I’m going to knock over some of this precariously arranged tupperware. I have too many ribs to zip up a 1920s grey formal gown, so I try it on with a 1950s bathrobe-style floor length flannel coat. I buy the coat for $28 and one of the storeowners helps me tie the waistband behind me. Allison gets a hat and finds a pair of sunglasses she left at the store a month ago. We discuss a recent mutual reawakening of our taste for pink accessories.
4:00 PM, driving back to Fishtown. Allison plays me her new solo demos, which are amazing. I play her some of mine too, and my hands are shaking, probably because I’m not accustomed to drinking this much coffee. We talk about touring together with our pop projects which sounds like a dream come true. The last time my band Speedy Ortiz toured with Allison’s band Swearin’, I got a stomach bug and was projectile puking almost every night. Seems like we’re owed a friendship tour re-do.
4:43 PM, finally back to my bedroom. Shit, I should really track those guitars before I head out to the show.
6:23 PM, still at the desk. OMFG I’ve been sitting down for two hours and am gonna get a blood clot. So many guitars all up on this track. I wanna get up and eat a sandwich but… I want to add MIDI Wurlitzer more??
6:41 PM, the desk forever. Ali and Al offer me a ride to the show and even though I’ve only eaten pastries all day and am still desperately trying to come up with coherent vocals, I take a break and hop in their car. We listen to This Heat’s Peel session and talk about Banned Books, who are playing the show tonight, too. Their new record was recorded by my friends Julian and Carlos at Silent Barn. Julian is my childhood friend, ex-boyfriend, and ex-bandmate (chronologically in that order) and we’re about to record some stuff together next week, which we haven’t done in about 5 years. He is a really great collaborator so I’m excited to work together again. I can’t tell if recording has come up naturally with everyone I know today because my friends mostly have similar musical jobs to mine, or because I have it on the brain and keep bringing it up. I had a crazy dream about Julian the other day where I babysat his imaginary infant baby and got glitter on the baby, and glitter was toxic to babies. I’ve been thinking a lot about toxic glitter since then.
6:58 PM, still in the car. I try to wrangle my way onto the guest list via text message and feel like a total asshole for doing so. But shit, tickets for this show are $20! Joey adds me to the list and I’m thankful. Text from Marissa: In the church feeling the hell out of the lord right now. Text to Marissa: I walk in there and God is all around me and I’m like, I feel u grrrl.
7:08 PM, 76W next to the zoo. Across the Schuylkill River the houses are all minimally outlined with Christmas lights and it looks rull pretty. I drop a pin to commemorate.
7:18 PM, Chestnut St. at 20th. We park and immediately I run into Joey, Mary, Jade and Joe. I wanna hang out and catch up, but excuse myself because I need to get some noodles in my lil bod or I’m gonna collapse. Thai Singha House serves up the spicy drunken noodles and I anticipate eating them in the house of Jesus–just like I did exactly a month ago when Speedy played The Church with Downtown Boys, who we toured with right before our tour with Aye Nako. Tonight is like a real high school reunion or something.
7:40 PM, The Church. Jeff is working the door and draws red Sharpie lines on my wrist in lieu of a hand stamp. I feel I have stigmata for the rest of the night. Eat my noodles standing in the crowd and watching Banned Books finish their set–it feels cooler than standing in the crowd with a beer (though I do have one when Ali offers one later). People are very good at two things in Philly: hugging everyone and offering everyone beer. Finally see Marissa and talk about her move to Philly two years ago. I’m convinced I should do the same when my lease in Western Mass ends in April.
7:50 PM, in front of the stage fanning out. Aye Nako plays a perfect set as usual, after soundchecking with Incubus riffs. I wonder how many other people here tonight are as psyched to hear an Incubus riff as I am. Jade has her Deluxe turned up to 6 when it’s usually at 4. I’m really glad they’re playing so stupidly loud so no one glares at me for singing along at the top of my lungs.
8:15 PM, lurking in the back. I talk to Zach, who recognizes me because he made the pizza I shared with Cynthia and Amanda the other day before we went perusing at Bulk Vintage. I ask how they get their sauce to taste so good and then he tells me how much garlic they add. It all makes sense. I harass Ashley to tell me more about when she used to drum with Des Ark and tell her and Joey how much I liked Pinkwash‘s set the other night at an art gallery. I hope Pinkwash plays some shows with us sometimes—I haven’t heard riffs as good as theirs in a hot minute.
8:30 PM, in front of the PA ensuring I go deaf at a young age. Guerilla Toss is weird and cathartic and scary and fun as usual–the last time I saw them we were playing together in Boston (with Aye Nako opening!) and this show is even better. As I walk to the back of the room I see some kids krump out of time with the music like they’re at a silent disco.
9:20 PM, Aye Nako’s van. I’m playing a solo instrumental guitar set at the MoMA next weekend and tell everyone that I’m scared as hell about it. Joe shows me a video of an art installation in which birds land on amplified electric guitars. That makes me feel a little better. She is my #1 meme source.
9:56 PM, The Church. PC Worship sounds like PC Worship. Set best summed up by a guy holding a beer aloft and a tambourine in the other hand.
10:00 PM, by the merch table. Hugs from Vic and Katie. Seriously, so much hugging in Philly. I am getting over my aversion to friendly touching. Garrett gives me some water from his Nalgene and it smells like my own gross Nalgene from when I ran track in high school. Scent memories flood in.
10:21 PM, dancing by a trash can. Downtown Boys kicks it. Joey starts off with an anti-zionist speech and Norlan drums like fire on “Break A Few Eggs.” The night ends with Vic appealing to the crowd to donate to the Tamir Rice Justice Fund and I make a note to do it when I get home (and thanks to taking notes about my day for Enormous Eye I actually remembered).
10:45 PM, back at the car. I was gonna take a cab home but turns out Alan and Ali don’t wanna watch Xiu Xiu either, so I get a ride. I see on Twitter later that they played some kind of fucked up racist song and then argued with Downtown Boys when they were called out on it. Fuck that. I’m glad I didn’t stick around.
11:02 PM, dining room table. We sit down for homemade chocolate buttercream cake and chat about vacations past and future–Alan and Ali are going to Florida next month, I’m going to Buenos Aires with my mom. Mom and I haven’t taken a vacation together since I was in elementary school so I’m excited. Since my dad passed away almost a year ago I’ve been in need of some alone time with her.
11:33 PM, the desk. Okay, time to finish up this friggin’ song.
12:49 AM, same desk. After adding a bunch of vocals—and changing the oft-repeated placeholder lyric “golden retrievers again” to the much more sensible “golden receivers again”—I’ve got a rough bounce, which I listen to while brushing my teeth, mentally noting stuff I wanna tweak on the mix tomorrow. I pop a NyQuil and get in bed with some Maggie Nelson, hoping for a prompt bedtime and that I wake up in the a.m. hours tomorrow.
2:58 AM, bed. OMFG I’m still awake. I have to stop hanging out with Allison Crutchfield because she orders coffee after 3 pm and I get jealous and follow suit and that is a horrible situation for someone with this kind of rampant insomnia. Ugh, maybe I’ll start a new song.