Sometimes, writers show up to interviews with specific intentions. We want the story to have some sort of angle, so we bring things up and ask and re-ask questions until we get the answers we're looking for.
Such was the case with Writer, a newer local band made up of brothers Andy and Jayme Ralph and San Diego native Eli Bowser. Armed with “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization,” an Adbuster story that basically said our generation is self-obsessed, empty, apathetic and unable to come up with anything new, I walked down a driveway leading to a garage sitting on the edge of a South Park canyon, ready to start some shit.
I wanted Writer to get all pissed off and say things like, “Our generation is changing things in a good way; we just can't measure the extent yet” or “Maybe we're just more subversive than previous generations and our art and music is making a difference, slowly but surely.” With a name like Writer, and a band biography with poetic lines like “Beneath wooden rafters and a blanket of sound, an unpolished throat sings gritty, spit-shined, and endearingly clumsy,” I thought these boys would step up to our generation's defense and feed me quotable lines that'd inspire the lazy hipster masses.
But Writer didn't take the bait. Instead, they offered me a Budweiser, made me laugh a lot, had me hanging out on their front porch watching creepy ice-cream trucks drive by and, eventually, an hour-and-a-half into what I'd intended to be a half-hour interview, sent me home with a nice butternut squash from Andy's garden.
The conversations that did take place that hot, hot day in the tiny garage where Writer practices twice a week went more like this:Me: So, you guys just put out the new album. You must be getting pretty serious.
Jayme: We definitely started playing in San Diego way more at the end of 2007, beginning of 2008. We've been playing in San Diego a lot—a lot-ish.
Andy to Eli: Hey, are you tying knots in glue sticks?
Eli: Yeah, I'm trying to get three of them together.
Andy: That's weird.
Eli, looking back at me: We're world famous. Ha. No, not really, but the people who like us really like us.
Me: Yeah, the last show I went to, everyone was singing along. You guys do have some catchy songs.
Andy, a little offended: Catchy? What do you mean, like pop?
Jayme: In some cases, it's a negative thing—pop.
Me: OK, so how do you guys describe yourself? I didn't call you pop by the way.
Jayme: Kinsee just said we were a pop band!
Eli: She said “catchy,” check the tape.
Jayme: For one of our genres on MySpace, we have “Ghettotech.”
Eli: Look [he holds up three glue sticks tied together], it's like a balloon animal, minus the balloon and the animal.Andy: Those things are weird. Glue sticks are weird.Another round of Budweisers is cracked and, eventually, I get Eli to describe their music as “slow rock with a Texas flare, or a southern drawl, or a southern twang” and Andy to settle on “garage rock,” only to have Jayme jokingly agree with Andy since “we do practice in a garage.”
And when I bring up the Adbuster piece and push the band on the purpose or political intent of their music, or anyone's music these days, for that matter, the guys talk around the issue until none of us have any idea what the hell we're talking about anymore. And before I know it, I'm drinking a Budweiser, too, sweating my ass off in the tiny wooden garage, watching a crooked California state flag blow in the weak wind of a plastic fan while Writer makes pretty music.
They play “Try and Stop Me” and “Matthew,” two songs from their new Blood Drops LP, and my heart flutters a bit.
The band keeps the music low enough in the mix that Andy's words are discernable. He's saying, “Don't feel bad even though you should” over and over again until, inevitably, I'm feeling—not necessarily bad, but I'm definitely feeling something—and it feels pretty good.
And while Eli plays—here's that word again—catchy guitar riffs and Jayme pounds away at the drums, occasionally grabbing a maraca to keep a more delicate beat, and lends backup vocals from time to time, I'm reminded of why I like music so much. Music and art express sentiments that can't always be put into quotable lines.