We used to play along to Beatles records in our bedroom. ‘Play along’, more like pretend; a cello slung like a guitar and the back of a kitchen chair was snare drum and hi hat. Maybe that’s where the song writing seed was planted. Not sure, but UNLESS AND UNTIL has echoes of John and Paul, as well as Townes and Leonard and Bob and a few more.
"You're gonna drown tomorrow
if you cry too many tears for yesterday.
Tomorrow's half of all you've got.
Treat him good, 'cause when I'm gone he'll stay."
The house wasn't exactly filled with music growing up, but our dad loved to sing. Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins and The Mills Brothers were mainstays of his repertoire on car trips to the shores of Lake Huron or hockey tournaments all over Ontario. Our mom saw Elvis at Maple Leaf Gardens and Sinatra, her all time favourite, some years later. Not exactly Miles and Mozart. But they were all singers of songs, and it probably didn't click back then. But the song was the thing. We've got no time for a free form jazz improvisation, an eight minute drum solo, nor Clapton hauling out the same tired licks.
“Words are flowing out
Like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe”
The first band we played in together was called The Urban Peasants. As we started to work in original material, it was pretty clear that those songs were a lot more satisfying than anything else we played. Some of those songs are still in our set. John went on to write and perform dozens of great songs with his band Pagan Mary. I was at a song session in the fall of '18 and played John's Louis Riel. After I finished, a guy shouted out, 'I know who wrote that song'. So do I.
"We met when we were almost young
deep in the green lilac park.
You held on to me like I was a crucifix
as we went kneeling through the dark."
When we decided to do the 2014 Song A Week Project, we were well past those early bands, well into fatherhood and wanting to connect musically. That year yielded many songs that we still love to play, and got the ball rolling for UNLESS AND UNTIL. I think the best songs we've ever written have come after that record though. Listen to: The Meadows, White Angel Blues, Orlando Garcia, St. Bartholomew's Skin.
"Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying"