For the past few months Gina and I have been rehearsing with Zina, who is also the drummer in E’s band Filmstar.
It started as a speculative exercise – what would Arcati Crisis sound like with drums? We got our answer pretty quickly, as Zina is a ridiculously fast study. We’re already eight songs into drumming up our repertoire, and last night Zina polished off “Bucket Seat” after only a second rehearsal of it.
“Bucket Seat” has been one of my favorite songs from the moment I finished writing it in 2003. When Gina and I made Arcati Crisis formal in 2007 it was the second new song I brought to her to add to the repertoire, and in minutes she found the off-kilter chords that tangle with my staccato diminished stabs. Now the song sounds nude if I play it solo.
Zina was proving to be equally as intuitive on it. After our first run with Zina we fine-tuned a few spots and ran it twice more. It was solid, and we were playing it at the right tempo, but I felt like it was over too quickly.
I turned to Gina. “I think you need to play a guitar solo out of the fast part after the key change.”
One of my favorite aspects of the drumming process is that rather than constrict arrangements around our guitar playing, drums have opened up more space. Zina’s rhythm takes the burden of the two of us. These are songs we’ve played literal hundreds of times, but we keep finding new spaces inside them.
That said, nothing’s structure has really changed yet. The songs are all the same shapes they’ve always been. We haven’t added any funky breakdowns. Or guitar solos.
“A solo?” Gina asked, a little tentatively.
“Sure. You know, like what you play in the intro. Try it.”
We tried it. Gina stopped after four notes, two of which were pretty cool. “It doesn’t quite fit.”
“Yeah, but if you keep the two that worked, and descend…” I started imitating her guitar with my voice, wailing a solo. “raw wah, whear wheh wah, rah weh wah,” I paused for a breath between phrases, “and then a lower ascending line.” I climbed back up the scale, “until it resolves!” I shouted, wheezing and wailing until I reached a bent note at the top.
I finished my performance and looked at Gina expectantly.
“You sounded like a vulture,” she said.
“You want me to play it like that?”
“Well, you know. That’s the general shape of it.”
She regarded me skeptically while Zina looked on from behind the kit, bemused.
“I could draw it for you,” I offered, “like David Bowie did for Mick Ronson on ‘Moonage Daydream.’ I could go get crayons.”
“Oh, sure,” Gina mimed with her hands what I assumed to be an elaborate David Bowie crayon drawing, “that might work. Or we could just try to play it a few times.”
And that was how “Bucket Seat” acquired a guitar solo.
You can stream or download our full-length Live @ Rehearsal, Vol. 4 LP for free. Hear “Bucket Seat” and other rocked up Arcati Crisis songs at Dorian’s Parlor Neo-Victorian ball on Saturday March 12. There will be steampunk costumes. We’re also working on a ninja weeknight gig for February. Stay tuned.