Chapter 2: Darts and Tacos
It hadn’t quite sunk in yet. I was sitting on the couch of our AirBnB with Joe, watching episode 1 of Vice Principals (during the sessions, this show and Stranger Things became our decompression shows after days in the studio). It didn’t quite feel real to me at this point. I was almost surprised to see them all the next morning. That transplanting out of a normal daily routine hadn’t quite happened for me yet.
John and Lauren were both working on getting up and ready to go. I was relieved to feel the effects 2 Advils I’d thrown back earlier that morning kicking in. This day was another “off-day” so we had no real obligations other than to see the city and meet up with Allen at Longman & Eagle later that evening.
We began discussing our plan for the day. We decided a trip to Whole Foods was on the docket. We also decided brunch was the next activity, so after throwing out a handful of ideas, we landed on Parson’s Chicken & Fish. They specialize in Negroni Slushies (which was the swing vote) and fried chicken and fish. It was the perfect day to sit on a restaurant patio in Chicago with ebbing waves of hangovers, being kept at bay with the magical Negroni Slushies.
After we wrapped up brunch we made our way down to the Whole Foods to stock up. Before we arrived there was a lot of talk of “We need to be frugal. Get groceries. Not eat out as much as last time, and watch our money.” We did. It still didn’t help. That Whole Foods was a trip. We parked on top of the building (fifth floor) and worked our way down from the roof to the store. The escalator was the most vertigo inducing one I’ve ever been on. 5 narrow rows of descending escalators with wide open space on either side of them. I’m usually not a victim of this, but by the second one, while filming the descent I had to steady myself, saying “Wait. Fuck, what’s happening here?”
I consider myself an efficient shopper. I seem to go into a zone and thread the needle through the store. Up and down the various lanes, putting together meals and items in a pragmatic fashion.
John and Joe. Not so much.
That’s not to be taken as a slight, but they have a carefree, “wander the store” method. So I ditched them and would check in with them every 10 minutes or so. It took and hour and about 250 bucks, but we successfully completed our task. By this point it was late afternoon, and after returning the items to the AirBnB, we decided to make our way up to the North Side of Chicago and meet up with a friend of John, Joe and Lauren’s, named Brandon. It was his birthday and we thought it would be a good way to kill some time before meeting up with Allen, Eric and Chris at Longman and Eagle. We met Brandon at Wills Northwoods Inn, which is just south of Wrigley Field. The neighbourhood was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of my neighbourhood in Toronto (The Annex) with its streets lined with, giant old trees and large Victorian homes.
(*author’s note. I made a video for the song “Suckerpunch” from the album “Little Creatures to the footage of this day)
Wills is a standard sports bar, but it was a welcome change from the 9 dollar drinks we’d been downing thus far. It was one of those bars with, pool tables, a popcorn machine and floors lined with discarded peanuts shells. I love that shit. Even more so when the bartender informed Joe and I, they encourage it as the oil from the shells helps their hardwood floors.
We stayed long enough to have a tournament of darts, which John & I won. We then made our way back to Longman & Eagle. Allen was tending bar that night and Eric was off. So we had a chance to catch up better this evening (as the prior evening we walked in during a serious rush). It was dinner time, and eating at Longman & Eagle is a must while in Chicago. So we took over a corner of the bar with a myriad of plates of food and glasses of Whiskey.
Chris and Eric showed up at the same time. Along with Chris’s friend, who had rehearsal studios in the same building as Electronical’s new studio. It was at this point it started sinking in for me. All the work started tomorrow. We actually would get to hear for the first time what these songs we’d been independently practicing truly sounded like. My brain began to run through all my parts and lyrics. I knew I was ready and I knew the songs we had were pretty great. Still, felt those old reliable nerves hinting at making an appearance.
Chris and I got to talking about rehearsal and recording. We decided we wanted to record this album in a similar fashion to Little Creatures where we’d live track all the drums, guitars and bass over the first two days, then set up Amp World, which was basically a giant wall of all the amps. We’d overdub what we wanted for leads or weren’t happy with during the bed tracking. Instead of running sequentially all the songs, overdubbing each instrument then moving to the next, we decided to target the completion of all instruments of each song before moving onto the next song.
After a couple more drinks we decided to move onto a new bar, realizing it was the last night before the recording routine dictated our free time. I wish I could remember more about the 3 bars we went to after Longman, but they blurred into one another. After the 3rd bar we realized that we were actually close to our AirBnB so we walked our way through the neighbourhood towards home. When we reached the top of the main street which led to our place, Joe and Lauren made their way home, while John and I went to get a bag of late night Tacos from La Pasadita. That is where John delivered the most epic, non-motivational speech ever. I still bust his balls about it. He didn’t mean anything terribly negative, it was more him engaging in the moment and expressing his current stream of consciousness. Nevertheless, at the time (and now) I had my fun with his comment.
So there we were, waiting to place an order in this taco restaurant that was obviously a late night high traffic spot. We made our way down the line up; John was a little annoyed that we were calling it a night. To be fair he had a point, it wasn’t terribly late, but we were kinda spent from the last 24 hours, and knew that tomorrow would be exhausting by the end of it.
So John looks at me and says:
“This is bullshit. Why are we calling it a night? It’s early? It’s our last night of fun…”
This comment dialed me in more from my somewhat distracted state.
Me: “oh ya?”
John “Ya. I mean, tomorrow is going to be rehearsing for 10 hours, then go home. Then the next night will be lame and more rehearsing for hours, go home. And the the night after that is recording all day then we go home tired and lame, then the night after that is lamer still.”
At that point I cut him off, grinning. “So what you’re saying is, once we begin recording, each night will get progressively lamer until we bottom out on day 10 on the lamest night of all.”
John pondered this question. I was still grinning, I knew he didn’t mean anything insulting or truly negative about it, it was more based around calling it a night then and there.
“So, what you telling the guy footing the recording bill, that after this weekend, it just slides right downhill into a shit pile?”
John and I burst out laughing together about how this all sounded.
He was beginning to say “That’s not what I meant…” I cut him off explaining I was kidding and knew where he was coming from, but I saw an opportunity to mess around with him and the greatest non-inspirational speech I’d heard.
By the time we’d reached the end of this conversation we’d arrived at the order sign. We placed our order and left with a bag of tacos. The AirBnB was just down the street, but even so by the time we’d walked in the door Joe was passed out in one of the the 2 bedrooms, we put his tacos in the fridge and tore through the other bag of tacos. It was the perfect sedative. We retired to our sleeping quarters, in my case the couch. As I lay in the the darkness I began to think about the next day’s rehearsals, and realized this was all about to start going by really fast, even though we had another 12 days together. I drifted off to sleep, running guitar riff I needed to play tomorrow. I could tell I was no longer getting the hint of nerves. I had them. But it was the good kind. The kind you get going up a hill on a roller coaster, the anticipation nerves. But instead of hurtling at break -neck speed, it would be a slow boil to the end. The finished album.
Words & Photos: Jason Thomson.
Vast Robot Armies Bandcamp. Facebook. Twitter. Soundcloud.