Meet the Lidwells: Musical Inspiration

I’m thrilled to report that in the span of one month, I’ve already hit over 13,000 words for the Meet the Lidwells project, averaging around 500 to 700 words day. I’m still on track for a fall release at this point, as I think I’m about a fifth of the way done already!

Meanwhile, here’s a few songs I’ve used for inspiration and reference so far. As you can see, there’s definitely a deep Britpop influence going on.

The Stone Roses, “I Am the Resurrection”: The four-to-the-floor beat of this track was part of the inspiration for the Lidwells’ first major hit, “Grapevine”.  Theirs is a catchy track that captures the interest of not just their younger teen fans but also the older ones, thanks to their ability to cleverly mix pop stylings and creative alternative rock. The Lidwells were known for stretching out “Grapevine” live, much like how The Stone Roses did with this song.

The Charlatans UK, “Opportunity”: Keyboardist Danny Lidwell wrote a groovy deep track called “Trust” for their debut album inspired by the keyboard-heavy Manchester bands like The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets. He claims that “Trust” was when he deliberately decided to stop being self-conscious about his playing and just powered through it, revealing his own unique style in the process.

The Real People, “Window Pane”: I’m using this song as a sort of template as to what the early Lidwells sound like aurally: a lot of harmony, a positive and funky vibe, and definitely catchy and fun to dance to.

The House of Love, “You Don’t Understand”: This would be a good example of the type of song they would write, especially eldest member and band leader Jason. In fact, Jason will end up writing a song similar-sounding to this one by their third album.

Veruca Salt, “Volcano Girls”: This is definitely a great example of how I picture the two women in the band, Hannah and Amy, rocking out. Hannah is a badass drummer with no fear, and Amy is one hell of a shredder. They’re both solid songwriters with no filter at all.

The La’s, “Looking Glass”: If A Division of Souls had Failure’s “Daylight” as the soundtrack for the final scene, this is the one for MtL‘s finale. This would be Thomas, the youngest Lidwell, singing this as the final song on their final show on their last tour, going out on one hell of a high.

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More to come when I have more written! 🙂

Everything you’ve ever said is brilliant

Alas, my recent fascination with 70s music has been sidetracked due to my starting in on the Meet the Lidwells project; in this case, I am now immersing myself in the poppier side of alternative rock circa 1990-1996.  Not complaining, considering.

I’m trying to avoid the expected hits, the songs that still pop up from time to time: “Unbelievable” and “Right Here Right Now”, Achtung Baby and Nevermind, and so on.  I’d like to dig just a little deeper than expected — something I am wont to do for my writing projects anyway — and bring back some of the tunes that were on my Walkman during my college years.

Sure, I’ve often said that the early 90s was definitely an unpredictable era of great highs and miserable lows for me personally, but that’s not the story I’m writing here.  [And that’s another blog post entirely anyway.]  I’m reconnecting with a lot of the great music that came out at the time, and channeling that energy into the Lidwells story.

The early 90s was an interesting time, for a multitude of reasons anyway.  Musically, post-punk and college rock was becoming the new mainstream, 80s pop was aging a bit (sometimes not that well at all), and new voices and sounds were popping up from around the globe.  Politically, old walls (literal and figurative) were being torn down, and soon a new President would be entering the White House.  It felt like there was a weird positivity in the air that we’d almost forgotten about.

It may have been the political sea change, or it may have been something else.  For me at any rate, I was thinking this was the last decade in the millennium, and that we were all looking forward to a more positive future than the sometimes dreary one we’d been recently subjected to.

Musically, I was getting into the wave of Britpop that WFNX was playing (when they weren’t playing grunge, which took me a lot longer to get into).  In addition to that, Boston was experiencing a small renaissance of sorts with a hell of a lot of great local bands old and new getting some serious airplay — Manufacture, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Tribe, Heretix, The 360s, Think Tree…a bunch of bands I may not have been able to see live, but I certainly bought most of their releases when I could.

I was also doing a lot of shorter writing at the time — my fiddling with the Infamous War Novel had faded into the background; I’d created my comic character Murph and put him through all kinds of weird universes; I’d finally gotten out of the ‘doom poetry’ phase I’d put myself through and was writing some solid Flying Bohemians lyrics; I was also pushing myself to play around with new story ideas.

This is the energy that I want to use for Meet the Lidwells; a feeling of optimism and strong bursts of creativity.  Sure, my story will deal with their personal ups and downs and their eventual demise as a band, but that’s only part of it.  This is about celebration as much as it is about struggle.

It’s about the love (the characters’ and mine) of music. 🙂

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 1

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The TDK D90 blank cassette. My tape of choice for almost all of my 90s mixtapes.

One thing I’d always done during the course of a writing project is to give it a soundtrack.  Whether it’s a playlist, a list of specific albums, or a mixtape, it serves to create a specific mood that I’m looking for.  With The Phoenix Effect, having envisioned this as a multi-book project even then, I’d given the series the name The Eden Cycle (referencing both obvious religious imagery and EdenTree, a megacorporation that would be a part of the plot).  It seemed fitting to give the mixtapes the same title.

At the time, my idea had been of souls inhabiting AI cybernetic bodies — which in hindsight created a lot more trouble than it was worth — so the imagery I was looking for was much darker and creepier.  That said, however, I chose not to focus on dystopian pessimism; instead I wanted my story to ascend past that into something positive.

This is the first of four mixtapes I made during 1997-8; this one was made in mid-April of 1997, just before I went on a road trip out to Ohio to visit a friend of mine.  One of the major reasons for making it was so I could listen to it during my commute and think about what I was going to write.  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing the other three original volumes from this era.  The links are to their YouTube/Vimeo videos (they’ll open in a separate tab), and I’ll also provide a brief background as to why I chose the song for the mix.

Side A

  1. Poe, “Hello [Band Version]”
    I liked Poe’s Hello album, but the kickass single remake of the song felt like a perfect opening to a mix tape.  It fit in with the cyberpunk feel of TPE that I was originally aiming for as well.  An ‘opening credits’ song, if you will.
  2. Failure, “Heliotropic”
    Fantastic Planet was getting a crapton of play on my cd players, both at work and at home during my writing sessions.  This track’s spaciness, loudness and extremely heavy, crunchy bass evoked the exact amount of tension I was looking for.  It had that feeling of being outside on the brightest day with the heaviest of hangovers.
  3. U2, “Mofo”
    Pop was still getting a lot of play as well, and I loved how twitchy this one was.  I used this track as a kind of gauge to remind me of how Bridgetown felt on a spiritual energy level: a sprawl of millions of people, each with different levels and directions of this energy, all dissonant and discordant.
  4. David Bowie, “Dead Man Walking”
    I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest of Bowie collectors — I think I only owned maybe five or six releases, tops — but Earthling (released earlier in 1997) connected with me big time.  I loved its techno influences and its paranoia.  This track fit my image of Nehalé: a man who was destined to take a specific action that would affect a vast number of people, and he had to force himself to come to terms with that.
  5. Psykosonik, “Need to Die”
    There was a brief surge of darkwave techno in the mid to late 90s (super-generalization: darkwave = gothy electronica) that I got into, and Psykosonik’s Unlearn was handed to me by one of my HMV coworkers (Thanks, Doug!).  I put this here mostly as a mood piece, but I did like how it fit in with one of the TPE themes: people didn’t necessarily have to die to be reborn spiritually.
  6. Live, “Lakini’s Juice”
    Another mood piece, this one suggesting (to me) discomfort in a situation one could find themselves in.  I believe I used this as inspiration for Poe’s constant irritation at not being able to complete tasks put before him.
  7. Elysian Fields, “Lady in the Lake”
    Their Bleed Your Cedar album was handed to me as a promo, and I liked its swampy feel.  The album (and this track) helped me focus on how a recently awakened character would have to deal with their situation; both feeling disconnected from everyone (I’m the only one like this) and superconnected (I can intimately sense everyone around me) at the same time.
  8. Moby, “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”
    As a Masshole, I had to appreciate Moby covering the Mission of Burma classic (as well as putting out a punk album, considering he’s more known as an electronic musician).  Just like the original, this song was a perfect example of dedicated and determined nonconformity that fit in with Vigil.
  9. The Verve Pipe, “Veneer”
    Not that long before this, I’d seen this band live in Boston, and they did a beautiful and transcendent version of this track (which, as it happens, is about a long road trip through Michigan while high).  To me, it evoked a sensation of being elsewhere; in the process it inspired how I had my characters react when they first visited Trisanda.

Side B

  1. Richard Einhorn, Anonymous 4, “Exclamavit”
    I’d heard Einhorn’s Voices of Light on NPR one evening when I was driving into Boston in the summer of 1995, and I was completely floored by the gorgeousness of it.   [It was inspired by Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc and can be heard as its soundtrack on the Criterion dvd.]  I wasn’t the biggest orchestral music fan at the time, but this slowly set me on my way.  This particular opening felt like another good ‘opening credits’ piece, and thus opens Side B of the tape.
  2. Pulp, “Common People”
    The album version of their classic single is a much more sinister affair than the single version (there’s an additional verse that truly reveals the disgust he holds back in the rest of the song).  While the plot of the song doesn’t quite fit the plot of my story, it does reflect the bigoted view of The Other that was part of my story’s plot.
  3. Sponge, “Isolation”
    There’s a great Lennon tribute album called Working Class Hero from 1995 that I listened to a lot then, and I loved this version of the Plastic Ono Band track.  This ties in with the previous Pulp track, a forced cultural disconnect that one can only accept for so long before one has to fight back.
  4. The Offspring, “Gone Away”
    Part of the reason this one was on here is that I heard it so many times during that Ohio road trip!  Again, tension and discord.  This time because something’s been taken away and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
  5. Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
    This track inspired my love for the Slow Build:  starting off quiet and sparse, but gradually growing louder and more intense in energy.  The original Chapter 1 of The Phoenix Effect used this song as a template, which carried all the way to the opening of A Division of Souls.  The ADoS opening is supposed to feel like someone slowly turning the volume louder and louder until it climaxes in an intense burst of energy.
  6. Failure, “Daylight”
    Okay, how many times is this track on one of my mixtapes?  One of my favorite songs of all time, and even at the start of the project I knew it would be the Ending Credits track to my story.  [NOTE: I’m planning on writing a script of the ‘director’s cut’ for the ending of A Division of Souls and posting it over at the Bridgetown blog later this month, which uses this song as its soundtrack.]  The story is done, everyone’s exhausted, and the day has been saved…but the fight is far from over…and roll credits.  [Seriously, folks…go buy Fantastic Planet.  It’s a fucking phenomenal record.]
  7. U2, “Wake Up Dead Man”
    A denouement track after the epic ending track preceding.  I knew TPE was going to end on an unresolved note, leaving it wide open for its sequel.  The day has been saved, but the work’s not over.  Relationships between certain characters have been strained or broken; others have refused to give in so easily.  For me, this song is a plea for the war to cease before it goes too far. [I never forgot this idea and eventually used it in The Balance of Light.]
  8. The Tragically Hip, “Grace, Too”
    Canada’s favorite band with one of their favorite hits, which I remember seeing on MuchMusic back in 1994 (partly because I loved that the video was created using monitor feedback).   A lift from the previous song, in which we shift viewpoint to someone who knows they’re in the lower classes but still has high hopes for themselves.  This idea would later become the gathering of the Mendaihu at the Moulding Warehouse in A Division of Souls.
  9. Jamiroquai, “Virtual Insanity”
    …and after all that, ending on a slightly more positive note (somewhat), the final track brings a kind of…well, not hope, but an awareness.  This was a big plot point even in TPE: the characters had to become completely aware of their situation, where the conflict wasn’t in trying to figure it out, but in coming to terms with it and choosing either use it, abuse it, or avoid it as long as they could.

 

Hope you enjoyed my little bit of tunage sharing there!  I’ll be following up with the other three volumes in the original series soon!

Writing Session Tunage: What Next?

NOTE:  HEY KIDS!  Speaking of writing, I have an e-book coming out this Friday!  The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, will finally get released in just a few short days!  Come on over to Smashwords and check it out!

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Of course, you all know that I almost always have some sort of tunage going during my writing sessions, especially when they’re back here in Spare Oom.  Even as I type this, I’m listening to Elbow’s latest album, Little Fictions.

You also know that there have been certain go-to albums that I’ll play, especially if I’m working on something related to the Mendaihu Universe.

But now that that particular project is complete…now what should I listen to?  Good question.

Meet the Lidwells! is about a musical family, and once I get to the bulk of the writing of this project, I’m sure I’ll be listening to a lot of 90s alternapop to fit with the band’s sound.  I’ve got a lot of that stuff in my collection, thanks to my time at HMV, but I can also let SiriusXM’s Lithium station do the work as well.

Other than that, my project options are wide open.  I’m thinking maybe a standalone Mendaihu Universe book or two.  And for some reason, I’ve decided that I need to listen to a lot of LOUD music for those.  The plot ideas I have for these involve a lot of emotional and societal tension, so something twitchy and irritable would fit quite nicely.

Something like the alt-metal of Caspian for instance:

…or something nice and crunchy from Deftones.

I’m sure I’ll temper it with some quiet moody stuff like I always do.

Either way, it’s time to change up the writing session soundtrack big time.  I’m not sure what I’ll be listening to in particular, but I’m keeping my options open.  Some of my favorite writing session albums come to me purely by accident — an album I haven’t heard in years that just happens to fit the mood of the scene, or a new release that clicks with me right from the first listen.  I still absolutely adore Failure’s Fantastic Planet (it’s still on my gym mp3 player after all these years), but I’ve got to start listening to more than just the same things.

A bit of listening

The one downside to listening to new things this early in the year is often that there isn’t anything new out to listen to.  So I’m often bouncing around my music collection, throwing on whatever happens to pop into mind at the time.

As usual, I’m writing this just before my evening writing/editing session, and I was in the mood for a bit of Porcupine Tree — a band I’d discovered while at HMV (their 1999 album Stupid Dream had just been released) and one that would often be a go-to for my writing sessions during the early 00’s.  In this case, 2002’s In Absentia came to mind, so I popped it on.  It’s a lovely album, recorded at the point where they’d decided to morph from dreamlike, guitar-based prog rock to a more prog-metal influenced sound.  [Note: lead singer/band leader Steven Wilson would be the first to slap me for labeling them prog, as he quite loathes the term.  But I digress.]

I’ve posted numerous times before about some of the key album releases over the years that influenced, or at least gave a soundtrack to, the Bridgetown Trilogy.  This album, Dishwalla’s And You Think You Know What Life’s About, Mansun’s Six, Beck’s Sea Change, and so on.  They’re all great albums that I’ll still throw on now and again while I’m writing or editing.

Does music distract me from my work?  Well, yes, sometimes it does.  Especially if I hear a song like Silversun Pickups’ “Panic Switch”, which often sends me across the room to pick up my bass to play along with it.  But more often than not, just as it has since I was a scruffy teenager first attempting to write novels, it serves a dual purpose: it’s background noise to help me focus on the task at hand, and it’s also a sound that, if I choose correctly, influences whatever it is I’m working on at that moment.  I’ve listened to music for so long, and for such long stretches, that if I don’t have anything playing while I’m working, I kind of feel naked in a way.  The silence makes me self-conscious.

But you know, that’s why I have such a large collection as I do, and why it’s 99% digital now.  I have a library of sound that helps me through the day, in whatever I’m doing, whether it’s writing, editing, or the Day Job.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

More on the 90s

So yeah, I’ve still been contemplating expanding the Walk in Silence series to include the 90s.  I’ve started listening to the decade chronologically, much as I did with the original series and going through the 80s, and once again it’s been an interesting ride.

Presently I’m listening to Living Colour’s sophomore album Time’s Up, which came out in late August 1990.  It was the back end of summer, and I’d chosen to take the last two weeks off between my summer job (second year at the DPW) and starting my sophomore year at Emerson.  Chris and I got together to reform the Flying Bohemians as a duo, and recorded a few tracks in my parents’ garage.

I spent those last two weeks doing not much of anything: made a pretty decent compilation that I still listen to in 2016, did a bit of poetry, lyric and journal writing, a lot of Solitaire playing, and met up with all my friends who’d come home for a brief time.  For the most part, most of them had taken root in their college towns and gotten local summer jobs or were taking summer classes, so there was only a narrow window of time that we could meet up.

Me?  The only reason I’d come back home for the summer was that I hadn’t prepared myself for any summer position or an apartment to sublet for a few months.  It had crossed my mind, of course, but I hadn’t the time or the money to plan it out sufficiently.  I figured the summer of 1991 would be when I’d stick around.

That, and I’d wanted to spend more time with T, as well as distance myself from the frustration of freshman year.  Summer 1990 was time to start over again.