Many of you may already know – or may have already guessed – that I will not be making any more music under the name ‘Small Sins.’ This is not to say that I will stop making music altogether; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I will be releasing a new record under my own name – Thomas D’Arcy – sometime this year. The record is very close to completion, and my work on it over the past year is the reason for my recent relative silence. I can say without a doubt though that the work I am doing currently is my best to date, and I thank you for your patience as I complete it.
It’s amazing to me sometimes how different someone can interpret a song, and this is no exception. Our good friend Jaan of the new band Videodromes did this 80’s’esque cover of Pot Calls Kettle black that I can’t get enough of. It’s so different than the song I wrote and recorded, but works. Enjoy the dancing you’re about to do:
Today in an interview I was reminded once again of one of the reasons why the Song Of The Week is so appealing to me. It’s because the songs I post here just don’t seem to have a home anywhere else. For one reason or another, they don’t fit into the sequence of a record I’m about to put out, whether it be because of genre or quality. If I write a power-pop song for fun, it’s not going to end up on a record. There will never be a cover song on a Small Sins record. (Actually that might be a lie: Steve and I have been talking about covering The Monks’ ‘Bad Habits’ from start to finish one day. I digress.) ??The point is that for the most part, these songs don’t have another home besides right here on this page. This song is the ultimate example of that. I wrote this rock song awhile back, but fought it and fought it. It’s a full on guitar rock song, and is that what I’m supposed to be about? Is that what Small Sins fans want to hear from me? No.
But the song is so damn catchy. I wasn’t even trying to write it. These words came to me by accident, and no matter how I tried to produce it, it just kept working only as a rock song. It’s frustrating to have to dump something so catchy because you’re supposed to fit into a certain genre of music, but it happens. This song could be a hit….. for someone that ISN’T me.
And I guess that’s been one of my struggles as a musician. Bands that do well are bands that are easy to market. Press needs to be able to classify you so they can write about you. They have to be able to say what you sound like. And for fans to introduce you to other fans, they need to be able to talk about you in the same way. They need to classify what you are in order to be able to have that conversation with a friend.
Yet as hard as I try to make concise records, it never really translates that way. What is the Small Sins sound? Turns out it’s a lot of things. For a song like ‘Deja Vu’ to be on the same record as a song like ‘Everything You Need’ is kind of crazy. It’s all over the place genre-wise, and makes me harder to classify. And that’s on a record where I’m trying to be consistent!! Just imagine if I stuck a song like this one on the last record. Then you would all be REALLY confused.
So, a good song gets scrapped because it just doesn’t fit in anywhere. It’s a shame, but these things happen. I wish that some rock band would cover it one day, and the song could find its rightful home. Like all of us, it needs to find its niche. Sad really, but at least we can enjoy it here.
It’s been a year or two since my local bar – The Tap – shut down and was later replaced by a bicycle shop, and I still miss it all the time. I’ve never been very fond of making plans to go out. I always preferred to make the decision of whether to leave the house or not at the last minute, and not let anyone down if I changed my mind. I loved going there just to have a drink with whomever happened to be out that night. Everyone I knew ended up there eventually anyway, thus on any night of the week I could accidentally see someone I hadn’t caught up with in years, or have another with someone I see every day. Or just hang out with the bartenders. It didn’t matter to me, I could just go there and not have to worry about whether the night would be short or long, or who I would spend it with. It got to the point where if someone wanted to see me, they didn’t bother calling, they just came. And given its proximity to my home – only a few blocks – it was just too easy.
I’ve been in the Annex in one way or another for 17 years. I went to high school a few blocks away. Some of my first underage drinking was at The Tap’s sister bar, Las Iguanas: tequila shots with breakfast on lunch break. At 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, it was to an apartment above the futon store with a front window that literally faced The Tap. I lived in Little Italy for a few years after that, but eventually ended up back in the old neighborhood. As long as I was close to The Tap, I would never need to take a cab anywhere or bother getting on a bike. Now that The Tap is gone, I kind of feel like moving. Like there’s nothing left for me here now that we’re overrun by college kids in the bars and yuppies on the residential streets with nothing to offset the situation except shitty tea shops and mediocre sushi restaurants…. I’m just not sure where I would go.
It wasn’t a particularly fancy place – not at all, actually. A dive, in fact. There were Elvis busts painted in Kiss makeup, hundreds of photos of patrons framed in a collage at the back – although for some reason the photos were only of people who drank there ten years ago, never to be updated with current regulars. An old version of Golden Tee that I now have in my living room (it gets played at home about as much as I ever played it at the bar – that is: none). The kitchen had the best burgers in town, as well as the ‘Hot Thom’: french fries with cheese and bacon named after me because I sarcastically threatened to no longer drink there if I didn’t get my own menu item. Dave put a little picture of me the size of an asterix beside it on the menu card. You could order food right up until 2am, although you might get in trouble if you tried to do it at 1:59 and Cherry had already cleaned the kitchen. However, you could call there at 1:59 and have them put drinks in the fridge for you, show up at 2:30 after a gig to chug the pitcher, and if Chris or Jay were game, stay there drinking with the curtains closed until it got light out. Sometimes you would finish up there barely able to walk, and they would give you a bill for like nine bucks or something. Glorious.
This song is a cover of a song I used to hear at The Tap all the time. Every time Dave (bar manager and former drummer of The Pursuit Of Happiness) used to DJ, he would play this song. I literally heard it there dozens and dozens of times. It would often get stuck in my head the next day, and eventually I just had to record a version of my own. Then Dave started playing my version back to back with the original Robert Palmer version every time. C’est la vie.
And now that it’s closed? I just don’t really bother leaving the house much anymore. I mean, I’m not a hermit. I go out from time to time, but not near as much as I used to. It happens regularly that I am sitting at home, watching TV at 11pm. I might want to leave the house, but have no plans, don’t know where to go and don’t know who to call. That’s when I miss The Tap the most. I just don’t know what to do with myself half the time, and there’s no lazy way to see what’s going on outside. I could travel somewhere random and stop in, but what if there’s no one there? A half hour walk for nothing? I’m way too lazy for that. And even if I did, it wouldn’t be MY local. So I just stay in and do nothing. I miss the Tap.
Remember weeks ago when I posted a version of ‘Threw It All Away,’ with Les rapping on top? And how that was supposed to be the only other known instance of rapping over Small Sins music? Well it looks like I forgot one. This is even older, and features none other than our Steve as the rapper! The thought that such a thing exists is making me chuckle the same way I did when we made this together oh so long ago. OMG. Hilarious.
It seems like a lot of the tracks that have been making it here are pieces of music that were rejected by their intended users; this one is no exception. Years ago there was an open call to write a theme song for a cartoon called ‘Chop Socky Chooks’, for which various local indie rockers were submitting tunes. This was long before I ever started writing for any television or advertising, and one of the first things I can remember submitting on a corporate level. Steve and I got together one afternoon and banged this off.
I feel like if I were recording this song today, it would be a whole lot better. There is a whole lot of fat to trim. We should have made a 30-second version that gets to Steve’s rap much more quickly. Sonically there is a lot to be desired as well, and these days I would have gone way overboard with a harmony as opposed to my puny little falsetto, but I guess hindsight is 20/20. You can’t deny how funny this is to us though. I mean: It’s Steve… rapping.. I don’t know how to put it into words, but man… Priceless.
I often fantasize about re-doing old material. I feel like if I knew then what I know now, there are a lot of things I would have attacked differently. Especially some really old Carnations stuff.
On our first record, ‘Superluminal’, we mixed the vocals really low. This was because I couldn’t sing, and everyone knew it. We figured if we buried my voice enough, people might not notice. One of the songs on that record was called ‘Let Me Be Your Ferris Bueller’, which I recently sold to a documentary on the life of John Hughes (appropriately titled: ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’). Luckily, because the vocals were so quiet on the original, I was able to overdub a completely new vocal take. I tried to mimic the sound of my voice fourteen years ago – it was slightly higher-pitched, and MORE nasal back then than it is now, believe it or not – and once the overdub was completed, you couldn’t hear the old one at all. So essentially it’s a duet between my 31-year old and my 17-year old selves.
I mentioned to Steve the other day about sometimes imagining re-doing more of that old stuff. He told me that was ‘perverted.’ I think he’s right: What’s done is done, and what’s on record stands. I really liked some of those songs, though they just weren’t quite executed correctly. Specific lyrics bother me, production techniques, artwork, you name it. I don’t hate it all, but I truly believe most of it could have been so much better. I guess I have regrets. And it’s not that there is a never-ending road, and that what I’m doing now will be critiqued harshly by my sixty-year old self or something. I could feel back then what I didn’t like about what I was doing, but in frustration couldn’t figure out how to do it right.
But alas, my time needs to be focused on executing new material ‘correctly’, not re-living old frustrations. So, our deservedly rejected version of ‘Chop Socky Chooks’ in its original glory stands. What’s cool about this is that even though I might do this song differently today, the vibe is still there. A good song will always translate regardless of its presentation, a saving grace for so much of my old material. In cases where the vibe still translates, who cares about the quality? In cases where it doesn’t, maybe it just wasn’t a great song to begin with. Either way, there’s no need to waste my time revisiting anything at all.
I am grateful to Mr. Lindy Vopnfjord for covering this one. It’s great to hear someone else interpreting one of your songs, and I think he did a pretty good job of it.
Lindy and I have done a bunch of work together in the past, most notably in ‘Major Maker’, Todor and Lindy’s band for which I was the bass player and he was the singer. He’s also appeared on a couple of Small Sins songs doing a backup vocal here and there. One of the best singers around, I hope he finds time to make a new record soon.
Here are a bunch of links to various Lindy things for those of you who don’t know him: