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Jan. 18th, 2009


Next Stop: Unemployment Line

So I just quit my job. Then I made a video about it, while Jonathan soaked up the limelight and Amy hid from it. Like the self-important prick I am, I played my own music in the background (I decided this was acceptable since we broke up and I never get to play/hear this song anymore) as life imitated art. Dig:

Jan. 14th, 2009


The Short Distance Between Jason Shevchuk and Jordan Pundik

Last night I had a falafel sandwich from Lebanese Taverna that I washed down with one of those "naked" mighty mango smoothies with no sugar added (that cost about three dollars and twenty cents each, no one warned me) and the combination somehow gave me hiccups FROM HELL. I blame the combination because the smoothie had this kind of weirdo after taste that seems comparable to the tahini sauce from the falafel (this was a decidedly gross aspect of the drink, but maybe a little less gross than I'm making it sound) and when I think about how they taste together, I hiccup reflexively as an involuntary reaction to the thought. Weird, right? These hiccups literally kept me up last night while my fellow Kerouacian adventurer Chris snored and spoke Arabic to himself loudly a few feet away. I'm not lying- Chris actually speaks Arabic in his sleep, though not especially well when he's awake.

I mean damn, aren't I little old for the hiccups?

I think I want to hold a "royal ball" for my birthday this year. There will be a strict dress code, we will dance to supposedly "undanceable" punk music, and cute invitations made to look like scrolls will be send to the highly exclusive guest list next week. Except I live in an apartment right now, so I don't know how well that'd go over with the neighbors. I shouldn't care, actually, because my neighbors on the left ritualistically play Spanish music every Friday night and Saturday morning at impossibly inconsiderate decibel levels and my neighbors on the right do something comparably annoying with Hot 99.5 (obnoxious top 40 station in Washington Metropolitan Area) over the course of various weeknights. This ball might be worth a shot.

Jan. 13th, 2009


Bastard Covered Bastards with Bastard Filling

Sisters, today I felt what I realize is but a taste of your pain.

A few minutes ago at work, I totally got gamed up by a girl. That is to say, I feel like a girl effectively did to me what I usually (at least attempt to) do with girls. I approached my friend Leah (of birthday song fame) with mock-jealousy after hearing that she planned to allow one of our co-workers to take her out to see the movie "Notorious", and before I could even blink, she had shut down my accusations of infidelity (in the context of our fictional relationship) with a series of well-worded, calmly and sincerely delivered, flattering and (more than likely) completely empty statements designed to reassure me of my place in her heart. Among them were the sentiments that the guy she was going out with was someone she "was just using in a way she would never use me" and that the dude in question *had* to pay for her time, whereas I "could spend time with her any time free of charge". It was so smooth and so unassailable that I really had no choice but to stammer for a little bit, wonder how the hell that just happened, and then fall for it. I felt totally outfoxed, but I was cool with it. This conjured, for the first time in my life, the idea that if dudes really want to learn how to be smooth operators, a key move would be to study certain kinds of girls. Leah should write a book on this. I know several no-game-having clowns who could learn loads from her.

Everywhere I look, I see Obama's impending historic inauguration being exploited commercially in a shameless and unrelenting way. On the one hand, I imagine that it must pain him on some level to be commodified so insistently, but the on the other, I'm sure he anticipated this kind of fervor if he has actually believed he could win from the beginning. I saw a dude with a John Kerry bumper sticker driving past me on my way home, and the sight of it provoked a reflexive reaction of contempt the way a fashion savvy junior high queen bee might look down on a math team captain's choice of long out of style jeans. I felt more than a little ashamed once I caught myself, but I guess this is what happens when politics and popular culture cross-pollinate.

One of the first episodes of Nickelodeon's quirky nineties sitcom "Pete and Pete" involved little Pete's favorite song, which was some tune that he heard the band on the opening credits play once in a neighbor's garage, and due to some mildly complicated circumstances I can no longer remember, he never got to hear it again, or at least not until the end of the episode or something, right? So the premise of the whole thing was something about hearing a song that you absolutely loved on first listen but would never get to hear again. Possibly because seeing that episode and internalizing it's theme primed me to do this subconsciously, I have had comparable experiences with two different songs. Once, when I was fifteen and on vacation with my family in (on maybe?) Emerald Island, North Carolina I heard the coolest fucking Smashing Pumpkins single *ever* in some random souvenir shop while I was alone, and I have never been able to figure out what it was, nor have I been able to recall a note of it.

All I know is, it was the perfect song to hear when the rest of your family is out doing some kiddie activity and you are dicking around in a gift shop somewhere alone in a town and state where you don't know anyone and cliques of teenagers who remind you of your friends back home are laughing and having fun nearby and you know you're gonna lie awake chatting up the girl you're crushing on from home on the phone all that night when you get back to the beach house and you simultaneously know that as soon as you get back to your town for more than a few days it'll be old to you again and you won't even want anything to do with your real crew that the counterpart group in the gift shop reminded you of. It had this epic instrumental opening that caught my attention immediately, and I knew before the vocals ever came in that I was going to love it. Maybe the vocals were distinctly Billy Corgan or something but I know when I heard it that I immediately assumed it was the Pumpkins, but I know for a fact the song is not on their greatest hits cd. My only theory was that maybe it was an album track that some maverick (John McCain perhaps?) dj was giving run for his own reasons. A friend of mine once suggested that maybe it was a single from Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's post-Pumpkins project Zwan, which would totally make sense, but I almost don't want to find out and ruin the mystery/fun. I've never heard it once since.

More recently, I have heard a song at PF Chang's at sporadic times over the last two or three years that I totally love but sounds completely unfamiliar to me and no one who works with me ever pays enough attention to nail down what it is. Not to get all dick thumpy about it, but I'm reasonably knowledgeable about pop music and the fact that this band or artist caught my attention so easily but rang no bells of recognition completely boggles me. It sounds kind of like it may be an alternative piano trio-that isn't Ben Folds Five- but with a pop punky kind of vocalist who is somehow vaguely reminiscent of Matt Thiessen from Relient K. I can sing the chorus melody and can even remember a stray word here or there, but not enough to successfully google it or even communicate it well enough to my colleagues that they might know what the hell I'm talking about. All of our music is streamed through a series of satellite radio stations, but none of the managers have been able to tell me what format it might've been on or how to track it down, largely because I can hardly tell them anything about. Funnily enough, when I heard the lead-off Motion City Soundtrack single ("This is For Real") from their latest album for the first time last year, the first thing I thought of was that something about the bass line reminded me of the piano progression from the mystery Chang's song.

But wait- it gets worse than that! I've had a similar phenomenon with a mysterious flavor of Doritos that I had on one occasion the weekend of my twenty-first birthday when I was celebrating my pal's twentieth birthday (which was three days later) at my apartment with some shitty horror movie and Ledo's pizza. Whatever flavor they were, these Doritos kicked ass in a way that none others ever have. I spent all of 2008 checking for them in the snack aisles of every convenience or grocery store I might've stumbled into with no luck, but of course, part of the problem is that I might not know them upon sight only. Currently I am eating "spicy sweet chili" flavor Doritos which are really good themselves, and might even be the ones in question, but alas, I may have idealized them so much from one experience that none will ever compare to what they taste like in my feeble mind.

Where ever you may be, my dear sweet Dorito variety, know that I will remember our sweet but heatbreakingly brief time together forever.

Jan. 11th, 2009


You Never Know What's Coming For You

My favorite song right now is a tune called "I Could Be With Anyone" by a gentleman named Kevin Devine. It pretty perfectly describes a blog entry I wrote here titled "99 Problems But- Ah, Never Mind" (or something to that effect, I don't remember ha ha) which several of my personal friends have recalled to me recently in seemingly unrrelated conversations, and I guess that fact has something to do with why I like the song so much, because so many people have treated that sentiment like it's the dumbest thing a person can say, and it makes me feel good that at least one other person (Kevin Devine in this case) knows what I mean. I have heard alot of hype about Kevin Devine and I have even seen him play twice, but both times I was distracted by the imminent performances of the headliners, so I've only recently started listening to him closely. Once, I even spoke to him briefly, when my band opened for him on a tour with Ace Enders and Steel Train, and I can't remember what I said, but I have the distinct impression that he acted like he thought I was a dick.

Now I totally wish I could talk to him again and tell him how much I like "I Could Be With Anyone", and that in fact, I, too, could be with anyone. Thanks for setting 'em straight, dude.

I was very close to booking a week with Producer-Who-Will-Not-Yet-Be-Named, but when I spoke with my momma dearest to get the final go ahead, she told me that I should spend some time with a voice teacher first. This totally deflated me at first, not because I disagree about the importance of developing my singing technique correctly, but simply because I was super amped to get started on my next project, especially the day after my birthday, which was when the recording block was supposed to start. Now that I've had some time to think about it, I realize this is the right move, and I figure I'll take advantage of the delay by coming up with a buttload more material to choose from. There's no real rush, and even though there's nothing punk rock about voice lessons at all, I think the work will be better for it..

I can't find the nail clippers in this lousy apartment, so my fingernails are inhumanly long, so much so that it actually hurts a little to type. As such, I'm going to stop. More soon. I ain't no glutton for punishment!

Jan. 10th, 2009


Kevin Durant and Pete Wentz in a Joint Venture

Ok, ok, ok,
what about this?

Fall Out Boy's "She's My Winona" as the theme song for the Oklahoma City Thunder? Yeah? Just imagine hitting the court to the tune of Patrick Stump wailing "Daddy said you gotta show the world the thunder!"

I'm pretty sure this is a good idea.

Jan. 8th, 2009


Audio Blood?

So I just got off the phone with the dude who may be producing my next musical endeavor, which for all significant intents and purposes, is likely going to be my maiden voyage into a solo career. My plan at this point is to link up with him and record three carefully selected songs, evaluate the experience, and determine if I'm going to do more with him or experiment with some other producers. After these initial three tracks, there is a chance I could also decide that writing songs ain't where it's at for me and I should go be a garbage man.

At some point in Some Like it Hot's tenure, I told myself that the ideal project for me would be one where all facets of my musical personality could fit, where I was literally free to make whatever kind of song I wanted, and a cohesive limitation or genre boundary would be unnecessary. I still feel like this is the case to some degree. I'm interested in doing full-blown quirky rock songs with relatively complex arrangements, stripped down acousticy indie kind of singer-songwriter tunes kinda like Kevin Devine, my voice over dancy beats a la Kanye West or the Postal Service, and show tuneish kinds of things where I may share vocals with a female singer. I believe that there is a chance that I'm alternately talented enough or weird enough to pull all of these things off with some kind of common aesthetic that would keep the variety from distracting people too much.

Trying to boil that grand ambition down to essentials just to give a tentative audience a sampling of a greater scheme reminds me a little bit of how I felt about writing a college essay; you get this limited amount of space to make an impression so that you might earn the possibility of leaving your mark in a more lasting and profound way. Picking three songs to start with is proving daunting because I feel like I have so many ideas and so much to say. These three recordings should definitely come out money; should I do straight-ahead pop tracks to establish my credibility before I venture off into weirder fare, or should I obey my weirder impulses to begin with and pick three songs that are unabashedly idiosyncratic? The criticism I got from my first record has kind of made me eager to prove that I can write a simple, bullshit pop song as well as anybody if i really want to, but you know at the same time...

I don't even really want to! I am also toying with the idea of making my debut ep a concept record. I have a ton of these kind of "throwaway" songs if you will that I would like to use somehow; the kinds of songs that amuse me but are not conceptually the kinds of songs I'd envision as hit singles or profile songs on someone's myspace. I think it'd be really cool to work these songs in between the main songs as "skits". They could have dialogue before or after them that connected them all to a story, and I could link them to a viral promotion campaign by recording videos of the song and dialogue in some visually stimulating context that connected with the record's themes and pushing them on youtube. That way, I could give the "skits" away for free so that people could get a taste of what I was doing without giving away any of the album's big guns. With all of these "skit" songs floating around and a single on top of that, I could build some hype without giving away too much of the record itself. I've always been into what I call really high concept songs,and a viral campaign might help my audience to fully understand the complexity of the songs' subject matters and lyrical depth.

Another dumb neurosis that's kind of driving me crazy as I'm preparing songs is this whole idea of trying to circumvent the argument that the songs aren't cohesive before I even record anything. All I can picture is some swoop haired college girl who's got an ego because she books local shows going "these songs definitely don't all fit together". While I don't view "To the Mattresses" as a mistake, I definitely want to keep in mind what I learned last time and use it to improve my art without being so overly concerned with people pleasing that it loses its soul. The problem is, of course, that I don't know exactly how to do that. I always claim that "I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul" (see: Calvin and Hobbes), but I obeyed them with the that record and all I got was alot of people scratching their heads or not being interested or both. Interestingly, I've kind of been thinking of the Neptunes and Kanye as proxies for how to market and cultivate my sound and image, because those dudes are clearly huge weirdos who've figured out how to be daring and unconventional but still sell alot of records and because of my pals Lana and Priska who pointed this out to me.

On top of all this crap I have to adjust to singing my own songs. What a concept! And I'm also trying to work out whether I should move into my parents' house in IL while I focus on this or if I should continue to pay for a residence here in Rockville even while I'm away tracking. On the one hand, I'll be so bored out in Bumfuck, Il living with my parents that I'll have no choice but to focus on my art (I'm not just being a tool who repeatedly refers to pop music as "art"- I'll be focusing on my writing alot in the coming months as well, it's an umbrella term, see?). On the other hand, living out here is more logistically challenging, involves having a job, and is more distracting because I have an actual social life- one I do not wish to give up if it can be helped.


Jan. 5th, 2009


...Is Systematically Revealing to Me that I Need a New Approach

I'm under the impression that the Two Tongues record comes out three days after my birthday. This is pretty cool to me. If you don't know, that band is a collaboration between the two longest-tenured members of Saves the Day and the two studio members of Say Anything, and while the two songs they've released are a bit underwhelming, this record will at least be cool to listen to if not flat-out brilliant.

I just read some interesting facts about the music industry on Anthony Raneri's (singer/songwriter in the band Bayside) blog. The more I learn about the current state of record-buying, the more discouraging it becomes to me to try modeling a career after proxies from earlier eras. One thing I found extremely frustrating in my band was the fact that we made a very limited effort to circumvent the public's fickleness and inclination not to pay for music. From what I can tell, if you can make real, personal connections with your fans, you can develop a group of people who will support you and take care of you, and while you may not be selling out arenas, you can make your art comfortably. The problem with this is that many would-be musicians seem to have these bloated conceptions of what making money off of music is supposed to be like, and also don't realize that developing bonds with people who are financially supporting your music involves more from the artist these days.

A simple thing I think about alot is that if you want people to pay for physical copies of records, you need to give them more. Not having a lyric sheet is shameful, but liner notes and elaborate and stimulating album art are big pluses, too. I wholeheartedly advocate buying physical copies of albums, but since we're in an age in which that is no longer the standard approach, physical records need to have some more attractive attributes (thus the resurgence of vinyl, of course) I have been thinking hard about what this means for my own attempt to carve a niche for myself in the collective pop music consciousness that now spans continents and timezones in an ever more immediate way thanks to -your friend and mine- the interweb. For one, I think I'm realizing more that my sensibility as an artist is better supported by the hanging posters, handing out flyers, busking sort of promotional paradigm than the systematic addition of Palahniuk-quoting, eyeliner-wearing, Blink-182 nostalgic teenage chicks to an online friends list. I mean, I love the people who make up the latter, too,- and I hope that group and I can still be friends, online and otherwise, but the digital music boom has given birth to a culture that has blown the former asunder and I believe that part of the way to finding the people my music should get to involves some level of a reversal of that.

Or so I theorize at the moment. See, I want to connect with people through my art for personal, aesthetic and getting laid-related reasons anyway. So making that a mission statement for the professional benefits as well seems like a no-brainer. "Kicking Ass and Taking Names", nee the name song, which appeared on the "limited edition" version of my band's only full-length, is something of an example of the kind of approach that I feel will suit a promotional and artistic paradigm that is conducive to being successful in the wilderness that the music industry has become. It was a concession as an artist to actually put even more work into our record by promising to include your name in a song if you pre-ordered our record, but it encouraged more people to pre-order our record, and now when I listen to the song, I have a keepsake that immortalizes in some small way the people who supported and invested interest and money in our band. That one instance of a successful hybrid of art and commerce is a foundation to build on, and with my new ventures, I intend to do just that.

So with that in mind, I'm on a quest to find a new path, a new approach, and a new sound.
Or at the very least, something else to brag about.

Althought alot of these blogs are incomplete thoughts, I always feel this silly urge to say something that sounds conclusive or foreshadows something worth sticking around for, like it's the end of a chapter in a petty YA novel.
I wholeheartedly blame R.L. Stine for this.

Jan. 4th, 2009


Square One/Square Lost

I think it was Colin Quinn who said that if no one gets your humor, you're not funny. So if you're an artist and no one gets your art, are you still making a statement?

At the end of the month, I will be 22 years old. I have enough college credits to scarcely qualify me as a freshman, no money saved up, an unimpressive apartment, lots of dirty laundry, no girl, no car, some mediocre guitar equipment, an unkempt and thinning "half-fro", a handful of friends, and a battered sense of idealism that manifests itself as a short circuiting gleam in my eye that is alternately sparkling or suddenly going black like a dying star or bad satellite television signal.

But, hey-I feel fucking great!

Some Like it Hot ended this weekend- and the reasons for it are myriad. I would point to the fact that as a band, we had no cogent aesthetic, image or statement and that failed to give context to the idiosyncratic, obscurely allusive, blatantly iconoclastic semi-pop songwriting that I provided for the last two years as a major influence for my decision to say farewell, but there are alot of others. It is not without a heavy heart that I say goodbye to that phase of my life, but I'm pretty amped up to figure out what comes next. A couple summers ago when I was 19, I opted to pursue the band instead of going to the one college I actually thought seemed cool that I could manage to get into, and I told myself I'd wait for the band to either break out or run its course and I'd return to college after that happened. Well, we definitely didn't break out, and I'm more than a little lacking in the punk rock passion of late, so the logical choice would be to go to school and take it seriously now.

The problem is, when I picture myself sitting in a classroom, alternately taking notes and trying to peek down the shirt of the cute short-haired girl two desks over, I have a hard time thinking of that as anything but a snoozefest. I have two personalities that are raging against each other in the jungle of my innards; one is this stupid fucking rockstar asshole who likes jumping off of half-stacks, quoting Paul Westerberg in casual conversation but playing the words off as his own, staying up until 5 am, calling cute girls "baby love" and swaggers when he's standing still. The other is this sweater vest-wearing guy who underlines profound passages in books, relishes a good intellectual debate, wants to make metaphors in poems out of esoteric physics terms like "neutrino", wants to master French so he can understand Rimbaud's work better, and every time I get onstage this blithering idiot starts whining about how he should actually be in law school somewhere.

I'm getting way sick of it. One of these inner demons needs to vanquish the other because the result of their contentious relationship is this awkward semi-nerd-quasi-rebeldom that has made me do things like skip school to hang out at the library. I am also under the impression that this same phenomenon is what kept me from attracting more 13 year old myspace addicts with my lyrics- I suspect that say, John O' from The Maine has never heard of Rimbaud and his band's popularity is all the better for it.

But of course, a part of me believes that the key to unlocking the true nature of my destiny is to stop fighting the persistent turmoil of these warring halves and embrace the duality of my impulses in a way that makes them coalesce into a bold and refreshing aesthetic that will provide direction and significance to my art, my personal life, and the general narrative of my existence. Exploring music as a solo act is a step toward this, I think (the Black Dylan, anyone?). Finally finishing a damn manuscript and selling it would be another.

I don't want to make a grand declaration I can't live up to about chronicling it regularly here, but stick with me, baby, 'cause I'm going places.

Nov. 10th, 2008


Giant Jungle: 20, Wise Primitive: Zilch

You ever see a fat chick driving a car with a bumper sticker that says something like " life is a banquet- why should I starve?" Or maybe in middle school you knew a portly young lady who wrote something snappy and empowering like that on her binder? It's sort of like how my mom would always tell me that highly intelligent people who had messy rooms can afford to because they have well-organized minds. It sounded good and gave me a perfunctory kind of reassurance, but if I thought about it too much, I could tell it didn't really make too much sense. It's really just rhetoric that takes a perceived negative and provides a spin that lacks logical sense to make it sound positive.

Would this be high-art or just awkward and depressing: What if I played one of my saddest songs solo and acoustic while I was really upset about something (the subject of the song or maybe something completely unrelated) and cried and raged alot while doing it and videotaped it? Like, the shitty video of a strikingly handsome but inexplicably maudlin black dude weeping and singing the song in front of some mysterious backdrop was the clip they played on MTV hits. I feel like if I were the audience, it would unsettle me quite a bit, but maybe it'd also be challenging and alluring and some kind of reality-tv-musical theatre or something, right?

Oct. 24th, 2008


Yeah, It is Amateur Night

Show days are so crazy.

From the minute I wake up, I'm scrambling around trying to make sure every stupid detail that goes into a successful 30 minute set of crappy semi-pop-punk music is in order and and properly coordinated. Typically, I first turn off whatever Death Cab record I fell asleep to the night before and put on the Matches or Fall Out Boy or Ryan's Hope to start getting amped up for the day, then I frantically throw dirty clothes across my room in an effort to find whatever cliched mall-punk threads I intend to rock on stage that evening. Right after this, usually several of my friends begin calling or texting me asking if it's too late to buy a ticket, what time should they get there, are we playing "Speak Too Soon" tonight, etc. and I become unnaturally distracted by this and waste alot of time tapping out overly wordy responses.

Eventually I take a shower, meet up with the rest of the band, worry about my equipment, try to remember how to play the octave patterns to our set closer and fail, realize I didn't bring any guitar picks, and whine to everyone around me about all of these things. Then, a few minutes before showtime, I start running a pick through my hair every few minutes, bouncing up and down alot, running in place, clapping my hands together twice and crowing "Let's do this!", and flashing the same shit-eating grin to the guys in my band, any cute girls I see on the way to the stage, and to the fine young ladies who man our merch table. Finally, I get on stage, turn my amp on, forget how to play my own songs, fake it like I do remember how to play them, and try to be as much of an attention whore as possible for the next thirty minutes. More often than not, it's totally rad.

And that's exactly what's going on today. We're opening for the "Just Get Higher" tour (don't you love semi-cleverly veiled references to rock and roll drug use?) at Fletcher's in Fells Point. We're the only local act on the bill and all the other bands are fairly well established national acts, so we expect a decent turnout. We've played at Fletcher's a bunch of times before, but getting the chance to play with Just Surrender, The White Tie Affair, The Morning Of and the Higher all on the same date is pretty intense. As you may or may not know, we've had two fairly substantial lineup changes in the last six months, and I'm kind of seeing this show as the official kick off point for "Some Like it Hot version 2.0".
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