We Have A Singer?

A few days after I saw Little Shop Of Horrors and re-connected with Erik, I called Jamie up and asked him if he wanted to get together and play some music with Erik and I over at his dad’s insulation warehouse. “Yeah, sure!”, he said. Always the enthusiast. We trucked our shit over there and got set up. When Erik showed up, he had his girlfriend with him. She helped him load his drums into the warehouse. This was only my second time meeting her, but she and Jamie were already friends. Jamie was really well known and connected to anybody in town who had any connection to anything punk or whatever we were calling it at that point. I had heard some stories earlier in the year about some girl who had a big party at her house when her parents were away and it got out of hand and everybody was pissin’ in the shampoo bottles and then a bunch of skinheads showed up and Jamie had to fight them all to protect his footwear or some shit like that. It turned out that Lauren was the girl.

Once we were all set up, we started playing some of our jams and it felt good. We hadn’t gotten together in a few months, but it was all right there. It actually sounded BETTER than it had before. I was fascinated. Even though we hadn’t been playing together, we had all been playing. After we did a couple of tunes and were warmed up, Erik turned to Lauren and said, “Well, do you want to try it?” She squirmed and was telling him she felt nervous. “I don’t know….I sing, but I never sang in a big loud band with all these…amplifiers” I noticed she was holding a marble copy book. I looked at Jamie, puzzled. I felt super awkward. I was trying to get some cue from him as to whether he knew what was going on. I thought Lauren was just along to hang out with her boyfriend while he played the drums. I had no idea we were trying out a new singer. Jamie didn’t look like he had a clue either.

I don’t remember what song or songs we did for the rest of that day, but Lauren sure as hell could sing. She was only 15 I think, but she had the voice of a grown woman. She had something. It was undeniable. It was alarming. When somebody would cut loose and belt something out with volume and some theatrical technique, it would make me super uncomfortable. Like the year before, when Jerry came over to my house with Christian Rock and growled like The Boss, it had kind of made me shrivel up a little. The vocal command, although it was great, often made me cringe when I was right there in the face of it. Lauren’s voice wasn’t punk in any way. It sure as shit wasn’t gothic. But it was good. In a lot of ways, it was better than the rest of what we were doing. It didn’t quite match what we had been doing, but I couldn’t dismiss it.

What I wanted to dismiss was her appearance. She was pretty, but she was sunburnt and dressed like a cross between a hippie and a guido, like she had been walking around the Roosevelt Mall. I was a total fuckin snob and everybody had to dress in all black and look miserable. She didn’t. My aesthetic was challenged.

We began to get together every week. We started to formulate complete original songs. We continued to do some of the covers we had been playing, and when Lauren’s voice wasn’t appropriate or she didn’t know the tune, I’d sing it, but for the most part, she became the singer. We started to take some of our riffs, parts, and fragments and join them together. Then, Lauren, Jamie or me, or sometimes even Erik would bring pages of lyrics, and Lauren would fit them into the musical framework, then we’d adjust the music to make it work with the lyrics if we had to. The way it was happening was so fast, free, and organic. It was effortless. And it was FUN. It was so much fun, I stopped thinking about what kind of band we should be, and just let it happen! It was amazing. For the first time since I’d been playing music, I was in a band that had songs that had beginnings, middles, and endings, and WORDS!

All of our influences were being stirred into the pot. The music was a blend of all the disparate types of sounds we each brought to the band. Jamie was deep into the east bay punk/power pop sound as well as heavier shit like The Melvins and Christ On A Crutch. Lauren was into Porgy & Bess. I was deeply into Bowie & Iggy. Erik liked The Police and a band I never heard called Samiam. It was all coming together to make some kind of pop-punk stew with moments of reggae-rock in the mix. It never got too noodley because none of us were technically good enough to take it there. Our eclectic influences worked well together at least partially because of our talent ceiling.

Occasionally, Jamie or I would make the mistake of dragging our girlfriends along to rehearsals. Jamie’s girlfriend, Jackie Vesper was almost as miserable as my girlfriend, Stacy Marbles. They were both either possessive or bored enough to need to be around us all the time, but they both clearly hated being the girlfriends of guys in a band. They’d sit off to the side bored on a beach chair. I think one time, Stacey pulled her bomber jacket over her head and sat like that for over an hour. “Why the fuck did you insist on coming?!?” I’d later scream at her on the ride back to her house. “You ignored me the whole time.”, would be her reply. What was I thinking?

Aside from my dysfunctional relationship, my whole life started to come into focus. All of my questions about what I should be doing began to melt away. College was less than a year away and I did not give a single fuck. All of my energy, time, attention, and focus was now on my band. One night I was sitting in my bedroom and I was compelled to pick up my guitar. In a completely automatic fashion, a full song flowed out of me. I played the chord progression from the one song idea we had been working on with Kate, but I wrote new lyrics on the spot. Then I wrote a chorus on the spot. It now sounded like the other songs that we were spontaneously coming up with every week. For the first time in my life, I was in “the zone”. I had heard about “the zone” but I thought I’d never experience it because of my disdain for sports and corporate douchiness, yet here I was, my life making sense for the first time.

One thing we didn’t have was a name. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure we went through the intolerable process of coming up with a name where everybody comes with a list of horrible ideas and then you all argue about how bad they all are. Jamie had an album at home by the band Split Endz. It was called Dizrythmia. He said, “We should call it Dizrythmia.” So we did.

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