NOTES ON ZEBULON
I take a lot of notes when traveling, town names, street names, business names, signs and wonders all along the way. All this goes into a book to be visited later when I have forgotten the details and the directions. While touring south Georgia with the band I saw a sign for the town of Zebulon, in Pike's County. Song writing is like the guy giving you directions with way too many details, "now once you pass the sign with the bullet holes turn left at the Doolie Hill Trailer Park, you know they say ole Doolie he had a predilection for vegetables, well then hang a louie till you get bored and then look for the twisted oak tree with a pair of rotting converse sneakers hanging in em and then...". You have no idea where he's telling you to go. Hell, you forgot where you where going, but your fascinated with the rhythm of speech and details, your eyes are glazed over and you lose track of time. I like records that give you that kinda feeling, like your going somewhere and you not sure how you'll get there, sometimes the music ends and you feel you have arrived, other times you're sure you went somewhere but your not sure exactly where it was, but it definitely was traveling. These are adventure songs, instructional and subjective, throw out the map and drive, the joy is in the journey. Moses said the tribe of Zebulon would suck of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hidden in the sand. That's what we are going for here, the pirates dream of buried treasure. Another Zebulon was Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr., for which the afore mentioned town and county was named. He was an American soldier and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named. Oddly, he never actually made it to the top of the mountain now famously named after him. These songs came out of travel and adventure, being away from home and coming back. Feeling stuck and feeling like your floating, untethered and strange. Waiting to feel homesick, while you are living in the mercury present.
The songs were started in Berlin, Germany and recorded in Athens, Georgia. I demoed about 30 songs and gave them to were given to Patterson Hood (producer), Andy Baker(recording engineer), and Andy Cherewick (recorded and produced "Goat"). We then edited them down and decided on 15 songs, 12 of which made it to the album. Most of the songs were unknown to the band, and many first takes were the ones we kept. The piano songs were originally written on guitar or banjo - we brought in Jason Gonzales to re-interpret them on piano. I sang harmony on many of the demos but heard a woman's voice in place of my cracking upper range - thankfully Liz Durrett came in and took the songs to a better place. For I Can Waltz the crunchy percussion was made by using tiny bells that Jim squeezed repeatedly in his hands. All in all recording took about a week and, in spite of having to make it up on the fly, the band played along great.
Back when I was in art school I found a dead rabbit on the side of the road. I wrapped it up and took it to the studio and drew from it until it started to smell. Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese explorers were convinced that below the Cape of Good Hope was the end of the world, but they sailed it anyway in search of spices - now those were brave men who loved good food. Friar's Lantern is a phosphorescent light that hovers over the swamps in Louisiana. In a museum in Berlin I visited the the Gate of Ishtar, which is part of the original wall of Babylon. I would like to see similar gates erected in every town in America. There was a old, one legged drunk that I saw every day in the park near the apartment in Berlin, always yelling with a thick german accent, slurring his words and a voice that sounded like he gargled glass. Highwater was written soon after Katrina. A painter friend of mine called me one afternoon, very drunk and frustrated - he said it was "fucking impossible to paint the moon". A friend of mine and I have a goal of learning to tap dance so one day we can surprise everyone with our Fred Astaire prowess. William Floyd Collins got stuck in a mine shaft in Kentucky in 1925 and was the first media event of the 21st century. The maximum number of angels that can dance on the tip of a needle is said to be 8.6766, if they dance in a synchronized fashion. The death watch beetle can be heard clicking or tapping in the rafters in old wooden buildings and is believed to be an omen of death. I lived in the oldest house in Athens, built in 1878, the peeling wallpaper on the walls had romantic civil war poems on them, including one about a wounded general who ask to be bandaged so he can go back into battle.