Old table – Liner Notes
Since 2003 I’ve been releasing songs under the name Old table. That name was chosen because of it’s comic irrelevance and arbitrary mundanity compared with other punk bands. As time goes by it acquires more potential meanings, a simple reliable utilitarian object so necessary and unremarkable that it becomes practically invisible (your beer floating in the air), or maybe just something that should be replaced with something more reliable and attractive.
I had a band between high school and community college with 3 friends, the magic was there, we had a beautiful and unique chemistry and all of our early practices would yield a new unexpected song growing out naturally from the 4 members of the band (Me, Kat Lee, Mike V, Steve T [aka Sook]) riffing off of each other and complimenting one and other’s ideas, it was a very special time musically and personally for all of us. I suggested the name Old table and they liked it and thought it was funny but in the end it wasn’t right for us, we considered the name Foam-Core Choir before finally settling on Motion Picture Cutouts (aka MPC). Old table would never write songs the way MPC did, nor has any other band I’ve been in before or since.
At MPC’s first show I told Alana Fitzgerald that I wanted our name to be “Old table” but that I guess I could make that a side project, she said “Old table should be your only project”.
Given this burst of confidence combined with the nature of how MPC wrote (and rejected) music, I decided I would record a tape of songs I had written myself and play all the instruments because I liked the way I played all the instruments and it was fun to record that way.
Old table – “Mental Horse” (2003)
- Obviously Art- You can hear the end of a take of the MPC song “Floating Envelope” at the beginning of this song. I’m not sure if I came up with the song title before or after but the idea was clear from the beginning even if it might be hard to articulate. The spirit at the time of the recording to me was of contempt for “pretentious” projects that are “Obviously Art” meaning that they basically have no meaning, and anything with a prerequisite of having no meaning at all in this world that is upside down is “Obviously Art”. I took a record lying around of “Frog and Toad are friends” and then I played the riff for Eric Satie’s Gymnopidie. At the time I felt they were completely arbitrary but looking back they just aren’t at all personally and frankly, and now I feel that I had no choice but to choose those 2 things at the time, and furthermore I feel as though this song along with my whole oeuvre IS INDEED OBVIOUSLY ART. Have I turned into what I used to hate the most?
- “It Made me a Believer”- Actual Quote- This song was written when I was listening to Fugazi’s 13 Songs a lot, it doesn’t really make sense on the surface but I think the rhythmic aspect of it maybe is related somehow. Kat Lee actually helped me flesh out the vocal melody for this song, and after she did a mini revelation came to me about how to put vocals to sound, one trick is to not care or think too much, she has gone uncredited until now, so thanks Kat. This song has never really left the live repertoire. The lyrics are about a commercial for “Steve Sohn’s Jujitsu Concepts” a Karate/Tai Bo (or something) Dojo you would see commercials for back in the late 90’s early 00’s. Dojo’s are a mystical place in childhood, a still standing structure of a nother world where honor, physical agility and strength still actually matter. As we age and become societal automatons these ideas disappear to the realm where magic dies and comes back to zombified life as jaded ignorance. In the commercial there is a group of children chanting things like “HONOR! RESPECT!” etc while doing the basic karate punch where you alternate punching and spinning each wrist as you go. The commercial was comically cultish and creepy. When I was 5 I took karate with Sook I think he got blue tape on his belt where I actually stopped before I got it.
- Garbage- There’s supposed to be an accent dash over the second “a” pronounced “garbaaj” like how the French say it. This song and “Singalong Garbage” were supposed to be allusions –in title only- to the Paul McCartney songs Junk and Singalong Junk from his first solo album, which was a big inspiration on me (he also played all the instruments himself and indulged in a lot of experimental melodic instrumental filler). I liked the idea of cramming 2 completely different types of song in one and shifting between them in different ways, that was exciting for me at the time. We used to play this live sometimes with KY (bass) and CJ (Drums). One time Emma Covello and Steve Yankou had a rap battle during the 2nd half of the song.
- Doin’ Drugs- I had a friend in High School who I heard was messing around with Drugs. The lyrics are about my thoughts and fears with regards to that shit-sitch. Noah Britton thinks this one is a classic but he can do without the guitar solo. It was always hard teaching the band where the accents should be in the very end. To me it’s apparent even on the poorly executed official recording where I wanted them even if I didn’t hit the bullseye. This could possibly be the story of my life…
- Mental Horse- The title track. I came up with the design for The Horse years before I wrote the song or had the idea for the band (the same is true for the bear drawing for “The Bear”). It’s basically a telepathic alien horse who may or may not be stranded on a planet where he can’t communicate with anyone so he just projects his waves out hoping to have some feeling reciprocated by another entity who might acknowledge him. I wrote the chorus to this song after witnessing the greatest punk band ever and bros for life No One and the Somebodies, I wanted to write a song half as cool as speed trap.
- Singalong Garbage- Same pronunciation applies to this one as #3. I used to just feel like recording anything and I would start the tape and start playing guitar maybe 65% sure of how I wanted it to sound. The first version of this song was one of the first experiments I really loved. When I finished it I woke my Mom up to make her listen to it. She didn’t really go nuts over it so I stopped doing things like that. The version of this song on the record is the 2nd take and the first time we hear my sister Becky Chair on an Old table record. We recorded in the kitchen and you can hear my mom say “wow” at the end. I’m not sure if she was watching TV or what, I don’t think it has anything to do with the song.
- Accordion Mechanic- We used to play this song in my High School band Cardboard Shoe with Chris Uriola and Ian Carrol. I really liked this song when I wrote it and I started to think it would probably be the best song I ever wrote. It tells the story of an Accordion Mechanic who is in love or obsessed with someone who lives in his building. There is a mention of Levi’s pants that threatens to throw the entire world off course.
- Don’t Even Think (Much Less Twice)- A relationship song about the narrator, a girl and her mysterious chauffer. I forget how to play this song sometimes but I can always figure it out again eventually. My guitar playing was probably more innovative back when I didn’t really know how to play “properly”.
Mental Horse was recorded on a 4-Track and dubbed by hand onto tapes. The artwork was black & white photocopied and cut. I’m not sure how many I made maybe 35-50 copies total. I’d sell them for $3 at shows or give them away. Key people who I remember encourageing me early on were: Ann Fitzgerald, The Brothers Yankou, Matt Peterson, CJ Bellacero, Geoff Duncanson, Aria Flowers, Amy Eisenberg, GI Dave, Ben Pasternack, Kat Lee, Jean-Baptiste Stowell. These people and some others encouraged me to continue making music.
At some point in winter 2003 my parents went away on vacation so I set a show up at my house. The first line up of Old table was Kat Lee on Drums and Sook on Bass. I wish this line-up could have lasted longer because they were really good players but alas it wasn’t meant to be and we only played the one show. We played all 8 songs on the Mental Horse tape in order. I think the Vibration was supposed to play but Randy got sick. This white girl rapper Brida B (who had a song about seeing her dad in boxer briefs) was supposed to play but she backed out for some reason I can’t remember. I honestly can’t remember who else played but there was at least 2 other bands, possibly Blue Velvet, I think Genuine Imitations might have played, maybe even NOATS but I don’t think so…
Over the next few months I started recording more random snippets of ideas for songs that I thought maybe I’d rerecord. I had a little scene of a tree on a hill with a moon and a shadowy triangular bear-like figure that I used to draw and redraw in notebooks for at least a year. I thought that THE BEAR would be a good follow up title for Mental Horse. In early-mid 2004 I made photocopies of this image with some text to hang up around the Scarsdale Teen Center: “COMING SOON: THE BEAR”
The Bear (2004)
1. Sexual Anxiety- The first Old table song to feature a real acoustic Piano, first Ot song to feature trumpet and the first Anarcho-Jazzrock song ever recorded. Part of a ridiculous sub-trilogy of piano songs, the other titles being Sexual Attraction and Sexual Frustration, recorded originally on a camcorder. One copy was made and shown to maybe 3 people total. The first expression of what would turn out to be a recurring theme in Old table of Sexual Confusion, later articulated with bravery and quixotic mania in the “It Ain’t Like That” section of the still unrecognized seminal classic “Coloring”.
2. Look What You Do To Me- The music mirrors the fractured feelings of not fully requited love, the guitar either unknowingly or stubbornly doing something wrong yet somehow complimentary. Features “MAY” instead of “ME” as in the expression “Excuse May!”. Blah blah etc is an allusion to the minutemen’s #1 hit song.
3. Feral Hog pt1- This song is mostly about being a stupid animal.
4. portrait of bear- The bear walks in the night. The title is a riff on the Thelonious Monk title Portrait of an Eremite, which I later learned he didn’t even title his French producer titled it, Monk later called it “reflections”. Doesn’t really have anything to do with this song but I wrote it anyway.
5. Youze a Snake!- Dennis Meade wrote on the Old table myspace page something like “Dude you’re like angry at God on this new tape it’s great!” to which I replied something like “haha yea, thanks!”. Dennis also told me around this time that a bear was a name for big hairy lumberjack-esque gay dudes. When I gave this tape to my Philosophy Professor at WCC he said that he thought the vocals should be more angry on this song, so I asked Kevin Yankou aka “The KY” to sing as well. The KY had started to play bass in Old table and MPC when Sook got tired of playing songs that weren’t fast punk. He has been a close collaborator in one form or another ever since.
6. bear hug- I think the drum and laugh you hear in the very beginning is Amy Eisenberg on a Scottish Whores recording. This could be the most forgotten Old table song. I’ve certainly forgotten how to play the guitar part.
7. Crack Owl- There was a guy named Matt who went to WCC who was insane and whenever you talked to him he would tell you the histories of local punk bands that only existed in his head, they were always amusing and fun to hear about but the one day he said “Crack Owl” I flipped out laughing and immediately wanted to steal it and possibly rename my band. He ended up naming his crazy band Crack Owl and I settled on naming this song Crack Owl. I came up with the guitar part when I was jamming at GW Duncanson’s house one time playing around with different tunings. The song Late July Alien’s Blood uses the same tuning and sometimes I’d do this song for the intro instead of the regular intro live.
- Feral Hog pt 2- I thought it would be funny to name this song Feral Hog pt2 because it was nothing like Feral Hog Pt 1 (OR IS IT? “I WENT TO THE STORE” THE BRUTALITY OF ALL ENCOMPASING CAPITALISM IS ANIMALISTIC AND WE MUST EVOLVE AND TRANSCEND COMPETITION). “Sweetness in the Dojo” marks the beginning of non-sequitur/inside jokes recited by Becky Chair.
- Whacha Want- This song is the prequel to the song “Pathetic Existence Guy” on Coloring. Years after I wrote this song I would get really hardcore into Guided By Voices and the big intentional surprising crash sound reminds me of a similar expression in the GBV song Scalding Creek.
- Annihilate Knee High Lists- This Song is pretty sweet I haven’t listened to it in a while. It’s got a good message too. Nihilists should all convert to Meliorists at least. Reminds me of “Wild Celery” on Coloring.
- Trumpet Time- I showed my older sister this song and she got mad at me, well not really mad but like deeply annoyed that I made this. I gave Professor Goodyear this tape at WCC because he was genuinely supportive and helpful and encouraging with intellectual and creative activity for his students he is the man. A week later after class one day he was telling me what he thought of it, he said he enjoyed it it was very unique and it had a few spots with some really nice guitar chords, then he said “OK Will I gotta go… It’s Trumpet Time.” And I knew I had accomplished something.
Amy really liked the Bear tape, she said she was looking forward to the next old table album more than she was the next Steve Malkmus solo album. I think she played it when it came out over the speakers at the White Plains Borders. A few people that didn’t really like Pavement that much said we were better than Pavement. Old table was riding high on friend’s approval, except Matt Peterson wrote a formal review in a personal email to me saying that he thought I should wait a couple of Albums before I did any experimental stuff and he cited the fact that Captain Beefheart had at least 2 Albums of poppy material before Trout Mask. I didn’t really know what to think but I got the sense that it didn’t really matter and that Matt was a somewhat absurd individual. I am also an absurd individual and I miss him writing me letters like that.
One day I was playing Earthbound on Super Nintendo and I decided I’d steal the name of one of the enemies in the game for my next tape and final installment of what was now “THE OLD TABLE ANIMAL TRILOGY”
- Pythagoras- Ryan Marino’s favorite Old table song. This turned out to be a song who’s lyrics make more sense to me as the years go by. Pythagoras, the great Greek Mathematician and Philosopher, I had read in a book, didn’t allow his followers/ students to eat any beans because of a resemblance to embryos. Weird. I wrote the lyrics to this song from the perspective of someone who was in Pythagoras’s school who’s friend or family member one day tried eating beans and was completely excommunicated. This is his or her song to him or her who tried the beans. Is there something mystically wrong about eating beans? Was Pythagoras right in this respect as he was in many others? The song also imagines a world where mothers can’t write and fathers can’t knit. It’s a little social commentary for ya there.
- Ode- This song is awesome, no one remembers or cares about it so I gotta toot my own horn on this one guys.
- Late July Alien’s Blood- This song is about first love lost. The alienation of the protagonist metaphorically represented in the song by his representational Alien’s Blood. This song was indeed named after the Late July Cookies. I saw them in the supermarket and the design on the box looked beautiful which I think made me think it would make a beautiful song.
- Spec of Sand- This is the only Song Amy has specifically told me was gay. Yea it’s one of the gayest songs we have but I think it’s good if you’re in the mood. I tried to make a whole song out of the first line of Beefheart’s “Fallin’ Ditch”. I just loved the chords and notes in the first couple of seconds of that song and then it changes. I honestly think I failed miserably in elongating and sustaining that particular feeling but I still don’t think it’s bad. We’ve never played it live though and we probably never will.
- Flight of the Spiteful Crow- Catherine aka “Andrew Broccoli” says “Oh look what’s that” Becky Chair says “spiteful Crow???”
- Sailing Song- There are 2 drum tracks on this song. It was partly inspired by a thing I did in kindergarten that was hanging up in my basement that Catherine said she liked once. Sometimes I’ll play this live –solo- faster and more bluesy.
- Eskimo Song- Everybody seemed to like this one. We never played it with the band but I would play it solo sometimes by request, it’s a really short song but I’d still forget the lyrics. I think this was the first song I wrote that was ever covered by someone else and that someone was Anthony DaCosta. Thanks Anthony! It’s a cute story about 2 Inuits. I realized after the fact that maybe I should have called it Inuit Song but it actually doesn’t even make sense or really even matter to anyone probably J This is sort of a sequel to The last song on the Mental Horse tape. I wasn’t sure if deciding to add that final flourish of sax and piano and drum was cheesey, but I did it as a little final wave goodbye. It sounds a little weird and awkward but I guess that’s the vibe of the whole trilogy anyway.
I was excited when I finally finished the trilogy and I put them all on one tape for Amy and a few other people these are extremely rare items and are also worth absolutely nothing on ebay. But too much self deprication is unattractive. I’m proud of this trilogy and I’d like to thank everyone for encouraging me to make music during this period of my life I hope there are a handful of people who enjoyed reading these liner notes. If anyone has any questions about anything feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks again!