CURRENT STATUS: In production, scheduled for 2019 release.
In 1999 I was 20 years-old and barely feeding myself, living in an East Dallas apartment in a bad part of town. Work was slow and low paying. My life seemed to be in one of those in-between kind of places, where you know you’ve left something behind but you're not at your next destination yet. My overall goal in life at the time, (naturally, despite my circumstances,) was to get a good band together with friends, but I couldn’t get these guys together.
I needed a rallying cry. I needed something to motivate the process. I had a specific idea. Turn on the switch.
“I’m going to write an album worth of smart, loud and fun material for 5 musicians to play.” By the end of the summer I had an album's worth of material intended for a band that would have been called “Switch.” The layout was simple enough. Two guitars, keys, bass, drums and someone would take vocal duty. I had personally tired of playing bluesy material. I was more interested in going in a more mathematical direction.
My friends were musicians who could fill these rolls easily. My roommate could have walked into any studio for any band (at the time and now,) and with very little time, played everything as needed, and with some improvement. His brother, another friend of mine was a guitarist who was better than me. Another friend was a classically trained pianist. A new friend was a guitarist but eager to pick up the bass and be part of a “different type” of project.
Reaching back into 20 year-old memories, the thought process was something along the lines of “I’ll get the songs ready on the computer, float it around record companies, and let my friends know when we can hit the rehearsal studio, the recording studio, and then start touring. It should be about a year-long process from when I finish the demos.” Of course I see the assumptive recklessness in this thinking now. But I pressed ahead.
My tools at the time were a Squire Stratocaster, a self-built computer made of many different computers, Acid Pro 1 software and Sound Forge. I had also gotten a new Sound Blaster sound card which came with software that allowed me to manipulate it into a sort of effects system for the guitar. I could create custom presets, changeable by hitting the down arrow key, providing I had them in the right order for my song or songs.
What responsible-minded adults or even children need to understand about more value being put into the music than my situation in life is the following: My thoughts and feelings at the time were that a great musical situation (a great band/record, etc) was a multi-pronged solution to nearly all of my problems. There were always backups to everything else. I could always give-in, move in with dad, get a regular job and make adjustments in that area of life.
If I was making music that sounded like everything else, I wouldn’t have been worth the time. Since I was really feeling the music, I trusted it to lead the way. 20 years later, listening to these songs with fresh ears, I have no regrets or apologies. Although I still give the same value to my music, perhaps more now, I now put more value into having a life situation that is sustainable.
At the time, to the chagrin of 20 year-old Les, my friends and fellow musicians were simply not able to oblige. Everyone expressed excitement at the music. My grandiose idea for a band was reduced to personal demos, and set in a level of personal disappointment that was difficult to get over at the time. My life continued with a series of bizzare bumps and bruises, not many of which knocked music off the priority list.
This material was a launch pad for everything that was to come after. I had proven to myself and others that I could sit down with a bigger-picture goal in mind, and write/play/record/and produce (to more or less of an extent) an entire album. My music had taken a turn from simple and bluesy to complex and calculated. I could do it from start to end, and make it interesting. This was better than writing some songs and playing at coffee shops.
A trio (and sometimes quartet) of my friends met frequently during this time, and used the name “Switch” in jam sessions. Occasionally I would attempt to strong arm everyone into learning some of this music, but we always drifted back into improv and jamming. Everyone wanted to make it work, but our brains just weren’t wired for the discipline needed to learn songs together. This album was then archived and basically forgotten about.
This record revisits the Switch album in its full, original intended vision. Vocals have been added for the first time, featuring lyrics written in 1999. Keyboard parts as imagined (and even added in original demos, but removed or turned down do to awful sampling or being out of key,) are proudly placed in their respective homes after a decades-long wait. Backup vocals are turning up to do their part.
The lyrics reveal exactly the kinds of things my 20 year-old mind was thinking of at the time. Making something organic yet structured. Living in an impoverished area. Shoplifting to get by, but trying to make it seem like it was just for fun. The fear that came with that shoplifting. And so on. Life was not easy at the time. I was making $2.13 an hour as a waiter, working mostly double-shifts. That meant a weekly paycheck of about $100 after taxes.
I was a young, awkward skinny, white-boy waiter in East Dallas, and the tips were not in my favor. I considered my tips to be my daily living money. After an overnight double shift, I left the restaurant with somewhere between $3 and $25 worth of tips in my pocket. It was not a lot to live on. My checks went towards rent. I ate at work as much as possible. The customers were abusive on a nightly basis. Fights broke out. We got sometimes got robbed at gunpoint.
I kept my head down, but I was personally threatened with violence or death multiple times a week at the time.
It was a challenging time for me, but this music was the light at the end of a really dark tunnel, it was something new, fresh and seemingly self-creating. As soon as I finished one part, the next part presented itself. I spent hours at the computer after a double-shift writing this music, sometimes not even sleeping before going back for another double-shift. My memories of the time are not fond, but this music transcends those awful moments.
Special Thanks go to Tara , Nassar, Greg, Shawn, Brett and Nathan.
Rough mixes, instrumental run-throughs, demos, etc