It's early 2001, Donald Rumsfeld has not yet eaten the soul of America, and, after a bad breakup with a country band, some crackpot calling himself Soapy Argyle has just sworn off of live performance for the rest of his life. That crackpot was me. I had a couple of shitty microphones, a garage that had once been a Jehovah's Witless meeting place, and a bunch of musical friends who were willing to bare their souls. Thus begins the epochal journey of Sparky the Dog Records.
The deal was: Come to the garage with five original songs and we'll record 'em. I don't care if you've never seen a microphone, or even if you've never played an instrument. See this fancy new laptop computer on my TV tray? It's gonna do all the work. We can do this shit, and we're you're done, you'll walk away with twenty CDs and a dream realized, at no fucking charge.
Our graphic design department was named Brett Duesing; he knew how to use Photoshop. Our art department was named Lucas Richards; he knew how to draw. I clicked a mouse, accidentally erased tracks, and tried not to scare away nervous musicians.
Understand, this was at the dawn of the digital revolution (before that same revolution replaced human creativity with...you know what, let's save that part for later). It was still a big deal that a computer could burn a CD, much less make a multi-track recording. We were excited.
Songs 1 & 2: Bubbles in My Pants / What About Our Love
From the BOULDER GIRL EP by Brett Duesing
Brett Duesing plays guitar unlike anyone else His fingers flatten across the fretboard in a crabbish dance of chromatic counterpoint, crazy chords, and brilliant composition. His lyrics are hilarious and vulnerable. HIs voice sounds like it's in a three-legged-race with itself stumbling ahead and behind the beat, hovering somewhere near the correct pitch, always on the verge of collapse. In short, Brett's a genius; if you're lucky, you're sufficiently sophisticated to understand this.
Songs 3 & 4: Superhero / Swine
From MAUREEN'S ELEVEN MINUTES EP by Maureen
Maureen, who later married me, had never played a musical instrument before recording her debut six-song EP that lasted all of eleven minutes. Several years later, she would become the spazmodic drummer behind The Babysitters as well as Manotaur, but for now she was a hunt-and-peck guitarist with a penchant for bizarre lyrics. Lightning in a beer bottle.
Songs 5 & 6: Oriental Hora / Baby, We're Really in Love
From IF A TREE FALLS IN LOVE EP by Mr. and Mrs. Tree
These songs were recorded shortly before Mr. Tree and Mrs. Tree were wed. They actually gave copies of their EP to their wedding guests. After the wedding, Brett Duesing, who was still dressed in his rented tux, jumped into a swimming pool. He returned it the next day, still dripping wet.
Oriental Hora: we hear Mr. Tree (on bass) and Mrs. Tree (on intimidatingly excellent violin) casually shrug out a song that extends a good natured raspberry to a certain Denver band that was just about to take over the world with their own dramatic interpretations of appropriated music of the world.
Baby, We're Really in Love is a declaration of dedication that still holds true, more than thirteen years later.
Songs 7 & 9: Don't Take me In / My Pie
From NOW BRING THAT HERE by sKinner
sKinner knew (and for all I know, still knows) only four chords on the guitar. She was (and for all I know, still is) also one of the funniest people on Earth. What I didn't expect was for her to be songwriter of great emotional depth. Take the line, "Jesus Christ wouldn't eat my pie / Now you're wonderin' why he had to die." Take the whole fucking song, My Pie. Moving.
Shortly after the release of her EP, sKinner assembled a rag-tag band and played her first (and as far as I know, her only) gig. It was at Denver's Fillmore Theatre, I think, at a festival of Women Who Rock, sort of a cool, small version of the Lilith Fair. The performance, which should have been a disaster, turned the place upside down.
Song 9: Watch the Cars
From some otherwise unreleased recordings by A Dog, Paloma
One day, Joe Sampson (aka The Reluctant Messiah of Denver Indie Rockers, aka, The Guy Who Used to Date Erin Roberts Who Would Later form Porlolo, and who, incidentally, plays trumpet on this track) asked if he and the rest of A Dog, Paloma could come by the garage and record some stuff. I said yes, even though I only had two microphones and was absolutely not suited to recording a full band. They set up, they played, they left.
They never finished the recordings, probably because I had been absolutely not suited to recording a full band. Of the nine songs they recorded, this is the only one that had vocals. I wish they'd finished the record.
Song 9: More For the Rest of Us by Matt Shupe
from CABIN FEVER (unreleased)
One winter around the turn of the millennium, Brett Duesing got a job house-sitting a cabin somewhere up in the hills, to which he invited the entire Sparky the Dog collective for a music party, which took place on an insanely cold evening. I brought a recording device and we got drunk and taught each other songs and played them. Matt Shupe's song, More For the Rest of Us, was one of the livelier numbers from that evening.
Before we went to bed, one of the guests decided she wanted to go home, so she ran out the door into blustery four-degree weather. We didn't see her again.
Well, some of us did. Turns out, she ran twenty miles, with no coat, to the nearest highway and hitched a ride back home to Boulder. She's fine.
Songs 11 & 12: Desert Road / High and Mighty
From SUNSETTLED (unreleased album) by Sunsettler
Formed out of the band-deaths of Mr. Tree and the Wingnuts and of Vena Cava, Sunsettler was the first of many collaborative efforts that would come from the two aforementioned bands. That sentence I just wrote is horrible. Fuck it. Sunsettler recorded ten songs in the garage using just one microphone. The one microphone thing was my idea; Sunsettler was folkish, why not record 'em the old-fashioned way? The record was never released because:
A) We all thought it sucked.
B) Sunsettler settled before the album was completed, and so the CD was never released.
In retrospect, I'm rather fond of these recordings. Hells bells, that's how I feel about every song on this compilation. We were young and immune to hangovers, the CU radio station would play anything we sent them, and the Westword was granting us Best of Denver awards like Gideonites hand out Bibles. All this would soon be destroyed with the ascension of Earnestly Yelped Accordian-Based Sepia Rock, a subject best left on the table.
To conclude, them was good times.
released June 15, 2015
Brett Duesing: Bubbles in My Pants; What About Our Love,
Maureen: I Wanna Be a Superhero; Swine
sKinner: Don't Take Me In; My Pie
Mr. and Mrs. Tree: Oriental Hora; Baby, We're Really in Love
Matt Shupe and the Cabin Fevers: More For the Rest of Us