Saturday, July 7, 2012

Child Rearing In The City or Cheers to Dubb Nubb and SCOSAG For Bringing It All Back Home

Art is important to kids.  They need it in their lives as much as they need sports.  Fact.  The arts challenge kids to use their minds in creative and personal ways that sports don't always bring.  I'm not knocking kids sports as they are important, healthy and can be a hell of a lot of fun too.

I'm basing much of this opinion on the fact that my kids have been involved in several youth sports across several different organizations.  And, in the not too distant past, they went to a summer arts camp for a couple years called SCOSAG in Tower Grove Park. It wasn't cheap for sure (thankfully, the grandparents subsidized the venture), but my wife was staunchly in support of it. So, we sign em up, they have fun and it was creative and unique and they love Tower Grove Park as a result of going there. During the course of this summer camp, they discovered a part in the park called "the tree's knees" which is a grove of mature Bald Cypress against a man-made creek that flows through the park where you can race little boats down. It's one of those things that are very personal and I won't try to explain why, but parents likely know what I'm talking about.  It's simply got a good vibe and Tower Grove Park is now the backdrop to some very fond memories of the kids and us as parents as well.

Anyhow here's the crux of this post, and why, based on having experienced both sports and arts related kid activities, I feel more rewarded with a musical memory that I will always carry, instead of the fleeting charge I may get out of a goal or a base hit or a win (although that's a lot of fun too).

One day my kids came home from the camp with this hand drawn picture. I didn't know what the hell it was, but I liked it. It reminded me of a record cover with a track list. After awhile I learned what it was. The kids were talking over and over about a band that came and played at SCOSAG. They loved it, they sang it and hummed it and the melodies were subconsciously growing on me. I assumed it was kids music and I must confess I don't usually enjoy kid music, so I was naturally resistant.  I have heard Barney and others that could make the Dalai Lama wanna shank a mutha. But my oldest who had taken a recent interest in music was starting to gain my respect. He had to have 'Harnessed in Slums' as the opening track on his new mixed tape, so I started listening to him a little more. He showed me the CD he wanted me to listen to. The artwork was similar to the picture he drew and is now framed in his room:

We were heading down to southwest Missouri on a long drive, so my wife brought the CD and insisted that we listen to it.  So I popped it in the mini-van CD player with full skepticism and hovered my elitist finger over the eject button. The first track caught my full attention, 2nd did too, by the 3rd track, the back of the van was rocking and I recognized the melodies I'd been hearing filtered through 3, 5 and 7 year old ears...this was not kids music by any means, but it was created by teenagers. 

Then it happened, track 4 'Soldier' stopped me in my tracks and wife and I had a good, tearful moment in the front row of the van. Now, I'm a softy when it comes to lit, poetry and song writing (the greatest of all writing)...and I don't mind admitting that, music just has that power. I also have a soft spot for soldiers/veterans, especially ones who were forced (read drafted, not volunteered) to kill or be killed in war. So the song resonated and made me think of A Farewell to Arms, and All Quiet on the Western Front...World War I in general. It stopped me in my damn tracks. Everyone in the front row of seats was teared up, a quick view in the rear view mirror revealed the youngest two mouths agog staring plaintively out the windows worried about why mom and dad were upset and taking in what a sad lyric can do to people. The third row of seats had the oldest one teared up too. He got it, I got it, we all got it and marveled in the power of youth and the written/sung word.

Dubb Nubb is the band, they are from the suburbs of St. Louis. And they were teenagers when this album was recorded.  They are part of the underrated local music scene, they are now part of our life and experience and everything else. Here's the song I'm talking about:




You've got to read the lyrics:

When the war was over
I went home and cried into my pillow until dawn
I put my gun in the drawer
Sold my old clothes and bought some new ones, put them on

I lost my best friend in the battle
I watched him fall dead right into the snow
I lost me too much blood
But I bandaged up my wounds so nobody will know

It's alright, it's alright
I could have yelled surrender, but I thought that I could win the fight
It's alright, it's alright it's my own fault
I've been holding on to my own lies to tight

When the war was over,
I couldn't sleep with all these nightmares of my past inside my brain
I didn't win the medal
All I got are all these memories all traced across my face

It's alright, it's alright
I could have yelled surrender, but I thought that I could win the fight
It's alright, it's alright, it's not my fault
All these bullets have impaired my sight

Some day I'll go back to the battle ground
And cry for what was murdered, what was mine.

Let me say these words take me to somewhere very, very few words do. It's a WWI, Civil War imagery that gets conjured up and an amazingly sensitive take on a soldier's story, and to be transported to that place through the interventions of my child...that's good stuff.

This good parental memory would not have been possible without my kids experience at SCOSAG and seeing Dubb Nubb play for them.  My kids' opportunities growing-up and being introduced to so many different cultures, and experiences of sound and sight and taste and people and places, I feel are opportunities that are enhanced by my choice to be a city dweller and raise kids right here in St. Louis vs. the calm/staid cul-de-sacs of a suburban municipality. I like art and it's influence on our lives, and how St. Louis elicits thought and emotions on nearly every block.

I am sharing my joys and interests with the kids to the best of my ability; but as they grow, they share and teach me new stuff as well. I hope that when it is all said and done, they appreciate these gifts and broad experiences, and make the choice to hand them on to their own kids.  I hope that St. Louis is part of their experience and they realize how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place with so many caring, dedicated, creative people in their midst.  Artists inspire me daily in this city...


The effect of this song didn't wear off, it still means a lot after a couple years.  So, I had to find out more about the song and get the scoop from the writer herself.  I was able to catch up with 1/2 of Dubb Nubb - Delia Rainey, who wrote the song.  Note that this was not a live interview, rather a list of questions sent/answered, so the flow is not interactive and conversational.  Anyhow, here are her replies to my questions:


I understand that you wrote the lyrics, is that correct?

Yes, I did.
 Has this song had the same effect on your friends and other fans?

'Soldier' is definitely a big favorite among my family members and other people who have been listening to us for a while, since we don't play it at shows very much any more. Every time we do play it, everyone gets super quiet and people really pay attention. We really only play it at intimate acoustic shows where this is possible. 
How does Soldier stand out to you personally compared to the other songs on the record?

I wrote Soldier by myself while desperately heartbroken in my bedroom. It came to me very organically and was probably written in about an hours time. For me, it truly is the most genuinely written songs on the record.
Is the soldier in the song triumphant in beating war and getting over his past; or is it a depressing tale of having lost innocence and a piece of his life lost forever?

Definitely the second one. The Soldier in the song is a metaphor for me trying to 'soldier through' a really tough time in a relationship, and not being able to fix it in the end, or 'win the fight'. It's always funny to reveal to people who really love this song that it is about a breakup with my high school boyfriend when I was 16, which is super silly and embarrassing now that I am 20!
 Was there special consideration to sequence it as the 4th track, right in the middle? It’s between two really upbeat happy songs.

I have no clue why we would've chosen to put it there, we made that album so long ago! We re-recorded Soldier for our most recent full-length with glockenspiel and violin added (Sunrise Sleepy Eyed 2011), and put it in a similar spot in the middle of the track list (track 5), but I think putting an emotional song like that in a the middle of a record is a good turning point; 'moving on' to the happier times with the next song!
On to the melody. Did you also come up with the melody? Was it written on piano or guitar? I love whistling as a melody maker, and the whistling fits this song perfectly.

Thank you!! I did write the melody. I am horrible at guitar, (and have since moved on to ukulele), but back when I wrote this song I was still pretty into playing a little kid learn-to-play guitar, and that's how this song was written. I think I get this from my Dad, but I am always whistling little tunes, and putting them into songs! I'm really fond of Andrew Bird's quote that whistling should be considered as it's own musical instrument.
Is that a mandolin? Was it single note plucked? Was that played by you guys?

Yeah, that's Hannah on mandolin. She is amazing at stringed instruments - she has been playing classical guitar since she was 10 and it's now her music major in college. She says, "I was tremolo-ing on one note at a time"
Was it recorded live together, or was it recorded on multiple tracks and put back together?

For this whole record, we recorded each song in one take, and all together! It also only took us about 3 hours to record the WHOLE album! It was crazy. We never do this anymore with our other recordings, so The Best Game Ever is a special one.
In the last 2 lines are the lyrics: “Some day I'll go back to the battle ground
And cry for what was murder, what was mine.” Or “cry for what was mine, what was mine”?

You were close!! The line is: "cry for what was murdered, what was mine."
 Finally, since my blog is a STL centric one, I’ve got to somehow tie this back to my audience.  Are you from St. Louis? If so, what neighborhood?

Yes!! We are third generation St. Louisans, and grew up in Olivette
What’s it like gaining traction in the music community here? Was it hard to get gigs when you were in high school?

We were lucky to be a part of a really supportive group of high school musicians from around the county that had house shows and stuff, and that's how we found our support group. For the release of Best Game Ever, we played on Cherokee Street at Cranky Yellow, and ever since then, Cherokee Street has been our favorite place to play - mostly at Foam Coffee. Especially our last year of high school, we were surprised by how many shows we were able to play. Some of our biggest shows were at Firebird and the Billiken Club, and we got the honor to play at the RFT music showcase and also Loufest after winning the high school battle of the bands!! Because of school priorities and our parents worrying, we tried to only play one show a month in high school. 
Do you think your sound and writing style is influenced by St. Louis or Missouri or the Midwest in general?
We are SO influenced by where we are from. We love to write songs about our love for St. Louis and midwest nature. The glory of the city and then also the beautiful country side of the midwest where we have traveled has a lot of emotional meaning to us, which gives inspiration to write songs. Also, we use some 'twang' in our music, which definitely derived from St. Louis music. 
Are you inspired by the city in any meaningful way as an artist?

Driving into the city and seeing shows with traveling bands and local acts really inspired us to become part of the St. Louis music scene. The DIY venues and supportive community we encountered really helped us keep going with our art. As well, the feel and scenery of the city inspired us to write a hometown song called 'Mound City Baby', which you can listen to on bandcamp: http://dubbnubb.bandcamp.com/album/sunrise-sleepy-eyed
So there you have it.   Cheers to SCOSAG and Dubb Nubb for being part of my kids' lives...and our evolving music collection and the St. Louis artist scene.  The CD is on the shelf and the kid drawing of the album cover in on the wall...forever.

Dubb Nubb are playing at Plush on August 2nd.

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