all around the world.

We got a new demo tape from Mike Hart of Toast, which was largely comprised of songs written by Jon Ekstrom, the bass player.

I loved his music.  It was melodic, he had a beautiful and expressive voice, his songs were all melancholy and lovely to listen to.  Despite the fact that I thought Toast was an outstanding indie band, I also thought Ekstrom was one of the best songwriters I’d heard.  He was the only person who was ever able to create low-fi, four-track music that I actually found palatable enough to listen to.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m a snob for decent fidelity; the music that all the DIY, indie-types loved in the early 90s – stuff from the Shrimper label, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices – was stuff I could barely tolerate because even though the songs were great, they sounded like shit.  When every shitty New Jersey bar band could afford the $20 an hour that it cost to go into a studio, it was tough for me to swallow the idea that Guided By Voices couldn’t persuade Matador Records to loan them a few thousand dollars to go into some Ohio studio and record a proper-sounding CD.  I understood the concept behind low-fi “warmth,” but didn’t buy into it.  Sticking a four-track in some band’s rehearsal room didn’t cut it for me, especially when the band was someone like Sebadoh or GBV, who had very successful indie releases under their belts and were well-known indie bands.  “Low-fi,” to me, seemed like a copout.

So when I say that I really enjoyed listening to Ekstrom’s music, I’m paying it about as solid a compliment as I know how. 

Check this out – it’s called “Anasthesia,” and it was on the tape that Mike sent me.

I got it into my head that I wanted a singer/songwriter record on Dromedary, and it needed to be Ekstrom. I wanted to reach out to him and discuss it with him privately, away from Mike and Guy. But I didn’t know how to contact him.

I called Ron and asked him if he had a contact number for Jon, and he did not. When I told him why, he suggested that what I was thinking was not the best idea; evidently the members of Toast were particular about each other’s music, and making sure that each songwriter had equal representation on the band’s recorded output and live sets. Asking just one member to do a record would ruffle feathers, and might also take some of that member’s best music away from the band.

Still, I wanted to do it. The music was too good not to, even if we just did a seven-inch.

One Saturday morning, Sandy and I woke up in particularly grumpy moods. We were starting to get claustrophobic everywhere we went, because Lodi was so overpopulated, and the people around our apartment – who we once thought were endearing – were just nasty. There was traffic everywhere, and when we drove to one of our “getaway” places, the Jersey Shore or Cape Cod, there was traffic getting there, and traffic once we got there.

Some noise from outside woke us up, and we decided it was a good day to get the fuck away from Lodi for a while. So we got Sambuca and put her in the car, and drove up north to Mahwah, where my mother lived. When we got there, we pulled into the park near Winter’s Pond, where I had spent so much time as a kid, playing ball on the fields or just walking around the pond.  It was a gorgeous spring day, all sunshine and promise.

We had a 50-foot length of rope that we tied to Buca as a makeshift leash, and a tennis ball. And we just stood in the middle of the football field and threw the ball as far as we could, letting Buca chase the ball and bring it back to us. When she got within 50 feet of one of us, we’d just step on the rope to prevent her from running away onto Island Road and getting hit by a car.

It was a nice day. We totally thought of nothing but playing with the dog, and enjoying the (relatively) open air. And after paying a visit to my mom, we hopped in the car to make the ride back to Lodi.

Within about ten minutes of getting on the road, Buca was lying down in the backseat of the car, and Sandy had reclined the passenger seat and fallen asleep, leaving me alone in the car with my thoughts. I popped on the Toast cassette of Ekstrom’s songs and listened to this song over and over, the entire way home. It’s called “40,” and all these years later, it’s still one of my favorites:

~ by Al on April 27, 2009.

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