The idea of the song Riviera was to have a contrasting mood between the music and lyrics. The jazzy, semi-upbeat atmosphere was meant to make the subject ironic and humorous. And, just to clarify, yes, the subject is about a killer obsessing over a crush, kidnapping her, and burying her alive. Initially, I was afraid to actually sing the lyrics in English and was going to translate the verse to French, but we could never find a translator. We still wanted a French vibe to the song though, so we named the song after the French Riviera, a location my guitarist visited as a kid. The whole thing was deeply inspired by songs like Butcher Pete by Roy Brown and Knives Out by Radiohead. Yeah, I supposed it is a bit morbid, but it’s far more interesting than your typical love song.
Irene Torres & Josh Piche wrote this song while the band was in New Orleans. There’s a magical mixture of musical styles all blended down in NOLA, and this song has some of that southern N’awlins jazz/blues vibe. The song was inspired by the many different ways you can get into trouble down south with sticky fingers. We recorded the song at Listen Hear Productions in New Orleans on an energy exchange basis, in fact the whole album was recorded for free. The band had been writing for a week or two prior to going into the studio and recording all the arrangements live on a zoom recorder instead of writing them down to save time. I put all the recordings on my external hard drive and the same week we were to go into the studio, we found a homeless dog on the street and took her in, she tripped the hard drive wire and the hard drive crashed, we lost all the recordings of arrangements and had to go into the studio cold with lyrics and go on memory. We ended up recording 3 songs in a day and a half and was very fortunate to bring in Chris Mason, who I had only met a couple days prior to the studio playing a gospel church service. Chris laid down some of the tastiest keys and organ after listening to the songs once or twice. The sax player on Sticky Fingers we had never met before the recording, the engineer was friends with him and he randomly came by the studio, heard the track and said, “you guys gotta let me try a take.” We did and he sounded fabulous, the hallway mic really made the sax sound vintage. This is one of our biggest hits of four debut EP.
It was fall, I had to crank out a photoshoot for my 3rd album, and the photographer really wanted to do the shoot at our local State Fair in Asheville NC. I hadn’t been to the state fair since I was at least 12 or 13 when the lights and endless rows of people all added to the excitement of paying to play on a big machine playground. Being in my late 20’s at the time however, the thrill was slightly fading. For some reason all I could think about the fair was; a lot of people, farm animals that smelled like poo, rides that gave you whiplash, corndogs, funnel cakes, deep fried snickers, butter, oreo’s, and every other unhealthy thing you could think of to deep fry all available for a nice chunk of change. I wasn’t sure if I was excited…or worried.
We arrived to the fair right before sunset. The photog’s girlfriend bought me a candy apple, and we began to snap shots in front of rides in motion. So far, so good. As the sun set, we decided to jump on the ferris wheel and snap just a few more shots to see what we came up with, despite the loss of light. As we rode the ferris wheel…all the fair’s lights began seem brighter and more enticing. I began to read some of the signs & examine the games for the little booths down below. They had booths where you could wager how many balloons you’d pop by throwing darts to win crappy stuffed animals, there were the rubber ducky lottery things, where you pick up a duck and hope it’s the right one to win a plastic cup…basically, all the classic state fair booths where you could try your hand at luck for a “small fee”. As I looked at the booths, and the people throwing their money into them, only to lose after they used their 3 turns up…I noticed that one of the booths was called “Shoot Out The Moon”, which instantly created all kinds of imagery in my mind. As we continued to go around in circles on the ferris wheel, I kept seeing that sign, “shoot out the moon” over and over again, and song line ideas began to creep into my mind. By the time the ride was over, I had the story for my song, Shoot Out The Starsclear in my head.
I saw a story in my mind of a hopeless romantic after a breakup, feeling tortured by other people in love everywhere they turned. To the point where they just wanted to shut out every romantic notion they could think of, in order to avoid feeling lonely. They would even pay money if they could, to shoot out the stars, ignore the moon, pretend it just wasn’t there for a while. Or at least until they felt better. The “Shoot Out The Moon” booth, along with the others, just seemed to have such a funny parallel with pessimists of love, or the aftermath of a broken heart. However, I should point out that when I was at that fair, I was still in a romantic relationship, so it wasn’t until about 6 months later when the relationship began to end, that I was able to make that idea in to a song with feeling.
Luckily, It eased the sting of that relationship ending because it brought a humor to mind in comparing it to just another state fair game booth. In a nutshell, that relationship was like those frivolous state fair game booths with their fun flashing lights… it looked like fun to the eye, but in reality it was focused around a trick of paying more for something than it was worth. Then when you’ve spent to much, you realize you’ve been had, and you remember not to be fooled again by such candy coated musings. And of course, if enough time passes, you always might just forget the lesson and do it all over again…but hey, C’est la vie! Best to enjoy the ride. You just might get a song out of it instead of whiplash every now and then.
Walking with Strangers is about the unwillingness to start fresh with anyone, give anyone new the benefit of the doubt. It’s about not trusting friends or acquaintances, to living forever lost in a crowd, and to decide this is the easy answer to a problem seemingly figured out.
I wanted the song to have a simple feel that would imply everything is fine, but also capture the stubbornness of a person set in their ways, or their decision. It explains a state of mind, at first with the attitude that “this is what I don’t want from you, and why if you ask anything of me, you won’t get what you want.” That message becomes a more honest reflection, “this is all I’ve ever gotten from people like you.”
By the bridge, the song opens up and all the tension is released. Whether this signifies anger, the true longing for companionship, a desire to change, etc, is really up to the listener. It’s a glimpse into what is truly felt behind the mask of calm. Rather than using words to explain it, the release is in the music.
When the energy begins to subside, you get the sense that nothing is going to change how this person feels, and the song comes full circle back into the facade of calm and solitude.
I wrote this about personal experience of finding it hard to let people in after metaphorically burning my hand on the stove too many times. It’s not meant to support the idea that people should be alone, but rather understand that nothing is really as simple as it seems. No one does anything for simple reasons, but are always led by fears and desires they can somewhat express, but not necessarily fully understand, and below the facade of what we tell ourselves, there is a very deep well of raw emotion. Walking With Strangers is about how some of us keep it all under a tight lid.