While I don’t remember everything along the way so clearly, I do remember a lot about 2001, which is really what this collection celebrates.
First I should note that, as of Christmas Break in 2000, The Robinsons wasn’t really supposed to be much of a project. We thought we might play a show each summer when Todd came home from school, but he was far away in Monroe, Louisiana, in his first year of college, and I was just focused on writing fun songs for us to play when he came home for breaks.
The first Robinsons show was in August 2000 right before Todd left for school. When he came home for Christmas and we called a practice, I taught them “She Likes the Beatles,” “Angela’s Song,” and “Pulling Strings.” We knew right away that we were onto something. By the end of Todd’s Christmas Break, we decided to book shows for Mardi Gras (an uptown flophouse without Terrell) and Spring Break (a three-day run that got us pretty tight right away).
During Spring Break, Todd told us he’d be transferring to UNO, so we were officially going be a real band. We immediately started booking shows for the summer and planned to record “Cool Down! Got It?” as soon as he got home in May.
Until 2001, I had only recorded on an analog four-track. By now, Allen had acquired video editing software that might not have been designed to record music, but it was way better than the analog options we had. By recording on his computer, we could finally record instruments separately and really arrange and spread out some vocals and harmonies.
In early-May we set everything up in a bedroom in the house Donna and I had on Imperial in Chalmette. Taking breaks to practice, play shows, and go to work, I think we did it all in about a week.
1. E (Cool Down)
Ever since we’d bought our house in January 2000, Donna and I often hosted “Stupid Scary Movie Nights.” We’d rent three or four horror movies from Blockbuster, everyone would bring food, and we’d have like 20 people in our living room. One of the movies we screened a couple of times was an indie film called Sleepy Hollow High. We thought it was hilarious. We had to rewind this scene like 10 times one night and decided it had to go on our new CD. We got in touch with the director, and he even gave us permission to use the clip. So we ended up using it for the CD title as well.
2. Pulling Strings
I don’t remember writing this one, but it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve written. I remember practicing it with the band and thinking it was the best song I’d written so far. The opening synth sound became sort of a trademark sound for the band and for my music. I still use it sometimes on Vista Blue stuff. It’s just a basic synth sound on a fairly cheap keyboard, with two octaves played together for a more complete sound. The original keyboard was a Christmas gift to me and Todd from our grandparents a couple of years earlier. After I lost it in Katrina, Donna found a similar brand that had the same exact sound bank. Synth sound #61 is the one.
3. Lucky One
Todd and I were in a band called Park Bench from 1998 until summer of 2000. One day in early 2000, Todd started playing the main melody of this song on the bass. I thought it was great, so I used it for this song. I got the chorus pretty easily (ripping off my favorite song, Weezer’s “Falling For You”) and the middle eight was fun, but I couldn’t get good verse lyrics. Park Bench played this song live at one of our last shows when we opened for MTX and the Groovie Ghoulies, but I have no idea what I sang for the verses. When The Robinsons decided to use it, I tossed it to Terrell to finish, and he wrote some fun verses for it, so it made more sense to let him sing lead on it.
4. She’s My Girlfriend
I wrote this one in the spring of 2000 after listening to the Cars all day. I thought the chorus had a Cars kind of feel. We didn’t use it on the first Robinsons demo cause that had more of an indie rock sound. It fits way better here.
5. Angela’s Song
A real favorite of our scary movie nights was the Sleepaway Camp series, especially parts 2 and 3, which starred Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s sister!) as Angela Baker, a psycopath who really only wanted kids to have a good camp experience. Her kills were the best, sometimes topping even Jason’s, and her one-liners were way better than Freddy’s. We had to write a song about her. We were obviously really into the Ramones during this time, and Terrell had to sing this one to make it sound a little more like Joey. Unfortunately, we could NOT get permission to use the sound clips in this track, so that has gotten it blocked on the internet at different times.
6. She Likes the Beatles
Another one that I just don’t remember writing, but I imagine I did it while riding around in my Jeep, which only had a cassette player. I can remember teaching everyone the arrangement, but I can’t remember anything about writing it. It’s held up and still works well when I throw it in my solo sets sometimes.
7. Suzie’s Got a Boyfriend
For this one, again, I wanted something like a Cars kind of chorus, where the band would chant something, and I’d answer it. So I just started with that chorus and those dumb lyrics and went backward from there. The lyrics are really weak, but the song is so much fun that it’s one of those times where people don’t even care about the lyrics. The immediate response to this song, both recorded and live, was one of the first times I felt like people were really “fans” of our music, as opposed to just friends and strangers being polite. What I thought could’ve been a throwaway turned out to be our most popular song throughout this year.
8. Blackmail Baby
I’m obviously trying to write something along the lines of Dr. Frank/MTX here. My first attempt was “Bill Gates” on the first Robinsons demo, and that one was pretty good, I think. On the other hand, I don’t know that I’ve ever played this one live. It never caught on like “Bill Gates” did. As I listen back, probably for the first time in 10 years, I guess I should’ve done something different with each chorus. And maybe I tried that and gave up. That being said, I like it now and am going to throw it on my setlist for my upcoming shows.
9. You Would Never Lie
That spring, it looked like we were going to put out “Cool Down! Got It?” right around the same exact time that our heroes, Weezer, returned from a five-year hiatus with the Green album. In fact, I remember handing out cassette tapes with our final mixes to some friends on the Green album’s release day. The point of this song was simply a prediction game to me. We knew the next Weezer album was NOT going to sound like Pinkerton. But what would it sound like? So one day I sat down and wrote a song where I tried to guess what Weezer’s next sound would be. (In hindsight, I was obviously pretty far off!) I didn’t even know if we’d definitely use this song, but the band liked it, so we used it to close out the album. Terrell and Todd doing the falsettos in the breakdown is really cool. We weren’t big fans of Anti-Flag, so we joked about our friend Ben being at their concert. We thought that kind of stuff was hilarious, although most people probably had no idea what we were even singing about.
That summer we played a lot of shows. In June, Todd’s first full month home, we played seven shows, including Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi. We started to sell a lot of copies of “Cool Down! Got It?” and it was getting good reviews.
We had sent a copy to our friend Wyatt Funderburk, who had just completed his first year of college in Nashville. Wyatt was going to be back at his house in Starkville for the fall semester before returning to Nashville in 2002 to launch his new project Second Saturday. He said if we could get to Starkville in the fall, he’d love to produce an EP for us.
So we arranged to go for a weekend in October. We stayed with Wyatt’s parents, ate Sonic and lots of cookies, and recorded the “Summer Fun” EP.
10. Fun Times
With “Angela’s Song,” “Pulling Strings,” and others, we were getting pretty good at the three-part harmonies in our choruses. So I wanted to keep that going here. I just gave it a bit of a Beach Boys narrative, and while most of my choruses to this point had been like two to four lines, I did the opposite here, using just the two words.
11. Rev It Up
I wrote this song in early 2000. It was the second song I wrote for the Robinsons, and it was originally recorded for our first demo. Park Bench was still playing when I wrote this one, but I knew I wanted my next band to sound like both the Ramones and something from the ’60s (in addition to Weezer, of course). This was just a simple song about a guy who was about to race. Wyatt wanted to try a new arrangement, and he did such a good job. This is still one of my favorite tracks I’ve recorded.
12. No School Tomorrow
In February 2001, the school where I worked had sort of a retreat day on a Thursday. Instead of going to classes, the kids sat around in small groups all day and guests came to speak and all. Along the way, the kids tried to convince the principal that they should not have school the next day. In an amazing turn of events, he got on the p.a. system at the end of the day, and canceled school for Friday. Teachers with tests scheduled were stunned. The kids went crazy. I looked at it all as the perfect song topic. Everyone remembers the feeling of being a student and not having to go to school in the morning. We threw in some Chalmette jokes for fun, and I had Terrell write a couple of the verses since he’d be singing it. Again he came through with some great lines. Wyatt playing guitar and doubling me on the keyboard is another of my favorite moments.
This one also appeared on the first Robinsons demo, which Todd and I recorded in my garage on my Tascam four-track in June 2000. The idea goes back to the fall of 1999. I was the assistant band director, and our school was playing a football game in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The town has a paper mill, and it STINKS. No matter where you go, it’s just bad. We tried to hold our breath for three hours. Mike Gulotta of Mike TV was in the band, and I mentioned to Mike that we should write a song about how terrible Bogalusa is. He told me it might be better if I go the other way and make it sound like a great place to be. He was right. I held onto the idea and then threw it together for the demo, basing the song mainly on the bass line I’d come up with. Again, Wyatt wanted to try a version with some better vocals, and he nailed this arrangement as well.
Note: We also recorded “Summer Girl” with Wyatt, but the files were lost.
We closed out 2001 with a bunch more live shows, and by December were starting to split our time between Chalmette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. The rest of the tracks on this CD are different versions of the songs we recorded in 2001 and/or are representative of the time period.
14. Angela’s Song (Horror Movie Society soundtrack, 2013)
In 2013 I had my first book published (in Australia). Inspired by our scary movie nights, the book is about a group of guys who watch movies and are killed throughout the night. Two of the characters are in a band, so I recorded a “soundtrack” for the book, as recorded by their band. There are four songs about horror movies, and then I added an acoustic version of “Angela’s Song” for the final track.
15. Bogalusa/Punk’s Not Dead/She Likes the Beatles (Howlin Wolf, 2002)
Howlin Wolf in March 2002 was our biggest NOLA show to date. We asked our Baton Rouge friends to try and drive down, and so many of them did it. We opened for two bigger NOLA bands, but we had the biggest and best crowd by far. They were chanting and singing along for the whole set. These recordings are rough, but you can hear how much fun it was.
16. I Want To Hold Your Hand (Songy’s, 2002)
This was Mardi Gras 2002, and it was another rare show where our Baton Rouge fans came out to support us somewhere else, this time actually in Chalmette. Park Bench had played a show here for about 20 relatives a couple of years earlier. This night was wild. This Beatles cover was recorded on a mini-tape recorder placed right next to Todd’s drums.
17. She’s My Girlfriend (Coach’s House, 2007)
This was the final Robinsons show before I moved to Nashville. Todd had moved to Nashville to start Second Saturday with Wyatt in 2002, and Terrell quit soon after that. I did Sally Stitches for a few years, but after Katrina, Allen and I played as The Robinsons again, with our friend Brian on drums. Our final show was in a New Orleans house that had been gutted but still not fully repaired since Katrina. This track shows that, through all the changes and different bands, we were still playing some of the songs from 2001 in our final set.
18. Pulling Strings (Coach’s House, 2007)
Again, this is from the same show. The first song from “Cool Down! Got It?” is one of the last we played. It sounds pretty different with the three-piece lineup, but the energy is there. Again, the recording is super rough.
Thanks for reading and for supporting us at any point along the way.