Ellery Twining is ahead of his time. He foresees a post-pop era before the genre is even defined, but here and now, RESULTS convinces you that a new aesthetic is the inevitable. Before, the post pop genre hasn’t had an artist who can truly define the genre, at least not until Twining entered the scene.

Twining has something very special to share with RESULTS. Following his acclaimed debut release, the sophomore album further pushes the experimentation of form and texture. To answer the question what post-pop is, you need to first listen to his album. The album sees a translucent form of childhood nostalgia combined with a cynical look at past generations in reflection with modernity, pop, and pop culture.

The influences of RESULTS, or more accurately, its rising aesthetic is also echoed throughout different forms of contemporary art. In literature, there’s a rising of non-linear storytelling and expressiveness, which focus on individual artistry and creativity and sees narratives bend the rules of genres. RESULTS share the same thread of individuality, liberation, and expressiveness. Twining’s non-fiction, personalized narrative is entered through a fluid-like deformation of pop and folk lyricism and carried out by the heart of a poet.

RESULTS in a way reminds you of glam rock, avant-garde, and punk, of which forms all share the confrontation and seeking of a more conclusive expression as new movements and changes are emerging across the globe. We are too at a change of time, and RESULTS articulates these lost and undefined feelings. Its form might still be viewed as edgy by many, but it’s well-supported by the change of narratives that are happening in the world. RESULTS doesn’t lack universal appeal. It’s more than ever resonating and needed to be heard.

Punk Head: I love how your experiments in post-pop soundscapes relate to socially aware themes. Can you tell us more about RESULTS and how this project came to be?

Ellery Twining: Thank you! When I was a kid starting out in my first rock band, I realized that the music of the Sixties, that was a thread of the influence on us at the time, could not be understood simply by listening. There had to be a story behind “For What it’s Worth?” I thought to myself. And when I started digging, I found out there was a story. The voluminous threads of the Sixties culture led to a re-examination of the music from the 1970’s, which I experienced on AM radio, in my mother’s VW Bug. Every layer revealed another layer, and I began to understand the dynamic of being truthful in music, versus being “successful”. Having said that, I was determined to sign to a record label as a signature of accomplishment during my Rock Band years, and I thought that would equate to success. I was wrong.

RESULTS is evidence that I learned to do both at the same time; the music, and the intent.

PH: Can you talk about any standout tracks on the album and what makes them special to you?

Twining: “CELLAR DOOR” is the best song I have written, I think. Much of that is what Eric Lichter brought to the table during the sessions at Dirt Floor. I only write songs about events in my life that have actually happened. No fiction. I knew all of these kids in the song. It has a certain healing element, but it is also a fingerprint.

PH: How do you stay inspired and motivated to continue pushing boundaries in your art?

Twining: It’s a responsibility, yes?

PH: Who are your biggest influences?

Twining: I read an interesting interview recently with Geddy Lee of Rush, and he was asked about influences on their music. His response was perfect-“Have so many influences no one can distill them.” Cocteau Twins absolutely changed my life. (I suppose I am breaking my own reveal)

PH: What advice would you give to other artists who want to explore experimental art forms?

Twining: The canvas is quite filled out. Find the empty space.


No stranger to the LT1KF blog, Ellery Twining is a household name around here and in many eclectic circles with an equally eclectic sound he’s developed in the realm of the Post-Pop genre (AKA “avant-garde,” “no wave,” and “ambient.”)

We covered two of his previously released singles, “The Day Jeff Buckley Died” and “Weatherall,” as well as the critically acclaimed album, “Revenge,” in which those tracks were featured on. Twining rolls that momentum into a mind-blowing new album titled, “Results.” Bandcamper alert! The album is out now on Bandcamp.

The best way I could describe Ellery Twinning’s soundscape is like “slam-poetry meets psychedelic easy listening.” His lyrical prowess is not preachy, or overtly literal. It is expressionist, poignant, and thought-provoking. It makes listening to his albums an audibly hypnotic experience from beginning to end.

He begins the album with a strong sentiment, the track “The Sixth of January.” His poetic musings do not shy away from the current landscapes of societal disarrays nor the correlations between them and his own personal reflections and memories.

In this particular album, he has described the work as “A contextual dissemination of the Generation X transformation into the Post Generation.” Further elaborating, he conveys that there are underlying themes of popular culture, childhood survival tactics, and the consequences of “socially acceptable divorce.” In fact, one of the original working titles of the album was at one time “The Divorce Kid.”


“This group of songs illustrates the experience of seeing through the eyes of Generation X kids during their childhood, and its reflection.”

A talented multi-instrumentalist, Twining wrote and performed all the instrumentation on the album, with the exception of Bass Guitar (credited to David Bentley). The production of the album was done by Eric Lichter of Dirt Floor Recording Studio. One thing that makes him particularly unique to the Post Pop genre is his affinity for traditional Pop structures, while at the very same time going out of his way to manipulate and circumvent them. But don’t take my word for it! Give the album a listen for yourself, because as Ellery Twinning himself would say, “the proof is in RESULTS.”


RESULTS is an experience that’s multifaceted, one that’s a storytelling journey told and explored through a multitude of mediums, both spoken word and alternative rock compositions that go hand in hand to deliver a sonic story that’s almost like a full blown path into lives of Generation X. Opening with the Sixth of January, it’s clear that Twining has a political undercurrent to his work that translates into his musicality. It’s far from the norm, both from a composition perspective and from a topical one. He thrives on the boundaries, as an artist with a vision for his music and for his purpose.

Songs like “DUSTY SPRINGFIELD RECORD COLLECTION”, which begin with this quaint acoustic jingling, slowly start derailing into the complete spoken word performance of Twining. The delivery is also far from constant or consistent, it thrives on its staccato approach. He paces himself exquisitely, leaving ample time between lines for each statement to sit with you, leave you anticipating more. A strange and bemusing spiel on vinyl revivals might not be what you could conceive from the opening chords, but that’s precisely what you get and are left fascinated by.

I remember being fascinated by my mother’s limited cache of makeup, hidden from my father on the utility bathroom of the second floor where I slept”. As opening lines go, ROUGE is about as pointed and captivating as they come by.

From back to front, there’s something rivetingly intriguing about RESULTS. Twining is an artist across facets, a poet, a storyteller, and a composer with intention to his performance. This isn’t a purely musical album, it’s a narrative piece served in byte sized pockets that are seemingly absurd and quirky but compelling throughout.


There is a certain suburban charm to RESULTS, Ellery Twining’s latest full-length studio release. It might be the lyrical intricacies, so detailed you can often see the stories as they unfurl in front of you, or it might be the skeletal-sounding mixes that often buzz with mundane textures, neatly arranged into nuanced mosaic-like scenes. Anyhow, RESULTS is a follow-up to a successful debut that shows that Ellery Twinings is a capable writer of songs with a vision that he meticulously executes.

On RESULTS, Ellery, a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from the city of Mystic, Connecticut, is taking the character of a generation X kid somewhere in American suburbia, sharing stories led by his character, his character’s brother, and their family and home lives. Charming and simple, Twinings’s peculiar songwriting is neatly aligned with his descriptive lyrics that can often sound bizarrely private, and told in an almost spoken fashion, there’s something adorably unnerving about the album’s storytelling techniques.

The lyrics don’t take the spotlight from the music though, even if it might be the heavier side of the balance of RESULTS. Most of the album’s compositions are intricate and non-linear, and the usage of barebones guitar, bass, and even drum sounds, a mystique is spun around most of the songs on RESULTS that make them easy to reminisce over, remembering our childhoods and stories from our own homes.

Among the album’s standouts are the outstanding starter ‘SIXTH OF JANUARY’. An apt introduction to the sound of the album’s, on a few steroids. The song introduces us to the jangly beats and Twinings distinctive performance style. With deep lyrical content about patriotism and national crisis, and an open sound to the bass and the sparkling guitars, ‘SIXTH OF JANUARY’ is a memorable, rich introduction, even if it is not as musically direct and accessible as most other offerings on the album. One more sublime offering is ‘DUSTY SPRINGFIELD’S RECORD COLLECTION’. Musical, groovy, and inviting, this cut retells parts of the story of the titular star’s life, one of the 60s most easily recognizable voices. The lyrics, which showcase the stark contrast between lifestyles now and then, are imaginative and confrontational. The open-ended music has a pull to it, thanks to the simplistic composition and mix.

‘DEAFENING’ is another stunner that sounds trippy with its phased guitars and reverb-laden atmospheres. More personal memories pouring from Twinings mouth, this time describes an incident of parental abuse, are almost surreal to listen to with such a dreamy backing. ‘S. B. BUTLER’ is a spacey affair that’s loaded with a throbbing, alien guitar texture, pit against some of the album’s most serene rhythm strums, creating a contrast that’s a total sensory pleasure. ‘WHAT’S GONNA SET YOU FREE’ is another acoustic stunner with a sloppy, sleepy groove and a post-pop sound that is straight out of the nineties. The unfamiliar chord voicings also play a major role in amplifying the alien, breezy sound on most of the album’s songs.

Talented at creating lush soundscapes, whether it be by word or by music, Ellery Twining successfully weaves together another endlessly special album of personal songs that all sound equally loved and calculated, with each showcasing a different lyrical approach that pours into the familiar pot of family drama. From throbbing guitars to wailing string arrangements, Twining shines musically just as much as lyrically, bringing forth one exceedingly crisp offering of post-pop.


Mystic, Connecticut-based folk artist, Ellery Twining, delivers their sophomore album, RESULTS. Ellery Twining is a political folk artist who released their debut album REVENGE on Bandcamp. Their latest album RESULTS, is an indie folk project centering around the political landscape of today. The album utilizes dreamy soundscapes and nostalgic vibes of 80’s art rock as Ellery narrates the project though spoken work vocals. Ellery Twining’s latest album, RESULTS, is an innovative art rock experience and the perfect addition to any indie playlist. Learn more about Ellery Twining on his official website and listen to songs from RESULTS below.


Defining his own path with a rather incredible 9-track release, Ellery Twining sat down with us a few days ago and let us know more about Results, the creative process, the best place to watch music in his local area, and the depth of the lyrical intent of this self-trained innovative artist who has made something rather special here.

Llewelyn: Thanks so much for taking time out from your busy day of making such inspiring music to chat with us Ellery. Firstly, who are you inspired by each day and what makes you happy in life?

Ellery: My goal in this life was not to make the same mistakes my father had made. To not repeat the same patterns. And to break a bloodline. As a musician, I simply wanted to give back the moments that had shaped me, a reciprocal reality. I had an argument with my mother about ten years ago, during the Obama years, and she chastised me for being ignorant of the immigration issue in America, having lived in “lily white Mystic” my whole life. As a method of protection, I changed the subject. I then realized I had been paid to play music in 23 of the 50 States.

Llewelyn: Secondly, please tell us all about your new 9-track release, RESULTS. This is something rather unique and powerful. Lyrical awareness of the world seems to be your strength. What does this new project mean to you and what is the vision behind it?

Ellery: I created specific parameters for my debut REVENGE, because I simply wanted to be able to finish it! As I began working on songs after I released that record, I found myself writing ideas that seemed to be a sequel to REVENGE, and an electric guitar-based record I referred to as “Prism Point”, a working title. However, a few months into the process I became bored with the new acoustic songs, and I said to myself, “Why do you want to make REVENGE again?” I then began to find a common thread between the two records, acoustic songs that worked alongside certain electric tunes. That is the composition of RESULTS.

Llewelyn: I went to Connecticut years ago during a trip as a camp counsellor. It’s so beautiful there with so many trees and much calmness. Is this where you grew up and have lived your whole life? What makes it special for you?

Ellery: I have lived in Mystic, CT for my entire life. There is a psychic vortex that runs beneath the river. And I can prove its existence. For real.

Llewelyn: With no traditional singing training, do you feel like it actually helped you naturally or hindered you at all? Also, your sound has such a unique construction, how has this developed over time?

Ellery: Having been a member of many rock ensembles as a drummer, one soon learns the limitations placed on your creativity. As a result of this insight, I began writing and publishing poetry during the summer of 1988. In Mystic, during the 1990s, there was a robust poetry / spoken word element to the culture in town at the time. Hozomeen Press was the quintessential indie publishing house of that era, printing quarterly magazines as well as a full roster of poets from the Mystic scene. In addition, there was an incredibly competitive weekly poetry reading in the basement bar of a Mystic restaurant that dated to 1789. The atmosphere was electric, and that is where I honed my skills as a spoken word performer. When I began to apply that experience to the songs I was writing, as a drummer it was fairly easy to create a rhythm inside the melody, within the syntax of the words.

Llewelyn: If you could be the President of the USA for 4 years, what would you hope to accomplish and stand for? We seem to live in a rather odd world. Do you think humanity can get back to a more relaxed state with fewer wars and conflicts?

Ellery: There seems to be an interesting timeline between the immediate effects of climate change, (as well as a myriad of other problems) and the possibility of answering our most pressing energy and economic issues with the realization of fusion technology.

Llewelyn: Has there been anyone in your life who’s helped you get to where you are now? Also, have you had any interactions with a fan, friend or family member where you’ve realized…this is who I make music for.

Ellery: My wife Michelle is the only reason I am able to be Ellery Twining. During the pandemic, I approached the members of my very first band 17 Relics about releasing our last record which never saw the light of day. None of us were happy with the recording, which is why it had remained unreleased for 28 years. I even suggested that we re-record the songs as a caveat, to no avail. The same disagreements that brought the band to a halt still existed. I sent a text to the Relics bass player David Bentley, who also plays all of the bass on the Ellery Twining recordings, that I had a realization. As good as the songs were, as competent musicians navigating a difficult business, the only reason we had any success was because my parents let us use their basement as a practice space for free. And that David’s parents gave us full access to the equipment of their engineering firm-~ professional copiers we made our press kits on with no charge, and the company van to get to our earliest out-of-town gigs. I have always been committed to making music to give back to the community that liberated me as a teenager. I see it as a responsibility.

Llewelyn: Lastly, where do you see yourself creatively in the next 5 years and is there anywhere you’d love to tour in the world?

Ellery: One lesson I learned (amongst many) during the pandemic was:

How long is an hour?

How long is a day?

How long is a year?

How much can you accomplish in an hour?

A day.

A year….

I was at the Coney Island NY Daft Punk show in 2007, and as such, I do not yearn for places I have never been.


Ellery Twining, following the success of his highly acclaimed solo debut “Revenge,” delves deep into the realms of Post Pop with his latest album, “Results.” This collection of songs takes listeners on a journey through the eyes of Generation X kids, providing an introspective reflection on their childhood experiences. Twining’s ambition to break free from the traditional Pop/Rock format is realized as he explores the possibilities of soundscapes and crafts a concept revolving around the universal conception of ABACAB.

In “Results,” Twining demonstrates his mastery in merging musical innovation with thought-provoking lyricism. The underlying themes of popular culture, childhood survival tactics, and the consequences of Socially Acceptable Divorce are presented from a unique perspective, offering a fresh and enlightening point of view. The album’s original title, “Divorce Kid,” hints at the introspective nature of the record, inviting listeners to delve into the complex emotions and experiences of Twining’s own journey.

While certain songs on “Results” may share some elements with the time-honored structure of Pop, Twining reinvents the genre, pushing its boundaries and delivering a truly captivating experience. The album features a total of nine unique songs, each showcasing Twining’s diverse musical themes and styles. His unconventional musical choices and unique wordplay create a distinct and engaging sound that resonates deeply with his audience.

“Results” is a testament to Twining’s ability to merge innovation and relatability. Through his evocative storytelling and exceptional musicality, he invites listeners to explore the uncharted territories of Post Pop. With this album, Twining proves that he is not afraid to take risks and carve out his own path in the music industry. “Results” is a must-listen for anyone seeking a fresh and immersive musical experience.


Ellery Twining, the alter ego of musician Rich Freitas, unveils his latest full-length record, RESULTS, following the success of his critically acclaimed solo debut single, “REVENGE.” Hailing from Mystic in Connecticut, Twining has spent almost two decades honing his drumming skills with various bands, all while patiently developing his own solo musical style.

RESULTS takes listeners on an exploration of post pop soundscapes, delving into the perspective of Generation X kids during their childhood and its subsequent reflection. Twining ventures outside the confines of traditional commercial music formats, crafting songs that revolve around the universal conception of ABACAB, presenting a unique musical realisation. In this album, the lyrics take centre stage, becoming the driving force behind the storytelling. Themes of popular culture, childhood survival tactics and the consequences of Socially Acceptable Divorce weave their way through the album, offering a thought-provoking and distinctive point of view. Twining even contemplated titling the record ‘Divorce Kid,’ emphasising the personal and introspective nature of the songs.

While some tracks on RESULTS share commonalities with the time-honoured structure of pop, Twining reinvents this structure, resulting in a refreshing and innovative sound. He takes complete ownership of the record, playing all the instruments, writing the songs and lyrics and participating in the production alongside Eric Lichter of Dirt Floor Recording Studio. The bass guitar, however, is exclusively executed by David Bentley.

With RESULTS, Ellery Twining presents a highly original alternative folk journey across nine songs. The album opens with the haunting piano tones and spoken-word vocals of “SIXTH OF JANUARY,” gradually building up with acoustic guitar, bass and subtle percussion as it recounts the infamous events of an attempted political coup. “THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE” follows, exuding a more upbeat vibe with shimmering guitar chords, grooving rhythm and narrative lyricism.

“ROGUE” offers a mellow indie folk backdrop to Twining’s trademark spoken vocal delivery, creating an intimate atmosphere. “ELECTRIC BOAT” takes on a gently melancholic tone, characterised by bright acoustic guitar strums and delicate string flourishes that intertwine seamlessly. The album culminates with “CELLAR DOOR,” a beautiful and elegant progressive folk track that brings the enthralling sonic journey to a close. It features a laid-back snapping beat, acoustic arrangement and evocative lyrics that paint a vivid picture. RESULTS showcases Twining’s talents as a singer-songwriter with a unique creative vision, resulting in an enjoyable and intimate listening experience.

Ellery Twining’s RESULTS is a stunning exploration of modern folk, demonstrating the artistry and depth of a truly talented musician. With his intricate storytelling, innovative compositions and captivating vocals, Twining proves himself as an artist worth paying attention to. This album is a testament to his creative vision and ability to craft an intimate and immersive musical experience for his audience.



If Sonic Youth prolonged Kim Gordon’s spoken word verse in Kool Thing and played with post-pop and post-punk sensibilities, the result would be as coldly electrifying as the standout single, WHAT’S GONNA SET YOU FREE from Ellery Twining’s 2023 LP, RESULTS.

With a Joy Division-esque atmosphere ringing in the background of the stellar production by Eric Lichter of Dirt Floor Recording Studio, all the right motifs are in place to bring a tonal sense of familiarity, while Ellery uses his distinctively exasperated devil-may-care vocal energy to set the listener free from sonic monotony.

The soundscapes were compiled to reflect the childhood and coming-of-age experiences of Gen X kids, with themes of popular culture, childhood survival tactics and the ramifications of living in an era when divorce became socially acceptable at its core. Forget the Coupland novel, for nostalgically vindicating resonance, delve right into RESULTS.



Mystic River Park

Join us for this special presentation on the unique history, arts, and culture of Mystic during the 1990s at Mystic River Park featuring the local artists, writers, and musicians who were there: Matthew Tarbox, Arden Levine, Michelle Gemma, Stephen Chupaska, and djshecky.

Matthew Tarbox, co-editor of Hozomeen Press, will present. Hozomeen Press published over 30 magazines and poetry chapbooks throughout the 1990s in Mystic. He will show the audience the Mason’s Stoup process, and how the originals were also used as promotional material.

Arden Levine, poet, author, literary editor and urban planner. Originally from Washington, DC and now living and working in New York City, she was saturated in Mystic and New London culture during her years as a Connecticut College student. She will be reading new work, including poems from her recent collection Ladies’ Abecedary (Harbor Editions, 2021), and discussing how the various art forms of female identity-assertion in the 1990s (from pop music to photography to politics) influence her approach to writing in the current moment.

Michelle Gemma, owner of Mystic Army Navy in Downtown Mystic. She became a fine art photographer and contributed to the iconic Mason’s Stoup and the Root of Twinkle, as well as being a founding member of Greenman Collective, where she housed her darkroom throughout the 1990s. She will discuss the impact of the Root of Twinkle on the Mystic art scene, and read from her forthcoming photography book, and show her most recent artistic creation: WEATHERALL- a music video which highlights the dance culture in Mystic in the 1990s.

Stephen Chupaska, writer, reporter, and producer. A member of The Day reporting staff from 2004 to 2011 and a former radio host, Stephen covered arts, culture, and politics in Southeastern Connecticut and San Diego, CA after growing up in the New London and Mystic music scene in the 1990s, including spending hours in front of the bins at Mystic Disc. Now a resident of New York City working as a communications professional, Stephen has developed and performed live storytelling (featured on Netflix and NPR) exploring the humor of ‘90s young adulthood.

djshecky, one of the house DJs at the famed Mystic dancehall “Mars Hall”, which is featured tonight in the “Weatherall” video production helmed by Michelle Gemma. He hosted a weekly radio show “Radio Post” on WCNI from 1990-1996, honing his layered style of mixing up to six sources into one cohesive mix. In addition, he has produced demo recordings for local bands at his Centraal Studio since 1997, spanning hip-hop, electronica, art rock, and indie rock bands from Mystic.

This event is free and open to the public.
Thursday Sep 29, 2022
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Michelle Gemma 860-536-1877
Mystic River Park


they arrived, with pitchforks at the ready, to change the vote.

the corporals and captains had an attack planned out.

the floorplan of congress was in our public domain, security forces

had become one and the same-  a single moment defined the state of the nation.

an evident display of tribalism amongst a misappropriation of flags,

draped over the Capitol steps-  A Confederacy in Process.

their rally preceding insurrection would expose this selfish process,

as if there were no other method to counteract an actual vote.

the assembled crowd who volunteered to be in The District could flag

their inherent abhorrence toward an hidden agenda that they would spell out.

as if this call to arms would create a new nation

of their own making, utilizing their most vicious forces.

citizens of our Televised Nation  experienced  society in absolute time, the forces

of the tribe gathered had stormed the steps, their process

exhorted over bullhorns to a crowd expecting direction toward  a re-born nation.

multitudes of volunteers worked to secure the vote,

people who poured over information, and disinformation to out

an heist of objective political reality, each represented by brandished  flag.

it was an aggrieved display, and  desecration of the flag

would be rendered as treasonous sedition. the boat parade that forces

the vessels upon our river evacuated;  instructed to stay out.

a distinct attempt at security while the process

of their gathering threatened to call in to question the vote.

each citizen would need to declare their confirmation of the nation.

confrontation within the myth of the American nation

has always existed, in some form. when people flag

grievances, the irregularity of equality;  we are told to vote

despite the evidence of corruption, which  forces

a re-examination of the entire process,

wherein the point of completion leaves no one out.

as it’s initial momentum, stunted by Capitol Police faded out,

an assassination plot never materialized in the Nations

Capitol. The Peoples House; a building that affords the process

of the improbable to be occasionally attainable, where intruders would flag

The Capitol with propaganda, and untruth, in an attempt to force

A Cancellation of America. as if all citizens might forget the power of the vote.

surrounded by symbols of the nation- the staffed flag

and the wooden gavel, congressional members would return that night, to force

a delineation-  one person, one vote.

the New World

which America?

will you ever read this?

which America?

will you even read this?


we have seen the darkest side of freedom

flags on staffs wielded as weapons

the misinterpretation of Gadsden

the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia

co-opted by a misinformed majority

a context to perpetuate points of view

that could be only be described as expiring.


who do you want to be, America?

what is American Exceptionalism?

is it a Department of Defense masquerading as a

unique entity, a projection of strength,

which actually  exists as a social works program.

( shhhh, don’t tell anyone….” )

how does your Socialism feel?


we have seen the Pettus Bridge

we have persevered beyond Mississippi,

when it was burning.

hearing fifteen year old girls in Arkansas

casually drop the N Word in private

to musicians from the North

who were making money in the South,

led us to leave town, and drive to the next gig

in Georgia.


we have seen America.

we have seen the darkest side of freedom.


it is a bomb perpetuated in Oklahoma City

it is a cult siege in Waco

it is a White Bronco heading slowly

down the freeway,

while helicopters hover in place.

we have seen Ferguson and Minneapolis,

Breonna Taylor’s killers

still walk among us.


we have seen America

lay waste to the thatch huts,

to the Baghdad  neighborhoods,

as clearly as we have seen

the tank brigades in the hedgerows

and landing craft on the beachhead.


we have seen the protests-

to dismantle Wall Street

to defund the Police

to dismantle The State


where is the future we all subscribe to?


it is

American Exceptionalism.



Exceptionalism requires a definition of Quality,

and Maintenance.



without maintenance, quality ceases to exist.

without maintenance, quality ceases to exist.

without maintenance, quality ceases to exist.


(thematic inspiration from Robert Pirsig)











1 June ~ 7 June 2020

my birthday this year was monday, 1 June. that day, Trump called for the security forces to “dominate the streets.” defense secretery Esper called for security forces to “dominate the battlespace.”

gas, meet fire. the images pouring out of the streets were far too succinct to leave in yesterdays newspaper.

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Twenty One

I wake up on Friday morning and send the new single over our Dropbox account to the mastering lab in Brooklyn. After checking our email, I notice a bunch of shows I’ve been working on the past few weeks are starting to come together. I immediately send out a group email blast:

Hey everyone- hope yesterday in the studio was as fun for you as it was for me. and the record is excellent, you should all be quite proud. A bunch of show stuff updates:
Dates we need an immediate confirmation on-

6 March Thursday
This is a live appearance on WRIU radio, in Kingston at URI. It’s a long running show and it will be good for us to play there, in addition there will be a short interview segment.

25 February Tuesday
Same type of thing as WRIU, but this is at MIT radio / WMBR. They have a decades long in-studio show. Check out their website, I think you’ll recognize some of the bands that have played there over the years.

2 March Sunday Hartford / Nutmeg New Music Festival
This is a good thing for us, the three day fest showcases the best bands in Connecticut right now. Sycamore Tree Productions is behind it and those folks have been doing shows since when Thames were together. It could our biggest in state gig yet.
Dates we already have confirmed:

5 February Wednesday BRICKS New Haven this is with Snow Falcon, a national headliner.

21 February Friday
at the Well w/ Blow Up and Scare Tactic

21 March Friday
Live on radio at WHUS UConn Storrs
Ferry from Gezellig got in touch; they are running the interview in their March issue
Please get back to me as soon as you see this

The first response is a text from Ian.

“Hey man- I thought I told you I was going to Florida with my family from the 5th of February until the following Wednesday the 12th”
“So you can’t do the BRICKS gig?”
“No, I’ll be away.”
“Godammit Ian, there is no fucking way you told me about this beforehand. I would have written it down in my datebook, like every other important piece of information that I come across.”
“Hey man, take it easy. I’m going to Florida. That’s the deal.”
“What?!?!?! I told you that the band has to take precedence over fucking vacations!”
“I can’t make it. Ask Brent, maybe he can do it.”
“Oh, now I need your advice on how to move forward?”
“This conversation is over.”

Fuck this shit, I thought to myself. Well, the worst case scenario is we have to find yet another bass player; and that hasn’t stopped us yet. I text Brent about doing the BRICKS show.

“Oh yeah, man. New Haven is easy for me. What’s up with Ian though, kind of last minute?”
“I think he’s a bit like Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now, when Willard does a voice over about him on the river. “The wide open spaces really messed him up”
“Hahahaha, been there…”
“I tried to tell him what he was in for, I suppose he didn’t believe me.”
“Well, you’ll find out soon enough.”
“Thanks for covering”

Depressed by the turn of events, I check the band Facebook page to see if there is any action from the studio posts. A few likes, a few shares. I skip over to Jocelyn’s page:

“Best recording session EVER!”

Suddenly, everything seems fine within the world of Piercing.

Brent is able to sneak in a two hour practice with us around a fortunate family trip home. Saturday night, at Centraal, we have a scintillating rehearsal with him; it was more of a music session than a practice. The entire time however, I kept thinking our real bassist was ten miles away. The BRICKS show with Snow Falcon would be postponed due to snow, during this endless winter. The rescheduled date is Wednesday the 12th of March. I felt that this was interesting turn of events, where we could gauge what the Nutmeg Fest would actually mean on our out of town draw. If we play up to our capabilities in Hartford, it should translate to New Haven. That was my hope, that these shows would reveal whether the long term plan was working. Earcandy reviews could only take you so far. And we would have Ian with us for the important Hartford and
New Haven shows.

On the night of the postponed show, Jeremy calls me, inquiring about the cover design for the new single.

“Have you talked to Anne about the cover?”
“Yeah, she scheduled Joss for this coming Sunday. They’re going to shoot here at the house, taking the fabric between trees concept as the basic idea.”
“So, Joss is going to just stand in front of some fabric stretched between trees?”
“Well, sort of. But we let Anne do her own work. We don’t ask people who work with us to acquiesce to our every demand. We have a framework, and we go from there.”
“That’s not what fucking happened on the Tabitha video.”
“Good point. But that moment was a sea change. That’s where Joss really understood what it would take to shape our image. After we fought about it, I was behind it totally.”
“I don’t know if that was the right decision.”
“What? Giving Joss free reign?”
“Yeah, you can’t be one thing, then another, then another”
“I know, I know, totality of image. But we had no idea all of this was going to happen. I thought we’d play three gigs in New London and Adrian would move to Brooklyn and that would be it.”
“So that’s why you went from black and white to color?”
“Yes. Yes. Jocelyn makes these decisions, not me. I just send out the emails and the texts. And book the photographer.”
“Well, I’m going to want to proof the shoot before we release this single.”
“Of course; when have I released a single without everyone in the band in agreement? Really? Come on man.”
“Ok then, let’s schedule a session to proof the cover art next Monday. Do you think that will give Anne enough time to make the images available for us to proof?”
“That sounds great. Monday the tenth; I’ll text everyone about it now.”

Jocelyn arrives fifteen minutes late for the cover shoot on Sunday. It’s just as well as I struggle to get the fire going in our outdoor fire pit; it’s 22 degrees and snow covers everything as far as the eye can see.. Anne and I took a trip to upstate New York to visit her sister the previous weekend, and this winter was the first time our entire trip was defined by white snow cover, from Mystic to Buffalo. I would burn two years of fallen limbs from our trees over the course of the photo shoot. Fortunately, there is no presence of wind.

”Hey Joss, how are you doing? offers Anne as she clears the threshold of the Centraal door.
“Ok, I guess. I can’t believe how cold it is; it feels so much colder than 21 degrees.”
“I saw 22 degrees a few minutes ago…” trying to add levity to the situation. They both look at me with heads askew, and frowns.
“Not funny” replies Anne.
“Hey, hey, hey, I’ll be out there, tending the fire.”
“Yeah, Joss, we set up the fire pit so if it gets really unbearable, you can scoot over to the pit. But we’ll take quick shots and warm up inside as much as you need.”
“The fire smells tremendous. Especially with no wind; it’s lingering in the air.” offers Jocelyn
“Point of completion, and all that, all that.” I whisper this as if to imply the secret cannot be revealed.

Jocelyn is a pro. She goes from shivering next to the fire, to a bench covered in a gold tapestry; in front of a burgundy fabric stretched between a pair of trees, looking relaxed and elegant. She and Anne repeat variations of this idea for the next two hours. I tend the fire when they take a respite from the cold inside Centraal; in an attempt to be unobtrusive, mostly because I rarely assist Anne on her shoots. It’s Piercing’s cover, but we have to trust the artist. I rearrange the embers at the base of the fire, add a few more logs, and give the two of them beaks as they make their way back to the staged area. The sun is starting to fade in the western sky, above the river valley.

Todd has picked up Jocelyn and driven her to our cover meeting at Centraal, right on time; 7pm.

“Hey man, how are you?” I ask Todd upon his entry.
“Good man, good. Having the whole school thing behind me is such a relief. Now, I just need to get a job, ya know what I mean?”
“You’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.”

I contain a giggle when he tells me that. My inner conceit conceded to thoughts of tours and recording projects; not of jobs to justify getting a college degree. We were on the precipice, and I could recognize its inherent presence. It was 1992 all over again. That concept created one lingering thought that declared it’s assertion to be addressed: this couldn’t be the repetition of the same cycle, could it? Jocelyn was far different than Thomas. Todd and Jeremy were young equals to Steven’s prowess on guitar, and as songwriters. Brent was routinely bailing us out, but Ian was in essence the reincarnated version of the young twenties Brent. And it was Twining on the drums. In both cases. This time, it had to work.

I get a text from Malthus

Hey man just checking in. are we still on for tonite?
Yeah, as far as I know.
ok, cool. see you in a few

“Hey Malthus, how are you?” Joss offers as Malthus steps into Centraal.
“Good, good. I love the new single. Wait, no…. I Love the new single; both songs.”
“Hey man, good to see you, thanks!” Todd reaches out and exchanges beaks with Malthus. Joss and I do the same.
“No Jeremy yet?” asks Malthus
“He asked both of us for a ride, but I can’t drive him back to Niantic at 10pm, and then back here.” explains Todd, with a hint of resignation.
“Neither can I. He offered gas money but I didn’t even get out of work until a half hour ago. I wish he would just get his driver’s license and be done with it.”
“Wait, Jeremy can’t drive a car?” says Malthus, as if he found out that Jeremy also didn’t drink water.
“Nope. He was going to be a city boy. ‘I don’t need to learn how to drive when I know the subway like the back of my hand.’ He would always show you the back of his hand after saying that as well. I expected a tattoo of the subway each time, but that never happened.“ Todd replies without mincing his words.
“There is no train service in Niantic…” I offer in a low drawl.
“Nope.” Jocelyn had the final definitive statement.
“So, is he going to make it?” asks Malthus with a hint of reservation. You could sense that he did not want to get wrapped up in the scheduling conflicts of Piercing.
“I doubt it. We should just proof what we have, and hope he agrees with the concept and the imagery.” I reply, trying to sound as forward thinking as possible, while containing my antipathy for Jeremy’s travel situation. Jimmy Fiero to the psychic rescue.

“Ok, cool. Let’s see what we’ve got.”

The bulk of the photographs don’t seem to capture the spirit of the single. As we scroll through the hundred shots Anne took of Joss in the backyard, nothing is grabbing any of us as The Image.

“See this one here…” opines Malthus “Let me try something here with the mirror image.”

It’s a shot from behind Jocelyn, as she is adjusting lip stick in a hand held mirror.

“Now, let’s get rid of anything in the background” states Malthus
He deftly moves his fingers around the keyboard, cutting and editing with minimal usage of the mouse under his right fingers. It’s a complete white slate, with only Jocelyn’s long, flowing hair- the hand held mirror containing her face; judiciously adding red to her lips. It was a trance like take on any snow bound heroine. I immediately felt this was the image.

One particular detail I had yet to address once Ian joined the band was to get a new group photo. Tabitha had captured some fantastic stills from the “Decisive” video that I had used to promote that single. The entire cycle before Adrian moved to Portland I was stuck using six video stills of Jocelyn, Todd, and Adrian- two shots of each- as the sole imagery for the second single and video. One of Jocelyn’s haunting spots during her Boston days was the Boston Public Library. She wanted us to go to the Library for the new PR photo shoot.

why don’t we take a road trip up there with the new lineup for the next band shoot?
sure. let me start putting it together

But it wasn’t that easy to find a night where everyone could commit seven hours to a photoshoot. We needed a similar location within a much shorter distance. I started to reminisce about all of the band shots I had done over the past twenty nine years: Surface of Ceres, who were an early believer in possibilities of digital rock, posing around an old 1960’s living room organ. Bold Schwa had an incredible shoot with liquid lights projected over the band against a centuries old brick wall. The last Thames shoot, which took place on Sergio Franchi Drive in Stonington- in homage to the singer who lived in town and coincidentally recorded all of his late period music with Russell Johnson, who recorded the vintage Thames. As my mind wandered over this photo book of memory, I recalled an earlier Thames shoot, at the Stonington Free Library. Thames were photographed that day by Jan Van Derveen, a Dutch exchange student who we met thru friends at UConn during that time. He had us pose outside the library, using it’s embodiment as the backdrop while we ensconced ourselves on a rail bench near the entrance. Those shots helped propel Thames from being a local band to having a regional audience. And the interior of the library was far more impressive than the façade. The Piercing shoot should be inside the Stonington library- much easier to access than Boston’s equivalent.

The day after the botched cover proof for the new single I head over to the Stonington Library. After parking the van on an icy slope, I walk towards the front door, and realize I could take a fair amount of interesting photos outside of the library for the Piercing Instagram account. After six months with the cell phone, I have finally figured out how to turn Jeremy’s social media edict into a tangible reality-

“You are letting the audience peek behind the curtain.”

I often thought that was the most salient description of the new media and its effect on music; bands like ours who had opportunities undreamt of in the Thames time. After capturing some fairly interesting reflections on the massive library windows, I headed toward the front door, with its wrought iron detail prominently glowing in the late afternoon sun.

“Can we help you?” asks the shorter of the two librarians behind the desk.
“Hi, my name is Ellery Twining. I manage a band called Piercing from Mystic.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of you guys. Calvin Truffant from The Day is a friend of mine, he told me all about you. I even watched that interview he did with you guys at that music festival in New London.”
“Yes. That is us, I mean, me. Anyway, we’re looking to do a group photo here in the library, do you think that would be an issue?”
“Well… Not really. Can you schedule it for a Thursday? It’s the one night we’re here until 8pm, and with this awful weather, I’m sure you won’t be disturbing any patrons.”
“Thank you for the offer. Do you have an email address? I’ll totally confirm the shoot with the band and the photographer and then let you know.”
“Here, take our card. Everything is printed on it.”
“Do you mind if I take some photos right now, for framing ideas?”
“No, not at all. Take your time.”

I proceed up the white marble stairs adorned with a deep black wrought iron rail, and arrive at the glass brick floor above the reception area. The fluorescent light being diffused through the wired glass becomes my sole focus, and I snap off ten photos. I immediately send them to Jocelyn with the tagline

I think I found it
omg, yes! I should have thought of that my brother and I used to go to a day care there after my parent’s divorce twice a week

I am brought out of slumber by the sound of the ever present snow plow working its way up our street.

“SHHHHITTTTT!” I bark out loud, to no one

I clear the security number on my phone and pull up the Stonington Free Library Facebook page:

The library will be closed today due to the impending storm. Check here Friday morning for updates on library availability. Thanks SFL

Their time stamp is 6AM. Cursing this winter, I email the band about our cancelled photo shoot. I attach the cover art to Jeremy’s email.

“Hey it’s me, pick up….”
“Hello jeremy.”
“Hey man, how’s it going?”
“Good, other than another Piercing cancellation.”
“It’s a good idea, we’ll pull it off. And we don’t have to go to Boston and back.”
“Too true.”
“I really like the Malthus edits. I think we can go with that for the cover art.”
“Cool. I’m going to use the outtakes for headers and avatars around the new single. Once we get the new band shot I’ll move towards that. Hopefully, right as the single begins to get some traction.”
“Sounds good. I gotta head in to work, but I wanted to get hold of you before.”
“Cool, thanks man. And remember: we’re sitting on a massive single.”
“I hope so. I feel very good about it.”

I spend eight hours that Sunday cropping photos and uploading the images across our varied internet presence. Jeremy liked to preach that we were in a position to let the audience peek behind the curtain, and I didn’t want to look like we took the easy way out and used the same image on every site. Our new plan was to release the single on our own website on Tuesday the eighteenth; let it sit for a few days, and then Thursday night, send out the first wave to blogs in hopes of the perfect review. Seeing as we had a full band practice that Tuesday night, I could let everyone voice their opinion on the photo edits and placement. If there were any issues, I would have two days to adjust. And then we would really find out where we stood; if the single was “massive” or not.

We have an exceptional practice heading into the Friday night gig at the Well with Scare Tactic and Blow Up, and there are no reservations about the new cover art. I work a half day at the Palace, and at 2pm, Benno comes in so I can begin the PR campaign for “Walking the Psychic Vortex b/w Cupid’s Pulse”. The organization from Sunday’s photo edits, and the general routine of pushing the band over the past year and a half makes the PR effort smooth. By 8pm that evening I have sent the single to each and every outlet I can reach; the west coast addresses being the last to go out. I head upstairs to grab another beer, when I hear a shriek from the Centraal level of the house; rushing back down the rickety Dr. Suess like stairs to the basement level, I find Anne somewhat violently crossing off long lines in a ledger book that has been her
constant companion for the past three months.

“Hey, what’s up, are you okay?”
“Yes. YES!!! I just finished all of the paperwork for my father’s estate!”
“Hey, hey! Congrats babe! You have been working so hard on that, for months. It must be a relief.”
“It is, it is…..” she let out a slight sigh, and a tear fell. Anne was quite close to her father, in a way I always slightly envious of; having zero relationship with my own father.
“Hey, hey, he’d be proud of how you handled everything. You know that, right?”
“He trusted you more than anyone else. And you did it.”
“I submitted the single to all of the outlets. Just finished the west coast. Interesting intersection, eh?”
“ Ha ha ha, yeah; a Mystic thing. Congrats. And now, we wait?”
“And now we wait.”

. . .

I wake up out of a restless sleep at 8pm, when Anne closes the door to head into work. I down an Emergen-C, as I do after brushing my teeth every morning. I grab two bags of Darjeeling tea, and hit the 3 minute button on the microwave. At exactly 8.17 am, I open up the Piercing email. There is a Twitter account notification, from Earcandy.

New Piercing single “Walking the Psychic Vortex b/w Cupid’s Pulse” premiere today

It had taken me weeks to navigate the initial Earcandy interview. I cajoled them for three weeks to run our follow up single, and video by Tabitha Williams. The third single was online in fourteen hours. I had a long day ahead of me. Fortunately, Benno didn’t mind at all if I had to run PR for the band at the Palace.

“Why the hell do you think I’ve been working so hard all these years; one of you goddamn kids has got to make it!”

As I am furiously spreading the Earcandy link around our network, I catch Jocelyn heading into the coffeshop out of the corner of my eye. I load up the review on my phone, and wait for her to exit.

“Hey,kid, C’mere!”
“Hey, what’s up?”

I show her the screen; one of Anne’s recent photos of her is the main illustration. The look in her eyes in the photo illustrates that she belongs. Jocelyn replies with a squelched squeal, and the tightening of her fists at the side of her face. No words. She skips across the melting ice of the parking lot between the store she works at and the Palace. I think to myself, ‘That was not the reaction I was hoping for’. Was it all becoming routine? After a break for lunch, I email the rest of the band, and that’s when the day takes a dramatic turn for the better. The inbox is full of gig requests. Six shows in total; two confirmations on in-studio radio gigs in Boston and at UConn, as well as two NYC shows, a Hartford show, and another gig at BRICKS in New Haven. But this was the first time four of the gig offers came from a mid-level booking agency in Brooklyn, and the Hartford and New Haven clubs themselves. Tart! Tart! , one of the premier NYC promoters is the next level we have been working so hard to attract the attention of, and on this day, it seems as if it is all going to work out according to plan.

My facebook chat box opens up; it’s Tabitha.

Oh my god you guys such good news about Earcandy today!
Thanks. Hard to process it all; I submitted to them yesterday, they published today.
Holy shit! It took three weeks to get them to run the video for Decisive!
I know. I’m trying to not get too worked up about it. We just got two more NYC shows today as well
Cool! I haven’t seen you guys in weeks! Hah hah
They were from Tart! Tart!, have you heard of that agency?
Oh yeah, they do most of the big and mid Brooklyn shows.
I didn’t ask them for the shows, they asked us.
Wow. I know we didn’t get to make a video for Flood, so let’s do one for Vortex, I’ll do it for $500 again
That would be fantastic. I know Joss will be totally thrilled
Yeah, she’s the best
Gotta go

On top of everything else that has happened today- the big Blow Up / Scare Tactic show that we are opening is tonight at the Wishing Well. Todd and I pack up all of the gear, as everyone else has asked to simply meet at the club. I joke to Todd that we are each getting $40 tonight for roadie fees. He lets out a sour laugh, because it’s not nearly as funny said out loud as it was inside my head. I still share too much, always trying to mitigate struggle with laughs. As Dave Chappelle said “all musicians think they’re funny”

We arrive on time and step over the threshold at exactly 9pm. Jeremy is already inside the club, with the Senator, Amber, and Bop. A few other regulars are at the bar, but it’s the usual quiet before a big night. I take that as a good sign.

“Hey, where’s the van? I’ll get more stuff” asks Jeremy from the back of the club, near the stage.
“No man, don’t get up we got it.”
“Fuck off punk.” Jeremy stands and walks towards Todd and I with outstretched beaks, which the three of us exchange.
“It’s in the usual spot out back.”
“Have you seen or heard from Joss” asks Todd to no one in particular.
“She’s at her mother’s house for dinner, just over the bridge. She’ll be here by 9.30” answers Jeremy

As we are about to head through the door, it swings in; Ian has made it with his bass rig.

“Hey guys- I’m not late am i?”
“No, man, it’s all good. We can go right ahead and set up on stage.”

Tonight was another episode of the winter we were all dealing with; the left pair of van wheels were sitting on a two foot ice bank that required me to draw on decades of parallel parking expertise. Hopefully, the New Londoners would disregard the bitter temperatures and make the scene tonight; they usually did. I thought to myself, I could actually deal with a slow night if Rudy doesn’t make an appearance. I click off a round of photos on my phone from the drum seat, frantically trying to post to Instagram as the kids are tuning, I notice the room is nearly full. This performance was going to be it for us here in town. We made our debut here a scant eighteen months ago, but as supportive of the new acts the audience typically was, at about the two year mark you had better be showing some serious progress. There is so much music that has been made in the GSECAZ over the past three decades that the standards for continued attention were quite high. I always loved that element of the music scene here- somewhat competitive, in an ‘athletic’ way. I notice Jeremy put the tuner down on his black tuck and roll vinyl guitar amp, something I bought during the Surface of Ceres days and loaned to him during The Infectious Reality. I click off the beat to “Massive” after Jocelyn gives me the look in the eye, that tells me she is ready.

“This is Massive!!!!!!!”

The set is lithe and concise, thrilling, and momentous. Ian is punctuating the driving bottom end on the earlier material with more fluidity and power than Rudy was capable of, and it makes a huge difference. Far more people are actually grooving to the tunes, and not just watching us to see if we could actually pull it off. Their minds were becoming lost in the music, not lost trying to find the music. We were as articulate as we could be, and being there was what we would have to coalesce around to make it to the next level. We make the debut of Todd’s newest song, with its repetitive marching band beat, and even though we play it flawlessly, there is a slight pause in the audience’s reaction. Every song up to that point had garnered applause from the whole room; you could hear it. But this was a more muted reception. I had started to become resigned to the idea that the song wasn’t as far along as I had thought, and there was much more work to be done. And as soon as that thought crossed my mind, the applause started to build, and there was a genuine reflective emotion coming from the audience. It might have taken them a few extra moments to discern what they had just heard for the absolute first time, and when it sunk in, the applause rang out. I have had very few moments onstage that were that pure. The New London crowd was sophisticated, but their reaction to this brand new song allowed me to think in larger avenues about the possibilities afforded to us by this dedicated group of people. We close the set with a thunderous version of ‘Vortex’, and as we thank the club and the crowd, several people are yelling “PIERCING!!!!!!!!!!!!!” within the sound of many hands clapping.

As we load the last of the gear into the van, Ian reaches out to me with a beak.
“Hey man, great show, but I gotta get out of here. I have to work at 8am.”
“Ok, cool man. Thanks, you were awesome tonight- I think the people could tell the difference with you in the band.”
“Thanks man, I really appreciate that.”
“I mean it. I could sense it in the room. Anyway, we have the radio gig on Monday in Boston, and the Hartford gig a week from Sunday. I’ll be in touch about the drive details Sunday night.”
“Ok, cool”
“One last beak, man!”
Our clasped fingers reach through the frigid February night; touch, beak, and open.

As the rest of the band heads back toward the club, I sequester myself in the van for one last moment of silence, before the remainder of the night takes hold with its loud promise. I overhear a few people mention “Vortex” in Earcandy, and I wanted to get a bit of a buzz heading back into the music. When I make it back to the bar an order a beer, I notice Scare Tactic are still setting up their equipment. I secretly whispered a prayer for them to not be the typical out of town band milking the set up time to maximize their audience. But why would they? The place was packed. I sauntered up to the stage to get a closer look. It was something I should have surmised sitting at the bar, thus negating my tip toe trek toward the stage. They used dozens of effect pedals mounted to soundboards, and as the stage at the Well was so tiny, they had to deal in master class interior design on the fly. Just then I noticed their guitar player take a three foot by two foot pedal board and learn it up against the brick wall to his left, necessitating a sort of soccer kick with his right foot to select the next pedal. They were professionals, and I was both impressed with their acumen to adapt, and relieved that we had given them a tight opening set.

As my thoughts settled into a smooth river of give and take, a finger taps me on the right shoulder. I turn around and it’s Jeremy.

“Hey man, nice job. I think we made the leap tonight.” I offer, reaching inward for the generous spirit to communicate these words.
“Oh yeahhh man! Rock and fucking Roll man!”
“No, really, I mean it, I think we’re getting to that place.”
“I know, I know, I totally agree. But yannow, fuck tomorrow, tonight fucking rocked!”
“I’m glad you feel that way!”
“I do, and you know what else? I’m so pumped these guys are taking so long to get set up, because it’s giving the acid time to kick in.”
“Ohhh, I always thought I was a good influence on you…..”
“Hahahhaa! You were, you are. … Oh, hey, yeah, that’s it. Oh man, this is good shit.”
“Man, I haven’t taken acid in twenty years.”
“That’s cause you took a lifetime supply in three years, don’t you remember! Hahaha”
“Of course I remember.”
“We’re all gonna remember this night.”
“I hope so! Earcandy today, all the gig offers, the applause after Todd’s new tune? Wasn’t that sick? I’ve never been onstage before and heard that kind of slow motion groundswell acceptance of a number.”
“I know, that was nuts. Todd’s a fucking genius, whatddya expect?”
“Fucking bingo. Hey, I’m going up front, I’ll catch you later.”
“Ok, man. Don’t drink too much tonight.”

As Jeremy passes by me, I scan the bar to locate Anne. She is at the front of the room, obviously having a conversation with June. I catch her eye, and we exchange long distance beaks; she needs the time with June, so I settle in on the last stool at the bar, tucked up against the elevated riser booth just to my left.

After ordering and not being charged for my beer (“you guys nailed it tonight, congrats!”), I take a sip and glance toward the booth. Jocelyn is there, situated on Amber’s lap; Amber’s left hand cradled around her ass, while her right hand gently wound a circular motion over Jocelyn’s right shoulder. Bop was standing directly to the left of them. I turn away and scan the stage, trying to gauge how much longer it will be until Scare Tactic begin. But my head is pulled right back to the booth like a tractor beam. Joss is laughing, seemingly enchanted by the attention. Was it simply because of her stellar performance?

Because the band was on the precipice of living up to it’s potential? That we were finally capitalizing on all of the advantages that we have had since day one of Piercing? As I was trying to distill the flood of thoughts, when I notice out of the corner of my left eye that the Senator is standing on the floor level, right behind me. His visage reveals an overriding worry. I turn back and look at Jocelyn, her full back to me now, and Bop has moved as close to her as possible. Weaving his fingers across the small of her back while Amber continues to caress her ass, covered in denim.

It was then I realized why the Senator looked distraught- bringing anonymous boy toys from local colleges into the cult was one thing, but the singer of an up and coming rock group might put a bit too much attention on his public life, were it to become public knowledge. You could sense his mind going through the risk/reward scenarios. They didn’t appear to be adding up to me, as a casual observer. But I knew Bop regarded Jocelyn as a trophy. Would any of that matter in regard to the bands trajectory? Perhaps not, but if my paranoia about Jocelyn seeking not musical fame, but a way towards achieving the desired status, an “object of adoration”….. being the object of adoration would surely be easier than the grueling life of the touring musician. I had never felt so threatened, creatively. Seven years of working with Jocelyn to bring us to this point couldn’t possibly be at risk because of the proclivities of Jeremy, Amber, and their friends.

I notice as the Senator gets Bop’s attention, and he breaks away from the group. I tap Jocelyn on the shoulder, and ask her if she wants a drink.

“Sure, yeah! Ummm, the merlot here is pretty good, I’ll have that.”

Our bartender returns in seconds, and says “on the house.” I put a ten dollar bill on the bar as a tip.

“What did you think” asks Jocelyn, seemingly as invested as I have been, finally. It’s a relief.
“We played our best show when we had to play our best show. I think that bodes well for the future.”
“I know, I know, you’re totally spot on. I was nervous. Well, I’m always a bit nervous, because I take this very seriously.”
“I know”
“But tonight, it just, it…. It simply flowed out of me. It was easy.”
“That’s what happens when you have an audience; trying to build one is the hard part, but we may be breaking through. Having an audience…”
“It’s great. And we got all of those gigs today, I mean, could today be any better?”
“You know, I love you, and I’m doing all of this for you.”
“I know, thanks. Aww, thank you!”

I lean forward and we exchange a genuine hug. As we part, I get the overwhelming urge to get out the phone, and take a picture of her right now, in this moment, when it seems our entire future is in front of us. A document of the transition from here to there; I had yet to scale the back of that wall. But I had two feet solidly planted on the breadth of its density. I would be over the wall in moments. As I finished snapping the photo, Jeremy came towards us. I held a slight trepidation as he approached that very few people had even given me. He walks around the stool Jocelyn is graced upon, and lays his left arm over her left shoulder.

“How’s it going?” he asks.
“Great.” I offer with pithy enthusiasm. He doesn’t even notice.
“Hey, get a pic of Joss and me, on our big night!”
“I think my phone just died.”
“Hahahahaha, still haven’t figured out how to use that thing, eh?” opines Jeremy, as sarcastic as someone tripping face could be.

I glance over to my right, and catch Anne’s eye. She’s still in conversation with June, but when she gets my attention, she rolls her outstretched right finger, silently asking me if I wanted to wrap it up for the night. I give a two nod bow of my forehead, and put down an empty pint glass.

Anne drives the van back to Mystic. We barely look towards each other, much less speak. I have an intuitive flash that Anne and possibly June witnessed the fleeting moments of Jocelyn on Amber’s lap; Bop’s hands on her shoulder…

“What was up with Joss and Amber tonight? And Bop? What was he thinking?” asks Anne as we settle in for the night, the TV loaded up with live Pet Shop Boys from 1999; a show in New York we were actually at.
“I don’t know. They are putting their plan into action?…. Remember what I told you about the NLNM show, before we played, reading Bop’s lips……..”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Object of adoration.”
“Object of adoration.”
“Well, if this is going to be a factor we’re going to have to deal with, let the Senator find the money to run the fucking operation. Let them foot the fucking bill……”

Our next show is an on air radio program in Boston. I text a last minute reminder to everyone that we have to be in the van, ready to go by 5.30pm on Monday.

Yeah, I’m good – from Jeremy
See you then- from Jocelyn
That’s the dealio, coolio- from Todd
I can’t make it- from Ian

I am apoplectic. I had alerted everyone weeks ago that the show was confirmed.

Ian- WTF?
I can’t do it. Couldn’t find anyone to cover my shift

The band can’t fall apart again, can it? At this point? After the success of last Friday night? I decide to get off the internet and call Jeremy on the landline.

“Can you believe this motherfucking shit!?!?!?!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down.”
“Calm the fuck down? Does he not remember Friday night? What the fuck!?!?!?!?”
“Getting all flipped out isn’t going to get him to play the gig.”
“Good point.”
“Let’s just play as a four piece; I’ll play bass parts and we’ll sort of fake it. How many people could be tuned in anyway?”
“It’s actually a big deal for radio. But I think you’re right. We can do an abbreviated set with just the four of us.”
“I think so.”
“Ok, I’ll call Todd and Joss.” I reply, trying to be the responsible one.
“Nah, I got this. I’ll call them both. You might be too worked up.”

We park the van high on icepack along 3A, outside of the studio. Loading the gear in has become exponentially easier on everyone; I found a rolling drum stand bag which eliminated the worst carry of all of our equipment. Once we had everything inside, the engineer positioned each of us for maximum capture. There were only ten minutes from the end of our sound check to air time, so I decided the smart move would be to take a dozen photographs to upload to our Instagram an hour or so later, during the post-performance interview. Suddenly, as I was at the far end of the room, the studio assistant opened the heavy door, and whispered

“thirty seconds to air.”

The first song of the set is Todd’s newest song. We have practiced it incessantly, and played it magnificently Friday at the Well. The tune begins with a drum roll on the snare drum, and I inexplicably begin the song with a four stick click of the tempo, as if we all began together. As soon as I hit the third strike on my sticks, I realize my mistake, and try to execute the actual drum roll that starts the song on the one downbeat. The element I do not anticipate is the rest of the band committing to the one downbeat after my stick clicks, which they handle effortlessly. And yet, as they cover my initial mistake, I compound the issue by trying to replicate the drum fill while they are establishing the groove that follows the intro. I catch up to them after a few measures, but the dirty look from Jeremy says everything: you were unprepared. I felt the stress of management slip into a performance.

Preparation was everything to the kids who came of age at the Palace, of each generation. It was the central tenet in Benno’s philosophy, which was spread liberally and with the countenance of an interior discipline only the most committed hippies espoused. It was a philosophy akin to the kids who stayed Monday and Tuesday after Woodstock to clean up the unholy mess. Accountability above all else. It mirrored Pirsig’s concept of “Quality”. I had blown it, even as I had made up for my mistake in real time. The rest of the set goes fine, and the interview following allows me to actualize the new stance of my role in the group: I say nothing; It was their interview to succeed at or fail. And they rose to the occasion; adding the needed self-deprecating banter amid our concurrent success.

“When is your next show?” asks the dj

Radio silence. The worst kind. I notice all three of them are at different levels of trying to sneak a peek at me- to catch my attention. Jocelyn blurts out an “Ummmmm..”

“We’ll be in Hartford for a Sunday show, as part of the Sycamore Tree productions music fest that whole weekend. And we’ll be in New Haven with Snow Falcon on the twelfth; they’re from South Portland, Maine…. I think” I reply, trying to fill in as succinctly as possible.
“Actually , they’re from Scituate.” corrects the interviewer
“Scituate!” I blurt out, trying to overlap my voice with his on the hometown of Snow Falcon. It was why I brought up our show with them in the first place; they were local to the Boston market. I feel as if I have a blunt edge, a butter knife through a fresh loaf of bread.
“We also have two shows in Brooklyn later in the month, the 26th and the 30th.”
“Well, it sounds like you guys are really making a name for yourselves.”
“Thanks for having us here, and letting us contribute to the show.”
“And that is a wrap on this week’s show with Piercing, from Mystic, CT. Up next we have Kindling with “Young Thirties” from their new album ‘Spare Room’.”

After loading all of the gear across the frozen concrete expanse in front of the studio’s building, I couldn’t help but notice the stark lights of the Boston skyline against the endless black of the night sky. Was Piercing becoming the light, or the endless darkness? There could be no rational way I was making the same mistake again. I had come too far to let a bad night on the radio derail my intentions. I began to think back to the end of our most recent set at the Well, with people cheering and yelling the band name out loud. Was it only four nights ago that we were in New London? It seemed much further into the past than four days. My train of thought is interrupted as I close the back door of the van, and Todd taps me on the shoulder.

“Hey man… is it ok if we get some food before we hit the highway? I’m starving.”
“Me too” adds Jocelyn.
“I keep telling you guys that you are going to have to learn how to live on one meal a day. It’s like, you think I’m just doing a bit, the ‘old guy in the club’ routine. But this is a perfect example of it. What if we had to drive to New York right now? You want to stop on I-95 and eat shit rest area food?”
“Alright old man. Take it easy.” Jeremy.
“Look, I haven’t been up here at night in a few years. I’ll drive into Kenmore Square, and the first food option you guys see, that’s where we’ll stop.”
“Cool” breathes Todd
“Thanks” coos Joss.

Fortunately, they spot a Mexican place that looks like it’s not a chain restaurant. I take the left turn onto Ipswich Street, pull over onto an ice embankment that is omnipresent in the city, and let the three of them out for the short, one block walk to the restaurant. The flashing lights of the turnpike gave a simmering glow to Fenway Park, which reminds me that I know of a few parking tricks in this section of town. I put the van in drive, hit the left blinker light, and pull back out onto the street. Three complete loops around the block later, I haven’t found an open spot. As I prepare to take another left turn onto Commonwealth Avenue, I see the three of them gingerly traipsing the icebanks toward the van. Each one of them has a look of contentment on their faces that I have rarely seen when things are going well for the band. Jocelyn looked more excited to have a taco in her hand than when I showed her the Earcandy review on my phone four days earlier. I’m secretly seething, but initiating that kind of conversation would have no sway in this moment. The smart move is to let them eat in peace; knowing there will be another day that will illustrate just how different life is as you strive to create a modern rock band.


“Every time we would play in Hartford in the Thames days, something would get lost, or stolen…. every fucking time.”

This is our first show in Hartford, as part of the Sycamore Tree festival; three nights in the club with the best of the Connecticut indie scene. This kind of invite would never be afforded us without the Earcandy and other online banter about Piercing, even if we were sounding just as good as at the Well gig. Exposure is an interesting word in the lexicon of musicians. Some exposure works, some does not. And the ratio of good to bad is just like anything else in this digital world. 1:10

“One night, when I had a pick-up truck with a cap on it for our primary transportation, an effects rack with $1500 worth of effects slid over the top of the amps, and broke the back window, falling out the truck onto the highway. The biggest problem was, we didn’t notice until we got to the club. I fucking raced back out onto the highway to look for the case, but we never spotted it. And of course, we couldn’t just stay out there until we found it, we had to get back to do the show.”
“I’ve heard that story before, at the Palace” chimes in Jeremy, with the louche response of someone who heard another tall tale at the family holiday gathering.
“I never heard that, what happened to the gear?” asks Todd, earnestly trying to reconfigure the tenor of the discussion.
“Anne loaned me $700, and the band chipped in the rest to replace the units. I never totally paid Anne back all of that money.”
“She’s too fucking good to you!” shouted Jeremy.

There was enough of a sense of self-deprecation in his voice to keep me from getting worked up about it. What did he know about long term relationships, other than bashing his head into a car windshield as a last method of defense? I could already tell that this was going to be another night in Hartford, and that I was driving into a total shitshow. You could sense it, like the wind suddenly shifting and lifting the leaves of a new born spring upward; the rain will commence, shortly.

“Hahahahahahhaa! I just got the best text message of the new year!” Jeremy suddenly exclaims, flashing his phone backwards to Todd and Jocelyn, who are sitting in the middle two seats of the van.
“Yes! That’s priceless!” offers Jocelyn
“Another night at the office, eh?” adds Todd

“What is it?” I ask, feeling somewhat left out of the moment. He slowly turns the screen towards me.

It’s a photo at a party, and if I remember correctly it’s after our most recent show at the Well; going by the outfit Jeremy is wearing. In the photo, the Senator is draped over his shoulders, hands clasped inelegantly around Jeremy’s neck. The Senator looks as if he is a trophy pelt; the fur of an exotic animal with its head still attached, bobbing toward one side to define it’s lifelessness.

“He looks pretty loaded” I offer quietly, trying not to betray my emotions.
“Oh yeah, he was fucked up that night!”
“My favorite text of the year so far is the one you sent me from the bar at the Well on New Year’s Eve.” Jocelyn openly addresses Jeremy on the topic.
“Oh yeah? The one where I said “hey joss, too bad you’re not here right now as I make out with everyone at the bar to celebrate the new year!”
“Yeah, yeah, that one! I was laughing my ass off at that.”

The only thing I could think of were Jeremy’s South Park teeth; all pointed inward to the same degree, and the spittle that would strand itself between his lower lip and the overbite of his top jaw. I focused on the road to distract myself from the conversation.

Fucking Hartford.

When we arrive at the club, I’m able to park the van in the spot closest to the stage door, a huge benefit as the temperature drops. Jeremy leaps out of the van, and attempts to light a cigarette before his left foot hits the ice, and he almost ends up on his ass. Fortunately, he’s able to catch his balance, and still light the cigarette. He gives me a stern look, as if to gauge how much I was anticipating his probable fall. I don’t change my expression at all.

“Hey Twining, c’mon, man, let’s go get some hookers and blow!” Jeremy is in full on mocking-me voice, as he is fully aware I have never seen cocaine in my life, much less solicited a prostitute.
“Yeah, man. Let’s do it!” offers Todd in a mock catharsis.
“Guys, let’s just get the gear in, ok?”

In my time living in the rock world, if someone wanted hookers and blow before, during, or after a gig- they just went ahead and did it, it wasn’t some precious drama unfolding as a rock life goof. You want coke and prostitutes? Fine. I just don’t need to know about it. As we begin to unload the gear, I notice that each one of them has slid off and on the fourth and final trip out to the van, it’s only me. I grab the rolling drum stand case and a guitar and head back inside the club. They are hanging out, meeting the other bands on the bill. I have to resign myself that this is what the next six months will look like; me being the roadie, the driver- hoping they embrace their roles as the band.

Brent shows up right then, which is a breath of fresh air for me.

“Hey man- thanks for making it” I say to him with an outstretched right hand beak, which he returns.
“Of course, man. No worries! And I nailed “Vortex” yesterday; that tune is going to rock.”

I head over to meet Robert, the head booking agent at Sycamore Tree Productions. After pleasantries and greetings, which seemed quite genuine in a place where genuine behavior is not to be expected, he asks if I brought my own drum set.

“Oh, yeah, of course. We always travel with everything we need.” I replied, trying to sound prepared and yet willing to acquiesce to his impending demand.
“Well, we’re going to have everyone use one kit, if that’s ok with you….”
“That’s fine. Will I need cymbals and kick pedal, snare; that kinda thing?”
“Yeah, perfect. It’s just with five bands tonight….”

I cut him off with a slow wave.

“No worries. I’ll pack up the excess and prep after the opener finishes the sound check.”
“Cool, thanks. I can’t wait to see you guys tonight, I’ve been hearing very positive things.”

I am fumbling with my phone trying to get the camera up in the near darkness just before our set begins. I’m trying to get in the routine of posting a photo to Instagram the moment before each show begins. Jeremy unplugs from his amp to retune one last time before we start, which gives me the extra minute to be ready. I snap a shot of “the drummer’s view”- basically the corona around Jocelyn’s head highlighted in a dark purple/blue mix. Click. Post.

“Hello people, we are Piercing, from Mystic, Connecticut”

I click off the four beats to begin “Massive”

The crowd numbers sixty people, from my “field of vision” stage count; but almost none of them have seen us play live before. The opportunity of these showcase type festivals was laid out in front of us in the finest fashion possible. And fresh off the heels of the Well performance, we are tighter than ever, even with Brent filling in. Joss seems perfectly comfortable, and I think maybe it’s playing in front of people that she has a relationship with that hinders some of her performance. There was no Marcus here tonight, no Whitney, no Phoebe, no New London. I take that as a very good sign, crossing my right hand to clasp a cymbal hit at the precision conclusion of “Decisive”. Jeremy has become more like Adrian; new, stabbing gestures punctuate his stellar riffing. Jeremy was always acting like a star, but I could sense a gentle deferment toward Todd, and more so, toward Jocelyn. They were embracing, and not becoming overcome, by their onstage roles. Our set concludes with another blistering version of “Vortex”, Brent fluidly integrating his style, Jeremy wailing in full throat, Joss pinning the high octave like stars in a planetarium. We exit the stage to genuine applause, and I notice a small crowd gathering around Joss as the rest of us offload the Piercing set-up. Good. Let her be the face of the band; it’s about time.

The three kids begin to attract a bit more attention, so Brent and I retire to the bar, and order pints. After hearty congratulations to each other, and trying to frame the concept that we were both here together “in fucking Hartford, of all places”- noticed Brent. I change the topic to spring training baseball, which has commenced over the course of this weekend.

“Remember, in 2003, when we appealed to your better nature and asked you not to go to Spring Training that year?” Brent is setting me up for a wicked fall.
“Yeah, of course. Because after the 1999 ALCS loss to the Yankees, I was sure they were going to win the next year. Positive. Pedro, come on!”
“Hahahaha! Remember the Offerman phantom tag in ’99; ugly times.”
“Yeah, so if you remember we went to Florida in 2000, 2001, and 2002. And not one of those years did they even make it to the playoffs ….”
“That’s when a bunch of us figured it had to be you going to Spring Training every year!”
“Hahahahaa, I know, I know. I take the entire blame!”
“By the way, I don’t think I have told you this yet, but it’s okay with everyone if you want to go back now…..” he whispered this in my ear. I almost fell off the bar stool. In our lifetime.

The club is a fine blend of aged wood panels adorning the walls over deep maroon booths, and a wide open area in front for the audience. The stage was low and wide, not very deep; I always loved playing on that sort of stage. I was feeling extremely comfortable, in Hartford of all places. I let myself think that we had righted everything, and finding a permanent replacement for Ian would be as easy as any other episode we had endured. That tonight was another small victory. At that very moment, I could hear Jeremy’s signature laugh arise in volume and sit distinctly at the top of the frequency range between bands. I look over my left shoulder, and see Jocelyn, Todd, and Jeremy in absolute buckled over hysterics. My initial thought is paternal- good, they are having a fine time while we are out here; It was crucial to a band’s survival to be able to enjoy the moments. I looked at Brent. He knew what was on my mind from the look on my face before I had even reconciled it within myself.

“Hey, are you okay?” he says
“Yeah, yeah.”
“You know, if things keep going your way, it’s going to be like this most nights. And I’m not going to able to be there with you.”
“I know, I know.”

I felt completely isolated within my own band. Socially. It’s happens. That’s what Brent was referring to. He knew it, he’d been on both sides of the equation. It had been heading this way since Jeremy joined Piercing, a gradual shift toward the three ancient friends and the guy who drives the van. And yet, I had signed up for this; I could have walked last August, when the whole thing was teetering. And there were ample opportunities to excuse myself before now. No, I had signed up for the whole ride, wherever it may end.

“Hey Twining, c’mon man- let’s go into Hartford and paaaaaaartaaaay, baby!” drawls Jeremy as we exit the parking lot of the club.
“Are you fucking kidding me? This is the shortest drive home from a gig we’ve had outside of the Well. I’m going to actually sleep tonight.” I reply, somewhat sarcastically. I was still fuming over the cocaine/hookers bit from earlier in the night.
“Fine, fine, suit yourself indie rock warrior chief!”

Just let it go, just let it go.

As I merge onto the south highway that will lead us to Jeremy’s Niantic abode, I abandon all van protocol, and put on a CD of music that should be listened to alone, or at least with a sympathetic audience. If I have to hear any more of this faux rock star shit, when I am fully aware that Jeremy is an open member of some underground sex circuit, and that I have nagging suspicions that this same group of people are trying to declare proprietary rights onto Jocelyn….. Fuck it. Let it all go. Yeezus is at top volume, while we navigate the western spine of the Connecticut River Valley.

We arrive at Jeremy’s house, and he exits without saying a word to anyone; no late night beak for the driver who got us there and back safely. I was so angry inside, I barely noticed how long it took for him to get his guitar out of the back of the van. I figured that he was finally as drunk as he had been trying to get all night, and that navigating the gear was like a mining expedition for him. I hear the back doors of the van close, and see in the passenger mirror that he has made his way toward the house. I tap down on the left blinker, and head toward Mystic.

As we cross the drawbridge, the familiar clang of the heavy van on its deck is a reassuring feeling; that we made it through another night, to another day. Jocelyn and Todd are whispering quietly to each other, as the Kanye is still at a somewhat higher volume than necessary. I’m still trying to suppress my night of dealing with Jeremy’s attitude. And then I hear clearly, Todd say to Jocelyn-

“I don’t know how many more nights like tonight I have in me.”

My mind begins racing. Was I meant to hear that? What was so difficult about tonight for him? Why does he feel the need to express that to Joss? Is it about the band at all? I can’t help but insert myself into the conversation, for the first time in roughly an hour and a half.

“None of you guys are committed enough to this, none of you are totally one hundred percent in. and that’s what it fucking takes- and look at all the fucking advantages we have had!”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, take it easy man.” offers Todd immediately.

I take the right turn onto my street, and jam the van with a hard left turn into the driveway.

“No man, you take it easy. You guys were more excited to get fucking food after the Boston radio gig than any of you were when the latest Earcandy review came out- fourteen fucking hours after I submitted it to them! Do you guys understand the fucking significance of that?”
“Hey, don’t fucking tell me how committed to the fucking band I am! Was I in New York with Wall? Was I? Was I fucking in New York with Wall?”
Jocelyn is screaming at me, in the same tone I’m addressing them in. It’s brutal and ugly.
“Yes, you were in New York with Wall.” I shout back, feeling the dissipation of our bond chipped away with each word.
“you’re just a drunk……………..”

She let this out almost as if she were waving a white flag. I give up. But that’s not what she meant. It was far more cavalier than that. She meant I was the one who wasn’t fit for this particular adventure, regardless of my previous track record. Or was it that I wasn’t part of her future, with or without the band? And suddenly, a thought pierced everything- she doesn’t argue that way. Over the course of our heated exchanges and full throated battles, it was always about the work, and the method of creating it. It was never personal. And here, at this juncture, she was going to use the strongest weapon in a verbal arsenal. That wasn’t like her at all, but it was just like something Jeremy would say.

He must have been positioning Joss against me for months for her to break that statement out in this situation. Yes… the protracted cover battle for the single. The arguments that Joss wasn’t up to the task- were they more subterfuge? I knew If I stayed in the van a second longer I would regret it for the rest of my life. I grabbed my gig bag, opened the door, and walked into Centraal. Anne was on the couch, perusing late night television. It was 11.30 pm.

“We’ll, I don’t think Jocelyn is ever going to want to speak to me again.” I said as I closed the door behind me.

I wake up out of a troubled sleep at 10.30 am. Anne hadn’t set the alarm clock, which was totally unlike her, as she had to work at 9am, but I didn’t have to open the Palace until 11am. I head downstairs for a pint of water, when I spot the handwritten note on the counter, from Anne:

“I called Benno late last night. He’s going to work today, take a day off to get some peace.”

It was quite a gift.


I make a Mothertrucker in the kitchen, with sports talk radio cluttering the background with talk of a possible Red Sox World Series Championship repeat in 2014. Coupled with the Piercing situation, and hearing disembodied voices pontificate on another Sox title, I was completely unmoored. Thames were supposed to make it. Ceres blew up right as we finally nailed the concept. Bold Schwa had the chance. And yet, Piercing was on the literal doorstep. And I imagined my pink slip would arrive via electronic communication any minute now; they would go on to success without me. I decided to be enlightened about the situation. Instead of fighting the new development, I would take consolation in knowing my investment in these kids was worth it; even if I were to become a footnote, a detail in the larger story of their talent becoming what it was possible of. From my point of view. I could acquiesce to their decision to move on without me, if it came to that.

After eating, I head downstairs and log on to Facebook. Scrolling through the feed, I notice a shot of Joss and Todd; they are in the clothes they wore at the Well gig nine days earlier. In the photo, Jocelyn is being held tight to Amber, her right arm pulling Joss close to her body. Todd is grinning as if he was on top of the world, and I thought to myself I hope that was due to the great set we had played that night. I was about to click off the image, when something caught my eye, in the top right corner of the picture. It was someone draped around someone’s shoulders, seemingly drunk. I had seen that image already- it was the text pic Jeremy showed us of the Senator on the way to our Hartford gig. This picture was taken at the same moment, from a far wider angle, which included Jocelyn and Todd. They were all there. Fait accompli.

I decided to just get in the van and drive; the motion of the road with music blasting was always my meditation when my mind became cluttered. Or unhinged. The winter grip remained, and it was my brothers birthday as well. I felt bad for him about his birthday because it was always cold and dreary; never the celebratory weather experienced during my summer birthday. This was yet another reason to feel bad on March the Third. The Yeezus disc was still in the player, and it incidentally was cued up to “Hold my Liquor”, the intense, yet languorously ambitious bridge track that the record pivots upon.

“I can’t hold my liquor, this man can’t handle his weed….”
“You’re a drunk……….”
“I can’t hold my liquor, this man can’t handle his weed….”
“You’re a drunk……….”
“I can’t hold my liquor, this man can’t handle his weed….”
“You’re a drunk……….”

I was not a drunk. A drunk was my mother’s boyfriend who bled and fought with those he supposedly cared about. But didn’t I fight with Joss? I had. And yet, our conflagrations were always about the creative process, our image; our impression on the audience. We had never argued and made personal details a part of the debate. A drunk was my father who died and wasn’t found by anyone for two weeks. I was working to bring Jocelyn’s dream to fruition. How could I simply be a drunk and be simultaneously pulling all of these various threads together? For her. For her career. I had already been in this place in my creative life; I knew I could exist if Piercing fell down the stairs once they had reached the top step. But how could she walk away? She asked me to be in her band, and I had done everything I had promised her, everything she asked me to.

“I can’t hold my liquor, this man can’t handle his weed….”
“you’re a drunk……….”

Object of adoration.Z
I drive in two overlapping figure eights, across the Greater Southeastern Autonomous Zone. The stereo is playing so loud the speakers and power amp struggle to keep up with my desire to block out all thought with volume. I receive a text from Anne.

“How are you? Where are you?”

I text her a photo of my step-father’s gravesite at the head of the river, in an ancient Catholic cemetery.

I make my way toward Stonington, with the vague idea that staring at the sea from the winnowed peninsula at the end of town would bring some clarity, much like my trip to Provincetown twenty years earlier at the end of Thames. But I become distracted as I pass the cemetery at the outer edge of the Borough. I remember that there is a Twining family plot there; although none of my immediate family were buried there. I get another text from Anne:

“I’m worried about you. Talk to me.”

I text her a picture of the Twining family plot, and get back in the van.

‘Shit’s all over the place……….’

This new disparity is surreal, and all I can focus on is the ambient noise surrounding the lyric in the Kanye track. It’s the sound of pinging digital tones, evaporating upon recognition. It mirrors how I feel, as the information of being excused from Piercing must be making its way across the internet, while I drive between gravesites. I decide to turn up the volume again; and proceed to blow the entire set of speakers in the van. Surprisingly, this makes the songs sound even more visceral. Not many records could sound better on a blown stereo system- Sonic Youth’s “Bad Moon Rising”? Maybe? “Psychocandy” by Jesus & Mary Chain? Perhaps. But I knew that Yeezus sounded incredible in this manner. I pulled over finally in front of the house where they found my father after he was face down in a mattress for two weeks following his fatal stroke. I checked my phone.

“Where are you? are you ok? Talk to me, please!”

I texted a photo of the bedroom window of the room they found my father in.

“Don’t punish me for this! I want to help, to be there for you!”

Anne and I have had Tuesday as an off day for twenty years. It was her idea, that taking off a midweek day would offset the fact that weekends didn’t truly exist in retail. Everyone worked Saturday, so to have Sunday and Tuesday off each week, the four day sprint from Wednesday to Saturday was minimized. I sat on the couch after brunch, phone in hand, awaiting the guillotine that did not drop on Monday. At 3pm exactly, I receive a Facebook message from Jeremy.

“We’re going to need all of the log in / password info for the band’s social media.”

I was a bit taken aback. No “Joss never wants to speak to you, so you are out” or “you betrayed our trust, everything was going fine until you had to flip out, you can’t just keep freaking out on people.” I decide to keep my response as simple as possible.

“That’s it?” as in, I can understand you want to get rid of me, but is that the only explanation I’m going to get?

“I was trying to keep it cival, but if you want poetry Fuck You”

This was the consequence of my losing the plot with Joss two nights earlier. If she wanted to accuse me of a violation that would impede her career, the “fuck you” seemed to illustrate the reality of this situation, and the divide. It was something I was going to have to accept. I had never been kicked out of anything, except that one time in sixth grade when my teacher found me stuffed in a garbage can by my so called best friends. “Ellery! Just, just, just … go home!” That was easy enough, my house was on the same street as the school, and so I left. I had to hide in the low shrubs of my parent’s house when I noticed the principals white Corvette slowly pacing the street. But, this was different. This was my career. I lean over and show Anne the message.

“He spelled ‘civil’ wrong….”

I immediately send a text to Jocelyn, and a Facebook message to Todd:

“I’m sorry.”

The next day at the Palace is a struggle, but I make it through. Benno is completely conciliatory- “You did everything you could.” The store had recently bought an incredible collection from a Navy family that was going to be re-stationed to Hawaii, and it was my job to sort out the rock from the jazz, the disco from the funk, and file the odds and ends in the various catchall bins we had for such recordings: one such bin was the dj resources bin where we stashed the language translation records, or the National anthems of Austria, Norway, Sweden, and Luxembourg performed by the High Guard of Vienna. I check my phone every few minutes for a response from Joss or Todd, and after checking in on the Red Sox spring training news, I head to bed. There is no news from either end of the spectrum. And yet, like a digital member of the modern world, I send one more text message to Jocelyn.

“I hope we can still be friends after the dust settles.”

I wake up Thursday to more of the dreary weather this winter keeps providing us with. The stinging cold of the kitchen floor wakes me up a bit. I have a Facebook message from Jeremy.

“Who’s going to cancel all of the shows we have scheduled?”
“Not me. I’m not in the band anymore. It’s yr responsibility.”
This would be something to keep my eye on. Piercing were scheduled to play an on-air in studio show at WRIU in Rhode Island this very night. And all of the band gear was still in my van; untouched since I had fought with Jocelyn following our Hartford gig.

I check the email, and the first missive is from Ferry at Gezellig! the Dutch magazine that has been putting off an article on us for six months, while we rebuilt the band three times over.

“Hey Ellery, how are you? We are going to run the full interview in the April issue. You are going to be mentioned on the cover, and we are going to use the Tabitha Williams solo photos from the Decisive video.”
“Hey Ferry. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that they kicked me out of the band with a “fuck you” two days ago. I’m not sure if there is going to be a band.”
“So sorry. What happened?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I’m sure you understand I can’t run the piece with the band in such flux.”
“That’s why I responded immediately. Thanks for all of your interest in the group. I’ll let you know if they get their shit together.”
“Ok, man. So sorry, again.”

I still acquiesce and send the log in information for the full array of Piercing’s online presence to Jeremy. I don’t feel that getting in the way of their continuation adds anything to the equation we have been building for the past eight years. I had the distinct parental experience of your kids leaving the proverbial house. I had to mine the feeling that would liberate me from what I thought was immense betrayal- I had done my best, and if my most sincere efforts landed them in the world of music without me being a part of it, I would still have to believe that my role was executed as expected.

Todd shows up at my house, unannounced, at 7.45 pm. His knock startles me, as I wasn’t expecting anyone to come by on this dreary March Thursday. I immediately pop up, and notice he’s holding my Epiphone guitar I had loaned him at the beginning of the band, because he had nothing of his own to play when we started Piercing. He worked that guitar for the first year and a half that we were together, until he was finally able to save enough cash for a Thinline semi-hollow body Telecaster. The seamless frequencies on “Vortex” were largely due to the fact that the guitar tones were so harmonious; between Jeremy’s custom built hollow body, which was twice the width of Todd’s Thinline. Their dexterity added depth to the band’s palette; which was the central idea holding everything together, with Joss’ voice as the centrifuge. We had already showed that we could articulate the essence of the Piercing idea with a bevy of bassists. The core was as solid as could be, containing relationships built over years with trust as the fulcrum.

It was all vanishing in real time. The very idea that I had to reconcile these differences seemed an affront to me. Every thought was a personal violation. Or transgression- I truly could not decide. Things end badly. This would be a new low.

“Hey man, how are you.” Todd offers upon entering Centraal.
“Umm ok. Are you guys really going to go on as a three piece, and replace me with machines?”
“Oh, hell no. fuck those guys, I never want to speak to them again. I don’t even want to make music anymore.”
“What?!?!?!” I asked incredulously.
“Yeah, fuck this shit. We were right there, we had everything within our reach, and you’re going to just blow the whole fucking thing up?!?!?!”
“Wait, what are you talking about?”

Todd handed me my guitar, and turned around to open the door.

“They asked me to join their sex cult. I said ‘fuck you’. I’m done. Goodnight, Mr. Twining!”

And he left.

As he closes the door, my phone emits its reverse Lightsaber sound to alert me to a new text. It’s from Jocelyn.

“I appreciate you reaching out. I don’t regret a second of the experience.”

When I wake up earlier than ever, I finally decide to come to terms with the fact that I have to empty the van of the gear, and to actually step foot into Centraaal which I have avoided for the past week. I gather up my wits to tackle the challenge, and then give up immediately, deciding to check the email before heading out. It’s as if I’m going to get that email from a record label, or a booking agent, asking Piercing to forward our career with them. Perhaps then the band could be rebuilt, again. What I find instead is a scathing email from the WRIU radio hosts. Not only did they not show up to play the show, the first of several more booked through March, they didn’t even bother to email the station to cancel.

The darkness begins to creep in. is Jeremy trying to ruin my reputation? To make it difficult for me to begin making music again, at this level? I spend the next two hours deleting our entire online presence. And the only way I am able to do this is because Jeremy was too stupid to immediately change the passwords once I gave them to him. 500 Twitter followers, deleted. 800 PR contacts in the band email, deleted. The label page managed by Malthus, deleted. I almost delete all of our hosted MP3 files, but at the last second realize the Earcandy and other blog links would have been compromised. That part of the legacy would remain untouched by my assault. But, if they were going to go on without me, they were not going to gain access to the vast contacts that helped build Piercing. No, they would have to build it themselves. Certainly I had showed them how to achieve it, wouldn’t that be enough in the aftermath? I head to the Facebook page to delete its content and find that I am locked out, no longer an admin on the band page. The one place where I was blocked. Facecrack.

Satisfied that I have delineated the discourse of the band’s collapse somewhat to my own measures, I head out to the van to finally unload the gear. It’s the first warm day after the brutal season of the past winter. The sky is cloudless, and I raise my left hand to shield the sun from my eyes as I exit the house. The key slides into the van door, I turn it to the right, and open it. I immediately notice that something is missing, and have a mild panic attack about possibly leaving gear in Hartford after the last show; it would be near impossible to find it now after these days have passed. I then catch myself,

‘What fucking difference would it make if our gear was stolen? As long as my drum set is intact, fuck everything else’.

And yet, I notice the only gear missing is Jeremy’s amp, his guitar, but also all of the effect pedals and the case of cords for both guitar set-ups. Why would he take all of his gear out of the van when we had a practice in Mystic in two days, and a gig in Storrs the following Thursday? He couldn’t drive, and he would have to transport all of that gear for practice. There wasn’t time to do some home demos, where he might need all of that equipment. So, why? And then it dawned on me- he had quit the band, but that was a full thirty minutes before my fight with Jocelyn in the driveway. Had he already left the band when he took the gear with him that night. But why?

And then, with the clarity I would imagine comes at one’s final moment; I realized his work was finished. He had brought her to them. The band was a charade, a front. Could they have tried to recruit Jocelyn if she was simply a bookstore clerk? Certainly. But it made it much easier to gather her into the clasp of the cult while she was a hot shit up and coming rock star. Well played. Well played. Jeremy had been creating a negative atmosphere around Joss for months, so I would be less willing to fight him during the endgame. Well played.

I send a text to Jocelyn later that night.

“We need to talk.”
“When would be a good time for you.”

And then, the response I was waiting for:

“I would prefer if you ask me if I can talk rather than tell me I need to.”
“Hey- I’m not trying to challenge you. I’m simply trying to stop my mind from running in circles.”
“I know you are not challenging me and I’m sorry if that sounded aggressive. It was not intended to be”

We meet at the oldest establishment in town, in their cellar bar with fireplace, meticulously tended to in the never ending winter of 2014. I wanted to meet with Joss in public, so to assuage any fears she may have of me losing my shit during our ensuing conversation. The possibility had to be addressed, and I felt horrible about that definition. But it was true; we needed to meet in public.

However, Jocelyn wasn’t aware of specific developments in the days following our falling out.

“The reason I asked you to meet me is because, when I finally went out to the van to empty the gear after the Hartford gig, I noticed that Jeremy had taken all of his gear out that night; not just his guitar and amp, but all of the pedals and cords. Which, I bought for him as well. This was twenty minutes before we even began to fight at my house. So why take all of the gear out when we had practices and gigs that week, and he can’t drive? Was he going to do a solo album in twenty four hours?”
“Maybe that was the way he was going to get out.”
“I suppose so.”

Why were they trying to get out?

Object of adoration.

“I saw a picture of you on Facebook, looked like it was the after-party following the last Well gig, which was a good night if I remember…”

She laughs, tilts her head to the left, smiles.

“Yeah, that was a great set.”
“I saw the Senator draped over Jeremy in the background of that picture, did you notice it?”
“No, no… I didn’t.”
“It was the same shot he showed us in that text going to Hartford, with the Senator draped over him, all loaded…”
“Yeah…… I remember that……. ”
“This shot was the same night, but from a wider angle. It’s you, Amber draped around you, and Todd.”
“Oh, yeah.”

“Is it because you think it will be easier to be an object of adoration, rather than the face of the band? Is that what is happening here?”

She looked away, over her left shoulder, toward the old stone fireplace. Slowly, she returned her gaze to me and looked directly into my eyes.

“Look, I just want you to be happy…” I offer.

Her gaze had yet to leave mine. And then, she abruptly stands up, wordless. She turns her heel on the ancient wood floor of the tavern and proceeds out the door.

I would never again record or write music with Jocelyn.

The End


I had no mints on my person, so I sprinted back to my house, up to the main floor and brushed my teeth; deciding it was the better option of the two. When I make it back to the waiting car, I shut the door quietly, but let out a heave of breath.

“Outta shape there kid?” teases Benno
“Yeah, yeah,….”

I didn’t want to remind him that the Heimlich took quite a bit out of me.

I receive a text from Anne at 10.30 while I’m in the emergency room with Benno and Folk Mass.

“He’s taken a turn for the worse. Not sure if he’s going to make it through the night.”
Holy shit…
“I was halfway home an hour ago when I got a text from people who were visiting him, to get back to the hospital as soon as I could”
“Are you ok?”
“Well…. He’s resting, and taking calls from all of his friends.”

Her father certainly had friends. From every facet of his life he had made lifelong friends.

“I’m at Weekapaug, with Benno and Folk Mass. I thought you were watching the game? Frances called me and said Benno was choking to death. We raced over and gave him the Heimlich for a minute, for twenty seconds …. We realized he had a piece of chicken lodged below the windpipe, had to bring him here.”
“Oh my god! Is he alright?”
“We think so, but the piece won’t come up. He may have to go to New London.”

“That’s where I am…”

It was an eerie coincidence. The emergency room closed at midnight, and any inpatients that didn’t have medical clearance by the staff had to be transported to the main hospital in New London. The doctor came into the room one last time, and then, Benno was in the last ambulance to the hospital. Folk Mass had to drive me all the way back to Mystic, in case I needed to be there for Anne, and then drive to New London to help admit Benno; and stay with him through the procedure. I decided to watch the pilot episode of Twin Peaks while exchanging texts with Anne and Folk, trying to let the film’s unbounded intentions fill in the crevices between trains of thought.

“Here with Folk Mass, we found each other getting coffee”

It was 1AM. I responded with what I felt was acceptable credence, but I was exhausted.

“How long are you planning to stay there?”
“At least until Emmitt leaves.”

Emmitt was the youngest of her father’s siblings. A self-made man; he had created a distribution network for computer hardware in the late eighties, and was still in the game as a sole proprietor. His lifestyle was legendary in the family- Emmitt would work 21 days in a row programming code to complete a project, and then fly to Colorado to ski for a day, flying back that night and going to work. The Maddalenas adored him unequivocally. It was reassuring to know he was there in the room with Anne. I felt selfish about the realization that I was home and Emmitt was there. I could understand the definition of her stated intent.

“Ok, I’m here.”

I drift off to sleep and wake up at 3AM. Still no sign of Anne. I head upstairs, make a sandwich, down a pint of water and milk thistle, and head back to bed. I wake up six hours later, and the only person in the room is me. A sudden wave of unease arrives as I awaken. Was Anne here at all last night? I find her downstairs, in the add on room with the TV, and the faux bar. I notice the landline is off the hook.

“He died an hour ago.”
“I’m so sorry babe”

We huddle on the couch, crying for a few hours, not speaking at all. Anne knew I had been in her shoes. My step-father had died at age 41 from melanoma, and the two of us watched as he tested experimental drugs that would become lifesaving medicines a generation later. My father had succumbed to a stroke at age 55. At the time, we had been together for twelve years upon hearing the news.

“Benno fine, procedure worked. That was an unforgettable night, huh?”

I finally hear from Folk Mass at 11AM.

“Yeah. Anne’s father died an hour ago…”

“Oh my lord. Please, condolences from me. I can’t believe we were both at the hospital last night. Surreal”

Tuesday morning. It’s my off day, and I am behind on various PR for the band. We have shows in the works in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New London, and New Haven that I have to finalize or we are going to lose out. I have to check the radio stations that I shipped the CD promo to; gauging if we are garnering any interest. I also have to begin to budget the next single. We were almost at the tipping point where personal investment had to be balanced by band income. This was the one area I had trouble articulating to the kids; the financial reality. I loathed the discussion of money, on any level, and would avoid it at all costs- much to my detriment. Joss owed me $150 in gas money for studio sessions and gigs. And I paid her way into the TAZZIES because she forgot her purse in the car, waiting out the cold interruption of the awards opening. I was able to collect $300 from our last run of shows, and we were still owed for the BaBa’s gig, which would get us to half of the cost of a third single at Stormy Harbor. If the holiday season was as good as predicted, I might be able to parlay a Palace bonus with some savings of my own to schedule the sessions. The financial pressure was getting more evident with the planning of the next single. The fourth single would have to be recorded with band income alone, or investment from a label. Every group that gets this involved reaches the same conclusion. Even still, I was convinced we were going in the right direction. Everything was being realized from the original design. I had to remind myself there was a certain success in simply achieving that; a world created of your own efforts.

Anne’s fathers wake is scheduled for Thursday night, Halloween. Coincidentally, it’s the night of our last practice before the shows in New London and Brooklyn. In addition, the funeral would be Friday morning, and our show at the Well is that night- All Saints Day. I put on my funeral shoes at 6:00 pm Thursday evening, and Anne and I head across town to the wake. On the drive over, I begin to calculate just how many funerals I had been to; how many times I had to stand in the receiving line at a wake, being numbed by the overwhelming response to a family members passing. That was the methodology behind the wake ritual- contain the grief, even if it is only momentarily, with a barrage of hugs, thank yous, and tears. I could only recall eighteen, although I was sure I missed a few. And tonight, as a member of the Maddalena receiving line, I would draw on that experience. No one wanted to see a family fall apart at the wake; that was for the attendees. I was able to add enough levity to play my part, and when the seemingly endless line of people had settled into a final small group later that night, I realized not one of the Piercing members had made it. Even my thought process had been altered by the wave of emotion at the wake; I didn’t even notice until I realized I needed to get back to Centraal in a few minutes for practice. Jeremy would be the only one of them to attend the funeral the following

The general attitude toward Piercing had shifted once we showed the temerity to survive what we had been through the previous six months. There was a sea change in town about what we were doing- no longer were we a threat to anyone, but rather we represented a promise. It was the message we had been dispensing at the Palace to this generation: you have to create your own world; there is no world waiting to validate you. As we drove into NYC for the Sunday gig with Love Me Not, the van is as full as it can be. The light show kids from the Warehouse were thrilled to be asked to do lights for us in Brooklyn. June made her first trip to NYC with us. Anne was in the van, her camera bag full. The Folk Mass was with us. Jeremy’s new girlfriend Amber was with us, which made it nine total, including all of the light show gear. I prayed silently that we wouldn’t be stopped along the route; simply because of the seat belt laws. That was a new wrinkle in the drive to a show.

Our set goes over quite well; the light show is a particular attraction. Someone in the crowd close to my age grabs me after the gear is packed in the van. He has a cell phone video of one of the songs.

“Hey man- can I post this to my YouTube?”
“Yeah, sure man. Thanks for coming out tonight.”

Perhaps we have finally found the formula for our live show- a full mixture of the various elements of Mystic at this time. A totality. June gushes on the ride home about how the new lineup has “So much more fluidity, so much more depth, while retaining all of the aggressiveness that marked the earlier songs.”

“Ohhh, thank you June. I can’t think of anything I would want to hear about the band other than that.” replied Jocelyn. She sounded completely earnest.
“Hey Ian” I shout out over the din of the stuffed van
“Did you have a good time tonight?”

I was beginning to worry about him. Not his musical competency, which was exceptional. I was worried he was beginning to think, or perhaps realize, that he was in way over his head.

December is filled with practices, new songs, and one show in New Haven while we wait for the days to peel away until Todd finishes school on the 23rd. Anne and I hide out on New year’s Eve. Jeremy comes by Centraal on New Year’s Day to track a demo of his latest song. On Thursday the second day of 2013, we have a full band practice at 7.30pm. We have added six new numbers to the set, and I finally feel as if Piercing has every song that it needs at this juncture.

The first thing I need to attend to on Monday morning is emailing Richard at Stormy Harbour to book the session for our next single. We all agreed that ‘Walking the Psychic Vortex’ and ‘Cupid’s Pulse” were the best choices to represent the new lineup and the new sound we were getting. Thinking about the contrast while I stared at the screen awaiting a return email, I began to think that while the visceral edge of the original lineup was no longer as present, we did sound like the same group, and one that had matured. The songwriting did have more depth, the studio was almost routine to us, and we were finally, after nine months of fighting to simply keep the band together- the retrograde was seemingly ending.

“Hey Ellery- we have two dates available for you- weds 15 jan or thurs 30 jan.”

As much as I wanted to get in to the studio as soon as possible, we would have to wait until the 30th. Joss was due to be out of town with Marcus’ family for a winter jaunt to sunny Florida during the week of the 15th. I tell myself every element of delay has eventual worked in our favor, and this would more than likely as well.

“We’ll take the 30th, thanks for getting back to me- you guys are the best! et”

Jocelyn, Ian, and Todd meet me at Centraal at 8.30am so we have enough extra time to pick up Jeremy at Amber’s house in Niantic. He will not participate on the same level as the three of them today; who have to walk through the slushy mush toward my house in the winter that won’t end. We are due to load in at Stormy Harbor by Noon, and I’m hoping January traffic to the city is minimal. After we load the van and head out toward Niantic, Joss guides us through the streets of New London, hoping to buy us some time with a shortcut.

“This is my neighborhood; I didn’t really grow up in Mystic.”

I knew where we going the entire time, but I let her call the shots. I was still trying to get Joss to take a more pro-active role in the direction of the band beyond our image. When we arrive at Amber’s house, Jeremy is waiting, guitar case in hand, on the front porch.

“Jesus, could you guys be any more late? I was freezing my ass off!”
“You think this is late? Hahahahaha” I laugh. “And what, did you get into a fight with Amber and she made you wait outside?”
“Very funny, asshole. “
“But, am I right?”
“Of course you are; asshole. Can we go make a fucking record now, please?”
“Hahahahaha…. We’re on our way.”

We do not have a stop in Brooklyn to pick up Adrian, so I can simply follow my directions right to the studio. As we pull up, and I maneuver the van into a tricky patch of iced over Brooklyn pavement, out onto the street come Richard and Michael; they look genuinely happy to see us. My initial instinct is to chalk that up to the fact that we contributed to another day of the studio’s existence, but the hugs each one of them gave me dispelled any business notion. They were invested in us, as much as we were in them; our relationship with Stormy Harbor had only been strengthened by our return. I could barely hide my anticipation about the impending session to Richard:

“I think this is the best material we have written. I can’t wait to hear what Michael is going to do with it.”
“He really has high hopes for you guys, you can see from the work he puts into your sessions. He’s also noticed all of the press you’ve been getting. ”
“We truly appreciate it; I can’t imagine recording with anyone else. Have we namechecked the studio enough in our PR?”
“Hahah, yeah, you guys are great at that.”


Michael always wanted to get a single take drum track with as many other instruments locked onto that beat. He was masterful at arranging sound baffles, microphones, and the guitar amps so there was very little bleed through on each individual track. But, the tighter we all were, the more detail he could explore during the mix.

“How old are these drum heads, my man?” Michael asked me as I finished setting up my kit.
“I put them on a week ago, tuned them twice, played them once.”

Once I had completely set up, Michael began to tune the drums himself. I was always amazed at how quickly he could bring the whole kit into harmony. I had worked with producers who would take three hours to tune the drums, but those days were thankfully long gone; we would record exclusively at Stormy Harbor for the duration of Piercing- as far as I was concerned. While Michael tuned, I began to help Richard place the mic stands and unravel the corresponding cords over the length of the studio floor. Jeremy and Todd were fine tuning their effect pedals and amp settings; Ian is in the isolation booth warming up by playing scales ridiculously fast. Jocelyn is deeply settled into an old couch backed up against the west wall, and she turns to catch my attention. Joss motions with a nod of her head toward Ian, and mouths

‘Can you believe this kid?’
I nod back, with my arms splayed apart; ‘I know.’

I thought to myself: everything is in place. We are going to get a deal and tour. I almost let myself believe it was a foregone conclusion. And then I remembered 1994. If Thames blew it, we could blow it just as easily. That brief moment where I let my guard down reinforced an inherent
insight about managing the band- never project a possible success.

Jeremy was taking it all in, a subtle sense of awe and arrival detailed his wry smile. He walked through the room, gazing at the collection of guitars, occasionally asking Michael how a certain instrument had found its way into the studio. Todd was sitting cross-legged on the floor; gently strumming his guitar which was not yet plugged in. And then: insight into initiatives. Jeremy asked Jocelyn to go through his vocal warmup with him. He had a background in singing, having been a member of the Chamber Choir in High School all four years he was there. This piqued my interest, because Joss never warmed up before a gig, a practice, or a studio session. She was actually that good; she was rarely hindered by not warming up. I myself had to play drum rudiments for at least ten minutes before gigs and studio work, not quite as much before a practice. Jeremy had been trying for months to get Joss to take warming up seriously, but she always half assed it just to placate him. But, with Richard and Michael in the room, she knew a specific professional aspect was front and center.

“Follow me, just like this… up the scale la la la la LA la la la LA la la la Laaaaah
Jocelyn followed, flawlessly.
“Now, the next note up “
Jocelyn followed, flawlessly.

After the first few takes, Michael asks me to come into the control room.

“I want you to hear this, it’s where were having a problem.”

I carried plenty of anxiety with me when I went behind the drums to track for Michael. It wasn’t an issue of whether I thought I could execute his direction; I simply didn’t want the beginning of the session to be laborious for him. I wanted to nail these tracks on the first take, but I was having trouble during the bridge of ‘Vortex’. Michael leaned over the expansive mixing board, and rewound to the spot he wanted me to hear; the whirring digital code sounding like an impending typhoon. I was nervous.

“Hear how you’re galloping through this bridge transition? You need to slow down there and let the rhythm develop; you’re basically rushing it.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can totally hear it. Ok, let me just do a raw run through with those guys to nail it.”
“Ells, you know I’m going to run tape anyway. Try to nail it out of the box.”
“Ok, man.” I trusted him. As I reached for the door handle to the studio, a sudden realization entered my mind: he trusted me.

“Ok, Twining… can you nail it so we don’t waste the whole day getting drum tracks?” Jeremy judiciously instills a bit of sarcasm. He had a point, and I had to keep up with the kids musically. On the third pass of the song after Michael’s instruction, we lock in to the change effortlessly.
“Great! Great! Ok, Ells, there is one part out of whack toward the end, where you get a little behind, a bit off.”
“Ok, cool, can you cue it up?”
“Coming right up… and here, listen for it.”

The sound comes in at top volume, the way that I like it. After a brief pause where all of the instruments are holding a note in unison, the drum fill that I play out of the dissolving noise brings the whole band back to full throated volume with a concise guitar solo from Jeremy to wrap it up. The drum fill isn’t smooth at all.

“Can you roll back the tape for a second; play it again?”
“Sure thing Ells”

Now I can hear it. There is one solitary snare note that is out of place. It’s not obvious, it’s not glaring, but it is wrong. And Michael heard it; could isolate among all of that sound a single snare beat. It’s a good thing he’s not leading us into war, I think, because I would probably follow him.

“Are we rolling?” I say into the closest microphone, and gaze back at the control booth. I get the thumbs up, and the Michael nod; always reassuring. I reach into a place where I can draw the discipline to make this live edit: there already exists an audience that is going to hear this drum take.

“Got it. Good work, Ells.”

The recording of ‘Cupid’s Pulse’ is the complete opposite from ‘Vortex’. We track a beautiful version of Todd’s haunting epic on the fourth take; perfectly synthesizing the quiet/loud dynamic of the tune.

“Ok, ok. Great work people. Ummm, I need a smoke break, and then we’ll listen together the few spots I need each of you to do a quick fix on. Is that cool?”

“Of course, Michael. Whatever you need.” Jocelyn is the first to respond.

Michael found three distinct notes he wanted Ian to fix. It takes about eight minutes.Jeremy has one section to fix, a guitar solo on ‘Vortex’. One take. Done. He wants Todd to triple layer parts of the guitar solo that ends ‘Cupid’s Pulse’. Four takes.

“Joss! Your turn.” Michael bellows into the room mic. She is in the front room ordering take out for herself, Richard, and Michael. I have the picnic basket packed.
“Be right there.”

Once Joss has soundchecked in the vocal both, I head out back to their open air patio. One of the more interesting elements of Stormy Harbor were the double industrial doors you had to pass through to get outside. They sat only eighteen inches apart, and every time I went out back to partake, I could only think of some musician way past their limit getting wrenched between the two doors, and calling Michael, or Richard for help. I also didn’t want that person to be me, so I never drank in the studio until the mixing session began, among many other reasons.. I had to drive everyone back home from Brooklyn, so it wasn’t a rock life moment for me. More like a Dad moment, because I imagined it would be a great night to get totally loaded and mix new music with Michael. He was a singular human being, and an incredible music maker.

Jocelyn and Todd take a combined twenty five minutes to complete their vocal tracks. Jeremy was up next, and was essentially was recording the last tracks before we could begin mixing. We were way ahead of schedule, so there was no real pressure on Jeremy; he could take a bit of time to find his way into ‘Vortex,’ as he sang half of the main vocal. His first five takes, however, are completely awful; off key and out of rhythm. Joss, Todd, and I share a concerned look, as if to convey- there can’t be a way he’s been actually this off the whole time, can it?”

“Hey” I whisper to the two of them. Ian is on his phone and doesn’t seem to be aware of the tension in the control booth at all.
“Michael will get the performance needed out of him. Let’s be patient.” I offer encouragingly. But I absolutely believe it as well.
“I think that’s a solid.” replies Todd, in his typical unblemished whisper.
“He’ll get it. I know he will. He won’t let me down now.” Jocelyn adds this at a low volume. I can barely make out her words.

Jocelyn speaks these words as if in a trance, as if her exchange of conversation was not for Todd and me, but for some larger, extemporaneous force. Jocelyn’s personal identification toward the importance of the things we cannot see, the things that are hidden from us… asking “how random is random?” were the centrifuge I which I built my belief upon in regard to her talent. It was not simply her voice. Perhaps I was reading too much into it; completely projecting. But that sort of thing happened all of the time in the Mystic valley. There was no way I would not be influenced by her statement.

As we finish packing up the gear, Jeremy brings up the cover art. My first reaction is personal disappointment; hadn’t he been paying attention to Malthus all these years? And the cover art for the previous two singles was scheduled well before their respective recording sessions. This was the first real evidence that at some point, Piercing was going to be too big for a member of the band to manage. That realization was powerful, as it truly indicated our outward growth. But until that time actually arrived, I couldn’t let the proverbial ball to drop.

“How about Todd makes a collage, something based around the American flag?” states Jeremy with confidence
“Ohh, that’s interesting” opines Jocelyn
“The flag? What kind of progressive imaging led you from Joss in a bra to the flag?” I reply, somewhat incredulously. Had Jeremy not been paying attention to the Piercing totality of image? It was in Jocelyn’s hands, and she wanted Pop Art full color, with each of the glamourous, risqué entreats.

“You know- the fucking stars and stripes?”
“Haaha very funny. There is nothing political about our music. But the flag image is making me think about something…. Fabric…”
“And?” asks Jeremy
“Anne wanted to do this fashion shoot years ago, but it never materialized. Her idea was to take large swaths of velvet fabric and wind them between trees in the winter; shooting the models in the bi-chrome effect of the white snow and the heavily contrasted fabric. A ‘Snow White’ kind of thing.”
“That sounds very interesting.” Jocelyn speaks, and everyone else stops talking.
“Are you up for it? I’m sure Anne would love to have you model a shoot again; she always raved about your ability to capture the spirit of the moment.”
“Can you text her about it now?”
“Of course!”

Jocelyn asks. I comply.

On the ride back to Mystic, the CDR of the session plays on the van CD player. The is a palpable sense of relief in the van as we pile up the miles on I95- we had survived the near destruction of Piercing only to come out stronger. Ian had been pretty quiet throughout the day, but I suddenly sensed the need to hear what his take on the day’s proceedings were.

“Hey Ian, did you have a good day?” I asked.