1. Table for Glasses
  2. Lucky Denver Mint
  3. Your New Aesthetic
  4. Believe In What You Want
  5. A Sunday
  6. Crush
  7. 12.23.95
  8. Ten
  9. Just Watch The Fireworks
  10. For Me This Is Heaven
  11. Blister
  12. Clarity
  13. Goodbye Sky Harbor

Introduction

Zach: The past few months have been a special time for us. During this time we’ve been learning, rehearsing and playing these songs from Clarity for our fans across the United States. The Clarity x 10 tour was the ten year anniversary of our album “Clarity.” We ultimately decided to do this tour as a result of some encouragement from our fans. A handful of fans kept prodding us to plan something like this and so we took their advice. Sadly, the tour is now over but it has made way for the release of this live recording of the last performance of the tour in Tempe, AZ.

We were absolutely floored by the response from everyone who came out to the shows to help us celebrate these songs. The fact that this tour took place would have seemed unimaginable to us when we were making this album. When Clarity was being recorded, we were completely under anyone’s radar and we were pretty sure it would be our last major label record. So in light of all this, words can’t express our gratitude for all those who’ve been listening for the past ten years and beyond. Without your passion we wouldn’t exist so thank you!

For those who could not be with us in person to celebrate, we hope this live recording will be an avenue for you to participate. We tried to craft this live album so that you, the listener, would feel like you were in the room. We hope you enjoy.

Table For Glasses

Jim: I don’t usually discuss what songs are specifically about. But I think Table is worth talking about because it can help explain why that is. I was working at an art supply store off and on in between Static Prevails tour legs. At the end of the month we would be instructed to rip off the covers of the magazines we didn’t sell and box them to be returned. Being a not so great-paying retail gig, the staff would have little remorse just taking the old zines. I would check out Flash Art and Blind Spot. I found myself liking Maurizio Cattelan’s stuff. It was engaging in a way I hadn’t expected. He was the first person I found presenting art in a way that got you to think about what art really is.

The local art scene was totally different than the music scene. Working at the store helped me find out about openings and showings. My group of friends were living in the university area but no one was going to school. We would hit up any and all openings. It felt like we were infiltrating a secret society, taking all their free food and drinks. Once, one of my dance-based coworkers had a performance on the college campus. It was tied in with some other local people’s work. Some with visual art, some with human-involved installation pieces. While we were outside waiting for my friend’s dance piece to start, there was a girl cleaning the ground with the tail of an all white dress. I think I was the only one of us who noticed. She went behind us and across a courtyard very slowly until she got to a candle lit table that had already been set up. She just sat there picking out the dirt from her dress into a few dozen tumblers. It occurred to me this was intended to be art. I know that sounds funny. This image of her stuck with me and for a while I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t because I had been searching for some deeper meaning in why she was presenting her piece. It was because I realized it doesn’t matter why. This is the reason I usually steer conversations away from exact, specific explanations of lyrics and song-meanings: there is no correct way to interpret art. And there is no meaning more important or special than the one the listener/reader/viewer decides for themselves.

There were a few songs on Clarity that were originally meant to be for a side project of quiet songs. It never got past a few “jams” so all the songs went up for Clarity consideration. Table was one of the first in that batch. I was listening to a lot of Low at the time (which you can tell from the extended cymbal-snare drum pattern and held out vocals towards the end). I like how sparse it stays until the kick drum finally enters at the “lead my skeptic sight…” part. Recording this song taught us that if you aren’t doing a lot, it doesn’t take a lot to get a big dynamic impact. The lone cello is a good example of that. Susie Katayama helped write and arrange strings for some of the Clarity songs. Table wasn’t one of the main priorities for strings but she heard it and really liked it. It was past her session stop time but she told us she wanted a pass to roll on the idea she had. Pretty sure what you hear on the song is the last (one-pass) take of the day.

The atmosphere of the Clarity sessions was very encouraging for experimentation. Any idea was explored for some element to make the song better. I would think a song was totally finished and then one of the guys in the band or Mark would bring up an idea that really closed the deal. Tom and Rick had a hook up to get Bjork tickets one night. I really wanted to go but had to do some guitar thing that was holding up other overdubs. Later that night Mark told me to try and add some counterpoint vocals in the ending crescendo section. What happened is the “not asking of me anything...” section. I can’t imagine the tune not having that. And I still have never seen solo Bjork live.

Zach: Compared to the way that we had decided to start off our previous album, “Static Prevails”, we thought beginning “Clarity” with “Table for Glasses” was fitting. We felt it served as a musical palette cleanser and hopefully provided a bit of a surprise. This was one of those songs that began as a simple, unassuming song but then took on a new life when we were putting it together in the studio.

Lucky Denver Mint

Jim: Clarity was finished and ready to go. Artwork and everything complete. Only problem was we had no pending release date. Craig, our A$R person, had an idea to help us keep the ball rolling so we could have something to tour with. We would release an EP with a couple songs from the record and some outtakes/extra stuff. He put us in contact with Vinnie from Less Than Jake, who also ran Fueled By Ramen records. He was into the idea and agreed to put it out. Denver was the lead song for the EP. A couple crazy things happened after the ep was released. KROQ in LA added the song to their playlist and it was pitched to be in a Drew Barrymore movie called, “Never Been Kissed”. Bam! That week we got a firm release date for the album.

Zach: This was the first song of ours that got played on the radio. We first heard it as we were driving in our van over the hills between the valley and Hollywood on Coldwater Canyon Road. The reception kept cutting in and out which was, looking back on it, a pretty accurate omen. The song didn’t last long on the radio and that was probably a good thing in the long run.

Jim: I have a strong suspicion Craig was tactfully keeping from us that the label had no intention of releasing Clarity. That is, until KROQ started playing it. Really why would they have kept us around? I think at the time Static Prevails had sold maybe somewhere close to 5k copies. One thing we learned early in the process recording and touring with Static was that the big labels were great selling tens and hundreds of thousands of records. They had no infrastructure to develop a band like us that had sold a single handful of thousands.

It was pretty rad doing the movie soundtrack. We got to meet Drew Barrymore. We got to make one of those videos where you see scenes from the movie interlaced. Growing up, watching those always seemed to make the video a bigger deal. The film soundtrack was released and promoted worldwide at a time when our albums were not. Thanks to Ms Barrymore, we got at least one of our songs out across the water.

Zach: Lucky Denver Mint was one of the first songs we came up with that sounded distinctly like “us”. It was a rock song but not a typical kind of rock song for 1998. The contrast of the swing in the rhythm and the straightness of the guitars that’s found in this track was something we’ve always been attracted to. This track was also the first time we ever tried recording two different parts on the drum set. We like the effect so much we ended up using two sets on Ten and Good Bye Sky Harbor.

Your New Aesthetic

Zach: This song went through a lot of changes in the writing process. It started out as a very mellow track with the same lyrical theme but then evolved into a more aggressive, dark rock song. In an odd way, Your New Aesthetic is sort of a companion song to Table for Glasses in that it holds a similar kind of tension during the first half of the song and then opens up to a much larger, wider sound for the second half.

Jim: The rock version you hear on Clarity was called “Skeleton” for a while because the loud guitar parts in between the verses reminded us of horror film music. Like when the shower curtain gets pulled back and you see the knife for the first time. It had completely different lyrics. I started to lay down the vocals and decided they could be better. So I scrapped the whole thing and adapted the lyrics from the mellow version. You can hear how the original Your New Aesthetic sounded on the self-titled EP that Fueled By Ramen released.

Believe In What You Want

Jim: We were asked to contribute a cover for a Duran Duran tribute album. In part of the hoopla for the release, we got to play with Duran Duran in the Hollywood Tower Records parking lot. Remember that? Tower Records? This was during the Static Prevails touring time. When we were playing shows in garages and basements that Zach himself was booking. At one point after we met the band we were surrounded by paparazzi style photographers. I kept thinking: this is crazy, none of you know or care who we are. I suppose the greater meaning behind the song is to keep in sight what is truly important. Don’t get caught up in the fluff that doesn’t really matter.

A Sunday

Zach: The key to this song was making the choruses more soft and intimate compared to the verses. It wasn’t until we made that adjustment did the song really come together nicely. A Sunday is still one of our more successful attempts at capturing a song on a recording. It just really translated well on tape.

Jim: We stated recording Clarity at Sound City in Van Nuys. We had good luck doing drums for Static there so we decided to try it again. Sunday has one of my favorite drum sounds. The slower tempo and low overdub count let the drums breathe. You can hear why the big room is the expensive room. I think that is Sylvia Massey’s B-3 organ we “borrowed” for an afternoon. This is also where Mark showed us the program rebirth. For a while we wasted many, many hours tweaking in the lame-beat vortex, convinced it might just be the right thing for certain parts in other songs.

Crush

Jim: So simple and straight forward. I can’t remember if we ever tried different arrangement ideas. Probably not. I don’t think this is greatly different from the first guitar and hi-hat only drum demo.

Zach: Going into the studio we felt “Crush” was one of the stronger rock tunes in the batch. We didn’t fiddle with it a whole lot and it came together really well. I figure Jim wrote this when he lived in Flagstaff based on the reference to snow. We don’t get that stuff down here in Phoenix.

12.23.95

Zach: This is a song we put together in Jim’s parents living room with a drum machine and a small recording set up we used in the early days. We used just a little digital tape machines and a 16 channel mixer.

Jim: Zach brought over a Dr.Rythym or something to my house when we were demoing ideas for other songs. We were recording and Zach just started pushing buttons. When the patterns zach programmed change in the intro, it is totally random. We incorporated it and made the music around it. The drone guitar that sounds lo-res is me shuttling the guitar tracks backwards and recording it on a different tape, then dumping it back in. It was a one in a million chance that it would line up exactly with the random pattern change in the intro.

Zach: When we were in the studio we tried to come up with cooler drum machine sounds but weren’t successful so we just ended up using our crappy drum machine.

Jim: Nothing we tried sounded as cool as the demo. We busted out the crappy digital tape recorder and played back the demo, recording it into the tape for the Clarity sessions. Great timing too because when we got back that night from dinner at poquito mas or something, we found out that Mark’s laptop and our crappy digital tape machines we used to demo had been stolen.

Zach: When Jim came up with the little keyboard part we always thought it sounded like something out of a Japanese video game like Final Fantasy.

Jim: Yes, I was playing a lot of Final Fantasy 7 at the time. I have no doubt video game music is the inspiration for the keyboard lead parts.

Ten

Zach: This is one of our favorite songs on the record. It’s a simple song that really came to life during the recording process. It has lots of sonic textures that were really fun to play with in creating the track. It’s to this day one of our most enjoyable songs to play live.

Jim: The demo for Ten had a drum pattern that just did the verse beat over and over like a loop. The dreamy feel it made was cool but not for the whole song. We decided to use different drum set ups for each section like we approached Denver. The loop would play for the whole song and Zach would come in playing the other kit for the chorus and bridge sections. At the time, Nick Raskulinniz was an engineer assisting at Sound City (he would later go on to win grammies working with the Foo Fighters). Superdrag had just recorded for Head Trip In Every Key there. Nick was around for that session and showed us the actual strip of tape they used to make a drum loop. The term loop gets thrown around so much these days I am not sure if some people know it originally described a loop of physical tape as much as a repeating music phrase. You would record your part, then slice it up at the spot you want to repeat. Usually the phrase was longer than the exact length of the path around the tape reels so you would use a mic stand or something to extend the path. Looks a little goofy and like it could break the tape deck but that is how you do it. I think we burnt over some of Superdrag’s loop tape to make ours for the verses of Ten.

Just Watch The Fireworks

Jim: We came out to LA about a week before our studio time started to do pre-production with Mark. We holed up in an LA rehearsal spot. I think the rumor at the time was Rage Against the Machine just did a whole album in their practice room at the same joint. It seemed like such a pain in the ass having to load in and out for a daily or hourly jam session. We didn’t have a dedicated practice place but we could play almost anytime at Rick and Tom’s “club 700”. There wasn’t anything we could do to make the neighbors hate that house MORE. Fireworks started out with a much slower, almost ballad-y approach. Mark had the idea to try it more mid-tempo and driving. Took us a few run-throughs to relearn the song that way but it made it much better.

For Me This Is Heaven

Jim: We had a decent recording budget available. It wasn’t a ton of money. Just enough to do what we wanted if we prioritized where we spent. Our manager was gracious enough to let us all stay at a house he used as offices. He managed Ice-T. We slept on the floor with Trespass, Surviving the Game and New Jack Huslter posters above our sleeping bag spots. I never had a second thought about sleeping on the floor for over a month. It didn’t matter because we were making a record. We sunk our money into whatever we thought could provide an opportunity for creativity. Mainly, studio time and instrument rentals.

It would have been nice to stay at Sound City for the whole time, but we would have run out of cash fast. After we recorded the drums, we moved to a place where we had a cheaper day rate. It was a studio off of Burbank called Clear Lake. We were going at recording like we would never make another real album again. A few days we rented just about every percussion instrument and toy we could get. We had vibes, bells, tubular bells, temple blocks, cowbells… whatever. Yes, multiple cowbells with different pitches in case the first few weren’t exactly quenching the fever. They were wheeling in timpani when we realized we had taken it a little too far. It was fun having all that stuff laying around. You would just be walking by and HAVE to start messing around with something. Heaven has a lot of cool rhythmic parts going on. That came from Zach and Mark tweaking around with the trays of hand percussion instruments. I could be wrong but this may be the only jimmy eat world song with triangle.

Blister

Jim: Tom is the one who should really be talking about this one. People have asked why this is the only Tom main vocal when on Static we traded off main vocals almost down the middle. I think in leading up to Clarity I started immediately putting words to the music ideas I had. After that happened it was hard to not want to sing it.

Clarity

Jim: I don’t know what made us start messing around with alternate guitar tunings. Maybe reading guitar-magazine interviews with Sonic Youth. Heaven and Clarity are played in an open “E” tuning, where you strum all the guitar strings open to make an “E” chord. Clarity seemed like a good title track. It was a period for the band when things were coming together. We felt like we were starting to sound like our own band instead of like our record collections. It felt like we had set the bar higher for ourselves.

Goodbye Sky Harbor

Zach: The most noticeable aspect of the song is its length. When we were mapping out how we would record the song, we decided the song would use up an entire whole reel of two-inch tape which ended up being a little over sixteen minutes long. We recorded the ending the extended outro until the tape ran out and then went back to construct the ending it now has with the added vocal loops and the disco ending.

Jim: The idea was to have it end up in a sonically different place, but still have some of the same melodies. Sky Harbor stayed more concept than song for a long time. We changed the drum sounds between the verse and chorus by having Zach play to a slowed down tape. That way when it get played back at regular speed it sounds higher pitched. The higher pitched kit comes in for the second chorus and sticks around until the end. Mark kept slowing down the tape until it ran out. I think Zach must have been playing that beat for almost a half hour as the record speed got slower and slower. While that is happening, Zach is playing another overdubbed drum set that Mark was speeding up as he played. You can hear one kit get higher and one get lower as the song goes on. Fleshing out the ending was the last thing we did.

We started to mix the album in one studio but got freaked out for some reason that we weren’t getting as good a sound as we were in the tracking studio. One of the drawbacks to spending so much time recording was the roughs sounded almost like a record. We were packing up and Mark had me go into a vocal booth and go at it scatting ideas over the trance-jam section. I just put a bunch of ideas down and we left. It wasn’t until we were forced to mix Sky Harbor that Mark decided to arrange the ideas into the order they appear. The idea was to have it go by one phrase longer than you expected something new to come in, and then have something new come in. Maybe it was the way the high kit was sounding at the end, almost like a drum and bass song, that provided the idea to go electric sounding. The end drums aren’t really machine drums, they are the hits from the high kit cut up and dropped in by hand, fills and all.

Zach: The lyrics are inspired by the John Irving novel “A Prayer for Owen Meany”.

Jim: Anthrax always had a Stephen King song. I thought why not try going with something I was reading.