A Letter to the Bees

Before we bore you to death with all the blah blah blahing about recording and our lives, we thought we should actually put up a song.  This was one of the first created for the album, although that’s not entirely true.  It was actually created for a project that was going to be an EP.  Each song on the EP was going to contain a deconstruction of our song “Good Morning, Bubblegum“.  Everybody loves “GM” so I thought I’d try and figure out why scientifically.  Plus, you know, it seemed like a good exercise in po mo bullshit.  The project lasted about two songs until I moved on to something else (the other one being “Caerse Muerto,” which also ended up on this album).  Anyway, the “GM” part won’t be apparent until you hear the finished version, so you’ll just have to believe me.  Basically, it’s a loop of the drums from the song with this guy who used to whistle ABBA off key in the cube next to me recorded on the sly.

The other song “A Letter to the Bees” mimics is one by the band Teriyakis.  I was in the Teriyakis and the song is interesting in that it was recorded on a boom box in my parent’s garage, probably around 1993 or so (I could be totally wrong on that). The other guys had come down to my parents house where I was living at the time, in Erie, KS. We woke up kinda hungover with coffee in hand and this song came out in spontaneous fashion. We were actually pretty good at spontaneous songs (and we all loved Can, so maybe that helped?). It was on our album Haunted Hungarian Sauna. If you feel the need for a copy, just let me know. I’m sure someone has boxes of them left somewhere.

“Happy in Erie”–Teriyakis

The reason the Teriyakis song is relevant is because the story of “A Letter to the Bees” deals with my thinking of my old bandmates while I was sitting at work watching the sunrise one day.  I worked on the 10th floor of an office building with a great view of Mt Hood on one side and I-84 on the other side.  Since I had to be there early (somewhere near the buttcrack of dawn), beautiful sunrises occurred pretty much every day, especially in the winter.  One day as I was getting prepared to go play some shows in Olympia, Tacoma, and Seattle, and I kept thinking back to all the tours the Teriyakis would go on and how I felt kinda utterly ridiculous to be doing this again in my mid-30s (don’t tell pitchfork how old we are, they’ll never write about us then…).  Add in some patented moves of mine of circular and surreal lyrics, some borrowed lines from other songs to further the story along, and you’ve got the song “A Letter to the Bees”.

It’s not so much nostalgia as just remembering (I fucking hate nostalgia–as Melissa reminds me, “you don’t have a nostalgic bone in your body”).  Or maybe it is. I could and maybe should let you in on another hint: lately I’ve been writing personal lyrics without covering them in so much surrealism that you have no idea what they mean. A good example of this being our tune “All Yer Water’s Turned to Rope,” also from the album Blabber ‘n’ Smoke. It’s a skewed love song for Melissa and even contains our pal Billy (from the Teriyakis) reciting a poem. The lyrics for “All Yer…” also contain my side of the argument against writing from life (“don’t get caught in the art of the mirror”), an argument that Melissa and I have had in our approaches to poetry/song since the beginning. Well, not really an argument, just a matter of writing style. It’s what happens when you get two Lit majors in the same household/band.

Anyway, both of these songs lean toward more surrealism than confessional, so it’s not exactly Adrienne Rich or Robert Lowell. Probably the most personal lyrics I’ve let into the world were for our EP An Uncloudy Day. If you’d like to know more about those, you can write me. It’s a very sad story.

Below are two versions of the song, one played live on KUPS radio in Tacoma and one video live at the Red Room in Portland.  Here are the lyrics.

A Letter to the Bees [the title is a play on words, the original core of the Teriyakis all had names that started with the letter B]
Here I am back to the Velvet Underground
Back to the floors that I love [double homage!: These two lines are from Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”. The Velvet Underground reference by Stevie isn’t to the band, but I thought it was fitting since it seemed my songwriting at this point was heading back into the direction of VU.]
In the land of idiot boys… [from “Phenomenal Cat” by The Kinks]
Oh just stop quoting and start saying.
Oh just stop quoting and start saying.
I’ll take the level and survey the land
You take the rod and go on up ahead
Step lightly ’round those mannequin hands [injoke about people at a show we played sitting like mannequins]
Holding plastic flowers above their heads
Heartbroken art was your first mistake
And how do they hold anything anyway?
Oh just stop thinking and start saying.
Oh just stop thinking and start saying.
The sun shines behind Mt. Hood at dawn
The cars move along like a toddler in pain
I think I’ll sit down and write a letter to the bees
And just tell ’em how much they meant to me.

“A Letter to the Bees”–The Harvey Girls live on KUPS, Tacoma (there’s some static in the recording, but it adds authenticity… we all need that, right?)

A Letter to the Bees, Live at the Red Room in Portland, OR


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