Monday, August 11, 2008

I write the theme song? I sing the theme song?

John here:

It's been a VERY productive few days. Cass and I have been working on a bunch of music for other people's projects:

Kirby Ferguson - the genius web director behind the "Do You Take It...?" video - has been making a gang war spoof. We've written him one 'West Side Story' type musical theater number and one syrupy Celine Dion-ish love theme. I don't want to reveal much more about this video because it is set to be released soon and I expect it will be the biggest success of his career.

Birgitte Philippides - the director of Polyamorous NYC - is in the middle of creating a pilot for a reality TV show featuring the lives of a circle of polyamorous friends in New York City. She has an amazing production company working with her on this: smart, witty, queer... and they've got real integrity. Cass and I are obviously excited by the possibility of a TV series showing polyamory to a wide audience in an intelligent, non-exploitative manner. So we pitched them on writing the theme song for the show. It's sort of a parody of those perky "Friends" sitcom theme songs from the 80s & 90s.

I really enjoy working on these sorts of things because they're light. I'm not as invested in the material as I am with Wet Spots songs. This sounds like maybe I don't care as much about them, and that's true... sort of... but in a good way. With the Wet Spots, we've consciously and unconsciously developed personae and a bit of a mission statement to go with the act. For example, we don't want to write a song that would make the audience feel ashamed about sex in any way. Even if it gets a laugh out of them. Now I think this is a good 'rule' to have. In and of itself. But once you get enough of these well-intentioned rules in place around an act, it becomes a bit harder to just blurt out your ideas into songs. You sort of measure them against the yardstick of your aesthetic principles before they even have a chance to develop. You don't intend to do this, it just happens. And it bogs down the writing process.

An unsuccessful writing session is a gut-wrenching experience. Have I used up all my good ideas for this lifetime? Has the well permanently dried up? These questions always arise & dance around - about as easy to ignore as a piece of sawdust deep behind your eyelid. But a simple way to avoid this experience is to not write. To focus instead on the managerial side of the self-employed artist gig. Book more shows, sort out some work visas, send out some promo kits, do the blog etc. This process is insidious because it keeps you away from your real work but seems totally reasonable

Writing for other people is great because we get to throw out all the Wet Spots rules. If we want to write a vicious song, we can. If we want to write a bubblegum pop song then we can. We blurt out the ideas, and if they don't work then it's not a crushing blow to our faith in the viability of our main meal ticket. The other reason why writing for other people is great is because we're writing. Period. We're showing up for work, and getting the gears turning. Which makes it that much easier to show up for writing new material for ourselves.

Or so goes the theory. One of the goals I have for this New York summer stint is to get a lot of work done on a musical. The Wet Spots wrote some songs for a semi-improv'd burlesque / musical theater project earlier this year at the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. The amazing Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society provided the actors and a lot of the plot ideas. Now Cass and I want to take those songs, and a bunch of new ones, and create a full-fledged, full-length, fully scripted musical with a very different plot. I believe that this musical could be a big-titted hit on a scale way above and beyond what The Wet Spots have achieved. So I'm really invested in it. So I'm really bogged down on it. It doesn't have that playful lightness that good writing requires. So I've been writing for other people instead. And I'm really happy with the results I've achieved in those pieces. But it remains to be seen if I'll now be able to dive in to this musical and give it that same dedication. In this, our last week in New York City.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your songs very much. They have wit and appeal. Sadly I have only seen you on You Tube and I think our paths are unlikely to cross. People like the Wet Spots represent the better side of North American culture. What good about you is that you show that there is an alternative. I hope you mean what you imply.