The Whole Bolivian Army
home band music news photos store videos contact


18 DECEMBER 2007

The Crocodile Cafe (Seattle, WA)End of an era | I just read the news that the venerable Crocodile Cafe is closing its doors. Ack. There goes another Seattle music scene institution. The Colourbox. OK Hotel. Sit & Spin. The depressing list goes on, and now it includes the Croc.

I know some of our fellow bands regarded the Croc with much skepticism and derision, partly I'm sure because they never got to play there. I can't blame them. It was, at times, hipper than thou. But we had some great shows there, including our Spinner CD release party in 1998. It was an excellent sounding room, the staff members were professional and courteous, the line-ups were usually pretty interesting, and in general it was a great place to play or see a show. R.I.P., Crocodile Cafe.

- Matt


Nostalgia fit | Do you ever look back at your life -- or segments thereof -- and just get overwhelmed by all the associated emotions that come with it? We got a cool e-mail recently from a budding young chef in Federal Way, who recalled the first and only time he ever saw our band play live (at an impromptu unplugged all-ages show in SeaTac many, many moons ago) and then went on to share with us a nifty little detail: he met a girl there that night that went on to become his wife. Good friends of ours also met at a TWBA show years ago (at the Off Ramp) and later married, so maybe there's something going on here. The Whole Bolivian Army: your rock and roll matchmakers.

Anyway, the whole thing inspired me to put in some old TWBA albums, and I was struck by a whole range of emotions as I listened to them. Every album is created in a certain context, at a certain juncture in our lives, and listening to them for me can be an unnerving experience. The nostalgia is almost too much to bear. It aches, but in a good way.

- Matt

17 NOVEMBER 2007

Chris G and Greg StricklandBasement tapes | Ugh. Sorry for the lack of posts. It's not like we haven't been busy. Greg went to Japan -- and Moses Lake. I ran the Portland Marathon. Chris flew to California to mix an album dedicated to his late brother. Tommy plumbed the mother of all toilets. MB tried to convince Gibson that Halloween candy isn't a major food group. Oh, and we recorded a 4-song demo. Since then we've been bunkered in the basement while Tommy finishes the "big room" in his studio. For the moment, we're writing, writing, writing. But we promise to post the demo songs here as soon as we've mixed them. In the meantime, try not to be too SAD. There's nothing you or I or anybody can do about the dreaded loss of our daylight . . .

- Matt

31 OCTOBER 2007

spooky skeletonSpooky Tacoma | Gibson and I went trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood tonight, while MB answered the door and sugared up the masses. Nobody chased after us in a hockey mask, but we did eat enough candy to feel a bit seasick afterward.

Halloween should be twice a year. It's definitely Gibson's favorite. What's not to like? You get to gut a pumpkin (or two or three or four), traipse around in the dark, dress up all spooky (or goofy, if you prefer), and eat free candy. We were a little suspicious of the one lady who left apples on her front porch, though. What's she trying to do? Start a revolution?

- Matt

23 AUGUST 2007

Morning after food poisoning in the south of France | That's actually the subtitle of a new song we're working on, called "Alright," which revisits a backpacking trip to Europe I took after dropping out of grad school. My buddy and I ended up with food poisoning while staying in Arles, a cool little town in Provence, in the south of France. My buddy did okay. Me, not so much. I don't throw up well. I remember classmates in high school and college who could drink, hurl, and repeat -- with smiles on their faces. For me, personally, I have to get to the point of near death before I can throw up, and then it's like an exorcism, usually one that lasts a good 12 hours and is accompanied by high fever, hallucinations, and all sorts of unbecoming moaning and writhing.

Anyway, after that particular episode in Arles, which lasted all night, the sun finally came up, and I began to feel human again. I left the hotel and wandered the cobblestone alleys to find something cold and fizzy to drink. It was a sunny October morning, and life was suddenly good. Really, really good. Just hours earlier, I was riding the porcelain bus and praying for a way out of my misery. And then everything was beautiful again.

Jaja Boom BoomWe had to part ways with Roger Johnson, our long-time drummer and good friend, last week, not because of any of the usual culprits (musical differences, etc.), but because of time constraints. Roger is a dang busy guy, and a proud papa to boot. The band demanded a little more than he could give at the moment. It's tempting to feel a helpless sense of deja vu. Here we go again in with another member change. But we keep reminding ourselves that things will be alright. Here's an MP3 of Roger playing "Alright" [REMOVED] at practice, and here's one of the new guy, Chris, long time buddy of Greg's, playing another new song in the works, "Mercurial" [REMOVED], after learning it on the fly at a hastily arranged audition. That's Gibson playing the harmonica at the end. Apologies for all the wrong notes on guitar. The drummer, though, is fine.

sun finally came
slid into my jeans
sleepwalked the streets
streets I'd never seen

suddenly it's gonna be alright

something cool to drink
pressed against my skin
she gave me my change
couldn't remember where I'd been

suddenly it's gonna be alright

free fall feels right
when no one gets hurt
I dig where I land
fingernails need dirt

suddenly it's gonna be alright

- Matt

6 AUGUST 2007

Gibson, the next Neil Peart?The kid is alright | There are plenty of cool things about parenthood, but one of them has been a surprise to me, at least as far as how it has affected my musical life: the chance to revisit and rediscover rock and roll. Gibson is six and a half now, and a budding little drummer. His first favorite band was U2 (not a surprise, given how much MB and I play U2 around the house), and he actually knew all four members' names before he could fully speak. Likewise, he already knew how to play the drums. Since then, he's slowly been learning the U2 catalog, actually sitting down and watching Larry Mullin, Jr. play a specific song, pausing the DVD, and then hurrying to his drum set to replicate the part.

We were a bit worried he would never move on to another band, but no worries. Next up was AC/DC. After watching Let There Be Rock, Gibson started miming Angus Young's whirling dervish guitar antics, including that fancy move where he spins around the floor on his side while playing his SG.

Next came Queen, after we all sat down one day to watch Live Aid footage, courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library system. Bono and U2 hit their stride that day, but Freddie Mercury, aka Farrokh Bulsara, and Queen absolutely blew everyone's doors. What a magnificent performer Freddie was! No one in today's crop of would-be world beaters comes even remotely close. The guy was pure theater: decadent but real, over the top but sincere. And his voice was otherworldly.

Currently, we're studying the music and biography of the Who. I was never much of a Who fan, so this has been fun for me. Watching The Kids Are Alright, it's impossible not to be sucked into the mania. Pete Townshend was channeling pure aggression. Thankfully only his guitars (and amps and Keith Moon's drums) paid the price. And thanks to Gibson, I've discovered the Who, only three decades after their heyday. Who's next?

- Matt

3 AUGUST 2007

Planet PT | Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who came out to the acoustic show last night at the co-op in Port Townsend. The place has its own weather system (the wind always blows) and feels a million miles away from the rest of the world. It's quiet and lonely and desolate, even in the summer when the tourists descend. And it still feels like home. We missed you.

- Matt

6 JULY 2007

Domesticity is good for you | Long-time followers of TWBA know well our ongoing attempts at outdoing Spinal Tap in the members turnover department. I won't revisit our sordid history here, other than to say we've never lost anybody to spontaneous human combustion. Instead, I'll mention how cool -- and downright freakish -- it is to have found a lineup that has excellent chemistry (we've had that before) AND an unmistakable aura of stability as well (we've only rarely had that). No personality clashes. No ego trips. No unbridgeable musical differences. Just four guys and one gal getting busy making music. Alas, there's nothing to hold us back, save for domestic obligations -- the avowed enemy of rock 'n roll. Then again, maybe band discussions that revolve around the differing consistencies of diaper poop or the perils of public schooling will keep us properly grounded. We rock for the good of the republic.

- Matt

1 JULY 2007

VansCheap knock-offs | I bought my first pair of Vans the other day. I've always been a Chuck Taylor kind of guy (orange, green, mint green, gray, off white, gold lamé), but thought I'd give Spicoli's favorite shoe a try. It helped that Gibson needed a pair of slip-ons, too. Who has time for laces? Anyway, technically speaking, neither of us bought Vans. We went for the cheap knock-offs, but who's going to notice? Not us. Gibson's have a menacing skull and crossbones design. Mine show some kind of inscrutable blob. They were the only ones in my size...

- Matt

19 JUNE 2007

Anatomy of a song | Ever wonder how a song gets from Point A to Point B, with Point A being an idea and Point B being a finished studio production? Well, we thought it would be cool to invite you into the pre-production stages of the next album. Below are three versions of the same song, each with notes next to the accompanying MP3.

One Last Time Here (naked) [REMOVED]: Here we have a basic song idea, which I recorded at home many moons ago with Mary Beth and a click track (muted in the mix). Just a couple of guitars and vocals. Dry. No effects. No mixing. No nothing. The song in primitive form.

One Last Time Here (arranged) [REMOVED]: Here's what it sounds like after Tommy has finished with it in his studio. Tommy erased one of the guitars, replaced it with his own guitar line, added a bass line, and added a synthetic drum line (realistic enough to fool at least one actual living, breathing drummer). He also gave it a rough mix and played with the arrangement, adding an extended outro simply by cutting and pasting already existing parts. Finally, he EQ'd and compressed Mary Beth's breathy vocals, bringing them up close and personal.

Greg and TommyOne Last Time Here (demo) [REMOVED]: Now we hear the song for the first time with everyone playing, including Roger on drums and Greg on bass. In this case, the song was recorded live, without a click track, which means it races at times and is loaded with "mistakes" but has plenty of energy. My guitar line, previously a static thing with a funky low-fi EQ, has evolved into a full-on wah-fest, with more ambience than definition. Tommy, meanwhile, accidentally clicked on his MXR Phase 100 during the outro for a split second -- an idea is born. Greg, for his part, helps us rework the choruses, adding a chunka-chunka part for extra grrrrrr. Next, Roger gives the skins a good whackin', thereby proving the colossal difference between a real drummer and a machine. Finally, Mary Beth, singing the song live in a room with four other loud musicians, changes her vocal technique from breathy to full-on wail. In the final production, she'll likely switch between being breathy (for the verses) and singing from the gut (choruses, bridge, outro). But you won't hear that version for a while. We've got about 15-20 potential songs to play with first, and each one will get similar treatment in order to bring it up to "demo" level.

So what do you think? Do you feel enlightened, disappointed, or a little bit of both, now that you know the secret formula behind Colonel Sanders' chicken (the one that makes you crave it fortnightly)?

- Matt

18 JUNE 2007

birthday boySteve gets old | Mary Beth, Gibson and I were lucky enough to be invited to ex-TWBA bass player Steve Miller's grand birthday bash earlier this month, which, conveniently enough for Gibson and I (a pair of sweet tooths if ever there was one), was hosted at (ahem) a chocolate factory!?! The cake, as you can imagine, was de-frickin'-licious. So, too, the samples (ever had curry with your chocolate?). There was much face-dancing, skanking, moshing of all kinds, and generally embarrassing (and somewhat painful) calisthenics. Mary Beth looked lovely in a shiny red dress, Gibson brought Buzz and Woody along (Woody had too much to drink), and the boys from Thornton Creek showed up.

Steve is terribly old now, bordering on the geriatric, but still the life of the party, even without his medication. The only rough moment came when Woody lost his hat. But we (i.e., MB) found it, and order was restored to the universe.

- Matt

14 JUNE 2007

Flag Day | Hey, today's flag day. Our personal favorite is the Jolly Roger, with Bono and his white flag (don't forget the mullet!) finishing a close second. Seems the perfect time to overhaul and update our web site.

the face of rock and rollFirst, the big news: we're a band again. We've hurriedly updated this site to reflect the new lineup: Mary Beth on vocals, me on guitar, Tommy on guitar, Roger on drums, and... introducing... Mr. Greg Strickland on bass. Greg is an old school chum of MB's -- and a freakin' monster on the bass. Yes, friends, that's the face of rock and roll staring back at you (sorry, Greg -- I couldn't resist using this one...).

Secondly, we're going to endeavor to update this here page once a week. Yes, I said it: once a week. That's 52 times a year. We're excited to be getting back on the stick, and just to prove it, we've been recording our practice sessions at Tommy's studio. Here's a rough cut called One Last Time Here [REMOVED].

Finally, as noted below, MB and I bugged out of Port Townsend, after much discussing and belaboring and general hand wringing. We have moved to the City of Destiny (or is that density?) -- and have so far been pleasantly surprised. It helps that we found a cozy 1925 Craftsman to call home. Couldn't have afforded it in Seattle, even if it had been wedged between two crack houses under I-5.

More soon...

- Matt

7 MARCH 2007

Back to Pugetopolis (cake, eat it) | Our apologies for the lack of news of late. We've been going through our own little existential crisis here in TWBA land. Long story short: the Kite house is up for sale, and we're moving back to the overpopulated side of the pond. Alas, Port Townsend is everything we noticed when we first moved out here in the summer of 2001: quiet, slow-paced, charming (in a faux-Victorian kind of way), and mostly pollution-free (other than the stinky pulp mill). The sky above us actually shows stars, and coyotes sing us to sleep every night.

But all those connections back in Seattle, including family, friends, and of course the other members of The Whole Bolivian Army, beckon. Moreover, we've found that ferry hopping every weekend isn't nearly as romantic after you've been doing it for six years. We tried to get away from the sprawl and the concrete world, tried to have our cake (TWBA) and eat it in Port Townsend, but what we've learned is that home isn't necessarily a place. It's people. It's music. It's back in Pugetopolis.

The good news for TWBA fans: the band is reuniting, although the details are still sorting themselves out. The thought gives me goose bumps. We're going to be a band again.

- Matt

23 DECEMBER 2006

Adult diapers | Hey, we just endured a little early Christmas gift here at the Kite house: the dreaded stomach flu. It came, it saw, it sent us running to the toilet. And, as Goofy would say, garsh. It was awful.

Yet we arise from the ashes ever hopeful. Not only are the days growing longer, one by one, minute by minute, but The Whole Bolivian Army is reforming just in time to record the ultimate TWBA album. How? Who? You ask. We're still figuring that out. But it's looking an awful lot like that 10-year anniversary show we had at the Rendezvous a couple years back. More than one ex-TWBA drummer will be on the album. And there will be a few guest musicians as well.

More importantly still, Mary Beth and I have been cranking out little pre-production demos for the others to listen to, and the songs are filling us with girlish glee, even in their nascent forms. If you'll remember correctly, before we immersed ourselves in the North by Nowhere project, we had already begun this one. Whereas NxNW was an experiment in fancy pop, the new one promises to be straight up and true and utterly us. How's that sound? The passion is practically jumping out of the demos, and that's a good thing. It's been a long time (anybody remember Amnesty?) since we just went about the business of making a great rock record, sans message, sans angle, sans anything overwrought, over thought, or overshot.

Now where are those adult diapers?

- Matt