I never spent much time in Shoreline until Kyle joined Explone. Or until I joined Kyle’s band Kirby Krackle...I honestly can’t remember which happened first. But as soon as one domino fell, the other was on the way down, and Kyle and I were destined to be double-bandmates. Our polygamous musical relationship led to a number of inconvenient rehearsal situations, until we all agreed to become one happy extended Explone/Kirby Krackle family, and we moved into the basement of Kyle’s house in Shoreline.
Kyle lived right next to the Crest Theater, which is a well-worn North Seattle institution specializing in late-run and cult movies. Back in the 90’s I went with a bunch of drunken friends to see Terminator 2 at the Crest, for the princely sum of two bucks. By the time we arrived at the theater I had already passed out in the back of Jeff Stone’s van, so they left me there to sleep it off. I assume the movie was a good time with the usual greasy, room temperature Crest popcorn.
Kyle’s house had one of those special basements that’s just tall enough to make you think you can stand up straight, and juuuuust short enough to ensure you keep nailing your head on a beam, or a light fixture, or a piece of duct work, or some other structural appendage designed to hang at exactly forehead level. It also had a catacomb-like quality, as the whole space was a seemingly endless, winding corridor that circled in toward the center of the foundation. The previous resident had used the basement as his “workspace,” and there were cabinets, shelves and drawers sitting in every nook and crevice. Imagine a long hallway with a lot of left turns, unlimited storage for arcane artifacts and torture devices, then toss in some Silence of the Lambs-style ambiance, and you’ll pretty well get the picture.
This would have been creepy, but Kyle transformed the space through sheer determination. He reached into his (apparently bottomless) collection of comic art, and papered the walls and ceiling with comic pages, rock posters, and various cheerful pop culture artifacts. He arrayed an impressive collection of action figures on the cinder blocks behind the drum set. He hung strings of party lights in tiny paper lanterns from the head-cracking beams. And he found some carpet that looked like it was stolen from the set of The Brady Bunch to cover the floor. Somehow he transformed Buffalo Bill’s basement lair into a nerd rock clubhouse.
As we were finishing the Telescope & Satellite EP, Scott floated the idea of filming a video for “Golden Ballroom” on his iPhone. Scott is the most technologically gifted of my bandmates, so I figured if he brought it up he must know what he’s doing. He said he wanted to shoot it in our basement rehearsal space, and that seemed like a good idea, since the place had good vibes imposed on it. Thus we arrived at the video below, courtesy of the directorial acumen of Scott Andrew.
“Golden Ballroom” is a song that literally came to me in a dream. I woke up one morning around 5:00 AM, and the song and imagery were so vivid all I had to do was stumble downstairs and grab a guitar, tune it to the key in my memory, and the song just fell out. I’ve had ideas come to me in dreams before, but this was the most complete song I’ve ever received while unconscious. I even had most of the lyrics the moment I woke up. In my dream, the space I was in looked a lot like the old Century Ballroom on Capitol Hill. And I wasn’t singing; I was standing in a circle around the middle of the ballroom floor, while a woman sang the song for all of us. I’ve always been a pretty good dreamer, but this one was a doozy--one of the best I’ve ever had. Have you ever had that feeling after a really intense dream where you wake up, and you need a few minutes to convince yourself that you’re not still asleep? That *this* is real, and the other stuff you were just experiencing in the unreal part? That’s what “Golden Ballroom” felt like.
We were working at Avast! for the recording, ain their cavernous Studio A tracking room. Shawn and I decided to use the space for effect, so I put my Fender Vibroverb on one side of the room, and put Shawn’s Fender Deluxe on the other side. We set the tremolo effect on each amp to a slightly different speed, which when combined with the space in the room created a kind of trippy, disorienting effect. Honestly, it was making me a little dizzy when we tracked the song but I got through it and it sounded killer.
I knew I wanted strings on the song, and my old friend Stephen Cavit came through with a stellar arrangement. He even conducted the string session, translating my dream-induced song into a written score for a quartet.
So there you go: the new Explone video for “Golden Ballroom.” Dreams do come true, once in a while.
Deep in a dream I climbed the stairs, to a golden ballroom where
strange music hung like smoke
I met a silent woman there in a diamond wheelchair
I touched her shoulder, with her eyes she spoke
She said “never be too far from me
now don’t you worry you will see
my heart will always find you”
I opened my arms and pulled her near, and my eyes gave up their tears
and a singer started singing
Nobody moved or took a breath, still and beautiful as death
as the steeple bells kept ringing
Saying “don’t forget the things you learned
the joy you feel your tears have earned
my heart will always find you”
The singer’s voice was a perfect sound
as the golden ballroom spun around
my heart will always find you
EXPLONE is a Seattle-based rock band that refuses to acknowledge the irrelevancy of electric guitar in modern music. We won't stop believing. We still love Cheap Trick, Queen, Hüsker Dü, Nada Surf and the Pixies. Conservative Christians can have our Judas Priest records when they pry them from our cold, dead fingers.