I had a dream last night that I was in a building and I took an elevator on a random guess to the 4th floor (out of 32) and entered this fancy bar area where a bunch of celebrities and cultural elite were hanging out. I somehow had an arrangement where the people there thought I took on the identity of a dead famous comedian named Charles Cessner, and there was a drink called the Cessner he was famous for getting, which was beer with Skittles floating in it (which many of you know as Skittlebrau). I ordered a Budweiser when the bartender asked for my drink, and he remarked that it was off-brand for me.
I was sitting next to my friend Kevin at the bar, and there were a bunch of fabulous looking people laughing and watching a man talk. I believe the person sitting in the middle at the bar was RuPaul. I had started off surrounded by friends from my hometown of Aurora, but at one point I turned and they had cleared out. I asked Kevin if he could give me a ride home (to my parents house), as he had so many times before. He agreed, and got up from the bar. I asked the bartender how much I owed, and he said I owed $11.14. I gave him $51.14, and he gave me $20 back. He then told me to duck down, as there were some mafia-types outside ready to shoot through the window. I crawled away and told him to have a good night.
I had to pee real bad, and there was no bathroom around, so I entered this cavernous parking garage to find a place to go while double-fisting Budweisers. I walked by these uniformed fascist-looking young men, and then turned into a very bleak, dangerous looking part of the garage. There was a mysterious smiling man standing there frozen who resembled the smoking man from X-Files, and I made sure to walk out of his sight, for fear he would come after me. I pee'd in one of the bottles, and then this teenage boy crashed into a table near me with this cardboard-looking dune buggy. He then crashed into his friend who was also operating one of this bizarre contraptions, and they laughed hysterically at each other. I began to walk back to leave the garage area, and there were now a bunch of teenagers wearing roller skates gathered about. A teenage girl holding a serving tray rolled her eyes at her supervisor and said, "Oh great, it's Go-Kart night."
I was now wearing roller skates as I attempted to leave the garage. I sauntered down the side of the garage trying to avoid the masses of teens on skates. I got to where I was almost in the clear, and I had to squeeze through this tight area that had a wooden barricade. As I shuffled along I started to make a phone call. I left a voice message that said "I know I've been missing for a day, but I wanted to remind you that your son Jim Halpert was still the first to wish you a Happy Anniversary." I then spun around with my legs in the air and woke up.
Since the pandemic started, I've had a couple dreams about traveling to other countries for long periods of time. They're not exactly pleasant dreams, they have more of a tinged feeling of homesickness.
Last night I had one of those dreams, and in it a classmate of mine who died in a car crash in 1995 (same year as my accident, his was after) shortly after he moved to Chicago took this pair of black shorts from me. They were just sitting out on a table, and he asked if he could take them. I said that he could, but then immediately regretted it, because I was about to travel to Asia, and I needed this pair, because I only have that other pair that Mary Alice knows about, the drawstring ones that eventually fall down if I wear them too long.
Like most of you I was unfamiliar with the term "gaslighting" before that famous Teen Vogue article about Trump. If you were a kid that was ever bullied by classmates, you probably experienced it at some point. I know it when I see it, and I often flash back to this one incident. I was over at my older friend's house one afternoon playing this Nintendo game called "Play Action Football," and I beat him for the first time ever. I used his bathroom before going home, and while I was in there, he and my other shithead friend devised a scenario where since it was 5:30 PM, and I was officially supposed to go home at 5:00 PM, that the game never happened, and my win was invalid. I stood there are argued against the logic they were using for who knows how long, until I gave up and went home teary-eyed while they sat back with shit-eating grins on their faces.
Once home, I was up in my dad's bathroom, just standing and staring angrily out of the window, and I heard my mom call me to set the dinner table. I flipped out and started screaming and crying so loudly that she thought I was severely injured. I tried to explain the situation to her, but of course it made no sense to hear it as an adult in the year 1990. I was obviously more upset at their stupid-ass attempt to manipulate me, and that they thought so little of me as a person. My mom later told my therapist what happened, which sucked, because I hadn't planned to.
The CD version of "Relaunch" is here!
As you can see by the photo collage that Mary Alice assembled here, the album is dedicated to our late friend Josie Rubio. I knew that based on the time it was taking to finish this album that she wouldn't be around for it's release, so I had privately planned to dedicate it to her for a little while now. It's something I wasn't interested in telling her because I felt it too morbid, and besides, she just would have given me a weird look and changed the subject.
I had thought of writing a song about her to tie into the album's story, but it never really felt right. Instead there are bits and pieces of Josie's inspiration throughout, including a line in one of the last songs I wrote that goes "We're still playing, in my bad dream," which is based on a dream I had where she was still alive and we were hanging out together.
So maybe it wasn't really a bad dream, just one that was hard to wake up from.
When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I was over at my friend’s house one afternoon, and his older brother kept rewinding a part of a movie he was watching and laughing his head off. I kept asking him to do it and laughed along with him, not because I understood what was happening, but just because he kept rewinding the tape over and over, and as a little kid I thought that was hysterical.
For years I’ve wondered what it was that we were watching, and while I had a general image in my mind of the scene, I had no real way to describe it in words. Last night, my long search ended, as it turned out it was this scene from the 1979 movie, “Meatballs.” I got excited while it was starting, because I just had a feeling this was finally it.
The one guy blows the power out in the camp, and another guy calls him a dick.
President Ronald Reagan has mysteriously vanished following his decision to shutter the space program following the disaster. First lady Nancy Reagan has ordered that the space program be relaunched as part of the search and rescue effort for the President. The crew of the Challenger II is assembled to find the President, but what will they encounter? Will they find the President, or just goof off in space? And maybe, is there something more sinister that awaits them up past the air?
I had a dream last night that I was interviewing to be a part of a comedy troupe called the Green Hill Gang. To get to the interview, I had to walk through a windy and dusty city block with crumbling buildings, and I arrived to the interview in a t-shirt and shorts. They told me that as part of the introductory process, I had to contact a list of musicians and "Gimble" with them, meaning that I had to try and subtly make fun of them in a Daily Show-esque interview style. I only remember two names on the list they gave me, Neil Young and Bikini Kill.
Before "Nancy Reagan"-mania took over EG land, this was our planned lead single, "They Made It," available for free right here right now via Bandcamp!
I had a dream last night that I was watching Billie Joe Armstrong being interviewed, and the interviewer asked him about an incident at a frozen yogurt shop where a staff member accused him of acting conceited. “I remember that,” he said with a grin. “The guy behind the counter asked me if I had any tax advice for him. I told him no, and that I’m not really the hunter-gatherer type.”
Mary Alice and I both agreed that he was probably trying to be nervously sarcastic about being rich enough to hire an accountant and not worry about it. The interview looked like it was from the late-90’s/early-00’s, and he had gotten his teeth completely replaced, which made him look a little weird.
The Electric Grandmother is pleased to announce a live launch party for their new album, Relaunch on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 9:30 PM on YouTube Live. We will talk a little bit about the album, premier a video, and release the album on BandCamp for your downloading pleasure. You don’t have to pay for the privilege but if you do, please support our favorite local business and Venmo @slashrun
The total eclipse visible from large swaths of the continental United States occurred roughly a month before we released Cancelled. On nearly the spur of the moment, Pete and I decided to rent a car and drive down to Charleston, South Carolina for a weekend away to see the eclipse for ourselves. We had neither the time nor the money to do it. I think part of my current credit card balance still carries charges associated with that trip. I was still working on the live show for Cancelled between beach trips and dinners out. I remember specifically working on the images for “We Made It” in our dark little room at the Best Western Charleston Inn. The eclipse itself? Really lived up to billing. This was shortly after Trump was elected and watching something so effectively inconsequential in a public park with a bunch of strangers felt like good medicine. Seeing friends’ social media posts from across the country, all nerdly with their eclipse glasses on, gave me such a warm feeling. Something normal and natural but rare that happened between two celestial bodies in space made being on earth feel cozy and personal.
I think--and Pete can contradict me on this if he dared--it was that trip that led us to decide our next project was going to be about space. What we didn’t necessarily plan for, was that it would wind up being a perfect companion piece to Cancelled. Cancelled was about loss on earth, kind of suitable for its time. Cancelled was born out of a catastrophic personal event, but applied almost equally to a post-2016 election America. Relaunch, to complement it, is about the hope that space and its endlessness brings. It was inspired by building a better and stronger self after a catastrophic personal event. Incredibly, after all the songs had been written and recorded, plans for videos and art made, we find ourselves in the midst of a broken country and world just as we are ready to release it. Relaunch, as it turns out, is equally fitting for its time.
Relaunch is also somehow very much about death. Our dear friend Josie Rubio had been battling cancer for more than six years when she passed away in early December of last year. There is a lot of Josie in Relaunch. Pete is easier with his more difficult emotions than I am and since she passed, I have been really having a hard time connecting with the loss. In the early part of this year, throwing myself Relaunch has helped me grieve. By the same token, the loss has helped me connect more with the emotions in the music and I hope you can hear that in some of my vocal performances.
If this album weren’t also about absolutely everything, it’s also about us, Pete and I. At some point when we were talking about where to take the plot of this thing, he said to me “really and truly, the Electric Grandmother is the story of a couple.” Which is odd, because our couplehood has traditionally been somewhat disconnected from our work on Electric Grandmother. We have become increasingly better collaborators over time, but it was not always like that. As we grew as an entertainment powerhouse, we also grew as a couple. We have always had a good relationship but it has definitely matured with us. We’re approaching near perfection when it comes to honesty, communication, trust, and support. But one thing I’ll be shocked if we ever get right is escaping the fear that one of us might someday have to live without the other.
Whew, so all that said, this album fucking slaps. Yeah, it’s another concept album, which also makes it an obvious companion piece to Cancelled. If you’re unaware, Cancelled is the story of a man who loses his mind because his favorite cop drama gets cancelled. That’s it. That’s the whole plot. Relaunch is a bit more complicated. It is the story of a crew of astronauts who travel into space on the Challenger II to save a kidnapped President Reagan. If Cancelled was our cinematic 70s glam treatment, Relaunch was to be our love letter to the 1980s. For Cancelled, we produced short films to accompany the music. For Relaunch, a series of FIVE music videos were going to help us tell our story. And then COVID-19 happened.
So instead of heaping all of these answers to the mystery of what happens in the album, we’re going to drag it out. We will have one to share for our virtual release of May 16 and will continue to release the remainder as they are completed throughout the year. Hahaha, sorry. We are still pressing copies and we will have them available at a Slash Run release show--as soon as we can. We’ll release the videos over time that will give you a clearer sense of the story. Puzzle pieces will fall into place. I’m sure you’ll all be riveted.
It’s kind of fitting that the release is going to be a goddamned process because honestly writing, recording, producing--everything about this--has been a goddamned process. It’s a persistent joke in our house how many twists and turns this thing has gone through. I think traditionally the final product coming from projects like these end up being an unfocused mess, but I objectively don’t think that’s the case here. I think in the end, by some miracle, it came together in every aspect. It’s cohesive and powerful.
I am absolutely thrilled to also share the album art. The front and back cover images are paintings by my incredibly talented, generous, and beautiful sister-in-law, Dena Nakahashi. I want to call it a collaborative effort, but really we gave Dena some idea as to what we wanted, she took the ball and ran. I’m so happy with it--it is absolutely perfect.
The music! I said this same thing about Cancelled but it’s even more so this time--it’s the most involved I’ve ever been on the music side of things. I think I also said the same thing about Cancelled but I’ll say this too again: I love these songs. I love them a lot. They’re beautiful, catchy, gut-wrenching--they’re everything. The finished product has been freshly mastered by Ben Schurr whose thoughtful and thorough work elevated the sonic quality to effectively kick your aural ass.
Unlike Cancelled, you may know some of these before they’re released. “Nancy Reagan,” the song that has a life of its own, was never meant to be on the album. It was meant to be a one-off single for a President’s Day show, but here it sits, proudly in the sweet spot that is Track 3.
But the album leads off with some context for ya. “This Just In” is a spoken word track featuring Andy Prestwich, the Golden Voice of Slash Run and our very good friend Hilly Kenkel from the Cincinnati Crew. Also featured is Alan Android, Robot Reporter (origins unknown). We will be producing a video for this track for the virtual release, featuring Hilly and other DC friends Mason Shelby of Catscan! and Frank Gomez from your wildest dreams. It will also feature artwork from Honorary-Third-EG-Member Derek Stewart (not Super Steve Caruso) and the amazing editing and production stylings of my very favorite new best friend, Fred Yi. Fred’s work will keep popping up throughout the year, so look forward to that.
I mention the second track, “The Kidnapping of Ronald Reagan” at the risk of feeling like I need to talk about every song, but have to because in the fall, when silly Pete thought that the album was done (lol), he had me listen to it and I told him that it needed something else. I was like “write something good,” to which he gave me a deadpan stare. We then started referring to it as the “track one banger” before we put “This Just In” on the album as well. But haha, look what happened. He wrote another hit.
“Space Phone,” is in my personal top-three for this album. It’s about two of the astronauts who are the protagonists of the story and how they miss each other when one goes on a space walk and the other stays on the shuttle. This one is personal, it’s very sweet and was inspired by a microphone I bought like THREE FUCKING YEARS AGO that was built into a phone receiver. It’s good.
In my lead-vocal-performance debut, “Around the Moon” is a gut punch for me. When we were recording, I had to occasionally stop and cry for a while. We have a video planned for this one and it will feature familiar faces and it will be adorable and you will love it. You might die. I hope not, but I’m warning you. Fred is again the main technical producer (and cinematographer and editor AND effects coordinator and he is amazing at all of it). We started production before COVID and WILL FINISH IT BECAUSE AMERICA NEEDS IT.
Tracks 9-12: “Dernier Rendez-vous,” “The Air Demon,” “Stand For the Air Demon,” and “Nine Miles to the Water” are all post-catastrophe in the plot of the album. I don’t want to lump them all together, and although they’re not all instrumental, they’re all heavily ambient and are kind of reminiscent to me of the songs at the end of Cancelled. They’re moody, emotional, and textured.
“The Great Swim” shares a title with and was in part inspired by a short story I wrote in high school shortly after Pete and I met. In the story I swim across the Pacific Ocean and run three quarters of the way across the country to be with him.
“We Land” is my favorite of the ambient/instrumental pieces on the album. I find it sweet and cute.
“They Made It” is a song we like so much, when Pete was done with it, we shared a bottle of red wine while dancing to it in our living room. We never drink red wine. That’s how much we like the song. We have a video planned for this one as well and will be working with the incomparable Dylan Mars Greenberg, who also did the video for “Nancy Reagan.”
Jeez, so that’s that. Releasing this album in the middle of a pandemic has caused me as much or more stress than the pandemic itself. We are doing this in a dramatically different way from anything we have ever done before. Why not wait? I dunno, I think we kind of need it. It’s about loss, life, and hope. It’s for our smart, funny friend and our sweet, little cat and for us. We need to share it with you now.
- Mary Alice Hamnett, 4/24/2020