Breakfast With Thomas: Cover Me Pt. I

Printby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

“Let’s sing another song, boys.
This one has grown old and bitter.”
–Leonard Cohen

The key to a great cover isn’t actually choosing the actual cover. Contrary to popular belief, choosing what to cover isn’t the most important part of the process (It’s important, but it’s not the most important. Hear me out.)

The key: Actually having a catalog of songs you’ve personally written. That’s the principle element that makes cover songs enjoyable. Otherwise, a cover song in a string of cover songs doesn’t mean much, does it? 

Though I certainly can’t speak for the majority of live music goers, when I’m attending a show, I’m going for that given person’s songs. I want to hear you. Your songs. And that’s what can often make cover songs most memorable at shows. It’s something that catches them off guard. They came to hear this specific artist and expected to hear this song, this song, this song, and this song. They heard those specific songs. And then they were surprised and delighted to hear this song. It’s a wild-card.

You go to see George Strait perform “Amarillo By Morning.” You’re buying a ticket to see The Strokes play “Last Nite.” Elton John do “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” You’re thrilled when Strait goes into “The Grand Tour.” 

It’s knowing that there’s a chance that they will never play that song ever again. You feel that–no matter how slim a chance this is–that you could very one of the very last to hear that (How disappointed are you to hear that they played “The Weight” the next night?). 

In saying that, how special is that cover? What happens when every show you see, you’re almost guaranteed a Tom Petty cover? Don’t get me wrong, we all love Tom Petty. But, how spontaneous is it really when you’re hearing “American Girl” by five different bands five straight nights?

I’m not bashing Muddy Wilbury or those who play Petty songs. I’m just pointing out that certain artists lend themselves to be covered more so than others–especially down here in Texas. Ask yourself how many times you’ve heard a song from the following artists live, but haven’t actually attended one of their shows: Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Holly (He has to be included just strictly being Lubbock. Amazing nevertheless.), The Band, Hank Williams, George Jones, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, and Ryan Adams.

There’s a few things that connect those names together. 1) They’re certainly some of the greatest artists ever, and 2) Their songs seemingly are easier to be covered by alternative country, folk, country, “Texas Country,” whatever you want to label it as, etc. 

What’s interesting though, is that “Americana” artists will almost never cover indie or alt. rock artists. Doesn’t mean they aren’t fans of these bands, but they’ll almost never touch them. It got me to thinking of the general question of “If I were to choose an indie rock song to be covered by “Americana” bands, what would they be?”

After jotting down a larger than life list of artists and songs, I narrowed it down to be just a “Lubbock-ish” list. I ultimately decided that these need to happen. 

Now will they? Probably not. But theses would be pretty badass.

Editor’s Note: We selected songs for the following artists: Josh Abbott, Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards, Danny Cadra, Estelline, Colin Gilmore, William Clark Green, Hogg Maulies, Warren Jackson Hearne & Le Leek Electrique, Benton Leachman, Daniel Markham, Dave Martinez, No Dry County, Kenneth O’Meara, Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward, Rattlesnake Milk, Charlie Shafter, Amanda Shires, Grady Spencer, Charlie Stout, Thrift Store Cowboys, Tori Vasquez, Ronnie Eaton and Erick Willis. We’ll reveal seven artists and songs with each column. I also have had no prior contact with the given artists about doing any of these songs.  

PART ONE

1. Grady Spencer
Song: “While You Wait For the Others”-Grizzly Bear
Odds of Happening: 100:1
Surprisability: 8.0
Artist Compatibility: 4.0
Why It’d Work:

There’s really not much ground that Spencer and Grizzly Bear actually share. But, what they do, powerful vocal capabilities (Neither just go out and sing with all their might at all times. They both scale it back at times.). “While You Wait For the Others” has this really beautiful and delicate structure to it with moments of grandeur. In saying that, when Grizzly Bear released this as their second single from Veckatimest, the B-side for it was a version of the song where the lead vocals were done by one-time Doobie Brother, all-time yacht rocker Michael McDonald. In which, he just powered through the entire song, which is surprisingly, pretty damn brilliant. So with that, Spencer could really blow us away with either road taken.

2. Daniel Markham
Song: “It’s My Life”-Talk Talk
Odds of Happening:
50:1

Surprisability: 2.0
Artist Compatibility: 6.5
Why It’d Work: 

Markham already does a brilliant cover of “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. It’s seriously one of my favorite covers ever. With Markham, I feel as though nothing is out of reach. Of the artists listed, Markham is probably most adaptive to what I chose. ’80s to mid ’90s indie rock is his wheelhouse. You’d actually be surprised more if he covered Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” before Talk Talk’s.

3. Thrift Store Cowboys
Song: “Come Undone”-Duran Duran
Odds of Happening:
100:1
Surprisability:
8.0
Artist Compatibility:
1.5

Why It’d Work:

No one  band has been able to paint this town to exactly how and what it is more perfectly since Terry Allen. They’ve simultaneously pushed the boundaries in ways no one has either. And the most unappreciative thing about Duran Duran has always been that they’ve always been more experimental than they’ve be given credit for. The reason this song could actually work is almost strictly on the Fluitt and company going “Why the hell not?” I feel as though they’d slow it down (which, “Come Undone” is pretty damn slow already) a bit and darken it dusty smoke-filled vocals.

4. Tori Vasquez
Song: “Lady”-Chromatics
Odds of Happening:
75:1
Surprisability:
6.5
Artist Compatibility:
5.0

Why It’d Work:

You could virtually pick anything for Tori to sing and she’d blow you away. Strangely (or maybe not), if you’ve given Vasquez’ latest material a listen, it seems as though she could sing anything Johnny Jewel related. It’s just dark enough. For those unfamiliar, much of the Drive soundtrack was based on Jewel’s music styling. Chromatics already has ultra nostalgic ’80s new wave traits that are on the darker end of the spectrum. It’s just strange enough to be a curve ball. 

5. Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward
Song: “Abel”-The National
Odds of Happening:
500:1
Surprisability:
8.0
Artist Compatibility:
7.0

Why It’d Work:

The secret thing about Parker & The 50 Peso Reward is that they’re not actually a “Texas Country” band. I wouldn’t even say they’re a country band; they’re a rock band. Just listen to those guitars. They’re guitar driven. More times than not, I find myself thinking they’re just as influenced by Interpol and The National as they are by any Texas troubadour. The National’s “Abel,” comes from a time in which The National wouldn’t make such “adult” music. I’m not sure if Parker would go full Berninger and scream “My mind’s not right,” but I don’t think it’d matter. Just hearing them guitars would suffice. This is just a perfect match in my opinion.

6. Erick Willis
Song: Nothing Better-The Postal Service
Odds of Happening:
100:1
Surprisability:
9.5
Artist Compatibility:
4.0
Why It’d Work:

Secret weapon added bonus time: Add Tori Vasquez to do fill in for the female vocals. Just for a refresher course in recent history, A) The Postal Service is made up of Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie and Zooey Deschanel fame) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel). For “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Tamborello recruited Jen Wood, a Seattle, Wash. singer-songwriter. B) Willis recruited Vasquez last year to sing the female vocals on his song “That Makes Two of Us.” So it just seems natural that Willis and Vasquez would again sing a duet. Game over. Minds exploding.

7. Charlie Stout
Song: “Love Vigilantes”-New Order
Odds of Happening:
1,000,000,000:1
Surprisability:
10.0
Artist Compatibility:
1.5

Why It’d Work:

Reason it’d work is really this simple. Charlie Stout writes and sings sad songs; “Love Vigilantes” is a pretty fucking sad song. It’s really that simple. Strip away the keys. Slow it down. Stout would almost certainly give it a stark chillingly new life. New Order’s version is undoubtedly too upbeat for what’s happening in the song. I just imagine Stout giving it the Nebraska treatment. I’m sure he’d fool a many into thinking he wrote it himself.

Bonus:

8. Dirty River Boys
Song: “The House That Heaven Built”-Japandroids
Odds of Happening:
50:1
Surprisability:
7.5
Artist Compatibility:
9.0

Why It’d Work:

The Dirty River Boys typically do their best with covers when they’re punk rock songs. One can remember them doing a pretty damn rendition of “Damnit” by Blink-182 before. So why not “The House That Heaven Built?” You imagine drummer Travis Stearns pounding a cajon until it was nearly destroyed on that drum beat? Flip a coin on who delivers the vocals. Maybe both Nino Cooper and Marco Gutierrez. I imagine, given the right crowd (One who was familiar with Japandroids for example. Or one who picked up on the “ohh ohh ohh ohh ohh!!!!” rather quickly), this could be crazier than just about anything and everything. 

Part Two coming next Tuesday.

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One response to “Breakfast With Thomas: Cover Me Pt. I

  1. Pingback: Breakfast With Thomas: Cover Me Pt. II | New Slang·

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