Last November we were driving from Portland to San Francisco for Thanksgiving 2018. Crossing into the California boundary, after the Welcome sign but before the fruit inspection squad, the opening line of a song dropped into my brain from out of nowhere: Ted have you heard about California?
It ate at me right away, those words, the way things do when you’re scanning decades and zones of your life for tiny hidden objects and you get lost in the pockets between did that happen and did I dream that. And who is Ted? All I knew for sure is the line was from somewhere in the past. I tried to google it but we were high in the pass and had weak coverage and my phone was being annoying. More words started to come back to me, through the fog in my head: Finally cracked along the fault. And all those trendy people there. Pizza never was the same. Holy shit, what was this? Hours later, when we finally got in to San Francisco and the kids were at last asleep I found it. Took several tries because I couldn’t remember the band’s name, only Athens GA, or Atlanta GA 1991 or 1992 and a few of the above lyrics.. And then finally I got one return, on their bandcamp page: Bob. The song, “California”, available on their Peel Sessions EP. Memory gates opened:
I was a DJ at the University of Georgia in Athens a million years back. WUOG 90.5, 1991 and 1992 and played the Peel Sessions EP frequently on my shift (which was 12 AM to 3 AM every other week, I think). I used to have a homemade cassette tape mix I made around that time, which I’m convinced could still be laying around somewhere in my parent’s attic unless it didn’t survive one of my purges, which had songs by other fellow Atlanta/Athens bands at that time, among them The Daisy Group, The Jody Grind, Thornyhold, 5-8, Roosevelt, possibly a Balrog song, provided it was recorded directly off the radio, and others. Long ago. Depending on the dates I lived either in Oglethorpe House dorm or a condo at the edge of town called Eaglewood. In both places I was alienated from pretty much everyone and quite certain I did not belong there but completely unclear on how to find my way out. I can’t think of a zone in my life where I was more miserable than Athens GA early 90’s (and to be sure there are several competitors) but that radio shift was for certain a patch of dry land, where I could catch my breath.
Back in the present, I re-listened to the EP just to hear “California” but when “Pope Is” played - the song that precedes it on side b (here called side Cheese Whiz) - I was ahead of every single lyric. I suddenly knew at the cellular level I had to use one or hopefully both of them in Microaggressions which was just starting post-production. I found Bob on FB (they are alive and well and still playing) and sent them a message. (note: I was sooo nervous to ask and of course wanted to appear like a legit filmmaker and naturally it wasn’t until minutes after I sent the email that I realized my site for The Black Sea was down - due to what I’d later learn was some expired wordpress plugin beyond my agency - and I became consumed by blind panic at what would only be interpreted by them as my pulsing and obvious fraudulence.) The next day I heard back from Rich Hudson: they were down to let me use songs. It was a bit of a mix and match scenario since we were editing all the episodes back to back and had a couple songs already in play from other bands. We ended up using “Pope Is” at close of episode 2, just as Leah gets on elevator and the doors close and “California” at close of episode 5 just as Evelyn opens her eyes and somewhat provocatively looks across the table at Jim, the shared manager of Mbaekwe and Leah. For a period “California” moved to the end of episode 6, which closes the series but it ended up being a better fit for the vibe and flow of episode 5.
I am so thrilled to have these songs in Microaggressions, not only for the magnitude of their sheer force and talent and how they enhance the vibe of the narrative in a kickass manner but also because it draws a tiny gossamer line from the me at 19 (confused, depressed, unsure) to the me at 47 (marginally less so x3), somehow uniting these disparate zones and boundaries of time and memory.
Big thanks to Bob!
to hear “Pope Is” watch episode 2 of Microaggressions on Amazon Prime or here
to hear “California” watch episode 5 of Microaggressions on Amazon Prime or here
check out the Peel Sessions EP below or Bob’s whole oeuvre on bandcamp and lend them your support.