Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole is “Look At It This Way” by The Tripwires from their album House to House on Spark & Shine Records.
In perfect timing with DJ Rachel’s Cartographic Study of Musical Incest, we bring you a song off The Tripwire’s second album House to House. For those who may be unfamiliar with The Tripwires power pop with a flair musical stylings, you may recognize the contributions to Seattle music (and beyond) made by the individual members of this Seattle super group. To list their resumes here would be stepping on Ms. Ratner’s toes but highlights include: The Minus 5, Model Rockets, Stumpy Joe (John Ramberg), The Fastbacks, The Young Fresh Fellows, (Jim Sangster), Mudhoney, The Briefs, The The Whoremoans, The Posies, (Johnny Sangster/producer), Screaming Trees, Truly, Nirvana, Neko Case, The Dusty 45’s, and of course Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands (Mark Pickerel).
With this combined experience, it’s no surprise that The Tripwire’s songs are well crafted, hit all the right notes, and make for a fun live show experience (especially when you add in their dapper attire and Mark’s trademark pompadour which entertain and impress). You can tell that this quartet has nothing but mutual respect and affection for one another which accounts for the ease they fall into the harmonies in today’s song “Look At It This Way.”
Following their recent in-studio (check the KEXP Streaming Archive for their 3PM performance on 11/6), frontman/guitarist John Ramberg and fellow John and guitarist Johnny Sangster gave us some insight into the inner workings of The Tripwires.
You all are currently involved in various other projects, what is it about The Tripwires that brings everyone together?
John Ramberg: “For me, it started as a way to play my songs live. I’d spent the previous ten years doing my thing in The Model Rockets. I was nearly finished with the album that ended up being the first Tripwires album (Makes You Look Around) when I asked Johnny and Jim if they’d like to put a band together. They invited Mark along. Once we’d played together for a few months, we decided to re-record about half the tracks with the band, because we kind of developed into this other thing, more than the sum of its parts and all that. I really believe it’s a world-beater of a group, I’m so pleased to have these chaps to bounce ideas off of!”
Johnny Sangster: “Firstly, it’s that John writes great songs. Next is that we really enjoy the cacophonous sound our playing makes when we all do at the same time. And we get to dress up.”
How long have you all known one another? Do you remember how everyone met?
JS: “Jim’s my brother. We’ve known each other for a while. I remember John asking me if I wanted to play some music with him around the time that the Dear John Letters were wrapping up. I believe he asked Jim soon thereafter. I’d met Mark through Steve Turner (Mudhoney) and Barbara Mitchell (noted rock writer) and in fact we all had a trip to Spain and England together that still gets dragged out with the war stories. I’d asked Jim and Mark to be rhythm section for a Colin Spring record I was producing and we were all so enthused that we told John that Mark had to be the drummer of our new band. Of course this was right after Mark had told Jim and I that he wasn’t going to be joining any new bands, he was going to be concentrating on his songs and just doing sessions, and so on. But how could he say no? He didn’t really have a choice. I think by then Jim and I had already joined Mark’s band — but then again I’m terrible with historical fact…”
JR: “I met Jim when I was 19 or so, about 1989. I was a huge Young Fresh Fellows fan, and they were all very kind to me and the other guys in my first band, Stumpy Joe. I heard about his brother Johnny, at that time living in Denmark and playing in a band called The Sharing Patrol. He re-appeared in the Seattle area in the mid 90’s and ended up producing some Model Rockets stuff. It was clear right away that we were coming from a similar place as far as music goes. I think I met Mark doing a solo show at SXSW in the early 2000’s, but I was a huge Screaming Trees fan back in the old days, especially ‘Invisible Lantern’.”
How do you approach songwriting? Does it start with one person bringing material or is it pretty collective?
JS: “The songs are all John’s except for the 113 covers we’ve learned. John makes demos and they inspire us to play the things we play to his songs. Sometimes we make a suggestion and it helps to better the song. Sometimes.”
JR: “Sweet inspiration strikes, I record a demo at home, play it for the guys, and they help me polish it up. these guys all have piles of great ideas and are used to playing together in Mark’s band as well as various other recording projects; they hammer stuff out good and fast! They’re quick studies. Would ‘Quick Studies’ have been a batter band name? Too cocksure?”
Can you tell me anything about today’s song “Look At It This Way?” What’s the story/inspiration behind it?
JR: “Some phrases just stick in my head. That particular day ‘look at it this way’ Struck me as a ridiculous thing for someone to say, like when people preface a statement with ‘listen’. It sounded self serving and sort of bullshitty. I started imagining the worst kind of thing someone could try and use that phrase to justify. In this case, I imagined a couple of stock brokers justifying a career’s worth of shady trades and stuff.”
JS: “I’ll share this little production tidbit. The slide guitar that you hear throughout the second half of the song is played on a special guitar that John and Kurt Bloch dreamed up and then implemented. You take a guitar and string it up with all the same gauge string, and then tune all of these strings to the same note. You can then use a slide across all six strings and move it around to play a pretty little tune. The beauty of the all-one-string-guitar is the natural chorusing that occurs when these six strings are only almost exactly in tune with each other.”
What’s next for The Tripwires?
JS: “Well, were losing our practice room 1st of December so I think were gonna practice a whole bunch next week so it will last us for a while. Know of a good cheap room?”
JR: “As Johnny said, we need a practice space for starters! We’re planning a tour down the coast in February. We’ve had a few bites in places like Germany and Japan. We’re hoping those pan out!”
We wish you luck on both counts!
House to House is currently in stores now in CD form but is soon receiving the vinyl treatment. You can purchase the vinyl version for yourself at their Vinyl Release party at The Funhouse on Dec 5th with The Fucking Eagles and Virgin Islands. Check out their website for more info about shows and their myspace page to listen to more tracks from the album.