Throwing Back to 2009

Once there was a band called Mechanical Violet. They were a group of four ladies who loved the hell out of life. They covered a single song, “Postcards from Italy,” by Beirut. Becky had vocals and tamborine; Eleece had trumpet; Alicia had ukulele; I had clarinet. We had fun putting it together. A really fun memory from a much-cherished time.

The other day on Instagram I posted part of Mozart’s “Waltz Fantasy,” a piece I played on the clarinet in 9th grade, when I felt most in my prime. A friend from the Mechanical Violet days more or less commented on that post about hearing some Beirut for my next video.

So I got to work.

Found some sheet music for ukulele, flute, oboe, piano, and percussion. I also had to look up ukulele fingerings to convert from the tabs on the sheet music. (I also played lines from two strings instead of all four, because clarinets can only play a single line and not chords, and because this was already turning out to be a lot of work.) I kept everything in the key of C, since only I would be playing with…me. Me and my shadows.

Recorded the parts, put them together. Not perfect editing-wise, but definitely recognizable. As I rewatched this a small sob got caught in my throat. Damn you, nostalgia. Miss you, Mechanical Violet.

Look What We Found!

This is one of my most cherished NYC moments. It happened to be on a SD card that somebody (whose name might be Deena, who might also be responsible for capturing this footage, which [not this specific clip] may or may not include confessions of how many guys we’ve kissed, USING THEIR NAMES) left behind, and Becky ended up with it. Some of my bestest friends are in the same room, chilling out, trying to vote on a name for our band. We have declarations of patriotism, we have flying M&Ms, we have a little bit of R. Kelly. I’m crying in the Wilkinson Center computer lab from laughing so much. Man, I miss you guys.

A year ago today (although, according to the date, it’s tomorrow), I took off in a packed rental minivan, headed south, away from New York City, with two of my best peeps. We arrived in Jacksonville late Saturday night. I took Becky and Alicia around the bustling metropolis and captivating suburbs and sprawling hamlets of  and around Jacksonville, and they took the early flight back Monday morning.

Then began a new life for each of us.

Happy anniversary.

Addendum to Band Log, 10/13/09

Here’s the original post.

My goodness, that was a month ago. I guess it’s about time to include the song. Some people have wanted to hear it. Alicia edited the single track and emailed it to the band on October 24.

Here’s a smoking photo of the band, via Alicia’s camera. Dang, I miss those girls:

Here’s Alicia’s take on that evening.


Beirut, “Postcards from Italy” – Mechanical Violet Cover

Band Log, 10/13/09

We laid our first track last night.

Beirut’s “Postcards from Italy.”

I brought my clarinet to practice. I hadn’t played in a long time. Our tambourine/vocal was ready. Our ukulele was ready. Our trumpet seemed to be coming down with a cold, but she said she was ready.

We started sometime after 9:30. We listened to the song once to remind us what it sounded like. We talked about parts.

We ran through it a few times, recording each take. We listened and discussed where to make adjustments.

I’d never approached a rehearsal so casually before, nor had I contributed to a song not really knowing my part the way I really didn’t know my part last night.

Final take: The ukulele starts her steady strum pattern. The vocal comes in, then the tambourine and clarinet provide percussion. The trumpet enters, then the clarinet joins as second trumpet. Ukulele solo. Trumpet interlude. Last verse with the three curly-haired band members singing with clarinet accompanying the ukulele first beat downstroke. Trumpet comes back, clarinet joins, ukulele returns to original strum. Trumpet drops out, clarinet fades, ukulele ends on the tonic.

We listened to the recording.

We sang, played, harmonized. We made music.

People, we’re not bad at all. AT. ALL.

We wondered why we hadn’t been practicing these last few months. I mean, dang.

Then we took a bunch of pictures to put on the cover of our, um, single.

Once editing is done, I hope to post the song for everyone to enjoy.

One of the sweetest moments of my life.

I’m really, really, really going to miss those girls. They have no idea.

Band Log, 5/18/09

Tonight was our first band practice. It actually went as well as I expected, which wasn’t bad at all. We had all four instruments there, and we had communication and commitment to practice.

And I just have to say, it felt good making music with other people again.

I feel fortunate that a trumpet is in our band, just because we’re in the same key. Plus, she’s a musician (she has an actual degree), and she can give me tips. She taught me a little bit about blues and jazz today, and we did a little bit of call-and-response with a relatively easy chord progression.

The reason Mr. Coleman emphasized learning scales and arpeggios? Jazz and blues. I have to thank him for that. I’m not good by any means, but I certainly have a deeper appreciation and understanding of music beyond notes on a page.

Practice is essential. It’s critical. There’s always time for it.

We decided to go over “Postcards from Italy” by Beirut. It’s such a great song, and I think it matches our instruments quite well. We also want to work on “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, as well as Ingrid Michaelson’s “Be OK.”

We seem to work pretty well together. There doesn’t seem to be any one leader, but that may change with each song.

Yeah. Practice was great fun, and I love learning and harmonizing and picking out my part.

Can’t wait for our next practice.

Then? We’ll start calling practices “rehearsals.” Then we’ll play for an actual audience. Then we’ll start recording and mixing and editing our stuff. Then we’ll start booking gigs. Then we’ll tour New England then the Eastern seaboard. Then most likely Utah. We’ll sell CDs and t-shirts. We’ll have roadies and groupies and get addicted to Diet Coke and party into the wee hours of the morning. Our 2nd album will only be marginally better than our freshman attempt and we’ll get “this” close to breaking up, but we’ll stick it out and take some time to rework our favorite songs and polish the ones we’ve written ourselves. Our third album will be a huge hit, so we’ll have to take time out, as VH1 will want to feature us on their next “Behind the Music” series. So, between that and the charities we’ll advocate, we’ll squeeze out some time for us to visit our families. 30 years from now, TimeLife Music will make one of those infomercials with our music as a part of an early 21st century “eclectic band” collection. And I can’t wait for our band to perform on Lawrence Welk. That’s when we know we’ve made it big.

I really love our band.

Band Log, 5/14/09

I could subtitle this post, “The Company I Keep.”

So, our band came up with a list of possible songs to cover. Again, these are just possibilities:

1. Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog
2. Skinny Love by Bon Iver
3. Postcards from Italy by Beirut
4. Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
5. Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls
6. Ice Cream by Sarah Mclachlan
7. Samson by Regina Spektor
8. Creep by Radiohead
9. A Cake song
10. Some kind of jazz song
11. Love Shack by the B52s
12. Apologize by One Republic
13. Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bob Marley
14. I’m All Out of Love by Air Supply
15. Come As You Are by Nirvana
16.Wonderwall by Oasis
17. Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel
18. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
19. Good Riddance by Green Day
20. Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman
21. Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne
22. Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega
23. Songs by Becky 🙂
24. Songs by Eleece 🙂

Let’s also not forget songs by Alicia. Because seriously, that girl can write a song.

A band member sent this list to the other band members, and the following short email thread resulted. Be warned, the content might be offensive. But it also might be funny. Also, I’m keeping names out of this one. Also, “Reply to all” is a very useful feature.

Message 1: We all know (or if we don’t then we do now) that i am not a Muppet fan but i am willing to do whatever.. but…we all do realize that by covering this song we will instantly be known as the mechanical lesbos….right? bahahaha which hey, i’ve got a boy toy so i can defend my sexuality to the masses…because oh there will be masses…we’re going places ladies…and we’re getting there fast!!!! boooyaaaaa!!!!  rainbow connection here we come!!!! maybe we could change our name to the mechanical rainbows….i’m just sayin,….

Reply 1 to Message 1: Let’s not forget the lesbos who’ve covered this song, like Sarah McLachlan. And Jason Mraz. I didn’t even make the gay connection to the rainbow part of the rainbow connection, because my mind is too far caught up in the nostalgia of the song. I had a crush on Kermit when I was younger. And up through last week. Of course we can scratch the song completely. Goodness knows we don’t want to get called to perform it at a wedding, say, in IOWA.

Reply 2 to Reply 1: sarah mclachlan is a lesbo!? i’m so out of the loop… i don’t even know who jason mraz is….

Reply 3 to Reply 2: Sarah WAS a lesbo. I think pre-Lilith Fair and during. Then she got married to her drummer and had a kid then got divorced. Totally kidding about Jason Mraz. Because men can’t be lesbos, unless they’re women dressed as men who like women. We don’t need to be sexuality apologists; we’re way too cute to be lesbos. I mean, who cares if our conversations are riddled with innuendo and we tend to touch each other a lot?

Reply 4 to Reply 3: i’ve got it…. our name should be the asexual rainbow that likes mechanical violets.  cause i’m asexual… there i said it…

The End. I’m not sure you could put together any other combination of LDS single women in New York City and get the same dynamic. It’s fascinating and scary and thrilling and wonderful and blessings abound and burst into my beating, grateful little heart.

So, does anyone have other suggestions for song covers?

Band Log, 5/13/09

So, last night was our first band practice. It turned into more of a band meeting, because we hadn’t yet decided on a name. We tried various voting methods on Monday. Closing our eyes and raising our hands didn’t work, but we narrowed it down from 16 to a number smaller than 16. Then we used open-eyed voting twice to get the choices down to two: Mechanical VIOLET and There Will Be Singing. Some of the other options were:

1101111 – The binary code for our combined ages. Maybe we’re dorks.
Flashing Headlights – Because of … night traffic. Yes.
Maybe More
Harmless Threats
A Clarinet, Ukulele, Trumpet and Tambourine Walk into A Bar
Comment dit on “awesome”?
La Porte – Kind of like The Doors, but singular and female
(The previous two refer to all band members (re)learning French.)
BEAM – Acronym of our first initials
Daisy, Clyde, Trumpet, and Lola – The names of our instruments. Um.
Bohemian Bad Butts – except replace butts with another word. That rhymes with classes.
A444 – Just a little sharp.

Anyway, back to the final two: We ended up voting for Mechanical VIOLET. Which is a pretty great name. And it’s a real color.

Do you know what else happened during this band meeting? It was like some rite of passage. Becky’s roommate was filming us because we’re turning the band experience into a documentary, so it kind of felt a little bit like a reality show. The good kind, not the skanky kind.


For some reason we went around the room confessing to how many guys we’ve kissed. Naming names and everything. And trying to make sure we erased certain footage. And while everyone was taking her turn talking, I quietly played “Kiss the Girl” from the Little Mermaid.

So. Practice.

We went through Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Then we played Guitar Hero. Because that totally counts as practice.

Then we stayed up later than any of us intended and talked.

You should probably know if you’re going to be rubbing friends’ feet, don’t just rub one foot. People, make sure you give me your other foot.

I didn’t get home until after 1AM.

And at least we have a band name.

This is already so much fun.