Lumberbride was my final college band. It formed from the embers of Mr. Ability, our band of fall 1990. A significant portion of that band had gone away the following semester: I to NYC, working for for Philip Glass, our drummer to Vienna to do what composers do, the guitarist I think went to London.. thus there would be no continuation. My close friend Dan and I decided to go different ways musically, so it was unlikely that there would even be a continuation of the McGrath-Kennedy duo that had also propelled our previous band, OCMR. I came back to campus my senior year and I wasn't even sure I would have a band. I did have a couple of recitals to complete, as I was working on a music degree. Dutifully, I despatched my junior recital, the heart of which was comprised of music I had written and arranged while in NYC the previous semester. It was a mix of new songs and older electronic pieces I had written for classwork. I was quite proud of it at the time and it was well-received, but listening to it now, it doesn't hold up so well. A reasonably good effort though.
Later in the semester my friend Don Marvel, who provided the rest of the continuity between OCMR and Mr Ability, invited me to a weekly jam session he was leading in the living room of his new off-campus house. It turned out to my surprise that he was no longer working musically with his roommate Jason, a collaboration which had produced the epic "Caribou," as well as "Here Adolf Lies" and "I Am the Magic Hand", both prominent parts of the Mr Ability repertoire. I started attending the jams and it gradually gelled into Don (on bass and/or keyboards), Carla Kihlstedt (an important though secondary member of Mr Ability -- she had then been more of a "featured soloist") on 5-string electric violin, and Greg Myers, not previously known to me, on drums. Once things were taking shape, we recruited our friend Matt Hubbard to help with the singing. We eventually brought in a female voice as well, initially provided by my then girlfriend Emily, and finally by Susan Hanson.
"Oily If" was the final songwriting collaboration between Don and myself, in our old vein: Don handed me a piece of paper, written in his beautiful, inimitable script, containing the lyrics for a proposed song. A few weeks later I responded by playing him, in this case, a wistful setting with a curvaceous, rich melody. The lyrical form didn't really contain a chorus; it had a long verse and a not as long bridge. In the middle I added a through-composed instrumental section, like the development in a sonata, though strongly influenced by minimalist techniques (i.e. those of Phil Glass/Steve Reich). To demonstrate, in the climax of that middle, I take the initial vocal line and contract it from 4/4 time down to 3/8 time over the course of 12 bars or so, subtracting eight notes gradually, before landing us back in the introductory figure, signaling the resumption of the singing parts. I was pushing myself to try techniques I was studying, pushing my art further, without getting too abstract. Interestingly this song exhibits diminished chords in a way that is atypical. I've never had much use for them, but here one fits in nicely. This is also a period where I was interested in throwing tone clusters into the middle of melodies, just to show'em. It kind of works.
One controversial aspect is the lyric. It's one of Don's more visceral, in its imagery. I always loved them, and I'm still pleased with the silkiness of the melody (though I work a little hard to fit the second bridge into the melody I wrote for the first one). At some point I recall Carla bristling at some of the phrases like "couldn't rouse a drop of pus" and expressing a little concern that her name was in the line immediately preceding: "Carla mussed his epiglottis." A friend of mine observed that the line "Prophets of the bulky dreamers of the rift" made him think of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The works of Lumberbride eventually formed my senior recital, entitled ® -- with the added subtitle, "A Multimedia Cabaret". The multimedia factor was represented by 2 simultaneous videos, slides, dancers, taped backgrounds and our lead singer, Matt Hubbard wore a series of bizarre masks. All these visuals were masterminded by Don (bow down). The shape of it was to go from chaos to a simple drone, then rise back up to chaos. We structured the music in a way that the louder, faster music was closer to the chaos and the quieter music closer to the drone. "Oily If" ends with the drone, an F, which in the performances would be held through the full "Centerpiece" featuring our 3 modern dancers.