We Asked Endless Boogie's Paul Major How To Write the Perfect Song
Endless Boogie make rock music so rude and compelling that when you hear it you'll wanna smother every inch of your body in BBQ sauce, fire up the grill and jump on the flames. The New York band's new album, Long Island, is out next week via No Quarter, and it's the breakfast equivalent of a bacon cheeseburger and a pork belly sandwich at the same time. In short, dangerously delicious.
Endless Boogie's record release party is at Cameo Gallery on Friday, February 15.
The first single from Long Island,"Taking Out the Trash," is damn near perfect. A massive, no-frills riff. A pugnacious strut. Growls and grrrs. An exchange of greasy licks made greasier by the greasiest of grooves. Hiccups. A screaming outro that spins outta control. A fade-out implying that said spinout could quite possibly spin-outta-control for eternity, forever crashing into everything.
The tune's about getting so boozed up you can't remember what happened the night before. When you finally roll out of wherever, the voices inside your head are like a Terry Malick film.
"Did I handle myself with grace?" "Why do I continue to deny the light?" "Did I make an ass out of myself?"
It's an almost universal dilemma, really. We all make mistakes in life, and most of these mistakes happen because we're piss drunk. But "Taking Out the Trash" doesn't tell us to sit around and mope about it. The message here is "Kick it to the curb, keep on chooglin' and then let's go for a ride!"
The song's so good I had to talk about it with Endless Boogie guitarist and singer Paul "Top Dollar" Major. Here's what he said.
"Taking Out The Trash" is a great tune. Let's talk about it. That's one of those songs that came about through our usual non-process. The song wrote itself. Usually what happens is we jam and come up with some sort of riff or mood or groove. Sometimes it's just a one chord thing or we throw in a couple things. We find a groove and we jam on it, and as we jam on it, some sort of idea flies through me and it organizes what sort of attitude I'm getting off the riff. We just jam on it. We never sit down and write a song and say, "Oh, okay, this part goes here, and then we'll do a chorus." We write the songs by jamming them, and sometimes things will gel. That's the process. The jams that get us off the most--the ones that we have the most cool time playing--become the songs.
The song was originally called "Last Night," right? Yeah, that's how we referred to it. That was the working title. We played it a few times a year or two ago, just jamming on it. Now it's "Taking Out The Trash" because that line really stuck out. With all our jams, we just name them after a fragment of a lyric or a word or something. If it becomes something we actually put on a record, we come up with a better title. Sometimes people will come up to us after a show and say they really like a particular song, and I'll go, "Wait, which one is that?" I can't remember all the titles because some songs have a few.
You mentioned the importance of a riff's attitude. What sort of attitude does "Taking Out The Trash" have? It's an old rocking style. The attitude's certainly channeling Faces and raunchy rock and roll, and some freeform psychedelic stuff. When we were jamming and we came up with that riff, the idea of "last night" just popped into my head. The idea of some dude just waking up and wondering if he did something wrong. He doesn't remember, so he wonders if everyone's mad at him. It's one of those days where you realize you've gone too far the next day. It has that vibe going.
We don't put messages in our songs, but I think they resonate with people. Everyone's had a night where they were feeling real good--maybe too good and too in the groove and their face was really rocking--but they're really going nuts. So, the next day, you gotta take out the trash from last night. It's the cleanup after a wild night. There's no real message, it just about rocking out. It's just like "Oh, yeah, I've had nights like that, too." Sometimes people come up and tell us they've felt that way before. That's the message.
I know exactly what you're talking about. Yeah, man. You just get too far out of control and you're feeling too good, and all of a sudden your ego blows up. You feel like you're on top of the world, but then you're really annoying people. When you wake up the next day, you don't remember, so you take out the trash and get ready for the next go around.
One of the lines in the song is: "My opinion's highly rated." I've definitely felt that way when the exact opposite was true. Me, too. I think Matt came up with that line. And he came up with the line "My whole life was mentholated." Like the mentholated cigarettes, Kool. You know, like the whole thing's real cool, or last night I got too cool. That one cracks me up. It's perfect.
You also say, "I'm the clown of the class." Were you the class clown as a kid? No, not me. But, maybe in my mind. I was the opposite. I'd never put my hand up. I'd try to shrink so they wouldn't call on me. I was the "can't-wait-to-get-outta-here" kid. Maybe somewhat later I got into some practical jokery. That line's proof that you don't have to have total authenticity in a song. You can cast yourself as a character. I was never the clown of the class intentionally. But sometimes maybe it gets unleashed at the bar. You just feel like you're on top of the world, but then you blow up too big for the room you're in. In the case of many nights--you know, the ones when you wake up and don't remember how it ended--there's just a big question mark there. You gotta start calling people and ask them if you did anything really bad.
Those nights really scare me. Yeah, me too. Personally, they're pretty much in the past for me now. At my age, I've had enough of them, and it really ain't worth it. I still get loose, but I don't go out of control. I've had enough mornings waking up and not remembering. And waking up in unfamiliar rooms. Nowadays I'm just so excited to play in a band and everything that I pretty much just keep it to that. I get jacked just playing, and walking around talking to people.
What's the strangest place you've ever woken up? Way, way back, when I was in college, I remember waking up in a public restroom. I didn't have any idea where I was, or what building I was in. I was just zonked out, man. One time I woke up, and opened my eyes, and everything looked really green. I was like, "Man, what's going on, everything looks green!" I knew I was in my old apartment, down on Bleecker Street in the punk rock days, but everything was green and I could't move. I started collecting my ability to move again, and I realized it was green hair.
Green hair, like on someone else's head? Yup. Uh huh. I think she was the bass player in some band. I don't remember the name. Some band that was in town from L.A. It was one of those L.A. punk girl bands. They didn't have any records or anything. She was just one of those people floating around at the time. The green hair was the notable thing.
That's a good story. You growl a lot in this song. Yeah, that sorta grew out of the way we play. I'm pretty much improvising with my mouth as much as I am with my guitar, at least until a few things gel and get repeated. I pull air in and sometimes blow it out. I just like making mouth noises, sometimes growling. A lot of growling happens in the freeform context, because things are just coming out of me and there's no calculations. I'm just getting free. That's what it's all about when we jam out. It's all spontaneous. Our old bass player used to say, "When you get there, you gotta stay there." I always try to get into that groove and stay there. We're not really thinking about what's happening, it just happens. It's like shooting ourselves out of a canon.
At one point in the song, a lighter gets dropped and the porch gets torched. Everything doesn't get set on fire, but maybe it does sometime later in the song. There was some big hit song in '70s where someone drops a salt shaker. What's that song called?
I don't know. Oh, wait. It's "Margaritaville." This is like our version of that. You know, fumble fingers.
Is the torch out on the porch because folks are out there getting high? Maybe. I mean, why else would you drop it?
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