Driving Music – Lavender Suit by Driving Music
If I meet you with one laugh to remember and a praise to regret
will you confide in the still of the night to reflect your sparks, on and on?
As our days go astray, with the rip of the hours and the scent of the sun,
Will we survive the distractions of pride just to keep moving along?
And as the silky shore greets your outstandingly light steps and my lavender suit,
we close our eyes and mourn the passing of time
and the candles that melted in vain for the slow death of another day
Some people know that I’ve always planned all my records in advance, anticipating exactly where each song would go and how the album would make sense as a whole, instead of being just a collection of singles. In that sense, “Lavender Suit” is one monumental exception, since it was composed (and I really mean composed, not written) like no other song of mine. I’d recorded the intro a year or so ago, for the Superstonic Sound soundtrack. It plays on top of a shot in black & white of an open heart surgery, and I felt like the reversed guitars were pumping blood back into the heart, putting life and color back into that dying image. A few months ago, I started playing with the soundtrack tunes again, to release them as b-sides to the Goodbye South Goodbye single – which would be a full instrumental release. It then occurred to me that it’d be nice to add one song with vocals to it, just to break the pattern. I came up with the acoustic guitar riff one day while playing at home, waiting for Clarissa to get ready so we could go out – and it’s extremely rare that I actually get to write a song while playing guitar, so this was also new to me – and in no time I was sure that it’d fit nicely after the intro I’d already recorded for the Superstonic Sound soundtrack.
“Lavender Suit” got very close to being released as part of that single. I mixed it with the other tracks and it sounded right, but I let myself get carried away with pan automations and was having some weird phase combing problems with the master. I tried fixing it a couple of times, but there was still some unwanted distortion going on that I was failing to fix. So I put it to the side with the rest of the single and went back to work on the album, which at the time was just three songs I’d recorded throughout the year. It was then that I realized that the song fit perfectly with what I was recording then and that it made more sense to release it as part of the album than to “hide” it on an instrumental ep.
Despite being more of a transitional track to me (like “Rain or Shine” was), “Lavender Suit” was the one song that actually showed me the sound that I was looking for the album. It was also one of my very favorite tunes. I loved and still do how the very melodic, traditional sounding guitar riff triumphed on top of layers of drones and other crazy stuff I was coming up with in the studio (the buzzing sound in the back, for example, is a melodica in reverse, floating between speakers like bees on lavender bushes – a metaphor I just came up with because we got lavender bushes in our backyard, and I have to stay away from them, since I’m allergic to bee stings), and I especially enjoyed arranging and recording vocals to this one. It was hard not to over-sing it, and finding the right balance for this song was part of a deep learning process that demanded heavy amounts of coffee (I always think my voice sounds better in low keys after drinking hot coffee) and listening to Califone records. These experiments were key to my approach to the rest of the album, trying different ways to sing, play and mix everything together like I had never done before. To my surprise, I could easily fix the phase combing problems then, when mixing it for the album, almost as if it was holding me back just enough time so that I could realize where the song really belonged. Some people build churches when things like that happen; I do what I do: put out records.
Looking back, I feel like “Lavender Suit” is one dream-like journey from present to past, from chaos to order, from deconstruction to construction, from modernity to tradition. It is a journey back to the beginning of the world – underlined by the reversed guitars on the first part of the song – going from the noisy, distorted disorientation of drone music to the gentle, earthly strumming of “Blackbird” or “Don’t Think Twice”. It’s about getting all the arguing voices in my head to sing together in harmony.
Lyrically, it’s one of the songs that fit this writing style I came up with that, for lack of a better name, I’ve been calling “freeze frame writing”. That term was actually penned by Susan Sontag to describe Walter Benjamin’s writing, and it put a name to something I’ve been doing for a while, but that I didn’t know how to call: songs that covered the short span of a second of revelation, as if time froze and we could look at that single moment from a number of different angles, describing every single feeling or thought, finding words for everything that goes through our minds during that brief epiphany. It’s about trying to make a glimpse last for more than just a glimpse – even if only for the duration of a song – while still capturing its fleeting, wonderful nature. I’d tried that with a few songs before – “Windowsill” and “Rain or Shine”, for example – and “Lavender Suit” benefits from its brief duration, in a way that its form also reiterates its drive to hold the present and its consequential inevitable flop. It’s also a song about love at first sight; about going to the first date with the person you know you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. And it’s also another song about the sun, the beach and the ocean; about girls who can walk on clouds and guys with terrible taste for clothes.