“Skeletons,” from Line Line (2011; recorded 2006)
I had arrived in Richmond Friday evening. The rest of the band drove all night from Connecticut for our weekend session at Sound of Music: Over the previous two years, adhering to our strictly languorous pace, we had recorded parts of four songs at the Shed. Now we wanted to finish the second record, and we’d found the people (most prominently engineer Alan Weatherhead) who could help us get it done. The big red van, also known as the BRV, pulled in early Saturday morning. They all collapsed onto the beds that had been laid out Biloxi Blues style along the top floor of the big three-story building that had once been one of Broad Street’s many department stores during its heyday. Everybody slept a little in the rock-star beds. Then we went for a big breakfast, biscuits, sausage gravy, the works. When we got back to the studio we watched a little college football. Around one o’clock we were ready to record, so we sent the intern out to buy us some bourbon at the ABC. After a couple hours we had laid down Keith’s drums for “Skeletons” but then it was time for dinner, which we ate at a leisurely pace. We returned to Sound of Music and then one of Bob’s friends came by and we showed off for him by jamming out some super-extended versions of Bob’s six-string showcases, “It Was Really Pretty Good” and “The Envelope Pushes Back,” neither of which we actually intended to record.
Yet somehow when everybody left around five o’clock the next day, we had enough in the can for five new songs, and then over the course of the following week, taking the day off for Thanksgiving, Al and I added guitars and vocals and put together two other songs ourselves. As I listened to the initial mixes in the big control room with the gigantic sound board I couldn’t believe how good we sounded. I remember thinking it wasn’t possible to be happier. I made some phone calls to tell people as much.
The next Sunday, exactly a week after the boys left, my last day there, I lollygagged around the studio, digging around forgotten rooms filled with old gear. I watched more football. I hung out with the three-piece sludge-metal band—six-string bass, four-string bass, drums, and they were very nice—that was recording upstairs. When I finally got around to looking at my phone I realized it had blown up: messages from my dad and my sister. Mom was in the hospital. In the next room, Al mixed “I Died Today (for Just a Minute).”
“Skeletons” had been written at a time when I’d suddenly realized that, after kicking around in hopeless romantic quicksand for a long time, I’d somehow managed to fall into a good relationship. Things were, in this song, looking up. In Richmond it was recorded under similarly optimistic circumstances, a feeling that the Egg had finally turned a corner, and then life got tough—tougher than my well-trodden territory of dorm-room heartbreak, not that dorm-room heartbreak doesn’t suck, by a thousandfold. By spring the record would be mixed and mastered and ready, but it would take a backseat to more important things. For the next couple years, though, I would listen to it all the time, particularly this song, walking around my neighborhood in Brooklyn worried, to remind myself that good fortune could come again, that it would come again. When it did, I would be ready. Or at least ready to be ready.