Songs

This page doesn’t include all our songs, or even necessarily our best ones, only the ones that are on YouTube in one form or other. You can hear low-fi samples of all ten tracks from our debut album on CD Baby’s Sea Water Bliss page. You might also be interested in:

steve barss performs song of syracuse michael a. charles at the mendel in the studio with sea water bliss sea water bliss cover test by troy mamer sea water bliss album one-sheet

The song of Syracuse
A historical puppet show we performed in 2010 at the Mendel Art Gallery as part of the LUGO festival.

Ain’t Paralyzed Yet
A collection of songs written for an exhibition of artworks by John Will at the Mendel in 2002.

The album known as The Band Known As Sea Water Bliss
Learn about the 2x, 2x, 1/2 rule and the recording of our debut album.

Gallery of album art
Troy Mamer did terrific artwork for both manifestations of our rock opera. He was the obvious choice to illustrate and design our album cover.

Draft one-sheet
This was my wacky idea for a one-sheet to promote the CD. It’s just as well we never used it, it only would have confused people.


Adelaide (Please don’t leave me now)

A friend of mine threw a party to which all attendees were expected to bring a talent to share with the group. Everyone assumed I’d bring my guitar, so I decided to foil them by bringing my ukulele instead. Of course, that necessitated my actually learning how to play a song on the ukulele; and after a little bit of experimentation, I decided it was easier to write a new song than it was to learn a pre-existing one. I wrote “Adelaide” in about fifteen minutes and it became our go-to number for high-pressure situations like local radio appearances, entertaining restless children, and battles-of-the-bands:

The band known as Sea Water Bliss

The full-length album version features a forty-second intro featuring lines from classic Canadian nautical disaster songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, and the Rheostatics. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge is in there too.) The idea is, we’re wandering through a harbourfront tavern where all the Ancient Mariners hang out, endlessly reciting their tales of woe. Finally we reach the end of the bar, where our own Ancient Mariner is telling his tale: “I know it’s only a drop in the sea…”

I peg-legged around North Vancouver under the direction of my friend Ray Statham for this low-budget music video:

Clowns

Andrew and I had to argue with our producer Darcy to bring the chorus of “ba-ba-ba”s up in the mix. “You don’t understand,” we explained, “we want it to sound like a roomful of off-key muppets.” Olin did the guitar solo, which is awesome. He also contributed the line, “Bok choy, you’ve come just in time.” Barb squeezed her baby Dylan into the microphone until he produced the crying sound that leads into the final chorus.

There are no clowns in the music video, but that’s okay, the song isn’t really about clowns anyway. It was loosely inspired by the evil Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime in the old Marvel comic books. The video was filmed in the back room at Sig’s Place in Vonda, Saskatchewan. Here’s the story of how we made it.

Dream of the descending satellite

The most enduring number from our rock opera 404 actually predates the rock opera by several years. At the farewell concert Liz and I threw for ourselves in our living room before leaving Saskatoon, we closed with this song, by audience request.

So look up while you still can
Cause the light is almost gone
It’s too faint to wish upon…

Half my age

My dad turned sixty the year I turned thirty – hence, half my age. I recorded this song in a hurry as a gift for his sixtieth birthday, too late to go on our album, alas. All voices and instrumentation are by me – even the bass, which is just my acoustic guitar digitally pitch-shifted down one octave. (I think Andrew was busy that day.) But I must credit producer Darcy Beck with assembling a pretty catchy rhythm track from the sound of me snapping my fingers and tapping random objects with a stick.

This low-budget music video was directed by JW Arnold. Later I made a cartoon to explain the significance of the Hebrew characters on my character’s forehead.

The ice age

Not intended as the theme song to the cartoon of the same name – though my lyrics might have been improved by the introduction of a wisecracking woolly mammoth.

The “wind” effect was created by stepping on a wah-wah pedal plugged into a distortion pedal with the volume maxed. A technique I learned from Olin, who devised it for our windy rock opera 404.

In 2007 JW Arnold and I created this music video using footage from a short film called Haunting Simon that we collaborated on but never completed. The actress is Kendra Anderson, who departed for the big city shortly after we finished shooting, and has since accumulated a number of credits on Canadian-made movie and TV shows.

Jesus loves you (Jesus hates me)

I’ve got a bag full of song titles I’ve always wanted to use. Every once in a while I’ll reach into the bag, pull out a title, and see if I can invent a song to go with it. Sometimes the effort pays off, and the bag gets a little lighter.

Unfortunately, the studio version isn’t online. Here’s me and Olin playing “Jesus Loves You” live at the Weinstein Follies show in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts:

Theme from Teen Wolf Too

Inspired by Ray Parker Jr.’s theme for Ghostbusters, I decided it would be fun to write a collection of songs inspired by the movies of my childhood. Several of them drifted in and out of our regular repertoire over the next few years, including this one and “Theme From Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise“.

“Teen Wolf Too” was supposed to be our arena-rocking tribute to Poison, but my power chord riffing was a little sloppy, so we ended up sounding more like your stoner nephew and his friends playing Green Day covers in the garage. I’d kinda like to record this song again someday. I think we could put together a pretty excellent album of rock songs…if we could only find a drummer who was willing to stick around…

Just after I learned Flash I tried making an animated music video, but it didn’t work out and I abandoned it. A while later I recycled the footage into this cartoon, which incorporates a couple seconds of the song, right at the end:

You’re not the one

With intro, outro, and Olin’s noodling guitar solo, the final song on our debut album drags on, perhaps, a minute or four longer than necessary. When Olin and I played an early version for John Valby, AKA Doctor Dirty, in his home recording studio outside Buffalo, his only comment was, “Obviously, you’ve got some issues with this bitch, but do you really need to go on about it for six minutes?” Most of Doctor Dirty’s songs are about thirty seconds long, so his estimation of an audience’s attention span is a little less generous than ours. Still, he had a point. (For the record, the “bitch” in question is entirely fictitious.)

Jay Arnold directed this low-budget music video featuring Tina Zimonick as a small-town cafeteria waitress I fall in love with and have weird daydreams about: