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LORD HAVE MERCY
The fourth full-length by Blake Jones and the Trike Shop takes the listener on a most unusual, but highly enjoyable, journey through ancient prayers, Brian Wilson melodies, and Theremin licks. "Pop Songs and Kyries" manages to pull elements from such disparate influences as sci-fi soundtracks and renaissance vocal arrangements to create bubblegum-perfect pop songs that still manage to beg, "Lord have mercy." Jones, who is also busy organizing Rock of the Tower II, spoke with us about the new album.
First question: Can you explain your interest in Kyries?
I'm a big fan of what they call early music. And the renaissance church music, I love it. I'm interested in counterpoint, and that was like a really high time for counterpoint. You got a thousand things all meshing together.
What is counterpoint?
It's a thousand things meshing together. Well, it could be just two things meshing together. You have like two independent lines. You know, before that you had the Gregorian chant which was just one line, right, just one continuous line, then a couple hundred years after that they would take the one line, then another line and bounce it up here, and then the next guy, "Well what if we put another on top of that", all that weaving together. It becomes a real mess, but it's a beautiful mess. If you listen to renaissance church vocal music you see it. And then later on a guy like Bach he kind of gave it a little more order, his counterpoint.
You studied music
Yeah that's what I studied in school.
What instruments do you play?
I play a lot of instruments very badly. Guitar is about the only instrument I can play proficiently. Like on the CD, it's like toy piano, Theremin, whatever needed to be there.
You're known for your Theremin. How did you pick that up?
It was too expensive to break guitars, and I needed a gimmick. Breaking guitars was just out of my price range. Also, along with being fascinated by early church and renaissance music, I also like really bad science fiction movies from the 50's and the 60's.
What's your favorite bad movie?
I saw one the other day called Carnival of Souls. The Day the Earth Stood Still was a cool movie. And I'm a big Brian Wilson fan, so Good Vibrations and Smile and all that fascinates me. The whole sort of using other textures in pop music- you know Brian Wilson was the king of that- and so you know whether it's banjo or melodica or Theremin or whatever I probably stole all those ideas from him
My music's sometimes very scattered- there's this style, this style, and this style, and I think this is the first album- listening to my last album I noticed that, gosh it just jumps. I like it, and I like different kinds of music but I wondered if anyone could actually sit and listen to this. And so I tried to make and album that would sort of flow. It gets more serious as it goes.
Where does the word "Kyrie" come from?
Well that's a good question. We could figure it out together. The lyrics are Kyrie eleison / Christe eleison / Kyrie eleison. Which means, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. The words are set, they were originally part of the catholic mass. The priest might say something, and then they respond back. I thought it was half comical, half cool that you always hear that in old blues songs too, you know "lord have mercy". Maybe in a slightly more profane way, but its still cool.
Plus the whole political atmosphere the past couple of years. I was highly disappointed in November and just the mood of the country for the past few years, that seriousness has kind of influenced I think a few of the songs and that also probably takes me to the lord have mercy.
And some of the other people that have talked about prayer, or invoked such things, some of the people who spoke the loudest about such things are some of the people I thought were the most far off base.
One song that stuck out for me was Beauty Loses a Round.
There you go. That was the last song written on the CD.
And then there's Red White and Blue so Blue.
Right. My daughter (Chelsea, who plays French horn on the album) right when it was looking like bombing Iraq was inevitable, she wrote a letter to the Bee, you know in her little-kid way just saying this seemed a little extreme, having to launch a whole war; isn't there another way we can go about this? And then my mother calls me after this, and my mom was like 12 years old at the end of the second world war, and she grew up in Nazi Germany. And she came over to America like 1950, 1951. So she calls me up, and she was worried because we live in a small town- we live in Kingsburg- and she's just worried.
"Would a letter like this get me into any trouble?" Even her saying that broke my heart. And made me feel terrible, and I said, "Come on mom, this is America, lighten up." And she said, "This isn't the America I remember when I moved here." And I thought that was quite a comment from someone who grew up where she did.
Blake Jones and the Trike Shop will play Rock of the Tower II Saturday, July 23 at the Tower Theatre.