Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Map of July (Part 1)

Late November/early December of this year would have been the tenth anniversary of Map of July had it survived. We came a lot closer to celebrating a decade than we would have imagined when we first got together. In honor of this almost anniversary (and some of the people who altered my life forever), I will be doing a series of posts about the history of the band, and some of the memories that stick out for me. The artwork which accompanies these posts are all elements used by Map of July at one time or another, and created either by Marc Ludena or myself, or by both of us when we weren't bickering.

Marc helped me move from Denver back to Chicagoland in September of 1996. In exchange, he asked only that I go with him to see a band he loved called Over the Rhine in October. The day of the show I tried to get out of it, citing a headache, but he wouldn't hear of it. He pretty much forced me to go.

The concert was incredible. Intimate, passionate music performed expertly by a wonderful group of folks on the stage. I snuck over and bought every record they had recorded at that time whilst I was supposed to be out smoking. I didn't want Marc to know how much I had enjoyed the thing I had tried to evade.

Driving home, I said again (it was always in the back of my mind) that it would be great to start a band that could capture some portion of what we had seen that night. He agreed, and I mentioned that I knew a guitar player (Marc was already a bassist) we could call and see where things might go. I, of course, would sing, since I didn't know how to play anything. Marc surprised me by saying this was a great idea.

Marc was one of the only musicians I had known who had heard me sing and thought I sounded good enough to play music with. My friend Ian was another, an old friend from high school with whom I had recently rekindled communication. I called Ian to gauge his interest. He seemed enthusiastic, and came over to my house on a Sunday afternoon to play around and see what we thought. I remember thinking afterward that we had both probably sounded terrible, but I really wanted to be in a band, so I told Marc it had gone swimmingly and told both of them to come the following Sunday.

We goofed around for a month or two. Marc was a really solid bassist, but I had never sung much into a microphone, and Ian came from a folk music background where he had never been required to match anyone's timing but his own. So both of us were pretty self-conscious around Marc at first.

When Marc had to take some time off from rehearsing in January, Ian and I decided to spend that time writing some original music. The first time we tried to write, we wrote a couple of songs, and the next week a couple more, and we discovered that we worked well together. I tended to like his guitar lines and he tended to like my lyrics and melodies, and that became more or less what we did for a month solid: marry his output to mine.

When Marc returned, we had more than a few new songs to play for him, and we were a bit nervous that he would tell us they were crap. After all, he was the first person to hear any of the songs who hadn't written them. I think we were both relieved when he started to play along with some of them, clearly having ideas and liking the songs.

When we started working on our own music, suggesting things to one another and creating something together instead of simply playing someone else's songs, that was the moment we really became a band.


Julia Buckley said...

Nice post. Reading this makes me feel sad that you guys broke up.

Looking forward to hearing more about Map of July.

Anonymous said...

First - I feel some obligation to point out that it is not "Map of July" but "map of july" - as I'm sure you pointed out to me many, many times. (Please imagine my goofy smile as I say this)

Second - what's this about breaking up?!? I thought we were just on an extended hiatus?!?!

Third - anything else I would attempt to say about my memories of map of july at this juncture would still sound incredibly sappy. Which is probably inappropriate for any band that hasn't actually reached the level of fame and pathos to justify a VH1 Behind The Music Special. But what is it, a year and half since we went on "hiatus"? I still miss it and have yet to throw out or sell anything from the 'glory days.'

Nikki Neurotic said...

Though I have never been in a band, I would imagine that the most exciting thing that can happen is that first time you play some original tunes together and you realize..."Yeah, this could actually work!"

The Moon Topples said...

Julia: Thanks. I'm a little sad sometimes, too.

Ian: Yes, you are correct about the case. I used caps to set it apart in a paragraph. Which I guess is what caps are for. 2: Perhaps you're right. 3: It was big to us, and that's the perspective I'm using to write about it. Changed my life forever and all. And I hope you never throw anything away from moj.

SilverNeurotic: There are other magical moments in the life of a band, but I suppose that's the one which can never be recreated.

Marie said...

Singing and writing your own songs is the best thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hey!


1) Ian... Good call on the case. I too will forever consider it map of july, fronted by the oh so talented and pretty darn good guy maht wells, with the always interesting and out-of-control kind and gentle Ian, my buddy who makes me cry with his solos Craig and with silly me sitting in the back biting my tongue and shaking in my boots wondering what maht's going to say when he gets to... me.

2)Uh oh... careful with my hopes... and... Hiatus? I thought you said "They Hate Us!" :)

3) Yeh... I still occasionally listen to our rough mixes and dream of the time when I can work them into a state that will convince y'all to get back on the horse. Don't forget I'm gonna come knocking on your door some day for some vocals! And don't forget those were some good songs and arrangements we came up with.

Also... Please... If you ever go on without me... I don't even want to know. Please spare me that anguish.

Teacher Laila Chris said...


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The Moon Topples said...

Marie: Yup. Pretty close to the best thing, anyway.

Kerry: Thanks for the spoilers. I had thought you might wait until I had reached the part of the narrative where you joined the band before chiming in. Ah, well. And as you may know, you can knock on my door trying to get vocals, but that doesn't mean I'll let you in. (See Six Weird Things, from earlier this week.) Nice kissing up, by the way. "Talented and pretty darn good...?" What about handsome? Why do people never remember handsome?

Ms. Burden: Thanks for allowing the blog trade winds to blow you to my shore. I'll make a note to try to be substantial. We'll see how that goes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hey!

Spoilers? I understand you check everything before it goes online. Add that to the fact that historically you've not been the biggest fan of comments from me (see previous comment about shaking in my boots) and I'm sure you can imagine that I only vaguely hope to get a comment through your filter, especially on this topic. :)

I'm definitely not kissing up. I sat behind you on the drums not just because you let me, but because it was some great music, both the cover choices and the originals.

And for fear of being written out of such a treasured period of my own life... Handsome, definitely handsome, especially in your leather pants, although I bet I'm actually the last person you'd really want to hear that from. (I wonder what the origin of that word is? BTW)

So much for anonymity...

basest said...

so now I'm getting nostalgic! damn you all!!!