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Posted: 10:53 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012
The Story Behind the Song: Bob Mould and ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’
Above all, Bob Mould is grateful to have an album like his band Sugar’s 1992 release “Copper Blue” that’s revered enough to deserve a front-to-back live performance. The punk and alternative rock icon has spent chunks of 2012 doing just that in honor of the album’s 20th anniversary reissue, and over the course of a couple dozen such performances he’s managed to adapt to the weird pacing of a full-album show and how it differs from a normal concert.
One of the biggest changes is that during the “Copper Blue” shows a career highlight like the tuneful and emotionally vulnerable “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” winds up near the middle of the set instead of closing out a show like it usually might. In advance of his Friday appearance at Fun Fun Fun Fest, where he expects to do his last live playing of “Copper Blue” in full at 5:05 p.m. on the Orange Stage – he’s chomping at the bit to showcase the new album “Silver Age” in concert – Mould talked about one of his most enduring post-Husker Du songs, and why it has resonated for so long.
I’m pretty sure it would’ve been sometime around the summer of ’91. I was living in Brooklyn at the time doing solo stuff and working on what I thought was going to be the third solo record and instead became the first Sugar record. It’s a very simple song, I think something I worked out on a 12-string guitar, and the idea of it is pretty clear. It’s a person looking toward someone who means a lot to them and asking “What’s going on here?” and “What’s gone wrong?” I think one of the reasons it’s one of the best-known songs in my catalog is because that’s such a universal idea, that as people we all have doubts and you have to ask “What else do you think there is?”
Composition and inspiration:
It’s a really uplifting sounding, big song, which kind of goes against the subject matter. Looking at the lyrics you’d think it’d be a whole lot darker but that’s sort of a thing I do a lot of, having very down lyrics but a very up melody. It’s not something I plan out or try to do, but over the years that sort of structure has turned out to be the rule for me rather than the exception. As far as the focus, it’s more of a general commentary about people and not an “Oh my God, this is what’s happening to me right now” sort of thing. I can’t remember what else I wrote at that specific time, but it’d be interesting to look at my charts because songs I write tend to lean in specific directions at different periods of time. The whole thing took maybe 15 minutes to write, as far as the structure and the chords. Maybe a day or two more for the lyrics, but it’s pretty simple and kind of a folk song. For its root, I’d say it’s got a lot in common with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as far as its chemical base.
Playing it live:
With these shows, doing the whole album in order, it winds up in a weird spot because it’s number seven on that album, right after “The Slim” and that’s not my normal way of building a set. Usually it’s the type of thing I’d end with because it’s such a big song of mine or I’d open the encore with it. I like playing the record, but after doing it 25 times now or something close to it I’m ready to move on. The new record has been such a blast to play live, I’m really looking forward to getting it out there. For this show I’ve got 50 minutes and “Copper Blue” is 45 minutes but ends up being 40 because of how things speed up live. That means we’ll be able to sneak a couple of the new songs in toward the end before we’re done.
— Chad Swiatecki
Rob Lowe of Balmorhea talks the band’s new direction
Rob Lowe and the rest of Austin instrumental group Balmorhea drove through Wyoming last week, part of a tour that began at the Mohawk at the end of September and would take them down the west coast and back to Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fun Fest. “It feels like we’ve been on tour for five months straight, but it’s going well,” Lowe said.
The group is touring on their new album, “Stranger” (Western Vinyl), a departure from previous work — especially the quiet, acoustic meditations of their 2010 album “Constellations” — into a world populated with percussion and electronic elements. For evidence, look to “Pyrankantha,” where pulsing strings give way to an electronic drone, which in turn opens the door to an electric guitar, and a concluding jam that flirts with rock. “We wanted to have the live experience, or even the record itself, be something that made you want to move physically, and we felt that percussion or electronics were the way to do that,” Lowe said.
The new approach also resulted in part from the band members living in different places. “Michael (Muller) was living New York; Dylan (Rieck), who plays cello, was in Seattle; I was living in West Texas — so weren’t really together to do a lot of collaboration in terms of writing,” he said. “I worked on a bunch of small snippets of ideas and kind of strung them together.”
Unlike some of their previous work, Lowe said they decided not to give “Stranger” any sort of overt theme (“Constellations” focused on the ocean and night; “All is Wild, All is Silent” was loosely based on the writings of 19th century explorers). “I wanted to just focus on what music we wanted to make and what we wanted it to sound like, and for that narrative to be open to interpretation for however the music moved people,” he said. “It’s just the music and whatever you feel.”
As for interpretation, Lowe said he isn’t quite sure exactly what the title of the new album means. “We’ve always had a hard time titling both our songs and our albums, because that’s not really how we function, it’s all just based on music,” he said. “I think that ‘Stranger’ fit, but I’m still figuring out why.”
Balmorhea plays at 1 p.m. Sunday.
— Peter Mongillo