MAGNET Exclusive: 

Premiere Of The Herbert Bail Orchestra’s “Mountain Bar”

A half-decade between albums might’ve snuffed out most bands, but the Herbert Bail Orchestra isn’t your average band. The vaguely mysterious Los Angeles entity is fronted by Anthony Frattolillo, who’s been enjoying some success as a filmmaker since being selected for the Cannes Young Lions Program in 2014. So that makes the new, self-released History’s Made At Night, a labor of love, more or less.

“I’m in it for the long arc,” says Frattolillo.

The Herbert Bail Orchestra certainly has evolved since 2013’s The Future’s In The Past, which helped peg the group as a gypsy-folk collective. A few moments on History’s Made At Night further that already dated trend, but “Mountain Bar” isn’t one of them. Available here as a free download, this modestly cinematic wonder is more in line with the laid-back Laurel Canyon vibe of other standout tunes like “Hometown Honey,” “Cherokee” and “Headed North Again.” Lyrically, “Mountain Bar” reflects on a memorable early gig for Frattolillo, though the overall gist is less about backtracking than moving on with one’s life.

“It was a packed house, the crowd was going crazy, and they turned on the lights,” says Frattolillo. “So we set up in the middle of the square outside, people started coming out, and the police came, because it was like 2 a.m.”

Unless you live on the West Coast, don’t expect to see the Herbert Bail Orchestra in a town near you. “We’ve tried the touring thing already,” says Frattolillo. “It’s wild to me that there’s not more support for baby bands—that they have to make such an investment in touring. Often I find myself in van with a production crew hauling gear, and I’m thinking, ‘Wait a second, I decided I didn’t want to do this anymore.’ Then I realize it’s for a film, and I’m actually being paid.”

—Hobart Rowland

“Mountain Bar” (download):

Normal History Vol. 498: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Back when I wrote this song, “here” was specific, and the general dissatisfaction expressed was about a relationship. Fast forward 25 years (to now), and although I still live “here”—in the same room, where I pay the same rent—I’m pretty sure I’m done with relationships.

The “here” back then was more about my life than this room. Now that you’re in my life, this is how things are gonna be, etc. Well, now that I’m still here (both in my own life and this same room), it seems to me to be a pity that so many songs have been written about relationship strife—which is actually one of the reasons I want to set up an artist residency program to focus on music and art that intends to create progressive social change.

“Now That You’re Here” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

Normal History Vol. 497: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I loved school! I loved my teachers, but I did find it a little weird that my first-grade teacher was the same as my third-grade teacher. I think I assumed there would be progress, not repetition. I’m sure I loved Mrs. McGillvary the first time around, but maybe twice was once too many. Plus, she pronounced the “d” in Wednesday and insisted that we do the same and I knew she was wrong. It held the door open for her to be wrong about other things, too. Who knows? Maybe that’s why she did it. Was she pointing out the fallibility of authority and mass acceptance of rules? Wed-nes-day. Funny. The fact that she also pronounced the silent “e” never bothered me. Indoctrination.

“Mrs. McGillvary” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

MP3 At 3PM: Sleepspent

21-year-old Austin North and his dream-pop trio Sleepspent recently released debut EP It’s Better If You Don’t Speak Or Think (Slow Start). “Come Smile With Me” is a track about how people communicate with each other, specifically how we don’t think before we speak. Look out for the California-based band on tour in October, and stream and/or “Come Smile With Me” right here, right now.

“Come Smile With Me” (download):

Normal History Vol. 496: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Prize Arm
prize arm
rubber bandit
enthusiasm stripped away
Socrates
assumption
blonde religion rigged with terminal velocity

write your own damn anthem
run it up the flagpole
enduring every absurd injustice
by re-naming us
animal most likely to go insane

self-taught heredity
climb up on that barstool
and come out swinging

success words
equations normally known as lies
the simplest of stories don’t get told
the simplest of stories don’t get old

“Prize Arm” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

Normal History Vol. 495: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

First: I’m 100% sure Dave only meant for the word “key” to have a single meaning, so I was going to suggest he maybe make the “y” a bit less like a “g” until I realized that progressive social change, in my opinion, is also related to alcohol consumption.

Unintentional nuances and a total lack of control over what people take away from art (including music) are subjects we’ve talked about over the years, and then there’s the wilful recycling of work that may or may not bring work into or out of focus.

“When You Build A House Without Doors” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

Normal History Vol. 494: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Rigid Man In An Ice Age
From a sun-bleached chair
with missing rungs
on a porch of weathered boards
a book is dropped on its broken spine
rigid man walks inside

The pages arch up turning
paper’s torn and grey
and he still doesn’t know what it means
and he still doesn’t know what it means

He lives in strange desolation
stopped by a thought caught in time
he’s decided the book has the answer
its extraction is long overdue

He’ll return to the porch
and sit down in his chair
and start again with obsession
fingers smooth-tipped from ritual turning
fingers smooth-tipped from ritual turning
every day he thinks about stopping
humiliated by a failure to learn
the method outlasting the tool

“Rigid Man In An Ice Age”” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

Normal History Vol. 493: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The Revival Of Cruelty
Half hostage
half victim
blackmail shifts around
there is a closing up
and drawing in
 
Spectacle is the reward
in a catalytic cycle
the universe behaves
a crowd chants out at ringside
calling out for the revival of cruelty
calling out for more
 
When a direction is taken
it starts justifying itself
beginning by imposing a dismissal
on all that’s unexplored
all that’s unexplored
 
Direction becomes a window
in the semi-dark of night
we are peering in
or we are gazing out
 
We are peering in
or we are gazing out
we are gazing
we are gazing
out
 
and the crowd calls out for more
calling
calling for the revival of cruelty
the revival of cruelty

“The Revival Of Cruelty” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

Normal History Vol. 492: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

There’s something about these two songs together. “Her Ambition” and a song by Spider And The Webs called “Leaving Lawrence (To His Waves)” about feminist Sheila Rowbotham, who, as Tobi Vail sings, had a surfer boyfriend “she left behind to start the women’s liberation movement.”

I first heard it when Tobi dedicated it to me at a show in Portland. It’s kind of like where “Her Ambition” was going, but I neglected to give my character the exit door. Perhaps she found it on her own. Let’s say she did.

Her Ambition
She used to work days at the counter
he sunken cheeks
paint flecks on his clothes
rubbed the dust from his hair
and went down to meet her
together they drove home

Her ambition faded
Her ambition slipped away

After that she used to work part time in an office
he built things that other people wanted
he couldn’t keep them for himself
he paid exactly half their bills

She began to move like him
and picked up all his habits

He developed a fondness for rare wood from mainland China
any extra time he had he spent sharpening his tools

Her ambition faded
Her ambition slipped away

She can’t stop the dullness
something slowly rotting in her box of souvenirs
she finds a token of her ambition
and rolls it in her hands
she rolls it in her hands
and like her plans like her desire—it disappears
it disappears

Her ambition faded
Her ambition slipped away

“Her Ambition” from The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador, 1996) (download):

MP3 At 3PM: Lauren Housley

Lauren Housley has had a passion for singing and songwriting since she was just 14. In the past two years, the U.K.-based “Americana” artist has released two albums and is getting ready to issue a new EP. But for right now, there’s great new single “My Sleeping Heart,” a song inspired by a trip to Nashville last year. Collaborating with Thomas Dibb, Housley wrote the track after meeting and talking to a broken-hearted man in a bar while in Music City for the Americana Music Festival. Stream and/or download “My Sleeping Heart” now.

“My Sleeping Heart” (download):