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Lame Drivers - Become an Island (Jigsaw Records / Bleeding Gold Records)

27 June 2024

After 2015’s Chosen Era album NYC’s Lame Drivers took a bit of a break and decided to slow things down and focus on building up a backlog of songs which would become their follow up album Become An Island.

The band worked years writing songs, playing locally, and right as they were ready to make the big push the pandemic hit and recording was pushed back and playing shows was off the table. They continued to demo and rework songs with virtual jamming over JamKazam, but as the restrictions were lifted they jumped to put a new album together and to begin playing together all in the same room.

Lame Drivers tapped Travis Harrison (Guided by Voices) to help them record and mix the album. Now with Become An Island finished and thanks to Jigsaw Records and Bleeding Gold coming back to release the album on CD and vinyl please enjoy this track by track breakdown of the album by Lame Drivers written by Jason from the band:

Side A:

“Become an Island” – This is the oldest song on our record, and the only one recorded at Rad Town, which was what we called the basement of the building where I was living in Bed-Stuy. It was a building full of musicians, Mike from Sleeping Giant Glossolalia moved in, and we all practiced in the basement and hosted a few fun shows.

This was ten years ago, when avian flu was making headlines and the idea of quarantine was stuck in my head. I had stepped back from WFMU, where I’d been working, and for the first time in a decade, I was no longer hosting a weekly radio show. I felt like I was drifting away from a community that was really important to me. 2014 was also a moment where I think we were all starting to feel less optimistic about the internet. While it had the potential to bring us together, it could also be isolating and could really fragment society.

When Jeff, Joe and I came back to Become an Island after 2020, after experiencing the quarantine we’d imagined in this song, after trying and mostly failing to play music together over the internet, it all felt more meaningful.

“My Problem” – In 2010 we had a song “We don’t make mistakes.” “My problem” feels like a response to that. It’s about making mistakes, having problems, but not letting them define you. These days I think it’s really important to learn from mistakes. I like how A Pessimist is Never Disappointed compared Joe’s opening bass riff to The Cure. The rest of Side A, were recorded by the band in 2018 at Fort Briscoe, a defunct practice space in Red Hook Brooklyn run by Matt Evans from the percussion trio Tigue.

“Pro Volunteer” – This song is musically inspired by early/mid-70s power pop like Milk ’n Cookies, Shoes and Big Star. I was reading “Other Minds” about cephalopod consciousness and thinking of the scene in Oldboy where Choi Min-sik—a vegetarian—eats the live octopus..

“State of Mind” – This is about looking back on yourself from a different perspective and “mutations of your memory’s reservoir.” Jeff’s hi-hat tambourine attachment is crucial to the groove, which is inspired by “Halloween” by Dream Syndicate and feels like a follow-up to our song “Slow Detective.”

“Temple” – This is a somber jangly one inspired by The Byrds and Chris Cohen. “There’s another way / take another route.” And that’s the end of Side A!

Side B:

“Spring” – Side B (and bonus tracks) was originally tracked with Travis Harrison at Serious Business in 2017. Travis has since become the engineer for GbV. “Spring” starts with a little ceremonial instrumental, kind of channeling a bagpipe, with a guitar and pitch shift pedal. The song is about “subtle changes” that lead to revolution. And spring—the season of rebirth. My wife Sylvia sings a bit on this one.

“Change Agent” – I felt helpless in 2017, like “I can’t be the change agent.” Can music make a difference in the world? My favorite part of the song and possibly the record is the synth that kicks off the instrumental outro.

“Sealed” – A kind of response to Mission of Burma’s “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate.” Originally this song had an ending that was exactly the same, and thankfully the band evolved it into something that stands better on its own.

“Runnin Scared” – I just realized that this song has some references to artists from 60s psych era San Francisco, where I was born, a couple decades later. There’s a bit of Beau Brummels “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and one section where I was thinking about Om’s Conference of the Birds and the Tasmanian Striborg though I’m not sure if that comes across. “Turning photographs to fragments of ourselves” when “you wear that cloak” is about filtering what we see and running from reality.

“Throwing Stones” – For a long time we closed every show with “Throwing Stones.” It’s a reference to glass houses of course, and also to throwing stones into a body of water to cast away your sins, or just about how you can be a better person when you’ve been down on yourself—“now that the mind trap is here.” Another song about growth, which turned out to be a theme of the record….

Not that we go into a record with a theme in mind—each song has its own character. And sometimes in the middle of a song, like half way thru “Throwing stones” it takes on a different character, like this Eddy Current Suppression-era Australian voice that emerges midway through Throwing Stones.

CD Bonus Tracks:

“This Pattern” – So then there are the bonus tracks that are CD-only which is where a few more characters emerge. We originally put some of these online a few years back but remixed them slightly with Travis looking over my shoulder at a few points. He didn’t want to be credited as a producer but as having “lovingly f’d with” the recordings a la Mike Rep.

“International Strength” – this despondent tune popped into my head after the 2016 election when I felt like the USA and potentially the world was doomed thanks to strongman fascism. “If you want to be an artist,” how and why, under these circumstances? I was teaching a college class at the time, and the day after the election, felt a dark mood in the classroom. Didn’t feel right to model just going to work like a “good citizen,” to “be productive,” when “every news push notif’s more than I can take.” I didn’t know of the person named “Baked Alaska” when writing that lyric btw.

“Winner’s Game” – The game is social media, and gamified interactions with other people mediated by companies who monetize your behavior. And yet, in 2024, I begrudgingly caved and created a band insta @lamerdriversband. There is a special broken cymbal that Jeff hits on this song, and Joe used the cymbal as the basis for the digital single artwork.

“Fade” – a surfy fuzz pop song about waking up and having something you’re excited about.

Be sure to follow Lame Drivers on Discogs, Bandcamp, Spotify, X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, and theirofficial website.