Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rula Bula -- "The Buccaneer" (2012)

Winds have cornered me
They’re howling like a banshee

Today's 2 or 3 lines presents the third part of our interview with Johnny Gwynn of Rula Bula.  Click here if you missed part two of that interview.

But first I want to finish up the account of my recent trip to Falmouth, MA -- Johnny's hometown.

After completing my ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth, I took my rental bike back to the store when I rented it.  Parked in front of the bike store was this odd-looking contraption:

That's a Bullitt cargo bike, a Danish product that can carry several hundred pounds of freight and claims to be the world's fastest cargo bike.  

Socialite and fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer -- the "Queen of Prep" -- died a few months ago at her Palm Beach home.  But her bright-colored clothing continues to be popular with affluent, preppy women from coast to coast:

Lilly Pulitzer
The Pink Polka Dot in Falmouth is one of many precious little stores that stock Lilly Pulitzer fashions:

My route from Cape Cod to the Providence, RI airport takes me close to Gene's Seafood in Fairhaven, MA:

Gene's hasn't changed a bit in the 25 or so years I've been stopping there.  I ordered fried clams and a Narragansett -- a perfect repast for a hungry biker/blogger:

It's a good thing that I ate when I did.  By the time I got to the Providence airport around 7 PM, nearly all of the restaurants and bars were closed for the evening:

It's time to wrap up our conversation with Johnny Gwynn of Rula Bula:

2 or 3 lines:  Johnny, where does Rula Bula play live -- on the Cape or elsewhere?

Gwynn:  We play a lot more in Boston, Providence, and other New England cities because there really aren't that many places to play on the Cape.  My brother Tyler and I once had a regular gig at The Parrot Bar in Bourne, and I’d love to play somewhere like that again.  It was just this little bar that was off the beaten path, but the folks there were so receptive and let us make our mistakes when we were just getting started and cheered us when we hit our stride.  I wouldn’t mind doing a gig there again.

2 or 3 lines:  What was it like to grow up in Falmouth?  Do you hate all the tourists like me who show up in the summer and cause traffic jams and make the restaurants too crowded?

Gwynn:  Growing up in Falmouth was great as a kid.  There are all these small shops and local hot spots you can ride your bike to and just explore on your own as a kid.  It’s small enough that everyone knows each other for the most part, so everyone is pretty friendly to each other growing up.  Summer time it gets crowded, but that's the price you pay for living on the Cape. 

Cape Cod summer traffic
2 or 3 lines:  Cape Cod has got to be so different in the offseason.

Gwynn:  From July 4 to Labor Day, the town is everyone else’s playground because all the locals are busy working in the restaurants and shops.  While it can be a hassle, you realize that it's because of the crazy tourists that you have summer jobs, and that money's important.  There's also a cool kind of camaraderie that comes with everyone working together in the same places and catching up after hours.  It’s almost a rite of passage for a local to work at some local restaurant as a waiter or cook for a summer.  But the fall is a really nice time on the Cape because its still warm and all the locals come out of the woodwork and get to enjoy the town without tourists.  For twenty- and thirty-somethings, living on the Cape year-round can get painstakingly boring because a lot of the shops and restaurants and bars close up until the next summer, but when you're a kid, fall means it’s your town again.

2 or 3 lines:  What do you like to do to relax?  Are you a beach guy, a fisherman, a sailor, or something else?

Gwynn:  Usually in the summertime I was working crazy hours because of restaurant jobs, but my friends and I would always plan out a few days where we would wake up early and go waterskiing.  We've known each other since elementary school, so even as we get older and schedules are getting more hectic, that's a great way for us to catch up and heckle each other about our skiing runs.  We’ll get out in the boat around 8 AM, when it is still usually very chilly, so we can get in as much skiing in before the water gets too rough.  We’ll ski around Surf Drive Beach or make the trip out to Naushon Island to ski in a little cove out there.  Falling head first into the water at high speeds is quite a way to start your day.  We recently got our hands on a wakeboard and have taught ourselves how to use that so we’ll be playing with that more this summer.  Just one more way we can break a leg.

Surf Drive Beach (Falmouth, MA)
2 or 3 lines:  What would you like to be doing in ten years?

Gwynn;  My dream job is songwriting -- whether for a band of my own or writing for other artists.  When I first picked up the guitar, I thought you were supposed to write your own stuff.  I never learned “Stairway To Heaven,” which is kind of embarrassing, but I’ve always been interested in writing something that people want to listen to.  To write something like a “Wonderwall” or “Baba O’Reilly” or “Born To Run,” something that sort of transcends time and that can get anyone’s foot tapping, that’s something that I strive for.  Money or fame isn’t the big goal -- just to know you’ve stuck a chord that resonates with all types of people, that’s the dream.

2 or 3 lines:  Tell me about writing "The Buccaneer."  Was that an easy song to write?  

Gwynn:  “The Buccaneer” was kind of a monster.  I had a few lines running around my head but nothing definite.  I started to just get really frustrated with it and didn’t know what to write. It wasn’t “writer’s block,” I just wasn’t happy with what I was coming up with.  Then a friend offered me a few writing exercises that just had me write "freestyle"  for a few minutes every day.  I started to piece together lines that focused more on sensory descriptions and vivid adjectives and verbs that set a tone rather than told an overall story.  So to me, that songs seems like more of an exercise than a complete song but lines like "Rattle, rock and roll" and "winds howling like a banshee" really place you in the moment rather than tell you about what it all means.

Rula Bula's Harpoon EP
2 or 3 lines:  The lyrics to Rula Bula's "Swing for the Fences, Kid" include several baseball expressions.  Is there a story behind that song?

Gwynn:  My dad works for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  One of the team's claims to fame is that they were one of the teams in the longest game in organized baseball history -- 33 innings.  I grew up knowing this, but it wasn’t until I read Dan Barry’s book, Bottom of the 33rd, that I learned the stories of the people who played in that game.  Some guys would go on to major league careers while others never got even a "cup of coffee" in the majors.  Whether it’s sports or music or whatever, we all are fighting for that shot -- but once it comes, it’s all about the preparation and persistence that got you there. Writing a song about sports might be one of the tougher things to write about without relying on clichés, but I’m really proud with how it came out.

Wade Boggs discusses the 33-inning game
The 33-inning game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings that Johnny is referring to began on the evening of April 18, 1981.  It was finally suspended at 4:07 am the next morning, after 32 innings and more than eight hours of play.  The 33rd and final inning was played in June, when the visiting Rochester Red Wings next came back to Pawtucket.  

The two most famous players who played in that game were Hall of Famers Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs, who combined that night for 6 hits in 25 at-bats.  Dallas Williams, who got his proverbial "cup of coffee" with the Orioles later that year, went 0-for-13 in the game.

Cal Ripken as a Rochester Red Wing
Perhaps the best story from the game involved Pawtucket relief pitcher Luis Aponte, whose manager told him he could leave the stadium after he had pitched.  Aponte arrived home around 3 AM and was confronted by an angry wife who demanded to know where in the hell he had been.  Aponte swore the game was still going on, and told his wife she could read about it in the Sunday newspaper.  Of course, the game was suspended far too late for the paper's deadline, and Aponte had to wait until Monday's edition was delivered to get out of the doghouse.

One final note about the lyrics to "Buccaneer."  Did you know that a banshee is a female spirit in Irish (or Scottish) mythology?  The banshee is a female fairy who begins to wail when someone is about to die -- especially when the death is going to be a violent one.  Accounts of banshees go back to the 14th century.  

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