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Reality and T bites for jointpop

Published: 
Sunday, April 5, 2015
From left, Jerome Girdharrie, Dion Camacho, Gary Hector, Phil Hill and Damon Homer. Photo courtesy jointpop

T&T rock and roll band jointpop are back with their sixth full-length album, Quicksand.

For this effort, the group—singer, songwriter and guitarist Gary Hector, lead guitarist Damon Homer, bassist Jerome Girdharrie, keyboard player Phil Hill and drummer Dion Camacho—recruited Paul Kimble, formerly of US indie-rock band Grant Lee Buffalo, to be producer.

The album of 11 original songs (plus the lagniappe of a cover of London’s Burning by the Clash, appropriately rechristened Trinidad’s Burning) was written in a house at Point Radix in Mayaro, which is also where it was later recorded, over a two-week period. 

Recently jointpop converged at “Gabby Road”—as Camacho’s wife Gabrielle’s office, which doubles as a music-recording space, is wittily known—to discuss the creation of Quicksand while simultaneously listening to the album. Paul Kimble Skyped in his salty, tongue-in-cheek contributions from his base in Seattle, Washington.

The genesis of Quicksand

Hector: For us, deciding to make another album is always deciding if we’re going to continue as a band: “You cool? You in? You good? Well then okay, let’s write an album.”

Camacho: Yes, let’s write an album, but let’s write a feel-good album this time. Let’s not complain about not being able to get out of Trinidad and make it “out there.” So it’s more about getting out of the quicksand than being stuck in it.

Kimble: Gary contacted me via the Internet and I thought he was pretty weird, but he offered me money and so I said, “Sure, I’ll come produce your band.” Nothing went wrong the entire time we were recording, which is unusual. It was a hell of a lot of fun. If you don’t feel happy after you listen to this album, you’re a robot.

Simply Beautiful

The album’s first single, Simply Beautiful (bit.ly/1DwqOgn), with its arresting piano riff and rip-roaring guitar solo, catalogues a series of personal shortcomings—to a fed-up lover? To bandmates at the end of their tether?—before the plaintive declaration: “You’re simply beautiful.”

Hector: Phil listened to the Queen Live DVD before we recorded this.

Kimble: This song kicks a––. Just listen to the drums and bass and guitar. The groove is just perfect. 

Homer: I think this song was the easiest for us to write, as it was so familiar to us—to me, at least, as I’ve been in the band for so long. This song follows a thread that we’ve been on for the last 19 years. It could be on any of our albums.

Down to Me

Sung over a disarmingly sweet acoustic guitar, Down to Me sees Hector make a prodigal’s return to overt social commentary. The song’s a laundry list of things that pointedly fail to impress him: “learjets and all-inclusive fetes;” “Miss World and sex-tape girls;” “sinister ministers;” and “PNM, UNC, ILP and PPP,” all get short shrift because, in perhaps the album’s single best lyric, “That thing they selling/ I get it for free.”

Jonathan Ali: This is the most direct you’ve been in a song about your feelings about Trinidad in a long time.

Hector: Yeah. It came from the fact that this is one of the first records we’ve made that didn’t follow an overseas tour. We were here, and I was feeling I had something to say. So I didn’t shy away from getting involved in the lyric. 

Ali: Everyone knows that we don’t have a PPP, right? 

Camacho: Yeah. We discussed it and Gary was like, “Perfect. It now globalises the whole thing. There’s a PPP somewhere.”

Quicksand

Fittingly, no song on Quicksand embodies the band’s insistence on the album’s upbeat vibe than the title track: hand-clapping, foot-stomping, pure rock-and-roll goodness. There’ll be a broad smile on your face even as you sing the worrying refrain: “Do you know that sinking feeling?”

Phil Hill: There’s a dance to go with this song—the “Quicksand” dance. A jitterbug.

Ali: It does have a Cab Calloway feel to it.

Hector: My daughter bought me a book on American Indian tribes. I read a lot on the subject. And the introduction, the first paragraph, had the word quicksand in it, and I had this conviction: “F--- it, that’s the album title.” Not only is the band in quicksand, the country is also, as you hear in the third refrain: “This land, we’re in quicksand.” 

Camacho: But we stayed with the whole positive thrust of getting out of the quicksand.

Hector: Actually, part of the quicksand myth is that there’s nothing called quicksand. When last you hear about quicksand? It was only used for Western movies. It was a thing of the 60s.

Reality and T

Reality and T is a boisterous and punkified sea chantey, an urgent, ramshackle state-of-the-nation snapshot and slap upside the head that captures the country in all its excessive, paradoxical, exasperating madness. “Who’s fooling who? Who’s gonna love you, tomorrow?” Hector bawls on the refrain, a sobering warning for the political silly season now underway.

Hill: The crazy piano was Paul’s idea.

Ali: You mean the Jerry Lee Lewis piano solo?

Hill: Yeah, the mad, Liberace-on-crack vibe. It was four o’ clock in the morning. Paul said, “You’re a virtuoso, you know what you’re doing.”

Camacho: When I first heard the solo I thought it would be edited out of the song. Now I can’t picture the song without it.

Hill: Paul then said, “I’m hearing this ‘thing’ for the end of this song, so let’s drink.” He got everybody drunk and set up a room microphone and was like, “Sing the chorus to the song.”

Kimble: It’s the entire band singing at once, which I think really adds something to the song, because it’s that kind of “we’re all in this together, it’s us against the world, kicking against the p----s” kind of sentiment. And the spirit of that chorus is exactly what it should be—just trying to survive in the face of overwhelming odds.

Hector: The lyrics came out of a January writing session—Old Year’s, fireworks, the dogs. Then again, we were liming here one night and it came up: “We’re living in reality and T!” But the concept is cool; it works for anything. 

We’re actually copying American reality TV on our local TV. We’re getting carried away with the whole thing. We had the whole island life; we had that to sell to the world. We decide to buy something else and use that as the reality, as the real thing.

Camacho: But the real thing here is also imitating the whole gangsta thing, the drug thing.

Hector: It’s like the reverse side of the tourist brochure—the nice sunsets and Maracas beach, let we wine down in the road and have a good time. Nobody’s addressing the other side of the brochure. And then we’re all shocked when we end up on the list of countries with the highest murder rates. Trip Advisor warnings and so on. Nobody’s revealing that side of it. 

Camacho: But you’re not going to change things. 

Hector: I know, but have a say. Say some f---ing thing. Somebody have to reverse the brochure a little bit. Somebody have to say something.

MORE INFO

Quicksand is out on iTunes, Amazon.com and CD Baby. There’s also a limited-edition CD—check jointpop’s Facebook [www.facebook.com/jointpop] page to find out how to purchase a copy. See the Facebook page, too, for details of their next performance, which will be at the Big Black Box on Murray Street in Woodbrook on May 16. Cowboy hats are optional.

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