Concert preview: Dream sequence inspires new Earwig album
Songwriter and guitarist Lizard McGee has always been drawn to supernatural folklore and stories about extraterrestrial life. His mother? Not so much. "She's a very straight-laced, normal person," he said.
But in 1997, McGee's mother came to him upset and needing to get something off her chest. "She confided to me, very emotionally, this story about her having an experience with aliens when she was pregnant with me," he said. "It was the first time she'd talked to anyone about it. I just listened to her, and she actually ended up crying, and we've never talked about it again."
Since then, McGee - who relayed this story on the steps of the Statehouse, surrounded by Earwig bandmates Constantine Hondroulis (bass), Nicholas Nocera (drums) and daughter James McGee-Moore (vocals) - has wondered about the relationship between his mother's revelation and other aspects of his life, particularly his active dreams. "There are a lot of alien things that come up in the dreams," he said.
One particularly vivid series of dreams inspired an in-progress book,My Own Secret Service, and Earwig's new album,Pause for the Jets, a sci-fi rock opera that McGee and his bandmates will celebrate with a release show at Big Room Bar on Saturday, Oct. 15.
"I had a dream sequence that lasted for about a year and a half where I was searching for the Enigma Guitar," McGee said. "I wrote them all down in a journal. One of my nemeses were the Joy Division Cobras - this group of four guys that looked like 'G.I. Joe' [villain] Cobra, but they each had a different bass guitar that had abilities. The Zombie Bass reanimated inanimate objects. One shot lasers out of it. They were trying to stop me from finding this guitar."
McGee's dream world was known as "The Unreal." "It's like a parallel world of Columbus. A lot of things in Columbus would turn up in the dream - parallel versions of bands [and] storylines congruent to my day-to-day waking life," he said. "There's like a Justice League of America, but it's called Mega Earwig, and it involves all these past, present and future members of Earwig that are aligned to this same cause. They all wear 'Thriller' jackets; they dress like Michael Jackson."
While the elements that inspiredPause for the Jets (a co-release between Anyway Records and Lizard Family Music) are based on far-out fantasies, the songs are some of the best Earwig has released since forming in 1992. "Silverheels," for instance, is named for a white lizard-dragon that speaks Japanese and is also the steed upon which a mute, white witch rides, but knowledge of the layers of meaning drawn from The Unreal aren't necessary to appreciate the power-pop anthem's crunchy guitars and McGee's soaring, upper-register vocals.
"Let me make myself clear...," he sings as the instruments drop out and then return to help him finish the thought, "...right from the beginning / I miss the lonely feeling every time I close my eyes."
McGee-Moore sings alongside her father on the record, adding even more punch to the vocal attack.
"I've always had a prejudice against 20-year-old female singers who don't play an instrument and just stand in front of everyone with a microphone. Now I am that," she said, though McGee-Moore has begun playing keyboard on some songs and also aided with translating and performing the pseudo-Japanese scrawls from her father's journals.
"Most of the Japanese on the album is me," she said. "I've got a couple years of Japanese under my belt. ... It should make 78 percent sense to a Japanese person."
Earwig has always had a rotating lineup, but for a while the band had been a trio of McGee and brothers Constantine and George Hondroulis, though George was recruited to play drums for Lydia Loveless after he completed the drum parts onPause for the Jets. (Loveless also lends her voice to the album's drunk-in-love duet, "Wasted on You"). McGee recruited Nocera, also of Winter Makes Sailors, to man the kit and complete the current, four-person incarnation of Earwig.
McGee said Earwig's new lineup feels like a rebirth. "I think for a while with Earwig it was like the dream of the '90s band: Get signed to a major label. It used to be informed by that '90s fantasy of super-stardom," he said. "Now I'm just in it for the art and the fun of making music and being excited to do things with my friends … which is rekindling what excited me to start a band."
Big Room Bar
8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15
1036 S. Front St., Brewery District
ALSO PLAYING: The Kyle Sowashes, Bava Choco