Memory Gloss were one of my personal highlights this year at Poorcastle. The trio were joined by erstwhile guitarist, the incomparable Joey Keegin, and played a set that took no hostages. Their’s is a kind of post-punk pastiche of all that ear candy that makes you want to slow bang while you flip tables, like Hum meets Don Caballero. What surprised me was how much my toddler was into it, dancing and spinning like it was her job, a fine measure of a band. You can check out their song Pale below, and see them play this weekend as part of Louisville is Dead Fest. We caught up with Keegin to get behind the scenes like the cool so and sos that we are.
Never Nervous: Tell us about the song you picked. Why does it stick out to you? What about it makes it the most interesting to think about?
Joey Keegin: “Pale” is the second song that was written as a completely collective endeavor (the first was “Porch Ghost,” which we recorded at La La Land for that compilation about how Matt Bevin is a dimwit). Many of our earliest songs had been written by Chyppe and obsessively worked on for the past few years—KJ and I helped put some crucial finishing touches on them (and some of them, like Assisted Living, we took in totally new directions) but for this one, we locked ourselves in our practice space for an evening and played until we had something we liked. It was amazing. We work together so well as musicians that the process was basically seamless, and what we came out with was one of my favorite songs on the album.
NN: Let’s start at the top: what was the first riff in the song and how did it evolve?
JK: If I remember it right, during practice one evening Chyppe played us the one super heavy riff that comes in after the break and I looked at him flabbergasted and said “We have to write this fucking song.” I had been listening to a ton of Jawbox and Shiner at the time, so the bass part more or less immediately came to me—and KJ is the best drummer on the planet, so everything he played emerges from him like a beautiful web from a spider. Unlike other songs we didn’t change “Pale” that much after we got it down because we just liked it so damn much.
NN: What, if any obstacles did you have in writing, any parts that didn’t quite come together well? If so, how did you overcome them?
JK: Weirdly, there were basically none. There was some confusion about what to do in the beginning, but then Chyppe—as he is wont to do—pulled this amazing riff out of his ass that fit perfectly. Other songs were a bit of a struggle (we very nearly scrapped “Assisted Living” at one point early on because we couldn’t figure out what to do at the end, but then KJ saved the whole thing with a simple snare hit), but this one was just a natural product of the three of us working and thinking together.
“This one was just a natural product of the three of us working and thinking together.”
NN: How does the melody inform the lyrics, if at all?
JK: The song is heavy and dark, so the lyrics were written to match that mood. We even used a cuss word! We’re rebels!
NN: What’s the story of the lyrics? How did they come together? Are lyrics something the group agrees on, or is there an unspoken disclaimer that whatever viewpoint espoused is by the vocalist alone?
“We even used a cuss word! We’re rebels!”
JK: Most of the lyrics on the record (excluding the title track and “Porch Ghost”) were written by Alyssa Lowery, a friend of the band, who would workshop them with Chyppe outside of practice time. Their writing process is mysterious to me, but every time Chyppe brought us something they’d worked out, we’d always love the product. Most of the songs don’t have much of a “viewpoint” per se (even our “political” song, “Porch Ghost,” is a very cryptic ridicule of the governor) but are imagistic, impressionistic, poetic sketches.