Finally, in a story about musicians, there's actual music. And it only took four chapters. Go figure.
October First - part 4
One. Two. Three. Four.
One Two Three Four
...joined by buzzsaw guitar...
They speed up: two instruments gaining momentum without word, two musicians in sync without looking. It's the norm: Zack Mooneyham and Freddy Jones never look at each other during practice.
They plateau and Zack nods at Lawrence, who holds up a hand to Alicia Allen, who stands across from him on the other side of the keyboard. She looks past some the nerves and focuses on his hand, slowly expanding her diaphragm.
She shoots up the scale and hits a high note, still staring at Lawrence. He drops his hand a bit and she follows with her voice. They repeat twice more before the bass joins in the thundering march and she cuts out.
Lawrence smiles a bit to himself. He loves helping people and he loves music, so vocal director is an ideal position for him to have. And it's not often that he has the attention of a girl. He raises a hand and plays a rolling chord with the other.
"What aaaaarrre you doin' in my beeeeeeeeeed?"
The song is "Breakenter", an original by Zack. It's half-White Stripes, half-Spoon, with sprinkled vocals from "Great Gig in the Sky" and Arcade Fire-style keys. It's a slow build to high energy, cobbled together from some of the band's varied musical tastes.
"What aaaaarrre you doin' in my he-ee-e-ee-e-e-e-ad?"
Alicia warbles some of the notes.
It used to be called "Homeburglar" but Zack refused to let the first song they were going to demo be a pun on a McDonald's character from the 90s. Freddy was not happy to be outvoted. Before that, it was "Hello, Stranger," which was Marta's idea and only a temporary placeholder until the group found something that didn't sound like, in Freddy's words, "a pickup line from an emo hooker."
Alicia starts low—with Lawrence holding his hand near his stomach—and follows it up and around. She misses a note and slides past a few more, but stays on course toward the finale.
"Carve initials onto the flooo-oo-oooor with your shiiiiiiiiiiiiiinin' teeth"
In the corner of the garage, on what used to be Zack's dad's tool bench, Gordon Infante is spread out with his laptop and notebooks. A projector shoots his mock-up onto the only empty flat area in the entire room, the back of the garage door. He shakes his head and jots down a quick note; after an hour and a half, Gordon has only written a page of notes, instead of the three or four he usually has down by then.
It's not that the show is close to perfect—either the flood light or the keyboard is a smidge off-tempo during the second chorus and Lawrence is never off—it's just that he keeps getting distracted by the weird face Katie makes when she slap-pops the bass. She bites the corner of her bottom lip a bit and narrows her eyebrows like she's angry but her nose does that cute thing where—
Oh damn. He snaps back to the laptop screen. Did she just catch me staring at her? (again)
Beside him, Marco enjoys the energy of the song, bobbing to the rhythm and imagining how great it would sound if they'd let 'im add a dance loop and mix the levels. And beside him, Eleni all but drools at the way Freddy's limbs swing around the drum set, raining cymbals and toms.
The three singing girls harmonize the last chorus and drop out. Alicia grabs the mike and focuses on the hand again.
"I'll burn my ha-ouse da-a-a-a-own /
Just so you got no whe-errrre to gooooooooooooo..."
Stuttering snare beats.
Faster and faster until the—
CRASH CRASH CRASH
~ when ~ the ~ levees ~ break ~
"So that was a pretty good practice." Summer tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and stares straight at Zack, who's sitting on a folding chair in front of her delicately wiping the guitar on his lap.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Three songs in two hours is good headway," she offers.
Zack shrugs. "It's the tightness of the practice that matters, not the number of songs."
"…Yeah, I know that. I'm not—I don't think it's unimportant…" Summer replies.
"Just not as important as meeting the practice schedule?"
"Yes—what?—no, that's not—"
"Are you sure?"
"I mean, the schedule is very important, but—"
"Forget about it, Summer, I promise we'll be in shape by the time we play at The Loophole."
She tries again. "I know you will."
"No, that's not—ugh. Never mind. Good practice."
She turns away, grabbing her book bag on the way to the door and sighing in relief that no will see how her face slowly tinging with red. She feels pissed and disappointed and embarrassed; it seems like she can never be playful without being a bitch. Especially not to boys. Especially not to Zack.
She slips out the door without a glance back.
"You need to get everybody heavier into the groove, Honey Ham."
"And you need to stop speeding up on the second chorus."
Zack looks up from the guitar, his thoughts on the recent conversation—Did I really just act like an asshole to her for no reason?—interrupted by Freddy and his spinning drumstick.
"No man, what this song needs is a looser jam feeling in chorus. Right now, it's all robot with a huge stick up its ass."
"What? That sentence literally makes no sense."
Nearby, Lawrence approaches Alicia. "You did very well today."
"Oh, thanks." She barely smiles, barely even acknowledges the compliment, though Lawrence looks like he's about to pass out from embarrassment. "I think it was kinda bad, actually..."
"No, it wasn't!" She's a bit surprised by how adamant he is. "You're getting better."
"Not really. I don't know why we don't let Tamika do it, she's the better singer."
"That's sweet of you to say," Tamika answers, slipping into her cardigan, "but you know I can't reach those high notes. I have the power, but you have the range we need and I don't think Lawrence and Zack want to rewrite the whole thing."
"And you have the character for it, Alicia," Lawrence adds. He struggles a bit with the next part. "You have a strong personality and a... a stage presence and—"
"I thought it was about being desperate for money and having to steal to survive," Alicia says.
It takes a second for him to realize that she's talking to Zack—and didn't hear anything he said...
Zack shakes his head. "'Breakenter' is about not being able to move past someone 'cause the memories keep forcing their way back into your head and hijacking your thoughts."
"I thought it was about doing drugs," Freddy says.
"I thought it was about sex," Marta says.
"I thought it was about rebellion," Marco says.
"I thought it was about Nazis."
Everybody stares at Katie. She stares back.
"Okay, well... everybody's wrong so—"
"Everybody going to Marco and Gordon's Thing tomorrow night?" Tamika asks, purposefully swerving the conversation. Everyone generally agrees, starting up with ideas about outfits and expectations.
"You thinking of gracing us with your pretty pout, Princess?" Freddy asks to the side. Katie doesn't even crack a smile. In fact, she hasn't moved or blinked since last speaking. He stands still, staring her down or waiting for a reply. Maybe both.
"I'll be there, Freddy!" Eleni offers.
She looks thrilled to hear a reply, completely ignorant of the fact that Freddy could care less whether she was talking to him or rolling around on fire.
"Alright Leni, why don't we get going?" Marco asks, coming up beside her and tugging at her shoulders.
"Cool. See you later, Freddy!"
He doesn't reply.
Fifteen minutes later, everyone slowly exits the garage holding instruments, backpacks slung over shoulders, more than a little tired. Some leave in pairs and some alone, but nobody leaves beside the person they want to be walking with the most.