Members: Clark Crawford & Nathan Wood
Genre: Lo-Fi, Indie Rock
Roman Candle was an idea, or rather a pact, long before it became a reality. Sometime around 1990, it became very clear that Nathan Wood and I had a ton in common when it came to what kind of music we liked and what we specifically liked about that music. The two of us took the art of making a mixtape to an entirely new level. We would spend hours and hours perfecting our ability to make seamless splices via a dual cassette deck and the pause button. We figured out that if we plugged a microphone just half way into the auxiliary inputs on our stereos we could record our voices over the music we were dubbing. We also discovered that if we manually rocked the “High-Speed Dubbing” feature on and off while recording music and our voices simultaneously, our voices would pitch up and down while the music would remain at a constant pitch. While most of our friends were out partying, we were sitting in one of our cars listening to music for hours on end... We even created a game for listening to our music. First, we'd gather all of our cassettes together and one of us would start off by picking a song to play from his personal collection. After that song was over, the other person would pick something from his collection of cassettes that was related to the previous song in some way. We would then trade back and forth until the wee hours of the night. Our friendship was based on a lot of things, but more than anything it revolved around a love of music. In other words... we were destined to be in a band together.
Whereas I started playing bass and guitar when I was in middle school, in his youth, Nathan was mainly focused on graphic art and did not play any instruments. While I was playing in Dreamstate, Nathan moved to Dallas to be with his family and bought a guitar. I still remember the first time he came down to visit and played me a bunch of riffs he had written. I thought “Damn... well, I guess he learned how to play the guitar... and he's good!”
By the end of 1993, I was no longer in Dreamstate and was looking to start another band. Nathan and I started writing and calling one another on an increased basis, and the topic of conversation typically revolved around riffs we had written and what we were listening to. In the spring of 1994, I asked Nathan if he wanted to move back to Austin and get an apartment together so that we could start a band while I worked on general studies courses at ACC. He agreed and that was all she wrote.
Almost immediately, we started writing and recording demos on my Tascam Porta07. We went through a fairly long period of auditioning drummers and looking for a singer until we finally got fed up and decided to use my Boss DR-220a for drums and to take on the role of singing ourselves. We continued to write a great deal of material and the following year we spent several months recording a cassette album titled Joy Bang. A few months later, I moved to San Marcos to start the Sound Recording Technology program but we continued to collaborate when the time would allow.
Although it was not a Roman Candle release, in 1998 together we produced The Listening Circle. It wasn't until 2003, that we recorded another Roman Candle song. Despite nearly a decade of downtime, we picked up right where we left off and I get the feeling that we’ll be working on something else together sometime soon.
One afternoon when Nathan came over the house to see the babies, we decided to record something together. This is something we hadn’t done in years.
We decided it best to start with something that one of us had written rather than from scratch, and Nathan offered up a song he had written and recorded a couple of years prior. He recorded the acoustic guitar track and vocals. I laid down the echo-laden background guitar and some drums (I was borrowing a kit from Rhea Shelly at the time). Nathan added the distorted swelling guitar part and an additional guitar melody on the outro. I later added Rhodes and bass to wrap things up.
When I listen to it now, years later, it makes me think we should do this sort of thing more often.
The Complete Discography Volume 1 (1994-1995)
The first of a two-volume collection of Roman Candle works, this disc contains a majority of the early songs we wrote complete with lyrics and vocals.
“Song” was my first attempt at writing lyrics and singing. I can still remember how uncomfortable I was with this, but I am glad I took the plunge.
“Last Stop” is classic Nathan power-pop. His riffs were always so much fun to play along with, establishing a solid foundation but leaving lots of room for me add my own thing. Some of his contributions have aged really well, and this is no exception. One of my favorites.
“Gleek Matrix” was another of Nathan’s early contributions. He was definitely more comfortable writing lyrics and singing than I was, and therefore penned many of our early songs.
“Noose” is a great example of some the moody downbeat stuff we were writing at the time. That sort of fare typically came from me, with Nathan writing more of the upbeat tunes, making this a bit of a rarity.
“Everything” was the first song I wrote that I was really pleased with (lyrically and vocally,) and even though the song was later fleshed out and included on the Joy Bang cassette (it can be heard on The Complete Discography Volume 2), the demo version has a superior mix and was therefore preserved. Well, that and so everyone can hear me sing an entire song flat.
“Underworld Romance” was the end result of a collaboration with our friend, Mark Hughes. The core of the track is a slowed-down rework of an early demo, “Lipshits” (it can be heard on The Lost Tapes). Mark brought his synths and sampler over to our apartment one day, and we banged this out. Several months later, this recording became the backing track for the radio spot for a local used CD store.
“Little Rusty” was one of Nathan’s tracks, and it has a great coda section. This may be the first time we recorded an additional guitar part on the vocal track once we were done singing.
“Ballerina” was a simple little song I wrote that we recorded and promptly forgot.
Nathan’s track, “Back Words Mask,” has the distinction of being one of our only songs to have fairly unambiguous lyrics. Another of my favorites.
This version of “Happytime in Sketchville” is edgier than the version we recorded for Joy Bang (it can be heard on The Complete Discography Volume 2) and, if my memory serves me, it was the only track we ever recorded where Nathan utilized every single distortion and fuzz pedal we owned.
“Complicated” was written by Nathan one afternoon and based on a simple little guitar riff that is actually single-strummed and gets its bounce from a delay pedal. I came home from work, listened to it a couple of times, and laid down a bass track. This rapid recording pace was fairly common for us.
The Complete Discography Volume 2 (1995-1996)
The second of a two-volume collection of Roman Candle works, this disc is essentially the Joy Bang cassette we recorded and produced in the summer of 1995. For this album, we spent far more time getting perfect takes and replaced the Boss DR-220a with an Alesis D4 drum module sequenced on my Dell P90MHz.
“After” was written by Nathan, and was the perfect opener for the album. I love the floaty feel of the verse with its dub-like bass line.
“Don’t Know” was written while we were working on the album, and was a last-minute addition to the lineup.
The fuzz on my bass in this version of “Everything” is too much. It drowns Nathan’s guitar out to the point where you can barely hear him. One of my better songs of the era, just not a great mix.
Nathan’s “Learned To Lie” is one of my all-time favorite Roman Candle tracks. Enough said.
The instrumental “Pleasant & 7” was co-written with our “almost” drummer, Theo Spanos, in the summer of 1994. Theo ended up opting out of Roman Candle before we really got started so that he could focus on his studies. Nathan and I always loved this track, and when we started work on Joy Bang the following summer, we wanted to include it. I got Theo’s blessing and meticulously recreated his original drum beat, sequencing it exactly as he had played it on the original recording we made.
“I Desire” was another of the songs I wrote for the album, and it was very much in line with the dark and moody stuff I was writing at the time.
The final version of “Happytime in Sketchville” we ever recorded and probably my personal favorite. At the last minute, Nathan decided to change the sound of his guitar during the verse from distorted to smothered in chorus, and it was a great call. I also love the little extras we left in the mix as they remind me of how much fun we were having at the time. I was in the room with Nathan when he laid down the guitar part, and right before he hit record he said, “This is gonna sound cool!” Not realizing he had already hit record, I sarcastically replied, “It better sound cool.” We recorded vocals for this and most of the other tracks up at Thundercloud Subs late one night to capture some of the sounds of a big, tiled room. Cars kept driving through the parking lot and ruining takes, and it was at the point where we were on take 15 or something and starting to get frustrated. When we finally made it through the entire song with a solid performance and no interruptions, we started jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. That can all be heard around (03:45).
“Taken” was my final contribution to Joy Bang. Dark and brooding, it definitely shifts the mood of the album between the upbeat nature of the tracks surrounding it.
“Twisting Fingers” was a classic closer track and probably my favorite track Nathan wrote for Roman Candle. It has a great chorus and a really nice bridge and coda.
“Psychic Friends” is the only song on this disc that was not on the Joy Bang cassette. It was written by Nathan while I was at school in San Marcos, and we recorded it together, the following summer, at my parents’ house. I had Theo’s electronic drums at the time and actually played the drum part myself. Nathan added all sorts of synth layers with my Roland Juno-106 . This was the last song we recorded together for almost a decade.
“C & N Experiment” was just that... Nathan and I having a go at an experimental noise track using his guitar, my bass, my sampler, and a load of effects pedals. Most of the samples we used were mutated FLiCK samples, as I was deep into FLiCK at the time. I believe it was recorded on the same weekend as “Psychic Friends.”
The Lost Tapes (1994)
These recordings really were from a couple of lost tapes. They are the very first demos of material that Nathan and I recorded together. A couple of the tracks ended up getting fleshed out into proper songs, but we were writing so much material at such a rapid pace that something we recorded one month was often forgotten the following one. It is a shame because when I listen back to these early sketches, I think they could have all become songs.
Late in 2000, I was getting ready to put my 4-track up for sale on eBay and decided to audit all my master tapes. I wanted to ensure that everything I had ever recorded was mixed down and backed up. At the bottom of an old box in my closet, I found a couple of tapes marked “demos ‘94”. I popped them in and this is what I heard.
“Recluse (Original Demo)” was the first thing we wrote and recorded together in May 1994 when Nathan came up for a visit so that we could look for an apartment together.
The next 7 tracks were all recorded over the course of two days in August 1994, a couple of weeks before we moved into our apartment. My parents and brother went on a vacation, and Nathan and I watched the house for them. We ended up turning their dining room into a recording facility.
“Happytime in Sketchville” was a song Nathan had written while he was living in Dallas and it ultimately ended up on the Joy Bang cassette (it can be heard on The Complete Discography Volume 2).
“5 O’Clock Shadow,” “Locksmith,” “Scamper,” and “Lipshits” were all written and recorded on the spot.
A version of “Lipshits” ended up being slowed down and re-recorded with Mark Hughes, and was renamed “Underworld Romance” (it can be heard on The Complete Discography Volume 1).
“Recluse (Final Demo)” was reworked a bit from the original recording, taking a more introspective turn during the coda.
And last but certainly not least, we have the crown jewel... “Late Night Improvisation After a 12-Pack of Budweiser.” After a long day of recording, we got our hands on some Budweiser and polished it off in nothing flat. I am not really sure whose idea it was but the decision was made to mic everything up, roll tape, and see what happened. We kidnapped my brother’s life-sized cardboard John Wayne figure, and brought him, along with a big bag of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels, in for inspiration.
Here is the breakdown:
(00:00) - Intro (I Play Bass)
(00:58) - He Said...
(01:25) - John Wayne, Part 1 (Pass Me a Pretzel)
(02:38) - Interlude
(03:10) - I Crunch... So Do I!
(04:03) - John Wayne, Part 2 (Ask Me About Thermo)
(05:28) - John Wayne, Part 3 (Mmmm Hmmm)
(06:14) - Night Court
(07:04) - John Wayne, Part 4 (Bull Said So!)
(07:54) - Outro (You Have a Vacuum Cleaner Don’t You?)
I know I was totally wasted because I was slapping my bass and that is something I never do. The best part of the whole thing is section 8 when I impulsively busted into the theme song for Night Court. Nathan doesn’t miss a beat and freestyles some classic lyrics about the show’s characters before we launch full force back into the riff we’d been vamping on prior to the detour. I am also partial to Nathan asking if there is a vacuum cleaner as the piece fades out. There were pretzel crumbs spread all over the floor... Good times.
An early practice at Theo's apartment.
Foldout for the Joy Bang cassette
Side B of the Joy Bang cassette
An early practice at Theo's apartment.