The next day in rehearsal we were working on a new song Remo had written called “Kind.” The turn in the song goes from about being “kind” i.e. nice to about being two of a kind, i.e. the same sort of people. In other words it’s about two people who start out as friends (or maybe just acquaintances) and end up in love. While we were practicing, part of my mind kept going off to imagine the words to a song that went the other direction. Unkind: about being lovers being a mistake and in the end you can barely be kind to each other.
I doubted I’d actually write it, though, since it would be so obviously a rip.
The song was new to everyone, so everyone had parts to work out. When we got to the bridge and the place where, if it were on a Nomad album, Remo’s guitar solo would be, he said, “I want this to be a duet section with you and me.”
Martin played a quick fill. “Why don’t you guys go in the office or something while me and A and A work out some rhythm section stuff.”
Remo nodded. “Good plan.”
So he and I went into a little meeting room where there was a table and a couple of chairs and a white board. I drew a staff on the white board in case we needed it.
“I’ve got an idea for a progression kind of like this,” Remo said, and strummed through some of it. I picked it up pretty quickly and we went through it a couple of times.
“But what if I did this with the G?” I played it folk style instead of as a barre chord, which let more of the strings ring clearly. “And then this.” Which let me add a little flourish before the transition back to A.
Remo answered it with a flourish back and we both smiled because we were onto something. There are different ways to do “duets” when you have two guitars. One of you can play lead and one harmony, or you can trade the lead each time the progression goes back around.
Or you could do what it looked like we were about to do, which was pass a lead line back and forth every second or fourth measure, with sometimes playing at the same time. Not a technique I would recommend unless I was playing with someone whose style I knew well.
We ended up getting out a pocket cassette recorder to make sure we captured some of it for reference later. I’m not exactly sure how it happened but when Martin came in to check on us, I was lying flat on my back on the conference table, playing while staring at the ceiling, and Remo was in a chair with the guitar in his lap and his boots on the table. It wasn’t actually necessary for us to make eye contact to communicate with each other by that point.
“You guys want lunch?” Martin asked.
“Be there in a sec,” Remo said. “Dar’, show me what you’re doing in that section there.”
“Which section?” I sat up so he could see my fingers. “You mean the bit that goes like this?” I played a lick.
“Ah, okay, I see.” He shook his head. “Fingerstyle. I can’t get that same effect with the pick. Not that I need to.”
I hopped off the table, we had a quick lunch at a sandwich place down the road, and when we got back we put it together with the rest of the band, who approved heartily. I could already see that was a section that was never going to be exactly the same twice, since we were going to keep improvising and playing around with it night after night. Which was how it should be.
The one weird moment of the afternoon came when we had moved on to working on one of the older songs that I already knew. I think it was “Safe Haven,” actually, a song I’d known for years.
At one point Remo said to me, “No, play it like you’ll play it in the show.”
“What do you mean?” I thought he mean with more energy or intensity or something.
“Won’t you use a pick there?”
“No reason to.”
“Because I feel like we should do it the way we’re going to do it, you know.”
“I’m not planning to use a pick, Reem.”
He looked unenthused about this, or maybe like he thought I was kidding him.
“I haven’t picked one up since we’ve been rehearsing.”
“Really.” I had a thumb pick I wore sometimes but I hadn’t been lately.
“Will your hand really stand up to you playing like that every night? Night after night?”
“What, you’re afraid I’ll break a nail?”
“Well, yeah. This isn’t some Seville street corner, you know.”
“I know.” Never mind that I sometimes played so hard in Seville with my fingers that I could break strings…
He wouldn’t let it go. “You used to play that song with a pick.”
I couldn’t understand why he was being so…uptight about it. “Reem, if you really want me to play with a pick, I’ll play with a pick.”
“No, no, no, that’s not what I mean. It’s your decision, I just want to be sure you’re making the right decision.”
I can’t explain it. This conversation put a tension between us I hadn’t felt since the night he’d criticized me in Providence for taking a cover gig with a metal band. I tried to defuse it by being practical. “You know, if I do break a nail, I can always start using a pick again.”
“Well, but that’s what I’m saying. Rehearse with one just in case.”
I opened my mouth to argue some more–I know I can play this song with a pick, it’s more important for me to get my reps in with the change in style–but all I said was, “All right. Later, though.”
He nodded and moved on, but I was still bugged by the whole thing.
I took the opportunity when it came up to go out with Martin that night, which is to say I strongly suggested to Martin that we should check out a show at the Whiskey. It wasn’t until we were halfway there that evening that I admitted I didn’t actually know who was playing. Ultimately it didn’t matter, it was some local acts and some unsigned bands, and we stuck around through two sets which were okay but mostly just loud.
And it was between those two sets, while nursing a beer, that I asked Martin, “Is it me or was something weird going on with Remo today?”
“Which thing are you talking about?” He leaned down to hear me over the between-set music being played.
“The whole business with telling me to play with a pick?”
“Oh, that. Definitely weird and definitely not you.”
“No. Well, one. He’ll calm down when he gets away from Melissa and the baby.”
“You think so?”
“I hope so.”
The thing was Remo was the happiest I’d ever seen him when he was carrying Ford around or half-asleep on the couch with his arm around Melissa while she fed the baby. (I eventually got over being squeamish watching her breastfeed since she did it often and we were living in the same house so it was basically unavoidable. And she had no qualms about doing it.) Use whatever cliche you want: he had a light in his eyes, a smile I’d never seen before, etc. I pointed this out to Martin.
“Sleep deprivation’s making him unhinged,” Martin said sagely. “You know you’re in trouble when you’re going to get more sleep on the road than at home.”
(If you want to hear a little something like what I was hearing in my head when Daron and Remo are playing together, listen to this sample of the track “Angel Dust” by William Walter & Co. here on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00129ZZQM -ctan)