Casey Bowers had the chance to spend a day with Earwig witnessing the filming of the band’s “Wasted on You” music video which features a very special guest appearance by Lydia Loveless. Fortunately for us, Casey took a bunch of notes.
It was over 2 years ago. That’s how long it’s been – and that’s okay.
It doesn’t matter. It’s here now and it’s phenomenal.
It’s Pause for the Jets from Earwig, the long-running legendary Columbus band and lifelong musical vehicle of Lizard McGee.
What makes PFTJ (that’s right, it’s not even out yet and I’m abbreviating it. First!) so damn incredible is the album’s multiple standout tracks. From fuzzed out rev-up opener, Wisdom Teeth to The Church & Bunnymen-inspired closer, Badr Moon, to the “Are you kidding me?!!”reaction-warranting pop perfection of X-factor “Shine,” PFTJ is chock full of catchy, indie/alt/rock/poppy goodness that like any great ensemble comedy cast, are awesome on their own, but are somehow even better altogether. After almost a month with it, I still can’t decide on a favorite, but I must admit I keep coming back to #9. Track #9 on the album is “Wasted on You” and while it fits seamlessly onto the album, it sticks out in mind as the track that led us to where we are now.
It was over 2 years ago that I answered an email, played hookey from work, and spent a dying summer day observing and drinking as an extra on the video shoot for “Wasted on You.”
Here’s how that went down.
(Original text as it appeared in my notebook in August 2014, updated September 2016)
It’s before 10:00 a.m. at St. James Tavern and already I’ve helped Costa lug his bass amp up what might be the narrowest stairs in Columbus (certainly in Italian Village).
Crew women and men in black tees are carrying huge cases and cables inside the bar and up the same stairs. Everyone is pretty chill so far, even when there’s confusion about where some trucks can park and where everyone else should park.
When Lizard isn’t needed for a few minutes, he spots me sitting in the faux bar and begins to talk my leg off.
“I’m so glad you made it! We had a good response. Seventh Son Brewing is sponsoring. Have you had their beer? Spacejunk is doing the video. Mike Beaumont is the director. Do you know him? Have you been here to St. James Tavern before? This is all new. They created this for us – for the video.”
I answer all of his questions and ask some of my own.
About the progress of the new album:
“The songs are all written and recorded. It’s 70-80% finished.”
How “Wasted on You” came about:
“It was a project song my friend, Amy Turn-Sharp and I wrote together. We wrote the song after we recorded [Pause for the Jets]. It started out as a punk song, but I began to look at it as a country song and immediately thought of Lydia.”
On changes to the band:“With George [Costa] drumming for Lydia now, his tour schedule is pretty booked. We’re playing shows here and there when we can and his schedule allows.”
On old allies: “Mike Beaumont edited our video for “She’s a Witness” and now he’s at Spacejunk, so it made sense for him to direct this one.”
Lydia arrives before 11:30, when Lizard asked her to be there. Warm greetings are exchanged as everyone is happy to see everybody and understandably excited about the song.
“I love it. I hope I don’t mess it up!,” Lydia remarks.
It’s this kind of genuine modesty that only a Columbus songstress can pull off – and what makes Loveless so cool and endearing.
While she’s hurried into hair and makeup, she tells the team that surrounds her about how she “used to live around the corner from here.”
In the meantime, Lizard McGee, and brothers George and Costa Hondroulis make their way onto the makeshift stage revved-up and ready to go.
After multiple mic checks, camera set-ups, and audio level and lighting tests, I’m placed at a round table with Colleen, an elementary teacher in her mid-20’s and some Earwig lifers.
I get to assume the role of a local bar patron, drinking tasty Seventh Son beer while listening to Lizard and Lydia duet. This, I can do.
“Wasted on You” is this unbelievably catchy, radio song that feels perfect for Columbus right now. Voices that make you smile. Lyrics you want to sing along to. Hooks on all fronts. This is the kind of perfect pop song with some dirt on it that Carl Newman and Neko Case would wish for.
“She has such a pretty sad-face.”
“I know, I’m so jealous.”
This interesting exchange was between Colleen and her friend. And for a moment, all I can think about is The Replacements.
In between takes, Lizard waxes nostalgic about fake shows with models, hiding t-shirt logos with adver-tape and how Spock (a cardboard cut-out) wound up in the band when Earwig was singular and out in California. When the cameras aren’t rolling and no one is “getting that,” the band pours their passion and intensity into short runs and teasers, like when Lizard breaks into a monster riff belting “Let me make myself clear!” before being called back to resume shooting.
I recognize it as a Jets track from the posted demo and it’s fantastic.
The crowd and crew seem to dig it too, as big smiles, oooh’s and yeaah’s roll across the room.
The poet and co-writer of “Wasted on You,” Amy Turn-Sharp shows up to set wearing a red t that in big bold type reads “Lizard Fucking McGee.” She’s starring in the video too, as the bartender.
The concentration has been on the L’s and the band for so long, I almost forget that I’m an extra in this thing. This had nothing to do with sitting around listening to great music and drinking Seventh Son beer all day, I’m sure.
“Make sure the logo on your can is facing the camera, extras!,” I hear someone shout.
Probably the director. The camera rolls and pans across the room. I “extra it up” as best as I can muster and while the pretty girls get their close-ups and twice-overs, Lydia and Lizard exit the stage to set up the faux bar scene.
I watch for a while as Mike tells McGee to touch his face “more,” “less,” and to “stop touching your face” altogether. With no context, the subtleties of music video direction are altogether confusing and hilarious.
I take one last swig of my free beer and make my way out of the Roadhouse-within-the-Tavern and into the blinding mid-day light. It’s not out yet and it won’t be on CD101, er, 102.5 for another year, but on the drive home, “the song” plays on repeat in my head, over and over again.
‘So-called’ favorite songs come and go.
What’s in heavy rotation one week or top of your queue another will be phased out by the next “great song’ you discover or can’t stop talking and tweeting about. In a disposable song economy, this is the reality. “Wasted on You,” since the two years it’s been committed to my memory, has subverted that reality and stands atop higher profile artists, it bands, indie darlings, and legends alike.
To some unfamiliar with Earwig, or the Columbus music scene in general, that may seem like hyperbole on the grandest scale, but to C-Bus music fans and those in the know, it should come as no surprise.
Pause for The Jets will be released on 14 October