« Song Exploder

Liz Phair - Divorce Song

2018-05-09 | 🔗

In 1993, Liz Phair released her debut album, Exile in Guyville. It was an instant hit, critically and commercially. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Spin and The Village Voice named it album of the year. Soon after, Rolling Stone put her on the cover of their magazine. Now, twenty-five years later, Exile in Guyville is being reissued as a deluxe boxset with photos, essays, and Liz Phair's original four-track cassette recordings. In this episode, Liz and Exile in Guyville's producer, Brad Wood, look back to tell the story of the creation of one of the songs on the album, "Divorce Song."


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
You're listening to song exploder, where musicians take apart their songs and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. My name is Rishi case your way. song exploder is sponsored by Dave's killer. Bread, actually love Lovedays killer bread, but they gave me a script to read. So appeared his attention, others. We now have taste in the bread, I'll Dave's Hello, bread, that's right, an organic bread, it's no longer a sedative for your taste, buds, Dave's killer. bread is on a mission to make the most of the loaf to rid the with Gmos, those high fructose corn, an artificial ingredients and plant the seeds of good and all that they make killer, taste killer, texture, always organic Dave's, killer. Bread, bread, amplify song exploder is brought to you by progressive cried the name, your price tool, yet it works just way it sounds. You tell progressive how much you want to pay for car insurance and
have coverage options that fit your budget. It's easy to start a quote: and you'll be able to find a rate that works for you, it's one of the many ways you can save with progressive get your quote today, a progressive dot com and see four out of five new auto customers recommend progressive progressive the insurance company and affiliates pricing ridge match limited by state law. This episode AIDS, explicit language one thousand, nine three and ninety three Liz Phair Album exile, debut album. It was an instant hit critically and commercially its old hundreds of thousands of copies The village voice named it album of the year and soon after rolling stone, put her on the cover of their magazine now. Twenty five years later Exile Island Guy Ville has reissued as a deluxe box, set with new photos, essays and Lucifer's original four track. Cassette recordings in this episode is an exile in guys. Mills producer Brad would look back to tell the story of the creation of one of the songs on the album divorce.
But you never been the waste my time it's never been It's fair. I don't remember when I wrote divorce song, but I remember the evening that inspired it. I must it's been a sophomore or junior in college. I was dating a guy at Oberlin. It was one of those things where we were friends, but we were kind of hooking up. So it's like a non defined kind of relationship and he had this little blue Miata, which stood out on campus. Like you know, everyone wanted to ride in Shane's Miata, like nobody had that in the middle of Ohio and one night we went for a ride in the Miata and I think we drove through cornfields
The way that evening ends as we were thinking about stopping it like a motel, and I think we actually went in and discussed, give him a hotel room, and I think we are like now, so it was kind of like this night, where I didn't know how I felt about him. I didn't know how he felt about me, but we had a really good time together and I wanted to write about all the little in between moments that people have with it. Listen ship where you disagree about things are just the ordinary things that happen. That You're in that relationship are incredibly dramatic and they mean so much. I wrote pretty quickly. I always felt that was really important to take that kernel of raw emotion and grab it capture it. So I was writing all these little songs, but I didn't record it until long after college, I literally wouldn't play them for anyone. I wouldn't show them record them nothing, and I
wrote with no amplification. Mostly, I didn't want anyone to hear so I would play on an electric guitar with my head bent over so I could hear the strings and I think that's why my chords are interesting, because when you're, just playing them with no amplification might sound very good and then, when you stick it through an amplifier, you can hear every note the ones that are dissonant, as well as the ones that sound good that was a learning process how to get over. The fact that I wrote these things virtually silently. I had a four track: a microphone and electric attire and a little ppm for trucks. Pretty basic, but that was what appealed to me about them. You just stick the cassette in press play and record. I
go to the house of my parents, friends who are out of town, and I would swap watering their plants and taking their dog out or something to be able to set up a little recording studio in their home what want my parents to hear the words that I was singing either like? That was another thing I had to cover up. I was saying some pretty rocky stuff in the lira, axe, so it was important that I just felt unselfconscious. I didn't work very hard on it, because I thought it was a visual artist who just happen to write songs on the side. I didn't think I was a musician, so I put all my professionalism into my visual art.
And very little of it into my music, and I think that allowed me to not overwork something, and I knew that that was a tendency of mine from visual art. I had ruined so many drawings just by overworking them, so I print much let the music be quick. It was spontaneous, I didn't Second guess myself? A lot was very use the name girly sound for these recordings, curly. Sound was up art, provocative peace. In my mind this is, learned from Overlean that the young female voice carries the least authority in society, and so I wanted to see if you had a little girl voice, which I sort of dead. What if you get away with saying, would anyone listen? Would they care? Would it matter if you said really shocked things in a really girlish voice, because you Inc like the most innocent things you think of you know sunny day little girls, you know and like I just wanted to completely up and that because
been a little girl. I know that they are devilish and fascinating and conniving little creatures like they are fully prepared to participate in society. Just maybe not always given the chance so I made one could sat songs and too I, and that I am bread, wood? I heard the girl Sundays, that was, it John Henderson's apartment, John Henderson lived in Chicago, like we all, did and ran a couple of small indie labels put out some really cool music and
He mentioned that there is this woman. He wants to put a record outweigh the night. was running, recording studio up the block from where he lived, John Henderson. He ran his label from that apartment and he let me live there, because I wanted to get out of my parents' house and he gave me like super cheap rent, and I think his idea was that I would help put like cds in the like. I was going to help mail because I have this flashback memory of him instructing me how to do that. But then I also have a memory that I never did I walked down to earth and his house and lose it already gone to sleep and John play. Eight or nine songs? I remembered for some specific and that song resonated with me more than any other songs written by just was. By the lyrics and the Your court structure and I'll never forget walking home was like, does nervous calculate How can I help make this happen? this. This is it I was going to be the engineer for that session and he wanted
the book time of the studio with the musicians I'd, be the drummer and the engineer, and that's really how we proceeded initially John made it clear that he and Liz were going to produce it or just he John. He was such a music head and he did play all this great music. He was constantly like listen to this. Listen to this and listen to this This is another feature of Guyville. We're constantly lecturing me about what good music was and like what band. I should listen to it. the constant school he was really Adam. in the studio about what he wanted to do and what he didn't want to do, and I felt suddenly what I hadn't really cared about before I felt like he was too much ownership over it, and I did like at all the sensation of him telling me what couldn't in B. on my songs- and I kind of woke up like I didn't react until the song itself was being manipulated by someone who was
essentially telling me that he knew better than I did and that triggered something in me I do have a really strong memory of not feeling that the music that we were recording was sinking up with your songs very well. You know working in visual art for a long time. It wasn't naive eve to the ways of being creative. I was just naive to the ways of making music and thing, just sort of like this defiant person came about of me. That was like no now you're fucked. With my shit I could have and should have noticed that ahead of time. I just wasn't attention so split with John Anderson and I didn't want to do it anymore, Don't think he wanted you at either. I think I was not the Eliza do at all. He was hoping for. You know like I was, the feral little beast. That was like not learning you know like. Was fine without that, I'm like yeah, that's right.
was disappointed that we weren't going to record any more. So I called John and asked if I could get a number for Liz, and I called her at her parents house, We didn't connect enough to record again. My songs from girly sound. I never thought about recorded em in the studio. I never thought about what they would sound like. I think That's why I chose to use a template in my mind. I was thinking like an academic. If you don't know how to make a record pick, the very best record and then deconstructed figure out how they did what they did study it learn from the grades and then do your own interpretation of that so much Complete that I went with was sort of the most our dishes template, which was exile on main street, throwing stones double on it,
the presumptuous thing to say, like oh I'm going to do my song by song response to the greatest record of all time. That's when I in making charts where I had like all of my songs. Next to all of their songs, a lot of ways it. Let me feel like I was in control, something that I really wasn't that I really didn't know what I was doing. It gave me a focus, for my nervous, energy ventilator blues is the corresponding song to divorce song and what I got from, that song was tension and everyone's got to release the tension. Ventilator blues, like things get like so intense and people just keep slogging through life, so divorce song. It's a lyrical corresponding thing that, was like what it is when you're in a relationship you're just slogging through together, there are times you blow up and fight with each other, and it does
have to mean at the end of the relationship? Necessarily you just have to ventilate, so we do out of choices to make. What are you shouldn't you put on just a guitar and a vocal. There was no clear idea for most of the songs. Initially, what was going to be hung on it, and so I specifically wanted to make sure that the song sounded good as just guitar voice when lives for him in the sea of Galilee plugged into different times to see, will work and listen remote control planes with her peavey Backstage, which is expensive, portable portable small little amp. I do remember there was like a tussle about the pvm and I just didn't want to let go of it the list I'll came complete with a sad and you're different how to make something tasteful with it this bizarre reverb on it
but what we would do is put it through. A chorus pedal has a stereo output, so one cable would come out and go into Liz's pm, amp and then it plug into the second app. So she would play one guitar part through two amplifiers and then we could panic left right. I remember sitting there and you would solo my vocal for some technical reason and when I asked, for room it was late at night and we've been driving since noon and when I first heard my voice back over the big speakers I wanted to die.
every second that that vocal was up there in that room. I was sitting on the couch. Like in a state of seizure, so on this song in particular Liz at least sang two times, I would have stayed in your bed. For the rest of my life just to prove, I was right: there it's to be friends and lovers. I think my voice was too thin and You double vocal track. Any mistakes, any foibles will just sort of get lost in the wash, but one when I make stood, we only use the double just on the courses at that time, And more confidence in her singing ability. Then she had you know I was going to sort of push my agenda and my agenda with a song specifically, was that a song so harrowing lyrically this painting such a bleak picture unfortunately, this probably some time experience, weathers divorce or just a relationship dying. I thought that it was best communicated in stark ascending as possible,
when you said that I wasn't worth talking to your word on that had really specific ideas for the rhythm parts for this song and a lot of that comes from blizzard, guitar style. She has a lot of accents off. The beep doesn't play on the downbeat the The really obvious thing to do would be to play pattern that hit so that sense, but I had been taught. Never. Overplay the one of the things that rolling stones are so good at is Charlie Watts, drumming it's very vivid to me you extolling the virtues of Charlie Watts, and so with divorce song. I wanted to have an element that complemented and pushed further the accent
strumming. That list us on that song and that's where the percussion comes in. What makes divorce only sound like a stone sign in my mind, is that it's got shakers and kabocha playing this odd accent, and every time I hear that start, it sounds like Jimmy Miller. The producer of stones playing the cowbell on Honky Tonk women. The whole song starts out with the cobalt in the Charlie comes in with beat
that's what makes the stone sound for so many people, it's the thing that you would hear. First and we don't have to have a bunch of big rock guitars and bluesy chords, you just need some of these very essential. It's like the whiff of it's like a vapor of of a rolling stones. Essence like he spits in the air and you walk through it. All the wicked guitar parts on Guy or Casey Rice Kc rise to me, was like the full rock flavor, or he was your engineer. Correct. Yes, Casey was an engineer at the studio he started. I think that year, ninety two or late. Ninety one and Casey Race place it can lead smoking leads, but wait for the entire song, just waits and waits for two and a half minutes, and then
We rocket out Casey's guitar comes in the part of what I loved about. Recording guy, though, is that people dropped by to see Brad all the time. People would drop to see Casey Race either way. There was like a nice. It was a nice way to record because there was always like new people that just might show up. You don't know, who's come into the studio that night, while you're working and so an Casey Awesome is the harmonica player. I think John Casey Awesome was a friend of cases so junkies, yeah. Some came into play and we said: can you our Monica this. He said sure I can play harmonica on whatever you want.
It's recorded in one take from the beginning. The sound of the Annie just blew his brains out just kept going and going and going he's playing like full velocity. The entire never stop for a stopped, and he was like at eleven the entire time and at the end, the outer he really was killing it. So we're like that's all we do it. All we used was the outro and that's the only part of the song were me on drums. I go to an open, hi hat and play a more traditional drumbeat and we rocket out the I'm playing baseball after the second course it comes back to a very short verse and she sings
and the license said you had to stick around until I was dead. but if you're tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am, and that's the only time I think, on the song that references, a marriage, references, a contract which is being broken and hence the title divorce, and I wait way up the neck on the base and abandon all the rhythm everything clears out for this short period. But if you're, tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am I wanted the base to be fragile because what Liz going to be fragile, she's brave enough to sing these words. I want something musical to be delicate and so have it be the big
If you base at Sunday just goes up the neck and decides to just be fragile, when, in a car with someone, that's a pretty intimate environment, its ripe for awkward interaction and- for me, divorce song. The entire thing is about that tension in that kind of you're. Looking at him he's looking at you you're both having totally different thoughts about each other and yet you're like in the small confined space together. I had a fatalist view of love. At that point, I felt like things and fell apart, and it was hard to keep a relationship together. Divorce song is really about micro moments where you really want something to work out, but you find your mouth speaking words as if it's not going to like you, dare not hope
and you have these like sensitive feelings for someone and yet you're sort of outwardly convincing yourself, and I won't round you that is probably not work out. It doesn't really matter. I do. make these songs to start a career. I made these songs because there are my way of understanding the world they were. My there'll, be a male here's divorce song by lose their
in its entirety and were ass ever and waving drivers hours, border rasta live just to prove their brains and lovers. They do still size it ass, the man when he said that there have been very sad. I've been very many men. Accuse me forget it lies in the german sagessa waste. It's never maybe I'll be visit. Song
spluttered dot net to learn more about Liz, fair and producer, Brad would feel ossified links to buy the song and the twenty fifth anniversary box. It thanks to squares, These four sponsoring the shell scarcely is an all in one platform that lets you build a beautiful website for your business or your art or your band. If you sell stuff. They've got e commerce templates. If you want to the blog they give you buttons to your audience, can share your posts on social media, and you can have my contributors, so you can work on your site together, check out start dot com for a free trial. When you read ready, go to Squarespace, dot, slash exploder to save ten percent off your first purchase of a website or domain song, exploder is sponsored by all birds. Just in time, for Spring Aubert's released. The new treat Asher to the next generation of their best selling super comfort While running shoe it's what I where every time I go running the treaty should do is made from a mix of natural materials, that's better for you and better for the planet, so sprang forward with the
All birds tree dash or two running shoe discover your perfect pair at all birds dot com. Today, that's a l, L B, I r d s dot. come! If you heard about a sponsoring this episode and you want to learn more. You can go to song Exploder Dotnet sponsors to find all the current offers available to song exploder listeners. This episode produced by me, along with christian coins, with help from Internal Livia, would special thanks to MAC. first the illustrations on the song exploiter website or by Carlos Lemme songs? motor is a proud member of Radio Tokyo from PR acts. A collective of fiercely independent podcasts, You can learn about all the shows at Radio Tokyo, DOT Fm You can find song exploder on Facebook, Instagram and twitter at song. Exploder. You can also find All the past episodes of the show on the song exploder website or on Apple podcasts or radio public, my name is she case your way. Thanks for this,
radio. Do. There's a brand new show joining radio Tokyo called or products every week, history Wiggins, Leah, Wright, rigueur and Kelly Carter. Jackson are going to five deep into the cultural significance of the Oprah Winfrey Show, and you might know, Kelly Carter Jackson, because she's the host of another radiotopia show this day esoteric political history on Oprah damage. The two friends are going to talk about why Oprah matters to culture and how, Oprah made so much of the culture from diets. book clubs to slow interviews to make overs and our spin offs. If you love Oprah you just want to learn more about her. You have to check out over that. The study of the queen of talk, wednesdays starting March. Thirtieth! Listen at DOT Fm. Wherever you listen to podcasts,
Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.