writing

The Sound of October Revival

Rock concert on stage outside silhouette of singers on stage

One of the things I’m most excited about regarding 2018 is the release of Rock Revival. The book took shape about 5 years ago, right after the birth of my daughter. No, it’s not a genre book. Yes, I’m usually a genre writer, but to be quite honest I’ve never seen myself as a genre writer exclusively. It’s just how things have mostly shaken out.

Music is a huge part of my life. It always has been. I’m lucky to have grown up in recording studios and always surrounded by the sounds of people singing, playing guitars, and plugging in amplifiers. Both my sister and I have been singing Beatles songs together since our early teens, and we do a mean Hanson impression. Fun fact: before I decided to go whole hog as an English major/writing major, I was accepted at Hampshire College to do sound engineering.

Rock Revival is influenced by music and religion, and the complexities therein. I’ve written a bit about it here, but the book’s changed and shifted a bit since the earlier drafts. It’s written by the band’s co-songwriter and keyboardist, Kate Styx. She’s a Southern girl who lost religion in her teen years and found rock music as a way to cope with a very difficult upbringing (many of the details of which come up in the book). Kate is lucky enough to find herself with a great band called October Revival, and they have some impressive success — but they’re also starting to fall apart at the time the book takes place. Everyone knows that they’ve hit their peak, and now that her own relationship to singer Tom Chesley is over, she’s got to face some serious facts about herself, not the least of which is her own alcohol addiction.

Kate is sarcastic, droll, and incredibly self-deprecating. She is far from sentimental, and has built up a whole lot of walls when it comes to her own life. Both she and the others in the band have a tenuous relationship with their own fame. For the most part, it hasn’t helped any of them — in fact, most of them are pretty stuck in perpetual 20-something mindset even though they’re into their thirties. They’ve got to finish their next album and go on tour, but the way things are going, it’s unclear that it’s ever going to happen. Especially if Kate can’t get her shit together and actually write more songs.

Over the last few years, I’ve actually gone so far as to try and work on some songs for October Revival. I’ve been writing songs longer than writing books, and it’s been no end of fun to put music to the story that’s been in my head for so long. I thought I’d share a bit of this fiddling in progress. Songwriting is a huge part of the story, and I do anticipate recording a few tracks and sharing them… with vocals and everything (though I am no Tom Chesley…)

So take a read and take a listen. It’s just some fiddling, but I think it’s fun to share.

This scene happens after Kate has a little tantrum in the sound booth while recording vocals, and throws off her headphones, but decides she needs to get out a little music stress.

They all knew better than to bother me, so I spent about ten minutes banging out some melodies on the grand piano. It was surprisingly good, I had to admit it. It was something different, lower tempo with less meandering than most of the things I’d been writing lately. I knew they could hear me, and I made sure it was as impressive as possible. Sometimes a little showing off is good, especially when one is surrounded by so many boys. I didn’t want them to forget that it was my songwriting that got the first album off the ground, that impressed the record execs, that made the band go from boring British import to something more. I just wasn’t good at saying it aloud.

“It’s good,” James said. I’d heard him come in but had chosen to ignore him. “I like the minor resolve there at the end. It’s got a sort of Beatles/Travis feel, doesn’t it?”

“Or it’s got a Kate Styx feel,” I said, not looking up at him. “You don’t always have to make me sound derivative.”

“I’m sorry, Cakes. You’re right.”

“Of course I am,” I said.

“Tom’s left.”

“Finally.”

“I thought it would be constructive to have him in here. But it’s a bit too much too soon.”

I looked up at him over my glasses and stuck out my tongue. Yes, the picture of professional maturity, that’s me.

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