Every time Sean puts down the camera, something happens to make him regret it. He puts it down and then Dom remembers the words to "Daytripper" in German with Lij sounding out the bass line on the xylophone, cracking up and flubbing it. Sean can almost hear Lennon turning in his grave , but he knows it would have been magic on film. He's thinking of rigging up some kind of sling-cum-knapsack, just to make sure he's always at least got a camera on him, because yesterday he put it down on the communal couch and when he got back from the bathroom it had been hidden across the room under Lij's hoodie. Later, when Orlando actually nodded off against Viggo's side during Karl and Viggo's twenty minute mandolin conference, Sean missed it.
It's now day seventeen and Sean is filming Orlando, sitting cross-legged on the floor eating sushi, and when Sean looks across the room Dom is giving Sean a long, unreadable look.
"What," says Sean, but Dom just shrugs and helps himself to more tempura.
But it's not like that, not really. Sean just doesn't think it's a bad thing to be cognizant of who they all are outside of the band. Least of all Orlando, who has become somebody sort of famous in the interim, but seems to care about it less than anybody else, excepting Viggo. Orlando, who's still dodging phone calls from his agent like a kid out past his curfew. Sean thinks it's kind of unprofessional. Dana's just doing her job, even though now that she's tracked down the number for the phone in the studio's hallway and the calls are driving everybody crazy.
In Sean's lens, Orlando shifts, stretching his back in a long movement, wedging another piece into his mouth.
Behind Sean, Billy sing-songs quietly, "Girls On Film," like a squeaky Scottish Simon Le Bon. Billy had a beer with lunch and when Sean looks over, Dom and Billy are still looking at him like a pair of cats, Billy swinging the neck of the bottle slowly between his thumb and forefinger.
"Oi," Dom calls, chucking a bit of sticky rice over in Sean's direction. "Orli, watch it, camera adds ten pounds, y'know."
"What?" Orlando says through his mouthful, finally noticing the camera, but Dom isn't looking at him. Dom's still looking at Sean.
"Shut it," Orli laughs, and turns to poke at Elijah with a chopstick. "Hands off alright, the avocado ones are mine."
Sean puts down the camera. And that's fine. That's just fine. Sean doesn't need to bring up the fact that he's grown up in an industry that places a lot less value on talent than the people in this room might like to believe. It's not an industry that rewards eccentricity, and it's not an industry that welcomes you back with open arms. Peter and Fran is a good band, Sean would be the first to say so, but he also knows outrageous good luck when he sees it and he knows that luck is the last thing you should depend on. Hard work, professionalism, planning. It's not glamorous, sure, but dedication has its own rewards. If Sean didn't know better from experience, he'd still be waiting for someone to appreciate that if Sean wasn't here, no one would be keeping any kind of record.
Sean starts to say something, like if he didn't know better from experience, he'd still be waiting for someone to appreciate that if he wasn't here, no one would be keeping any kind of record.
The phone in the hallway rings again.
"Christ," says Orlando, making a face.
"Somebody disconnect that fucking thing," Karl calls from inside the sound booth.
"No, I got it, I got it," says Orlando, hopping up, out of Sean's shot and disappearing into the hallway. The phone is silenced and Orlando's voice is muted and indistinct behind the chatter coming from the rehearsal space.
Orlando comes back in after a moment and flops down again next to Viggo, scratching at his shoulderblade through his thin shirt.
Viggo chews for a minute and then says, "Do you need to...?"
"No," Orlando says. "I really, really don't." Sean watches Orlando fold his lips together twice before it resolves itself into a smile.
Viggo and Orlando look at each other and then they both sort of nod and start eating again. Sean's never really gotten a handle on how this kind of thing passes for a decision-making process, in any sense of the word. He's yet to even see a schedule for recording, something written on a napkin, anything.
Sean picks up the camera again and heads for the sound booth. Inside, Karl is making notes on some sheet music.
"Yeah?" Karl looks up at Sean over the rims of his glasses like a teacher interrupted at grading, still frowning in concentration.
"Oh, um," Sean says, "food's here."
Karl nods, going back to the sheet. "Ta."
"Sure," says Sean. He sighs. The light is bad in here anyway.
Viggo's getting sick of rehearsing. Frankly, he doesn't think there's any use for it. He knows that every moment should be art, or preparation for art and that the only way to approach perfection is to just go out and do it. Go and play it.
Viggo's always playing somewhere, but he hasn't collaborated like this in a long time. He likes it-- likes making art with these people-- so he's let them have their rehearsal, let them get used to one another again. Now he's ready to record.
"I forgot how much fun this is," Sean says as he sets up the bongos. Viggo's feeling so content he resists his natural inclination to glare at the bongos.
"Aye," Billy agrees from his spot on the leather couch in the corner, sheet music on his lap and blue ink on his fingers. "Missed you guys."
"I didn't forget." Viggo remembers a moment on the last tour-- a show in Thailand, Viggo on the clarinet and Billy playing bass, everyone else slowing fading out until it was just the two of them playing together. They'd saved the tape of the show and released the improvisation as a b-side called "Turkish Delight" even though Ian and Sala both said they couldn't understand what anything about it had to do with Turkey or candy or even delight.
Viggo smiles at the memory. "I don't think I realized I missed it."
Dom laughs, "Do the things you say make sense in your head, Vig?"
"I'm not sure, Dominic." Viggo pauses, studies Dom intently like he's really considering. "Does that new haircut look good in your head?"
Sean laughs, probably louder and longer than is really required. Billy throws a ball of paper at his head, but misses by about a foot. Dom just shrugs and tips his head back against Billy's knee.
Viggo pulls a green pen and a crumpled receipt from his pocket and jots down, love, inspired, pottery unfired, hairdyed and denim. He's thinking about taking out one of the commas when Dom coughs. Viggo looks up again.
"Bills, did you ever find that fish sandwich I lost?" Dom asks as if it has nothing to do with anything.
Billy's eyes are wide and clear. Viggo understands that innocence is a lie and yet still, sometimes he falls for Billy's eyes. "Haven't seen it. Looks like it's gone forever."
Viggo looks behind him, where Elijah is unpacking his turntables with Lawrence. Viggo shakes his head and shoves the paper and pen back into his jeans.
Behind him, Orlando approaches and smiles, wrapping his arms around Viggo's back. "How long 'til we find that sandwich?" he whispers.
Elijah drops one of his boxes and shouts, "Dom, you fucking bastard!"
"Not long at all," Viggo leans back into the hug and takes one more look around before calling this whole thing to order. The only thing he needs to make it perfect is the music.
Liv's spending a lot of time knitting on the couch.
Viggo has a squadron of sound people in the studio futzing with lows and highs and making sure everything's recorded in the purest of DVD Audio. This means that mostly they're sitting around and not recording any noise whatsoever in the purest of anything, because of flutter or static or whatever it is that's floating in the air and causing sound issues. This means that Liv's already got a sleeve and a half completed and maybe, if things go well, she'll be onto the main portion of the sweater by the end of the week.
The knitting spot she's claimed is fairly comfortable, as far as the big, slightly musty, regulation leather studio couches go. There are worse places to kill time in a studio, so Liv has staked out her turf. She's hoping to make each band member a sweater by the end of the tour. She's brought a green wool that makes her think of Daisy, a dark, rusty color for Orlando, and she figures, if pressed for time, she can always make Billy and Dom an extra large afghan.
When they're finally ready to put her recorder solo on tape, Liv makes a little tick mark with a red pen to mark her place on the pattern, then heads into the booth with her recorder case to set up.
She readjusts the height of the music stand and unsnaps the button on her case. Liv's recorder is named Polly, but most people don't know that. Even though she's thanked Polly in almost every liner note Peter and Fran has released. Polly seems relatively happy to get down to business so Liv tests a note or two from the chorus of "Why Did You Eat the Last of My Oranges?" and looks at the sound booth for the cue to begin.
Red and blue for Elijah, she thinks. Maybe a scarf.
Billy loves being in the band, loves everyone in the band, too, but that doesn't mean he never feels like he's going to go mad if he spends another minute listening to Viggo and Elijah talk about the exact level of distortion necessary to producing the desired sonic experience of a new song.
But if everyone said something every time things got a little bit maddening, the band would have broken up three times more often than it already did, so Billy makes up little songs in his head and holds his tongue.
When Viggo suggests they order takeaway so they can record through lunch, Billy hums a few bars of "Viggo is Crazy But He's Me Very Good Friend," a little ditty that's been quite popular in his head during both rehearsal and recording for many a year. After twenty-five minutes of waiting outside the warehouse for the takeaway, he sings, "This Would Have Been Faster If We'd Ordered from the Vietnamese Place." He came up with that one when they started rehearsing three weeks ago, but it's quickly becoming a fan favorite.
Billy's well aware that it might make him seem a little batty, but if that's the case, he knows he's in good company. Sometimes he sings his made-up songs for Dom after they've gone to bed, but not "Dommie is Me Very Annoying Boyfriend but I Love Him," or at least not when he's trying to angle for a shag.
The back door opens behind him and Billy gets a wiff of clove-scented smoke. "Elijah, good man," he says. "Come to keep me company while I gnaw on my own hand?"
Elijah sits down next to him on the curb, and sure enough he's smoking one of his brown wrapper cigarettes. "Food still not here?"
Billy shrugs and shows that he's empty-handed, figuring the answer should be self-explanatory.
"We should have ordered from the Vietnamese place," says Elijah.
Billy rubs his temples, thinks he can feel a headache coming on. He's got a couple songs about Elijah, one of which is called, "Your Name is Elijah and You Had Sex With Me Boyfriend (When He Wasn't Technically Me Boyfriend)," but he doesn't sing that one that often, because it's not like that and they're not like that either.
"So what's the score in there?" Billy asks.
"I'm gonna say, beautiful art, one, something people will actually want to listen to, zero." Elijah sort of rolls his eyes after he says it, and Billy nods. He's about to get Elijah to join him in a few choruses of "This Reunion Isn't Going to Be Like the Last One, It's Not, It's Not, It's Not," when Elijah adds, "Oh, whatever. It's fine. I shouldn't complain. I could cry, I'm so happy to be back."
Billy raises his eyebrows, because this is sort of news.
"It's like," Elijah starts, and stops to ash his cigarette, "you know how I used to do kids' bar mitzvahs when I was younger?"
"The scene in New York -- school, the club stuff, everything -- it was like exactly all those same kids except five years older. And I knew I was just me five years older, so it shouldn't matter, but it did. I didn't," he pauses, and bites down on his finger nail for a minute. "I didn't like being a normal kid very much."
He seems fine as he says it, but Billy kicks the curb and says, "Don't worry. I don't think you're normal at all."
Their eyes meet and they both start laughing. Elijah's laughter degenerates into smoker's cough and Billy pounds him on the back, still snickering the whole time. Elijah wipes his eyes with the cuff of his shirt. He says, "What do we have to do to get some fucking food around here, huh?"
"No," says the tinny voice in Karl's headphones, "still off. Try it again, yeah?"
Karl shifts on his stool and nods, trying at least to look focussed. Really, he's irritated and been feeling it for the last half-hour. Viggo has a spookily persuasive power when he starts talking about experimentation, and Karl counts himself as having pretty solid sense of what forces couldn't be argued against. Karl reckons Viggo is one of those forces, and sometimes that meant driving four hours in the van to record in a chapel, or sticking a microphone into a hollow log, or down a mine shaft; today it means the addition of a couple sound engineers.
Karl is always curious to meet friends of Viggo's. It's often like drawing cards at random, and when Viggo is there, it's like everything else that happened when Viggo's around: events random but oddly significant.
Today, though, it seems to mean a lot of fussy instructions, equipment and stop-start-stop, as the engineers take turns herding everyone into a booth and checking things like reverb, stress, sub-channel echo and a lot of other things that Karl hasn't got a clue about and finds unnecessarily vague and thick with jargon. Karl wishes Sala was around, he'd flip over all the imported hardware.
"I really think he's off," says the same airless voice to someone else behind the soundboard. Karl realizes they're talking about him and frowns again. "He's way too far up, it's pointless to even use the equalizers."
Karl clears his throat, glowering slightly at the glass division, and they stop talking abruptly.
"Okay, we'll come back to this," one of the engineers is saying, "obviously we'll need to calibrate by hand. I'm sure even you can tell it's not -"
"Yeah, fine," Karl says, taking off his headphones and collecting his mandolin. He leaves the booth feeling exactly the way he hoped he never would, like a huffy fat-headed mandolin player who can't take direction. He catches a glimpse of Viggo standing behind the engineers hunched over the soundboard. Viggo's shifting slightly from foot to foot, frowning down at them. Karl feels slightly vindicated.
Then it's Billy's turn in the booth. Karl grabs his stand-up bass and heads for a far corner, away from the wires and the casual bossiness of the voices from inside the soundboard room. He's noodling around, not really concentrating, just letting the hum and buzz of the thick strings throb against his fingertips. Liv pads over to sit by him and hums a line of something until he picks it up and then she smiles and sings two lines of "Shake Down the Stars." Liv has got the kind of velvet throat that loves the bass, curls alongside it, two kinds of cool, slow vibration.
"I hope I don't have to go in there," she laughs, glancing at the booth. "Dom says it's like the Inquisition."
"Nah," says Karl, beginning to smile. "Whatever they say, pretend you can't hear."
He picks up the tune again and she nods and starts over mid-line. Karl thinks again that sound engineers don't know much about music.
Bernard's on his cell a lot these days. There's the insurance to take care of, finalizing hotel stops and plane tickets, and then there's Sala, calling every other hour to bitch about the trucking company handling his crates.
His son sends him photos of dinner every night so Bernard feels like he's there with them and he loves his life because he gets to deal with OCD roadies developing ulcers over tambourine packaging, and then still gets to see what dinner at home was like each night.
Bernard can remember when this all began. There are even times when he misses those days with the mass of them and their fifty odd instruments, boyfriends, girlfriends, and sex toys crammed into the one trailer, driving from one gig to another at four in the morning. But only Sean knew how to keep proper company with the driver at that hour of the morning and Bernard hasn't been on a bus or trailer with Bean in a long time.
The group is still good, but Bernard thinks maybe things could be better.