Tetsuo “Smoking Cigarettes With Famous People” (Influenza)
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Influenza, Music, Nashville.
The daily commute from Murfreesboro to Nashville is a manageable—albeit lengthy—one, but the sounds that the city has become famous for bear little resemblance to those which resonate from the central-Tennessee four-piece, Tetsuo. Having been together for less than a year, the group has already issued its debut full-length, These Crystals Don’t Burn, which was originally recorded in a seedy apartment “in a part of the city where the intersection of several major highways”—99, 96, 70, 231 & 40, to be exact. Just so there’s no confusion on the name however, the record shows zero similarity to the cold, dark surrealism of Shinya Tsukamoto’s cult-classic Tetsuo: produced by Jason Dietz (Joe Buck, the Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza), the band maintains both a genuineness and warmth which resonate throughout the entire record. The ruggedness of the original Fostex eight track demos take on a gritty bounce that, in the case of one song in particular, complements a cheeky lyrical blow-off to the celebrity-breeding Petri dish that is Music City, “I don’t give a damn about this life.” In this edition of Influenza, Tetsuo frontman Ardis Redford flips the pages of the history behind “Smoking Cigarettes With Famous People,” its beginnings as “Murfreesburnouts,” and where exactly Miley Cyrus fits into the picture.
“Smoking Cigarettes With Famous People” began life as a song called “Murfreesburnouts.” The title refers to several unrelated strata of “famous people.” Murfreesboro is a dark town, and a sketchy town, and a hot town. It is far easier to obtain LSD in the city limits than beer. There is a barn a few minutes out of the city limits where an old blues musician forces kids dumb enough to go out there to take whatever controlled substances he has on him. The perfect collision of a truly absurd number of major highways tangles like a blood clot in the center of the city and facilitates cocaine trafficking. Because of this kind of thing the town has a much larger police force than you would expect. Also, due to draconian bar attendance ordinances, you have to be 21 to attend bar shows and therefore most of the rock audience has been forced underground. Literally. Most of the good shows in Murfreesboro take place in basements; I like to think of my band as ‘undie rock’ instead of ‘indie rock.’
Currently, I would have to cite the city of Murfreesboro as the main influence on my music. Unlike Wordsworth or Keats or someone famous like that, though, it isn’t so much the flora, fauna, or breathtaking landscapes (the Boro has no skyline because its in a basin, and I have never seen anything but dogs in the actual city) that inspire me, but the opaque and inexplicable mental formations floating around in the various bars and parties where I spend too much of my time. I would sing “Murfreesburnouts” unaccompanied with my classical guitar because I was, as I often am, between bands. The song had around 10 verses all based on people in Murfreesboro, all well known for mostly unsavory reasons. The song was at this point written from my point of view. Truth be told, the title of the song should be more along the lines of “Smoking Cigarettes With Infamous People.”
The verses were mainly sarcastic and all began with “I knew this one guy/gal who…” and if any of the people who were in the song were present at the time I would make sure to sing the one about them and then get everyone in the room to guess who it was about. The three best verses were preserved and placed in first person, sort of. The lyrics were definitely changed around quite a bit to facilitate some recent one liners of mine and so forth, but I feel that the final song does a good job as far as capturing the spirit of the folks I hang out with. The lyrics sound like outdoor cigarette conversations during house shows with the “famous people” of Murfreesboro. The title was cemented when the melody for the song came from a dream in which I was smoking cigarettes with Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus in some kind of music video—this is also where the first three lines of verse one and two are from. The whole thing becomes even more circular because I had that dream after meeting a girl at a Zombie Bazooka Patrol show in a basement who claimed to be Brandi Cyrus, Miley’s older sister. It’s not that far-fetched because I am pretty sure those calloused pseudo-country jackasses all live pretty close by in Belle Meade. Then again, another girl around here often claims that she is Ke$ha. Also, I am convinced that I am Lou Reed. This is a city where people play pretend; I am pretty sure there is mercury in the water.