Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

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What Happens When You Stick Two Music Snobs in A Car for Eight Hours: Creating Storytime Tuesday’s Purple Hearse

04.19.16


Tim Raimy and Jenny McInerney


NOTICE: Purple Hearse is not a real album. Storytime Tuesday is not a real band. None of the songs described herein exist in this form in the real world. Driving home for Spring Break, the authors were entertaining the idea of writing a false album review for our annual April Fool’s issue, Hillflops, but the finished product never made it into the paper. The following is the story of how our fake album, fake band, and fake songs all came to be, as the result of the greatest car trip(s) ever.


A conversation focused on cheap automobiles brought us to the topic of hearses; a vehicle that might be procured cheaply due to its general association with sorrow. How might that association be mitigated? Our answer: paint it purple. A purple hearse – we laughed at the absurdity. But then we said it again: a purple hearse. It had the ring of a band name, or an album title, and in that moment, we were decided: the fake album review we had somewhat seriously joked about writing for Hillflops, would be of an album titled Purple Hearse.


Now all we had to do was think of a band name worthy of such an album title. Passing through small town after small town in rural Upstate New York, we resorted to reading the names of street signs, store signs, towns, and miscellaneous objects, trying to find one that would suit Purple Hearse as a hand to a glove. We tossed around some promising names – Fish Dinner, Ulysses’ Mailbox, Buttermilk Lane – but none were quite right. It was only when, paused a stop sign, we saw the notice board outside a community center – “Story Time Tuesday 8PM” – that we found the name we were looking for: Storytime Tuesday, the artist of Purple Hearse.  


Artist and album title settled, we decided to repurpose the rejected band names as song titles. Not content to stop there, we soon found ourselves asking, well, what would the song “Fish Dinner” be about? What would a song called “Buttermilk Lane” sound like? Eight hours and two car trips later, we had narrowed down not only what we wanted the band to sound like, but also what each individual song sounded like, what each one was about, and how the songs collectively told the story Purple Hearse needed to tell. What follows was the result of this what happens when you put a musician in a car with a person with a veritable Library of Congress-worth of songs on their phone. We hope you enjoy Storytime Tuesday as much as we do.


Storytime Tuesday, an up-and-coming alternative punk rock band from Rochester, New York, released their first album, Purple Hearse, on April 1, 2015. The album was recorded in the home of one of the band members and tells the story of the band’s growing up and the experiences they’ve had recovering from their youth.


The first track, “Fish Dinner,” is the story of a relationship that really didn’t have much of a chance from the start. The opening lines of the chorus drip with sarcasm: “You’re like a fish dinner in the middle of Lent / I guess you’re pretty wholesome but you’re not what I wanted,” setting up the general discontent of the album. The bass guitar on this track plucks away at the lower strings to give the verses of the song the same dull energy of the relationship; during the chorus the energy kicks up to express the way that the singer truly feels. During the bridge, the singer expresses that maybe he is wrong and perhaps the relationship is worth saving, but then returns to criticizing his attachment to his partner.


Possibly the most relatable song on the album, Storytime Tuesday’s first original song, “Ulysses’ Mailbox,” is a critique of those people in your life that never get back to you when you’re trying to get a hold of them. Titled after Ulysses, the Roman name of the Greek hero Odysseus, who was lost in the Mediterranean for 10 years before returning home, the song compares the process of texting such people and receiving radio silence in return to writing letters to the perennially absent Ulysses. The energizing tempo drives the pointed exasperation the singer feels toward each of the frustrating people in his life: family members, a few friends, a professor, and the (ex)girlfriend from “Fish Dinner.”


Slowing down a bit with a song driven by melodic running eighth notes on guitar, the band explains the life of growing up in a small neighborhood on the title street “Buttermilk Lane.” This bittersweet track reminisces over the innocent mischief of childhood and the harder times the kids faced growing up in a neighborhood impoverished by urban neglect. This song also explains the title of the album, Purple Hearse, with an anecdote of a local florist who, unable to afford a van, bought a hearse and painted it purple to try to mask its previous life. The story is told with a mature nostalgia that contrasts with the snark of the previous two songs.


“Brass Magnolia,” the next song on the album, is a study in contradiction. Sung by a member other than the lead singer, the vocalist’s bass voice compliments the dark bluesy style of the song, a far cry from the higher-pitched and higher-energy punk rock songs that characterize Storytime Tuesday’s signature sound. The song describes a woman who is a “brass magnolia:” simultaneously lovely and crude, delicate and formidable, “a clanging Southern belle.” The song is additionally unusual in that it features a solo French horn that improvises over the guitar, a combination that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.


“Sunshine Silo,” on the other hand, is as conventional as it gets. The outlier in terms of the album’s musical style, it is a cheery ukulele song that cements Storytime Tuesday’s classification as an “alternative” band. It is the album’s one burst of unconditional optimism, and it contrasts sharply with the track that follows, “Square-Topped Houses.”


“Square-Topped Houses” returns to the band’s childhood with a reflection on the house in which the house the lead singer grew up. Filled with images of a childhood bereft of emotional support, the singer paints the image of a child warming up TV dinners in the absence of their parents at dinner time, and falling asleep to the sounds of late-night action movies instead of bedtime stories and lullabies. The song is without a doubt the emotional heart of the album, insisting at the end of each verse that “Kids grow up too quickly in square-topped houses.” After listening to this song, the superficial snark of previous songs like “Ulysses’ Mailbox” and “Fish Dinner” is thrown into sharp relief as representing the emotionally distant stance the band has had to take in order to cope with their genuine feelings of hurt and loss at a world that has let them down from childhood. With this understanding, it is difficult not to feel moved by the raw emotion expressed in the next song, “Sensible Salting.”


On the surface, “Sensible Salting” would appear to be the the quintessential ‘90’s delinquent anthem. But upon closer inspection, the lyrics lack any vestige of the egocentric adolescent angst that characterizes the genre, instead betraying a feeling of genuine hurt thinly masked by a layer of “salt” that is anything but sensible. Relentlessly lampooning the actions and narrow-mindedness of the people around them with a bitterness that comes from the cards the band was dealt in their youth, “Sensible Salting” is the logical conclusion of everything Storytime Tuesday has shown itself to be both musically and lyrically – expect that is isn’t, in fact, the conclusion.  


Elevating both album and band from pessimistic resignation to desperate hope, “Everything is Awful” is redeeming in an almost religious sense. Carried by an energetic instrumental accompaniment that drives the album to its end, “Everything is Awful” rejects the emotionally distant negativity with which the band has heretofore addressed their disappointments, reaching for optimism with a determination that can only come from need. As the song analyzes all of the hardships the bandmates faced growing up, laying each one to rest with a defiant insistence that their past will not define their future, one senses that Storytime Tuesday is attempting to do with their past what the florist from “Buttermilk Lane” did with his hearse: paint it purple. “Everything is Awful” is a testament to the inexplicable optimism that pervades Storytime Tuesday’s signature salt: this is a band that, despite everything, still believes in goodness and love, and will strive for these ideals to the end.


If you enjoyed the general idea of this article and think Purple Hearse sounds like an interesting album, below is the track list of the songs on which each song was modeled.

“Fish Dinner”- "Weighted" by frnkiero and the celebration

“Ulysses’ Mailbox”- "Motivation" by Sum 41

“Buttermilk Lane”- "Lanai" by You Blew It!

“Brass Magnolia”- "Top Yourself" by The Raconteurs

“Sunshine Silo”- "Clean Light" by The Mowgli’s

“Square Topped Houses”- "Novocaine" by Night Terrors of 1927

“Sensible Salting”- "Underclass Hero" by Sum 41

“Everything is Awful”- "I Wanna Get Better" by Bleachers