American Football – “The 7’s” (Live At The Blind Pig ’97) (Stereogum Premiere)
The deluxe reissue of American Football’s self-titled LP approaches, and today, to stoke your anticipation, we’ve got one of the rare live tracks from the second disc. It’s called “The 7’s,” and according to liner notes from guitarist Steve Holmes, it’s the first song the math-rock OGs ever wrote together. This lengthy rendition of the song also veers off into a discordant passage including a melting version of the riff from “Jesse’s Girl.” Here’s Holmes’ take on the track, complete with music theory:
From the same board recording at the Blind Pig comes this crazy song that, in retrospect, it stands as one of the more interesting things we ever wrote. In fact, Mike once played this very take in one of his college music courses as an example of making music in a vacuum, without expectations. This song highlights our fascination at the time with odd time signatures, and also stands an attempt to all play in different times and overlap the parts until they re-sync.
The song was among the very first we wrote (and uses another alternate tuning we only utilized once elsewhere: EBD#EBE). It also used to be our standard set closer until we wrote “Stay Home” and dropped it from the set. We briefly considered recording this for the album, but we ran out of time in the studio, and we weren’t sure that it really fit in with the other songs we had on the record.
The song opens with Steve drumming in 4/4 with alternating snare and kick drum. My riff comes in played in a 10 measure bar (3/4, 3/4, 4/4). Mike’s riff then comes in, overlapping with mine; however, he’s playing in 7/4 and I add an additional 4/4 bar to sync every other cycle. The second section has me playing a 3/4 riff with Mike overlapping in 5/4. The final section has us all switching to a 7/4 rhythm.
Mike used to get a kick out of throwing a few measures of “Jesse’s Girl” over the top and decelerating the rhythm, just to fuck with Steve and me before switching to his actual riff. This section of the song really gave Steve an opportunity to take “lead” on the drums while Mike and I held down the rhythm with our guitars.
In the outro of the song, Mike switches back to his opening riff while I continue playing the 7/4 riff.
You can really notice how much we sped up the tempo by the end of the song—not a perfect take by any means. But it’s nice that any version of this song survived the intervening years (and survived on cassette, no less).
Listen to all seven minutes and 26 seconds of “The 7’s” below.
The American Football deluxe reissue is out 5/20 via Polyvinyl. Pre-order it here.