Bodies Of Water’s spiraling, gospel-tinged gold sounds have been in heavy rotation around here for a few months. From “It Is Familiar” and “These Are the Eyes” (posted here), through the summery Take-Away versions of “I Heard It Sound” and “I Guess I’ll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess” (there), and now “Doves Circled The Sky” (after our conversations), we’ve managed to pack just about a half of the Los Angeles quartet’s superbly orchestral, made-for-the-small-town-stage Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink onto the site. That’s not counting their killer cover of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” You get the idea: We dig.
So when I approached band member David Metcalf about his employment status, I was happy — in a bittersweet way — to find out out that 3/4 of the band hold day jobs they’re willing to talk to us about: Metcalf does design and illustration, Kyle Gladden designs for a clothing company, and Jessica Conklin teaches. Learn a bit about sassy sweatpants, weekly field trips, and Ziggy, the graphic designing singer of a rap metal band after the jump.
STEREOGUM: What’s the name of your company?
KYLE GLADDEN: The name of my company is Mighty Fine, although it’s a bit of a misnomer to call it “my” company, because I’m just some guy who works here. I don’t own this building or this company.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been there?
KG: I’ve been at it for just a little over one year. One year and one month.
STEREOGUM: What’s your background in design?
KG: My background in design is negligible. One day David asked me to design a flyer for an upcoming Bodies show and I said okay. My wife is a designer and she taught me the basics.
Everyone in the band (and I think outside of it, too) responded pretty positively to the flyer, and so over the course of the next year I did five or six more. I had been a high school teacher for five years, and I was looking for a change of pace, so I quit that and started looking around for design jobs. It was pretty presumptuous of me, actually, and the “portfolio” that I brought around on job interviews consisted of six Bodies Of Water posters spray-mounted to black card stock. Luckily the people here liked my admittedly limited work, and decided to give me a shot.
STEREOGUM: Do you make the clothing as well? Or design it and have someone else put it together?
KG: We have a screen-printing factory here at the building, and we use other factories nearby as well. I just make the designs, then they are whisked way to production people who do color separations and the like, and then those files get turned into screens.
STEREOGUM: I ask because David mentioned you make “sassy half sweatpants.” Are you in competition with the general American Apparel thing?
KG: Sassy half sweatpants are sweat pants that go half-way down your leg, they have a draw string at the top, and usually something screen printed across the buttocks, and they’re sassy. I would say that we’re not in competition with the American Apparel thing. American apparel is much more … I don’t know.
STEREOGUM: Do you design band merch?
KG: None to speak of.
STEREOGUM: Do you have any sort of design theories or aesthetic or philosophy?
KG: David says that I’m pretty serious about having fun — I think he’s right, and I think that’s my design philosophy: funness.
STEREOGUM: What makes a good design?
KG: Good design is unselfconscious. It is fun, and interesting, and not too snobby. Although there is a lot of snobby design that is really good too. I think I don’t like snobby design because I’m not good enough to do any snobby design myself — just a thought.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been teaching?
JESSICA CONKLIN: I started substitute teaching in 2004. I got offered a full-time position last year at the high school in the district I had been subbing in.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a degree in Education?
JC: I don’t have my Credentials. I got my bachelors in Marketing…? I only had two classes toward a credential in Special Ed when they hired me. Desperate. There is a documentary called Frank And Cindy, and Cindy was the secretary in the district I work at. I would get the joy to check in to the office and see her on occasion, you should check it out.
STEREOGUM: What’s Cindy’s deal? I guess I should watch the documentary. Any good anecdotes?
JC: I am sure I think it is amazing because I know the lady. Let’s just say for Halloween one year she came to work (as a secretary in a school district office, to answer phones and file) as Gene Simmons. Amazing, to the “T.” Her goal in life, at least for the duration of the film, was to get her teeth fixed.
STEREOGUM: Ha. If you’d gone the marketing route, where would you be working?
JC: I don’t think I would have gone the Marketing route. I went to work with kids immediately after college, my first job was working for an organization called Young Life. If for some odd reason I was forced into Marketing, I would have probably found my way into non-profit. Most likely related to kids and the arts (music, dance, and so on and so forth…)
STEREOGUM: Can you explain the classroom set up a bit? The school? I mean, how many students, which subjects, etc.
JC: My classroom had a kitchen and a red chair. When they hired me it was the first year they had a special education classroom like mine. There wasn’t a program in place already or anything, I just had to figure it out (with help, of course). I only had 3 students for the first half of my day (math, language arts). The end of the day I had a full class of 5. The part of my job that makes it better than all these other teachers you interview, is A) My kids are more fun and B) we go on field trips to the movies, sushi, the arboretum and the science center once a week. Basically I was in charge of helping these kids learn how to be independent. We cooked a lot, took the bus places, kept a garden with carrots and corn and flowers, worked with money and practiced social interaction.
STEREOGUM: So are you still teaching full-time, or have you quit to do the band?
JC: I have since quit and gone back to substitute teaching. My students need a lot of consistency and routine and it is hard to offer that when you are frequently taking time off to share the good news of rock and roll. Besides I had to work really hard to be “ok” at the job. I definitely had the heart and desire, but two classes is hardly enough to build a program for kids that deserve the best.
STEREOGUM: As far as the weekly field trips, did you try to tie the movies into something you’ve discussed in class? Or is it more so they can go out in the world and interact, etc?
JC: Both. But more the latter. Independence was my number one goal for them. The more they could do on their own, the better off they were. We all desire independence; they are no different. It was a chance for them to generalize all that we learned and practiced in the class room, like social skills, making choices, and money. Two of my students were non-verbal — it is amazing how much of a challenge it is to move about when you don’t use words. They got pretty good, but it will be a life long deal for them. However, I do feel like I developed a relationship with them. I mean how many people do you know that would be better off if they didn’t talk so much… ha!
STEREOGUM: What was your weekly schedule like? How many classes a day?
JC: First period was Language Arts. Because the kids excelled in different areas, I had to do different things with them. One student was reading a chapter book and the other two where answering questions to a paragraph. We would do spelling during this time. I would try to modify the assignments so that they were hands on and not always pencil and paper. First period was kinda sloppy because kids came in a different time and it was a chance to talk with parents.
Second period they went to Art. I didn’t go with them, so this was my chance to prep for the day. It will sound like I had a lot of time to sit around, but believe me, with my inexperience and lack of a program in place, this time was essential. I would have failed miserably if I didn’t have this time.
Third period they came back for Math with me. Again, different levels meant different assignments. Luckily I had great aides that allowed the students to get one on one coaching through their assignments.
Fourth period was P.E. That wasn’t me either.
Lunch. They had aides that went out with them. One student would go out and socialize, the other two didn’t talk too much (without prompting) so they would use this time to relax.
Fifth and Sixth periods were “Life Skills” times. This is when we did our cooking, speech (specialist came in). We did a lot of money practice. We did group activities, games, and gardening. Mostly focused on activities that would promote independence (through routine, following directions, and making choices). This is when other students came in the class room and the student total reached an outrageous five! This was my favorite part of the job and the biggest challenge for the kids. Some of my kids would prefer to be left alone to just be in their heads, but this helped pull them out and contribute to each others’ lives. Really cool to watch. I love these kids. The best.
Just to give you a taste of the brilliance these kids have … I had one student that we were desperate to teach not to eavesdrop, because I would answer the phone and not say the person’s name, but when I would hang up he would ask why so-and-so was calling. It was uncanny. No conversation within ear shot was ever confidential. I had to learn to stretch the cord out the door and shut it.
STEREOGUM: What’s your background in design/illustration?
DAVID METCALF: I have been doing a lot of different jobs here and there for a long time. I wrote a little bit about some of them on our site. Anyhow, when I went to college I got a degree in art. I had a double concentration: graphic design and fine art. I got a job designing websites when I first moved to LA, and I’ve been doing that off and on for six or seven years. As of about a year ago, freelance design and illustration is my only job.
STEREOGUM: Impressively diverse resume. What inspired you to write that?
DM: I was inspired to write it as I sat in my cubicle at Warner Brothers. Something about cubicles inspires intense personal reflection for SOME people. In (most) others it unfortunately arouses the opposite sort of mental energy.
STEREOGUM: In it, you talk about working at graphic design company for a a guy named Ziggy, who sounds pretty amazing … as does the entire setup:
He was the singer in a rap metal band and he had lots of tattoos. He spoke exceptionally quickly. The vice president had the company’s logo tattooed on his calf. He played the bass in the band.
Whatever happened to Ziggy?
DM: Ziggy’s sister told me later on that all of the ‘brass’ from my company had moved over to some other nebulous internet firm. That whole company was very shady and ridiculous. We were on the windowless second floor of a century city office building — the only other occupants of the floor were a dry cleaner and a deli; both of whom serviced the other (legitimate) offices in the building. We didn’t have any real clients, just a bunch of investors who wanted to get in on the internet boom. We sat around all day designing hypothetical websites that we could quickly drop a clients name and logo into if someone ever actually hired us to build a site. We had such a crazy backlog of sites that we would give them like 80 different ideas the day after they hired us. It was bizarre. They had a wall of TVs showing 16 loops of extreme BMX bikers and skaters that you had to walk past to get into the office.
STEREOGUM:Then at the end of your employment history, there’s an editor’s note: “David’s employment circumstances have changed since he delivered this tear-stained missive to us, but he has neither the desire or strength of will to share with us his more recent professional fortunes. In his words, ‘I am busy writing HIT SONGS and I don’t have time for this kind of trifling bullshit anymore.’ His reflections will be sorely missed…” Are you close to being able to quit the day job?
DM: I don’t know how close I am to being able to quit day jobbing. I am always a little surprised to find at what point different people are able to earn their living (or not earn their living) playing music. I think most of it comes down to standard of living. Meredith and I are pretty cheap, so maybe that day will come sooner rather than later. At any rate, the people at Secretly Canadian have assured me that I will never have to work another day in my life.
STEREOGUM: What sort of illustration are you doing now?
DM: Usually (but not always) it’s peripheral to design work that I have. Instead of hiring an illustrator or using stock art or whatever, I’ll just make the pictures myself. I used to draw and paint all of the time, but now I usually make pictures on the computer. It has warped my mind. Now, whenever I draw my brain is constantly telling me to hit ‘command z.’ Most of my analog drawings are done with rapidograph pens. I use pigma micron pens. Are those rapidographs? I think that they’re a sort of disposable rapidograph.
STEREOGUM: What’s a rapidograph?
DM: It’s actually pretty old technology. I think engineers all used them in the ’50s. They’re just technical pens that can make really fine lines. They’re supposed to have a real consistent line (width, ink volume, whatever). I think true rapidographs are refillable, but the ones I use are not. These pigma micron pens are really popular. You probably know some people who use them, you just have never talked to them about pens before.
STEREOGUM: Can you discuss some recent projects?
DM: The most recent thing I did was a series of illustrations for the pages of a lent devotional book. I also just made a birth announcement for my friends, but they did not pay me. They made me the child’s godfather, so I had qualms about sending them an invoice. Designing and such is my only job right now, but I definitely don’t work 40 hours a week on it. I just take jobs as they come up. Thankfully, I’ve become busy with Bodies Of Water recently. Hopefully this will mean that it becomes my job and I make a little money. So far, I think I’ve made about a dollar playing music.
STEREOGUM: Do you do the Bodies Of Water designs?
DM: I do most of the BoW stuff, Kyle does some, too.
STEREOGUM: As far as jobs of the past that you mention in your employment history, what was it like writing SAT questions? Ever get tricky and try to sneak private jokes in there or something?
DM: At the time I was too downtrodden to be as snarky as that. Even if I had been in high spirits, my question-writing position was pretty tenuous. The lady who I reported to actually tried to fire me before I began working because she doubted my commitment to the work. I really didn’t want to lose the job – it was just perfect. At the time I worked in an art gallery and most of my job consisted of sitting behind a desk and keeping an eye on things. This meshed perfectly with writing SAT questions. It was quiet and uneventful in the gallery and I could kill two jobs with one stone.
STEREOGUM: You have a really varied work history. What’s led you from one job to the next?
DM: I needed some money. The term “day job” implies that there is a “night job” that’s closer to one’s heart, but pays little. That was my motivation for working, at least. The circumstances that led me from job to job varied, but usually arose from knowing somebody that hooked me up with it.
STEREOGUM: To get a work-and-band context: How long as Bodies Of Water existed?
DM: We have mostly known each other for a lot longer than we have been playing music together. I guess that everyone started learning their instruments so we could play together sometime in 2003. We then stopped playing for a year or so because we we doing other things (Meredith and I bought a house and gutted it, then fixed it all back up). Then at the end of 2004 we started playing more often and recording little bits. We put out an EP at the end of 2005, and then started working on a LP, but that was severely delayed for several reasons too boring to share (actually, one of them is mildly exciting. We recorded about 3/4 of the record with a man who had volunteered to record it for free and then he abruptly quit and kept all of the songs. We had to start over, but this was just as it ought to have been, for the second time we recorded this album it went far smoother and sounded far better). Anyhow, the record that we began working on at the end of 2005 came out three or four months ago (end of July 2007). The answer to your question is: we’ve been playing together for four years, and in earnest for the last two? These estimates are very rough.
STEREOGUM: So you’ve all known each other for awhile?
DM: Kyle and Meredith met in jr high school. I met Meredith before I moved to LA (this must be nine years ago? we were kids). I met Kyle after I moved to LA, where Meredith and he lived. Jessie met Meredith (and then the rest of us) around the time that we started playing music. She is from Arizona.
STEREOGUM: And, if you weren’t doing Bodies Of Water, where can you imagine going next?
DM: I don’t know. Drawing more or something. I have left little room in my imagination for any future outside of a bitter Bodies Of Water breakup, followed by an endless succession of reunion tours.
UPDATE: By popular demand, we’ve added a Q&A with Meredith Metcalf, a former commercial actress. First, a letter from Meredith:
hey brandon, meredith here. i just read the don’t quit your day job thing. its neat… i saw that someone posted a comment about a commercial i was in where a play a grocery checker. i would have talked to you about that but i haven’t been doing commercials for a while (that one was shot 2 years ago) – for the past year or so i’ve been running the band-family business, starting our label, ect. so i thought that wouldn’t be to interesting for you to write about. i feel kind of left out. maybe when i get a real job you can do a special piece on JUST ME!?!
Sounds good. Here we go…
STEREOGUM: How many commercials were you in?
MEREDITH METCALF: I’m not really sure of a number. A bunch? It was my only job for a few years.
STEREOGUM: How did you get involved with it? Were you planning to pursue an acting career?
MM: For a while I was pretty serious about acting until I kind of realized that most of the movies being made weren’t anything I would really enjoy doing. Around the same time I was coming to that realization, I was spending a lot more time on music. What I get out of making and playing our music is a lot more intense (good intense) probably because I’m making it myself along with my husband and best friends. I think if I was making a movie on such a personal level it would be equally rewarding. I haven’t ruled it out, I still think it would be real neat to do something if it felt right. You don’t happen to know anyone who’s working on a remake of Grey Gardens do you?
STEREOGUM: The commercial our reader wrote in about was for Progresso soup. So, in general, do you like soup?
MM: I love soup! Especially Progresso soup. I’m serious. I was at the grocery store the other day and they were having a sale on Progresso soup so I filled my basket with it. Kind of like that scene in Punch Drunk Love where Adam Sandler is in the 99 cent store buying all the healthy choice products. Not that anyone would, but I was a little nervous that someone would recognize me from the commercial. I was nervous, but at the same time I kind of wished someone would cause it would be a funny story. “I saw that girl from that commercial buying a ton of Progresso soup, she loves that soup!” Anyway, no one noticed anything except maybe it was strange that I was buying such a huge amount of soup.
Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink is out on the band’s own Thousand Tongues, but Secretly Canadian has signed on to help them distribute it, and will put out a new one by the Bodies this Spring. Congrats.
[L to R: Kyle, Jessie, Meredith, David]