Big Titty Bee Girl

2.6.2008

By Jason Lamphier

What instruments did you play on your new album, Safe Inside the Day?
Well, the songs were written for piano, so that's me playing the piano. Then I play a little bit of harp too. At the end of 'The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities' I play a little arpeggio. Also, I play harp on a couple of the instrumentals.

What's the significance of the record's title?
It's about the inside being more important than the outside. Some of the songs are very, very dark, but I feel that they happened in the context of a larger good feeling that encompasses the album. The title song is a gospel song about getting to heaven, except it's not about getting to heaven -- it's about having already been there. If there is a heaven, it should have something to do with life on Earth. I always get willies when they talk about the Second Coming and the afterlife. I got to a point where I realized that I didn't want to live forever, and then not at all, which is really a shame. The whole point of the song is the lyric 'I'll live another day,' which can be the afterlife or actually another day. At one point in my life, one seemed as likely as the other. But to me, it's a very positive song.

It seems like you were navigating through this dark period while writing the album. In your press release, you say, 'I didn't like where it was leading me. I wanted to go someplace good, but each step led me back to the bad place, the place I didn't want to go.' What was this bad place?
One of the songs, 'Fresh Out of Candles,' explains how everyone has these moments of great epiphany. This was a dark version of one of those moments. I finally had this breakthrough that I was fresh out of candles and that there was no light. That was the place where I was at, but a real, honest darkness is better than a false light. There are a lot of terrible truths on this album. I didn't want to write these songs, and I didn't want to take anyone else there either, so I didn't do any new stuff in a few years.

Why did you keep finding yourself in that dark place?
It was inevitable. I had deaths in the family. But I had to go there. The best thing for me was to do the album. 'Fresh Out of Candles' was the one song I didn't want to do, even when we got to the studio. But I sat at the piano and let [the album's producer] Matt Sweeney find the groove. This song I couldn't stand, I really started to love it. It's got to be one of the darkest things ever written, but somehow it doesn't leave me in a dark place. I set out to create this hopeless story, but somehow it's not so bad.

Some of the material is autobiographical. In 'The Only Bones That Show' you reference your stint as a tree trimmer. This was in Cleveland?
Yeah, I started climbing the trees in early 2002.

What exactly would you do?
In Cleveland you have big trees in residential areas, so the trees basically have to be cut down. Sometimes you have to climb it and take it down bit by bit. At that insane time in my life I realized I really wanted to do it. It was the biggest change I'd ever made -- to change myself from a 'hermaphrodite' on a tall tricycle into a tree climber. It was a tall order. A lot of the crazy things I've done, the only thing they all have in common is that I've always been up high. At the church organ, when I was dancing on the bar, on the tricycle, as a tree climber. I just loved being up high. I wanted to have a pedal-powered blimp that would hold me and my tricycle, and then I would land in New York City. I had plans made, but then I let it go.

Have you given up that dream for good?
I think I'm getting a little bit long in the tooth for that kind of exploit. If I had money to burn, I'd probably do it. Never say never.

The highlight of the album for me is 'Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)." Where did you find the inspiration for this song?
I love bees. They're the best critters in the world, selfless, beautiful little creatures. So I wrote songs about them. My friend's grandfather was a beekeeper, so we decided to do this puppet show about bees for children. We went to Vancouver to workshop it, and after it was over we went on a camping trip. We were driving along the road and thought that we should do an X-rated version of the show. I said we should call ourselves the 'Big Titty Bee Girls,' and just at that moment we were passing a billboard for this roadside attraction for kids called Dinotown, with concrete dinosaurs or something. So I came up with the song 'Big Titty Bee Girl (from Dino Town).'

And what about the albino you mention in the song?
I had to find something to rhyme with the lyrics 'Big Titty Bee Girl from Dino Town.' I was pumping gas on the way to Seattle, and it just came to me, like Mozart seeing his symphonies: 'You just can't keep a good albino down.' Then I thought of all the things you can do to an albino, but you just can't keep him down. I wanted to reach out to the albino community in friendship. It's a celebration of the albino's stoicism [cackling].

And what about your father's Freudian crowbar obsession in 'The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities'?
That is absolutely true. When I was a child, he had a collection of crowbars that he prized above all other things. It was the center of his life. He worked on a railroad, and I think he stole them. He had about a dozen of them. [One day], he and our neighbors demolished this piano with his crowbars. I watched them do it. They didn't want it, so they just dragged it onto the lawn. Picture these grizzly bums from across the street in their dirty T-shirts with sledgehammers demolishing a piano. Then there's this little kid standing there with toenails painted red, fumbling with the [parts] left behind.

Check out Baby Dee's performance of 'Big Titty Bee Girl (From Dino Town)" in Dusseldorf, Germany, here.

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