In the three years that Timeshares has been a band, guitarist and singer Jon Hernandez has found himself in some strange situations.
“Two tours ago, we got dragged to some frat party,” he tells. “I don't know who took us there, but it was really gross. The people there were pretty awful. It was one of those things where there was a black light and guys lined up on a wall; they were all wearing white waiting for some girl to shove her butt into them. We weren't on the wall. We thought that was pretty weird, and were sitting at their kitchen table like, 'How the hell did we get in here?'
“When we were walking out of there,” he continues, “the dudes that brought us there were like, 'We thought you guys would have a bad time.' They brought us there ironically, but you don't go somewhere for the night ironically—you watch a YouTube video ironically. After that, we were like, 'This is proof that we can go anywhere and make a good time of it.'”
Hernandez giggles a lot as he tells this story, especially as he pulls into his point, suggesting that these sorts of strange situations are satisfying in their discomfort—that he and his band find meaning in such chaos and uncertainty.
Indeed, this philosophy—making the most of the worst situations—is at the core of Bearable, the band's first full-length released by Kind of Like Records and Kiss of Death Records in the fall of 2011. With roaring guitars that paw playfully at each other; that pounce at and chase stampeding drum parts; that tear into vocals hoarse from their continuous cries, the record is both a ferocious response to a difficult transitional time and a raw exhibition of the frustration that this period inspired. “I don't know how much we did capture it,” Hernandez says, “but I like to imagine that Bearable is twelve short stories about how shitty things were and how uncertain we all were about everything when we started the band.”
Though these short stories aren't necessarily chronological, the first song seems to start with the band's beginning. Set in Oneonta, where bassist and singer Mike Natoli went to college and met the rest of Timeshares, the lyrics of “From an Admirer Not Darryl” frames the present as having lost its luster, though contain sparks of excitement for the future. As Hernandez's guitar sizzles, sears Jason Mosher's grittier, gutsier chords, Natoli bellows with a snarl matching that of his Jazz Bass. “You talk about next year,” he sings during a final climax, “like it will be no different from the last. / Fuck, that was fast. / I live my life in fear of knowing I could have lived each day a little better.” When the final chords hit—as the guitars stretch into silence and the cymbals smolder—Hernandez quietly adds, “But my throat's been getting redder,” a hint that singing, playing music, will pull them out of this stagnation.
“The last song [“Math and Science”] is about Rockland, where me and Mike grew up,” Hernandez explains. “It's about a person in Rockland, but the overlying thing is about the entrapment of where you grew up and feeling like it's crushing you.” The song opens with chords, scorched with distortion, that roll back and forth; Eric Bedell's drumbeat enters as a momentary strut, guitars swaying and swinging behind it, before it hops into an energetic jog. Here, Hernandez's husky croon starts to steer the song through valleys, where clods of guitar and bass chunk together like cumps of clay, and into soaring peaks, where those scorched chords continue to roll back and forth. During a final peak, Hernandez sings, “It used to be okay / Now I'm alone,” with his bandmates belting behind him. And, as Bedell's cadence steps back into halftime and the guitars transition from a stream to a slow drip, Hernandez starts to repeat, “And I fell defeated.”
“We thought that was funny about how that worked out,” Hernandez adds, “how the first song was about where [Natoli] was and he was happy being around like-minded people, and the last song was about home, where everything was awful.”
And, in between, Bearable is about the frustrations of playing music—alongside people who aren't as passionate, or for people who could never understand it, or without the support of loved ones who are supposed to understand it—and about the sacrifices required to make life meaningful; about sorting out one's vices, including love, and about their occasional costs. “Me and Mike used to say that you can tell who wrote each song,” Hernandez laughs. “If the song's saying, 'You fucked up,' Mike wrote it. If the song's saying, 'I fucked up,' I wrote it. If the song's saying, 'BP fucked up,' Eric wrote it.”
Life has become better for Timeshares since that “shitty stretch of time,” as Hernandez dubs it. They have matured as both musicians and men; Hernandez has even noticed, as he outlined in their 2012 tour diary in Alternative Press, that the band has seemed more stable, settled, better-behaved, and maybe even more boring. “I think a lot of people have resolved a lot of the chaos that was happening in all four of our lives. And I know if everyone heard me say that, at least one of them would say, 'Slow it down, my shit's still all fucked up.' But all four of us were in pretty rough shape when this band was first touring, and, now, there's a little less of an absolute need to go make something crazy out of every night.”
But, while this maturity has helped the band perform their business and their music more efficiently, Hernandez hesitates to say that complete stability is what's best for Timeshares. “I have trouble talking about it, because I feel like I make myself sound like one of those frat guys with the white shirts and the black light,” he laughs. “But we've done a lot of stupid shit on tour, and that's how we've made a lot of the friends we've made.
“I really do mean it when I say we thrive in chaos,” he adds. “We do well in uncertainty. The downside is that it's got to come out of somebody's life's uncertainty, and you don't really want to wish that on anyone.”
When that uncertainty weighs on the members of Timeshares, though, the outcome is as aggressive as it is expressive and poetic; most importantly, however, it's honest, which is what gives Bearable its raw power. Maybe Hernandez is right: maybe chaos and uncertainty makes Timeshares a better band, but maybe it's because, as musicians, he and his bandmates are able to focus it into something fierce, something honest, and something as cathartic for their audience as it is for themselves.
And if that means the band might find themselves at a frat party at four in the morning, their teeth glowing green beneath a black light, then so be it.
Hernandez recorded these tracks in the basement at Natoli’s house in Rockland County, NY on an afternoon in mid-spring. Natoli made a brief appearance during the session, ribbing Hernandez by saying, “It sounds like shit,” before he headed to his girlfriend’s house an hour away.
“Damn Near By Beer" appears on Timeshares' 2011 record titled Bearable. “The Deeper In" is a Drive By Truckers cover; the song originally appeared on their 2003 record Decoration Day.
To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at SoundCloud.com.
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