But he just said, “It’s ineffable. If I could define it, I wouldn’t have any use for it.”
That really stuck with me.
KAREN: It was pretty boss, recording an album with a real studio. There were techs around to tune everything, people around getting lunch, somebody to go grab you a dime bag. Every day, there was a large spread for lunch that got changed out for dinner.
This one time, we were recording and in comes a dozen chocolate chip cookies delivered by some dude. I said, “We have enough cookies.”
And the kid said, “Not this kind.” They were laced. I have no idea who sent them.
EDDIE: “Just One More” was written and recorded in one day when somebody sent over a batch of grass baked into cookies. The whole song, written mostly by Billy with my help, seems like it’s about wanting to sleep with a girl one time before you hit the road. But it was about how we’d eaten all the grass and just wanted one more cookie.
WARREN: I took three of the cookies myself and I hid one of ’em for later and as Billy is writing this song about wanting one more, I thought, Shit! He knows I have one more!
GRAHAM: It was just a great time. We had a great time back then.
BILLY: It did have that kind of feeling where…you know you’re in a time of your life you’ll remember forever.
GRAHAM: The night before we finished recording, I came home from somewhere or other and found Karen sitting up on the railing of the deck, looking out into the canyon. Warren was in a patio chair, whittling what looked like a skinny Christmas tree out of a plastic spoon.
Karen turned to me and said, “It’s a shame the water’s up to my ankles. I wanted to go for a hike.”
And so I said, “What are you guys on and is there any more?”
KAREN: It was mescaline.
WARREN: That night, when Graham, Karen, and I did peyote, I remember telling myself that if the album was shit, I was gonna be okay. Because I could make spoons for a living. That logic wasn’t sound, obviously. But the thought did stick with me. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.
GRAHAM: We finished recording everything in November, I think.
EDDIE: We finished up around March.
GRAHAM: Now, it was probably another month, maybe two, that Billy and Teddy were in the studio going over the mixes.
I would go in some days, listen to what they were doing. I had some thoughts and Billy and Teddy always heard me out. And then they played us the final mix and I was blown away.
EDDIE: No one was allowed in the studio except Teddy and Billy. They were working on that thing for months. And then finally we were all allowed to hear it.
But it was dynamite. I said to Pete, I said, “We sound fuckin’ great.”
BILLY: We played it for Rich Palentino in the conference room over at the Runner offices. I was tapping my foot so hard underneath that table. I was nervous. This was our shot. If Rich didn’t like it, I was thinking I might explode.
WARREN: To us back then, Rich was this old guy in his suit and tie. I thought, This corporate fucker is judging me? He looked like such an agent of the man.
GRAHAM: I had to stop watching Rich and just close my eyes and listen. And when I did, I thought, There’s no way this guy isn’t gonna dig this.
BILLY: The last note of “When the Sun Shines on You” played and I was staring at Rich. Graham and Teddy are staring, too—we’re all staring at him. Rich gets this small smile on his face and he goes, “You’ve got a great album here.”
And when Rich liked it, that was it. It was like the last bit of me that was grounded down to earth just flew off, like someone had pulled the rip cord and I was flying.
NICK HARRIS (rock critic): Their self-titled debut was a respectable entrance into the rock scene. It was straitlaced and economical, sort of a no-frills blues-rock album from a band that knew how to write a decent love song and had really perfected the art of the drug innuendo. A little bit folky, very catchy, lots of swagger, big riffs, hard drums, and that great Billy Dunne smooth growl.
It was an auspicious start.
After an album cover shoot, industry events, an interview with Creem magazine, and big early buzz for the album, Runner Records and Rod Reyes started planning a thirty-city tour.
BILLY: Everything was happening so fast. And I was…You’re an underdog for so long and then one day you’re not. And when you start to feel real success, when you start to live large and all that, you have to stop and ask yourself if you think you really deserve it.
Anyone that isn’t a complete asshole will come up with the answer “No.” Because of course you don’t. When guys you grew up with are working three jobs. Or they’re lost overseas like we lost Chuck. Of course you don’t deserve it. You have to learn how to reconcile those two things. Having it and not deserving it. Or, you do what I did, and refuse to think about it.
That’s why I was eager to get on the road, to start touring. When you’re on the road, you don’t really have to deal with real life. It’s almost like hitting the pause button.
EDDIE: We were headed out on a big tour, you know what I’m saying? Getting interviewed in cool places, getting our own bus. It felt good. It felt real good.
BILLY: The night before we were getting on the bus, Camila and I, we were laying in bed, tangled up in the sheets. She had grown her hair out even longer by that point. God, I could just get lost in that hair.
Her hair and her hands always smelled kinda earthy, kind of herbal. She used to grab rosemary branches and crush them up in her hands and then run her hands through her hair. Every time I smell rosemary, even now, it’s like I am instantly back there, stupid and young, living in a house in the canyon with my band and my girl.
And that night, the one before we left, I just kept smelling the rosemary in her hair. It was then, right before I was gonna leave for the tour in the morning, that she told me.
CAMILA: I was seven weeks pregnant.
KAREN: Camila wanted kids. Me, I always knew kids weren’t in the cards for me. I think it’s a feeling you get. I think you have it in your heart or you don’t.
And you can’t put it in your heart if it’s not there.
And you can’t pull it out of your heart if it is.
And it was in Camila’s heart.
BILLY: I was happy, at first. I think. Or…[pauses] I was trying really hard to be happy about it. I think I knew…I was happy about it. I was just so scared it was all I could see.
I started focusing on whatever I could to make it make sense. I decided that we needed to get married right away. We had been planning to have a wedding sometime after the tour but I decided we needed to do it right then. I don’t know why that mattered to me…but…[pauses] The moment I knew she was pregnant I felt like we had to make sure we were a proper family.
CAMILA: Karen knew an ordained minister. She got his number from a friend of hers and we called him late that night. He came right over.
EDDIE: It was four in the morning.
CAMILA: Karen decorated the porch out back.
KAREN: I strung strips of aluminum foil all through the trees. [Laughs] It doesn’t sound great in the context of all the environmental shit now. It looked really pretty, in my defense. It swayed with the wind and it bounced the light of the moon.
GRAHAM: Warren had some Christmas lights in his drum kit because he liked to light up his toms. I asked if we could use ’em and he gave me some guff about how he had already packed them up. I said, “Warren, get me your lights now before I tell everyone what an asshole you are.”
WARREN: It wasn’t my problem Billy and Camila decided to get married in the middle of the night.
KAREN: By the time Graham and I were done with it, it looked pretty far out. Almost like the sort of place you’d want to get married even if you had forever to plan it.
BILLY: As Camila was getting dressed, I went into the bathroom and I looked at myself in the mirror. I just kept telling myself I could do it. I can do this. I can do this. I walked down to the patio and then Camila came down in a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
KAREN: She had on a yellow crochet top. She looked so pretty.
CAMILA: I wasn’t nervous at all.
EDDIE: I had one piece of film left in my Polaroid so I took a photo. I accidentally cut off their heads. You can just see Camila’s legs and her hair down her back. You can see Billy’s chest a bit. They are holding hands in the picture, facing each other. I was so mad I missed their faces. But I was also trippin’ balls.
GRAHAM: Camila said something about loving Billy no matter what he did, something about them, with this baby, being a team. But she said it like they were a real sports team. I looked over and Pete was crying. He was trying to hide it but it was obvious. There were tears in his eyes. I think I gave him a look like, “Seriously?” And he just shrugged.
WARREN: Pete cried the whole damn time. [Laughs] That guy cracked me up.
BILLY: Camila said—I remember just how she said it—she said, “It’s us, our team, forever and always. And I will always root for us.” But there was this voice in my head that was telling me I shouldn’t be anybody’s father. I couldn’t quiet it. It just…it kept reverberating in my head. You’re gonna fuck it all up. You’re gonna fuck it all up.
GRAHAM: Look, as a man without a dad, you don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re supposed to do and you don’t have anyone to ask.