How We Were Then

by The Calmative

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1.
03:35
2.
07:16
3.
06:41
4.
05:28
5.
06:47
6.
07:38
7.
05:10

credits

released April 27, 2014

The Players:
Christopher Hughes – vocals, guitar, drums/percussion, mellotron on ‘Kicking’
Pablo Burrull – bass, nylon guitar on ‘Kicking’
Sarah Lynn Fisher – rhodes, wurlitzer, moog, organ
Hillary Early – pedal steel
Petra Kelly – violin, vocals
Ramon Muzquiz – drums/percussion
Matt Shasteen – guitar, noise/feedback

Other Collaborators:
Jordan Batson – banjo on ‘Parenting’
Jayme Elterman – cello on ‘Parenting’
Tyler Johnston – horns on ‘She Comes’
Mark Moncreif – guitar on ‘Returning’
Joe Cepeda Overman – guitar on ‘She Comes’
Matt Stewart – bass on ‘Distancing’

Produced, recorded, and mixed by Christopher Hughes at Miscellaneous Sound, Denton, TX.
Cello recorded by Eric Elterman at Eastside Sound, NYC.
Mastered by Matt Shasteen in his car.
All songs written by Christopher Hughes.
Thanks to our families, collaborators past and present, Dan’s Silverleaf, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, Three Links, Spune Productions, Art Conspiracy, Spooky Folk, Tiger Tooth & Paw, Pageantry, Pleasant Grove, Bethan, Young and Brave, The Blurries, Ella Minnow, Derek Rogers, Jonas Wilson, Mary Dermid, Regina Chellew, and Sarah Sutton.

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The Calmative Denton, Texas

Originally conceived as a studio project, The Calmative mixes traditional songwriting and instrumentation with ambient noise, feedback and drone. It is the moniker of Texas-based songwriter Christopher Hughes, and features a revolving cast of musicians. Collaborators include members of Spooky Folk, Pageantry, and the Blurries. ... more

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Track Name: Returning
Returning

In the afternoon we came to
like a knot around a rope:
never come undone but only loose
until we tightened and we choked.
There was a warning sign
in her smile to me
a memory of her father
as he sipped from empty dreams.
I could see
she wasn't clean.
When I entered through the door
she took me all the way
into that same room
where as a child she used to stay.
I could still recall
the bottle like a vase
that held her yellow rose
its petals in decay.
It seemed to me she was the same.

She was there and I could see her
like a fracture in a view:
everything was there but misaligned.
We were the lines of my confusion.
Life is never heavy when you're free
but you can't be alive
when you ain't got the gravity.
How else could we be?
Life got heavy when her parents passed away
on that midnight road
just off the interstate.
They were coming home.
They were never out so late.
Now I've come home too
to a town never awake
to a girl caught up in fate.

In the afternoon I was dressed
to the nines at her door
in a suit and tie that I thrifted
but nobody would known
holding in my hand a yellow rose
and a plastic jug of vodka
like the ones we used to hold
to our lips out in the cold.
We were younger then.
We gambled with ourselves.
We were not the only ones
to raise some hell.
Back then I could tip
a bottle in the air.
Back then she could slip
a throttle into gear
without any fear.

I wasn't who I used to be
but I was what I always was.
I was always hearing for the sound
always reaching for the touch.
When she pressed herself to me
I could feel her tremble
like a wave out of the sea
how it breaks and then recedes.
I tried to still her.
She was hard
and hardly there.
I told her I was home.
I wasn't going anywhere.
I asked her if she had
an extra bed to spare.
"Follow me," she said.
"You can lie down anywhere.
But leave your baggage over there."
Track Name: She Comes
She Comes

Holidays are hardest here.
We are just beginning again.
Mostly she keeps to herself in the evenings.
Flashing lights like motel signs
light our block right down the line.
Even I strung up a pine in the yard.
But we don't celebrate here.
We wait for a new year.
She's got tinsel eyes
in disguise
when she comes to me.

Some nights when the sky is clear
I am sound and she's all ears.
But in her eyes I see
a shine of tears.
She’s smiling like she's struggling.
She pretends she's happy.
When we touch lips
I feel the skin of skin,
her calluses.
We don't celebrate here.
We wait for a new year.
She's got tinsel eyes in disguise.
She comes to me
and she tells me she's over it
that we all die a little bit
every day and the more we live
the more we learn to forget.
But she's holding it.

In the winters we go dim.
We get under the influence.
Memories can make you
if you let them.
But at least we're broken in.
Even some of the pain’s worn thin.
Still the holidays are feeling endless.
We don't celebrate here.
We wait for a new year.
She's got tinsel eyes in disguise.
She comes to me.
Track Name: Distancing
Distancing

She knows all the time
I'm gone away.
She’s got days and nights
sometimes a flight to make.
The distant lines are long enough
to hold us when we've had too much.
I think I've dialed enough.
She dials me in tomorrow.
When the morning comes
and all the coffee's gone
the cigarettes all smoke
and all the matches burned
I will be thinking of her.

We know that our time is only space.
Time is never kind
but still we wind in case.
The distant lines are long enough
to hold our breath and mute our touch.
Still we soften up
because we're overeasy
when the morning comes
and all the roses bloom
like an open wound
the scent of her perfume.

She knows that our time
is all a waste.
She's got all the lines.
She's tying up in vain.
The distant lines aren’t long enough
and silence is her only bluff
and I've got mind enough
to try again tomorrow
when the morning comes
when all that's old is new.
I never take the clue
that she and I are never really through.
A record spins in a room.
I hear the crooked rain
on the window pane
down on the tin overhang
and I’m a silence kid
missing my summer babe.
Track Name: How We Were
How We Were

When we were children we were easy.
“You two are rotten to the core,”
her father said when he was drinking
smiling his teeth as he shut the door.
There in her room we made a mixtape.
She used my thumb to press record.
“Touch me I’m sick,” she said. I touched her.
We were so young
we were uncensored.
I wore Doc Marten boots and flannel
and I never washed my hair.
She wore berets the color yellow
and little girl dresses like a dare.
We drank coffee in the evenings
that her mother made with sugar and cream.
We drank it down. I thought I loved her.
But it was just the caffeine.

How we were easy then.
Now we’re hard
from all the time
that we’ve done
looking hard
trying to find
something soft.

Back in the days when we were easy
I came and went and crawled back in
through windows left unlocked and open
behind drawn curtains made of linen.
Inside a lamp was always shining
her silhouette caught in its glow.
Outside the chimes rung where I waited
from wind that also kept me cold.
Her mother caught me in the morning
my naked body coverless.
I was there with her daughter
entwined together in the bed.
We woke up from all the yelling.
We covered up with only hands.
I went out through her bedroom window
rubbing my eyes before I ran.

How we were easy then.
Now we’re hard
from all the time
that we’ve done
looking hard
trying to find
something soft.

When we were children we were leaving
like runaways caught in a storm.
We took our trips on blotter paper
squares we barely could afford.
We saved our money for the weekend
lay with our backs against the floor
while waiting for it all to kick in.
Somehow we always needed more.
There was a bridge that we went under
where she and I tried to be lovers.
We made our names across the concrete.
We lay together under the weather.
She said she’d be my girl forever
just as soon as she could be her own.
We didn’t know any better.
I didn’t know how far she’d go.

How we were easy then.
Now we’re hard
from all the time
that we’ve done
looking hard
trying to find
something soft.
Track Name: Parenting
Parenting

There is a daughter of twelve years
a mother with dry tears no longer young
and there is a man in the corner
a husband and father
coming undone
smoking like a firing gun
blind as open eyes to the sun
smiling his mannequin smile
from the other side of the glass
that he’s hiding behind.

Daughter waits like a shadow
to wade in the shallow end of the room.
Mother loves her but wants her
to finish her homework.
She stays aloof
dealing the cards in her hand
holding her hand in her palm
there but not speaking a word
doubling down on her dime
cause she knows money talks.

And it’s a long way till a holiday.
Still her long face is always on.

Father notes from the corner
the distance between them
far wall to wall.
He shakes the drink in his right hand
stares at the amber waves in the glass
chimes of the ice ringing cold.
The lines around his eyes slowly fold.
He glows and his body grows old
too gone to mind
how the rest of the evening will go.

Daughter does her equations
reads through a chapter
looks up the words
in a thick dictionary
with bible-thin pages
easy to turn.
Twirling the curls of her hair
wondering why her father’s over there
when mother’s poker-faced in the chair
playing black jack all alone
like it was solitaire.

And it’s a long way till a holiday.
Still her long face is always on.
Track Name: Kicking
Kicking

She and I we’ve got red eyes
skin we scratch to watch it rise.
The sheets are marked with cigarette burns.
We lay there still inside and losing time.
I’m nodded off and to the side
wondering if I love her
or if I just love a good lie.
I can’t feel a thing but the blood inside.
It rings like a dinner bell.
If it burns like hell
it might as well.
What we do is we burn
like the fight of our tired eyes.
Untouched and high as a kite
without wind to fly
we all come down.
We all come down to the heavy sound
of our bodies in hard love
the end of our bad blood again.

There is writing on the wall
dirty laundry in a pile
records scattered around the bed
and a Pavement poster
curling over from its edge.
And I am thinking of a time
when we waited in a line
in the blistering sunshine
just to hear the band play
“Texas Never Whispers” again.
What we do is we burn
like the fight of our tired eyes.
Untouched and high as a kite
without wind to fly
we all come down.
We all come down to the heavy sound
of our bodies in hard love
the end of our bad blood
the end of what she was.
It was the end of what I was
the end of what I was
the end of what I was
again again.