I <3 Vampire Songs

I love a good song about vampires. Note I said ‘good’. Things like Dracula, Cha Cha by Bruno Martino are good as novelty songs, but really, I’m all about the heartfelt odes to bloodsuckers of the night.

Back in the day, I was a huge fan of Jon English. He sang songs about murder (Hollywood Seven) and gift-giving for the impoverished and in love (Six Ribbons) – and this lovely song about Carmilla, presumably named for the character in the 1872 novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Carmilla predates Dracula by a quarter of a century and is a whole lot more lesbian than Stoker’s book.

(The aspect ratio is out on this video, but the other version I found was out of synch. Sigh.)

Next: okay, it may be obvious, but Sting’s Moon Over Bourbon Street is great. Moody, stylish and full of longing.

Anyone who knows me also knows what a big fan I am of Fall Out Boy. They play with horror imagery all the time, especially in the clips related to their new album, Save Rock and Roll. That album contains Alone Together, with its giveaway lyrics of “we could stay young forever’ and “I’m outside your door, invite me in”. The video is the fourth of the proposed 11, one for each song on the album. The videos viewed together, in order, tell a story. A very worrying story. Possibly of a band that ate a bad prawn before coming up with the idea. (Well, I say that, but I still love the wild excesses of each of the clips. Maybe I just have a thing for Captain Hook!Crazy-Eyes!Patrick Stump.)

But first there was the video for A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me’. (Note that it starts with a lot of screaming, so you might want to have the audio down if you’re at work.)

What are your favourite vampire songs! Gimme linkage, people!

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

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Songs: Bury My Heart by Narrelle M Harris and Jess Harris

Alex sings only the chorus of this song in Chapter Six, which he wrote some years before for his boyfriend, Kurt. Here’s the song in full.

 

I’m running untethered
Across the planet’s skin
Fighting to keep all the
Demons in
My friends at my back
My love by my side
I’ll fight the good fight
Till the devils or I
Have died

My voice is my armour,
Blade and shield
These words, these tones
Are a weapon I wield
They herald our war
Lament what we’ve lost
And they give comfort
When we count
The cost

And we have no home
But the places we stay
Anchored awhile
And we sleep where we may
Our burdens are heavy
And the light is grey
So when the end comes
my home
Is wherever
you bury my heart.
wherever
you bury my heart.

Know that while it beats, this vital organ,
Every breath that inhales oxygen,
And blood I shed, it’s all for you
Bury my heart when I’m dead and done
My soul is yours and it lives on
It lives on

And we have no home
But the places we stay
Anchored awhile
And we sleep where we may
Our burdens are heavy
And the light is grey
When the end comes my home
Is wherever you bury my heart.
wherever you bury my heart.

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Songs: Rain Song by Narrelle M Harris and Jess Harris

Only part of Rain Song is played by Steve in Chapter Four, so here is the whole thing: lyrics by Narrelle M Harris, music by Jess Harris. I’m thinking about submitting this song to Welcome to Night Vale for the podcast’s Weather report, when they start taking music submissions again. It is, after all, about the weather.

Listen to the ocean
Surrender water to the sky
Listen to the streams
Soak the clay and earth nearby
The lullabies of lakes
Evaporating droplets with a sigh
All these drips and beads and mists
Spinning invisibly by

Rain come down
Rain come down

Rain come down
Crash and pour and lash
Remember what you were
And fall

Rain come down
Rain come down
Wash the city streets
And wash the squares and towers
Endless showers
Wash the world free

Rain come down
Rain come down

Rain come down

Then go back to your seas
And river beds and banks and quays
Waiting for the cycle to repeat
Flow and ripple and fall again.

Here is Jess singing it live:

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse – Chapter 3; Part 1

by Narrelle M Harris

Chapter One: Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3
Chapter Two: Pt 1| Pt 2

Despite its desperately humble origins, the evening meal was well received. At least, nobody actively complained and nobody was sick later. With Yuka’s history of sourcing meals, this was considered a terrific success.

After the meal, Yuka laid her damaged sticks on the table. “I need new ones,” she said.

Sal brushed a finger over the abrasions on the tips and gave her a questioning look.

Yuka shrugged. “Last century’s dead under the market were waking. Something older too, annoyed at the disturbance. I sent them all back to sleep.” At Sal’s raised eyebrow, Yuka scowled. “If I thought it was serious, I would have got you. It’s not a problem. I just need more sticks.”

Sal frowned, but before he could disagree with Yuka, Steve leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head, and drawled. “Sure thing, Yuka.” He nodded at Sal. “You know what those old burial places are like. Folks shift a few bones, build a car park or a shopping centre right over the rest and think that’s it. They don’t hear the dead turning in their graves.”

“It’s not funny,” said Sal darkly.

“Naw, ain’t funny,” Steve agreed, “Ain’t nothing too serious either. Some bones are just bones remembering flesh for a space. No evil in it. Just hush ‘em down, like Yuka said, and it’s fine. You know it, Sal. You’re just on edge. Let it be.”

Sal closed his eyes. “I can’t be the only one on edge, Steve. How can you…?” His throat closed up before he could finish the accusation.

Steve leaned forward, dropping his hand over Sal’s fingers, splayed on the tabletop. “I’ve been with this band since before Alex and Kurt. I’ve seen people I love die. I’ve seen ‘em be eaten by the dark, and by monsters, and you know I’m not being merely poetical when I say that. But I keep going because if I give up, I watched people I love die for nothing.”

Sal’s chest rose and fell in a shuddering sigh, and he nodded. “I know,” he said, “I’m trying.”

“I know you are. Just… try to breathe. The world’s full of restless things, but it don’t mean they’re all trying to eat us. Let’s just get our heads around the new gig, sort out our rehearsal schedule. Tomorrow, we’ll get Yuka’s sticks and we’ll start looking for new talent.”

Not replacement talent. Never replacements.  Whoever they found to join them – if anyone – it would change the band and make them something new. That was how this worked, whether they liked it or not.

After the meal, Steve drafted a potential set list and a rehearsal schedule.

Laszlo sat, cradling the violin Steve had handed to him that afternoon, listening to Steve, Sal and Yuka play and sing through the set selection. He’d spent hours polishing and tuning the instrument, and played a few notes on it, wondering what he’d done to be worthy of it.

It was old, the ‘fiddle’ that Steve had retrieved from the trunk. Very old, with an elaborate carving on its back, of birds and vines. Whoever had made it – and it wasn’t a Micheli or Amati or any of the other early known luthiers – had been a genius with both wood and music. The violin was beautifully balanced and modulated. Laszlo had been lucky enough to hold and play a Stradivarius in his time, an exquisite instrument. This old, faded, battered, beautiful thing was ten times the instrument that Stradivarius had been.

Well, for a start, it was unlikely the Stradivarius had ever been used to sing the walls down on a nest of killers; to make harmonies while the band, fighting for their lives, sang up the roots of trees, and sang down branches, and taught the plants themselves to stake vampires.

Laszlo ran his finger gently over the fretboard, and wondered if the violin knew it had been used to help kill Alex Torni and Kurt Stefan: two men who had loved each other as fiercely as they had loved their now orphaned daughter; as much as they had loved their mission and their band. Their not-famous yet somehow infamous band.

The others paused in their singing and Laszlo paused in his caressing of the strings. “What did that man Malone mean,” he asked into the hush, “About what they say about you?”

Sal’s hands rested on his guitar, glad for a moment’s respite from learning the lead part. He glanced at Yuka.

“A band like ours,” said Yuka, a little stiffly, like it was a lecture she’d only ever heard before, not given, “There is magic in the music, even when we are not singing spells. If you sing enough magic into the instrument, it will seep out no matter what you are doing.”  She nodded at the violin. “That instrument has almost four hundred years of music and spellwork in it. That is why it’s lasted so long, and why we needed it in Budapest.”

“No offence to your playing, Laszlo,” interrupted Steve, “But a six year old could’ve played that day and it would’ve helped.”

Laszlo believed it. He remembered too well the power of the song swelling out of the violin that day, and how he’d struggled to control it.

“So,” Yuka continued, “Our band has a reputation. When we play support, the tour always goes very well, no matter who the headline act is, or how bad they are. We play, and the audiences are always in a great mood, the gigs are always the best they’ve ever done, the most merchandise they’ve ever sold.  When our band plays, it’s a golden ticket for the band we support.”

“This is why we only play shows when we need the money,” Sal added, then dredged up a faint smile, like this was an old joke. “Even though we always need the money. Don’t want to help too many sucky bands make it big, eh?” Then the expression dissolved, because the person who used to tell that tired old joke was dead. He rubbed a hand over his face and then left it there, trying to hide his sadness. Laszlo wondered if he should say something – something comforting, or something to change the topic – but Sal scrubbed at his face again and then looked up.

“You know we have to send half of what we make for Gretel.”

Steve shifted his bass from his knee to the floor. “You don’t need to worry about Gretel. We’re going to look after her.”

“How? Where’s she going to end up? Your niece can’t babysit her forever, her birth mother disappeared the minute she handed Gretel over to Alex, and we can’t look after her. We can’t take her on the road with us. We couldn’t keep either of her dads alive, we certainly can’t keep a baby safe. I told them…”

“I said,” said Steve with sharp emphasis, “She’s gonna be fine. I got it under control.” He met Yuka’s glare. “And don’t you start with me, Yuka. We heard all you and Sal had to say about the irresponsibility of Kurt and Alex wanting kids way back then. It’s done. A hundred told you so’s don’t fix the problem.”

Yuka blinked slowly, her challenging glare not faltering. “Being right does not make me happy, Steve. At least Alex had the sense to leave her with Kelly before we had to go to Hungary. But I don’t see why Kelly can’t…”

“Kelly’s just fine,” said Steve, “She can take care of Gretel as long as we need…” He grit his teeth on the rest of the sentence. “Don’t fret it.”

Steve pulled the bass back onto his knee. “So given that, and given that we have six days to pull a show together, I suggest we get on with rehearsing these songs. Laszlo, you heard enough to start working out harmony lines yet? Sheet music’s right there on the table. Sal, you get to forgetting the rhythm part and get to remembering the lead part, that’ll be a whole lot more help here.”

A brittle silence followed, then Sal swallowed and started picking out the notes of the first song. He stopped again. Without looking up from the strings, he said: “I didn’t think they should have had Gretel. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to do what’s best for her.”

Steve released a hissing breath. “I know that, Sal. I know Yuka loves her too, even though she don’t say.”

Yuka narrowed her eyes at him, but didn’t deny it.

Slowly, Sal plucked out a simple melody on the strings. “She’s going to need protection,” he said.

“She’ll have it.”

“From us, I mean.”

Yuka scowled at Laszlo’s startled expression. “From those who would use her to get to us,” she explained impatiently.

The melody Sal was playing remained gentle but strong. Steve began to play a bass line through it.

“She’ll be protected,” said Steve.

“Will this have any effect from this far away?” Yuka asked, beginning a quiet beat anyway, her hands against the skin of the smallest drum, marking a sweet-sounding rhythm.

“It’s her song,” said Steve, “They wrote it for her, and we’ve been singing it to her since she was born. It’ll find her.”

Laszlo listened to them, and to the words that the three of them began to sing.

Heave a sigh, baby girl,
Don’t you cry, baby girl
Your daddies are guarding the door

He lifted the violin to his chin and raised the bow. The melody was simple, and he knew this old instrument was full of magic. It couldn’t hurt; and he was one of them now.

Laugh out loud, baby girl
Be strong and proud, baby girl
Keeping you safe is what your daddies are for

Laszlo drew the bow across the strings, adding a harmony. The song was uncomplicated, as lullabies should be, and sweet. It reminded him of his own long estranged children, and he poured his heart into the next two stanzas. He didn’t know if he had any music magic of his own, but the violin had enough for both of them.

Listen to me sing the whole lullaby, a capella.

Chapter Three Part Two

(Please feel free to post your responses to the story here: thoughts, speculation, whatever strikes you, good or bad.)

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

The Two Sisters/The Bonny Swans

Folk stories, music and magic have long been combined in storytelling. Kitty and Cadaver is the latest incarnation of a band that began in England in 1267, and who knows what previous versions of the band have done to perhaps be the origins of such stories! Here I share some of my favourite tales of music and magic.

One of my favourite folkloric tales involves sisters – two or three of them, depending on the version you read. One of the sisters is sweethearts with a lovely man (who is good or noble or rich, or all three, depending) and another of the sisters is in love with the same bloke. Jealousy or greed leads to one sister drowning the other so she can make off with the noble/wealthy/hot beau.

(There’s not a lot to say about the man in question here, except that he seems a bit faithless, but his side of the story doesn’t seem to get much of an airing.)

The drowned sister floats downstream and, in some versions of the story, is mistaken for a swan. In other versions, her body is washed ashore and decomposes until a minstrel finds the remains and fashions a harp (or some other instrument) (which, if you ask me, is terribly macabre and honestly, this minstrel chap is a bit of a creeper by the sound of it).

But lo, the creeper minstrel plays the harp and it magically sings its tragic story, so the evil sister (and the possibly faithless beau) don’t get away with it after all. It’s sort of a musical revenge tragedy. With swans!

An exhibit at the MONA gallery in Tasmania had a wonderful exploration of this idea, with two speakers in a darkened room each broadcasting the artist singing the song but from the two perspectives – the jealous sister and the drowned sister. It was haunting and beautiful.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Loreena McKennitt’s version, which is a crazy mashup of all the versions of the myth. So it starts with three sisters whose father is a farmer in the north country, and goes through the swan version and the harp version and ends up at a royal court. Continuity-schmontinuity! It combines traditional folk instruments, including McKennitt’s harp, as well as the electric guitar, so I love the sound of it too. It’s a wafty kind of film clip, but it does contain some astonishing hair-dos, so there’s that.

Does anyone else have a favourite version of this bit of folklore – as a story, in song form or as art?

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.

Rock Art

20130628-175243.jpgThe Kitty Project is as much about the ways in which art, music and storytelling combine as about the actual story. Sometimes I blog about music, art and storytelling in combination.

I always enjoy it when art forms collide. Seems they like it at stylist.co.uk, where a post in the Life section highlights art that has been inspired by songs by bands like Bon Iver, TV on the Radio and Bloc Party. see Indie Rock Meets Art

If you know of (or make) any art inspired by music, leave a link!

(Art credit: the piece here is by Toby Triumph, inspired by Iron & Wine’s The Trapeze Swinger)

Do you have any music/art/story combos to share?

New to Kitty and Cadaver? Find out about the project in About Kitty and Cadaver or start from chapter one at Read the Book.