Lonnie Walker’s “Feels Like Right” | Song of the Week | Indy Week
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Lonnie Walker’s “Feels Like Right” 

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click to enlarge Brian Corum, thinking a tune in the studio - COURTESY LONNIE WALKER
  • Courtesy Lonnie Walker
  • Brian Corum, thinking a tune in the studio

“Feels Like Right” leads Hear Here: The Triangle, a fantastic, proof-of-energy affair that gathers new tracks from 17 of the area’s best bands. You couldn’t ask for a better opener: Youthful and spry, concise but imaginative, this sounds like a Lonnie Walker less out to prove its wealth of ideas and more agreeable to simply bound within them. Using builds, collapses, restraint and release like turnkeys, every part of “Feels Like Right”—its hook, its romance, its scissoring guitar line, its perfectly timed percussion—sticks after, what?, one spin.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: How long has this song been floating around for Lonnie Walker?

BRIAN CORUM: We’ve played it for a little while live, and we stopped. We play it every once in a while live. It was written by Justin [Flythe, keyboardist] at first. I’m the primary writer, but this was a different song in that it was written at first by Justin. Then I came on top and reorganized it. It was co-written between me and Justin, and most songs aren’t that way. It’s usually me, and the band does the arrangements. It was written through that core melody [Hums it.] over and over again, and I took it and rearranged it a little bit to get the builds. It’s basically a song that’s all about builds.

Indeed, the song keeps building and releasing and building some more. How does that work structurally, and at what point did you decide that’s what it needed?

It rests on a C note, and it holds that. The lyrics start out lower and get more and more intense until it’s like a scream at the end. Before that, it didn’t have that one C chord held. It just kept going over and over again. I couldn’t find a lyric and melody to put over that, so that was my contribution—and the lyrics, of course. I wrote the chorus and lyrics. Through practicing it, it kind of came together like that. We decided we wanted to keep the drums sparse until the chorus came, and then the rhythm kicked in.

You mentioned that you have written most of the Lonnie Walker songs so far, but are there others in the works that are more collaborative?

Songs that I’ve written alone, they’re still written by me, but everybody else has definitely stepped up in playing a larger role than was played in the beginning when the band started and even some on the first album, These Times Old Times. It is a change. There is at least one other song that I can think of that we’re working out that wasn’t conceived by a melody that I had. It’s called “Come Down Off Sleeping.” When we record practices, we’ll go off on weird tangents. If I can pick out something… Justin had another keyboard line he was working on, and I just started out with that. It started out with all of us playing through and recording practice and writing on top of it.

That’s less practice and more writing, though, it seems. Is that a general strategy for Lonnie Walker—to get in a room and just play until you find something to write from?

We will sometimes if we have enough time to practice. A lot of members are slowly trickling here, to Raleigh. Raymond [Finn], the drummer, just now moved in, so it makes it a little easier to write and record our practices and play together than just getting together before shows and playing, which is what we have to do a lot. It’s kind of hard if you just want to focus on the set. It’s hard to write new material. I’ve got a lot in my head—at least songs that are mostly written. When I’m with the band, they may come out different, just through us jamming on them. There’s another song called “Earth Canals” that, just through recording it, we got the very end, which is something that wasn’t planned. It’s this long drawn-out thing that goes through different segments. That was conceived all during practice.

How many members of Lonnie Walker don’t live in Raleigh full time?

Just two members now. Justin floats now. He lives at his parents’ house, but he floats back in between. Justin, who plays keyboards, and Josh [Bridgers], who plays bass. Eric [Hill, guitarist] lives in Raleigh now, and so does Raymond. Three out of five are here now.

You started Lonnie Walker, so it seems like it might have been a struggle to cede some of the control. You know, it’s no longer only your baby.

Sometimes, it has been a struggle, but I try not to be like a control freak. If it’s a song that I wrote originally and it’s something I totally disagree with, I won’t let it happen. But you have to let other people put personalities in the songs, and ultimately it helps things out when that happens. A lot of times I’ll ask my friends, like musician friends, “Oh, what do you think about it?” I’ll get my friends to help me to determine if a part is sounding good. We’ll usually work on a song a little while before recording it anyway—at least we do now. To answer your question, yes and no. If it’s something I feel strongly enough about, yes. But also you gotta keep everybody involved.

This sounds like a love song. You seem to be hoping something lasts.

I don’t usually write very many love songs, and I feel like this one’s a change because it’s about love and infatuation. That part was a challenge to me that I wanted to address. I thought of different ways, lyrically, to approach that sound. A lot of songs, I think the topic of love can be too cliché. But that’s not cliché, I realized. It was a challenge at first, but that’s how it started.

Was it more of an exercise and challenge as a writer than an ode to someone?

Yeah. It’s not really about a specific person, for me. I just wanted to write a love song in a different way.

Since recording “Feels Like Right,” has this song changed live? And did it change between the stage and the studio?

We have changed it live a little bit now that we have recorded it. We do that sometimes. When you’re in a studio, there are so many ideas that arise that are good, and some that are bad. That intro that we recorded to the song was never an idea until me and Justin were zoning out making what sounds like Eastern-sounding music. I like to record everything in the studio—good or bad—and filter it out. The good you keep. There are happy mistakes. So we have changed it, the way that we play it now from the way it first began. The chorus is different, and the melody of it for me. Before, when I sang it, there were a lot more words in the chorus, and it was jumbled. It didn’t feel good lyrically. I rewrote the chorus in the studio.

You recorded “Feels Like Right” for Hear Here with BJ Burton in Raleigh at Flying Tiger Sound. That’s a nice room and a nice space to work. Did having that luxury and that freedom help you develop things like that intro?

Definitely. Working with BJ Burton is really great. You’ll find that most people on the compilation will say that. I haven’t heard anyone complain. He’s definitely doing bigger things. He helped mix some of the first album. It was produced by Chester [Gwazda], who produced Dan Deacon’s latest album and Future Islands and a bunch of Baltimore bands. He lived in New Jersey then, and it was hard to get him back down. It was all through e-mail communication. I met BJ, and he came and helped mix. That’s when our relationship started.

Lonnie Walker plays Local 506 Tuesday, Aug. 11, at Local 506, at 10 p.m. Motor Skills open, Future Islands headline and Steph Russ DJs. Admission is $5. Lonnie Walker plays Berkeley Café Friday, Aug. 14, at 10 p.m. Javelin opens and Future Islands headline. Tickets are $6.

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