lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: scooter boys

1997-05: jeff clark keeps 'em coming for amy ray, stomp and stammer:

what inspired 'scooter boys'?

"well, it's sort of a personal song that turned into a political song, you know. imperialism, and such we did a lot of stuff in the last couple of years on indigenous rights, in north america, and in mexico i think a lot of people in the us don't think about the fact that central and south america having similar situations with colonialism, etc. you may be a spanish-speaking south american person, but you could be someone who is a colonizer just as easily as, you know, in north america, we, the white people, are colonizers. so it's kind of like the same dynamics, almost down there. it's interesting to recognize the patterns, because it presents itself to you, i think, when you're becoming politicized you recognize what's driving them is greed. and money. and the power structure of corporations is what's driving them at this point. and so, i think in that song i was trying to say, look, i'm a person from a blue blood, i come from privilege, and i'm just as bad as the next person. i reap the benefits of what we've done to these people"

but you feel guilty about it?

"i don't feel guilty. i feel like it's a fact that i have a legacy of destruction in my bloodline, basically. but it doesn't mean that you have to continue it. i mean, we've benefited from it. we have all these resources at our fingertips, and we have wealth and shelter and food and everything you can imagine, and it's like, recognize that you're benefiting from something, but don't let it continue, i think is what i'm saying. i think the song is really attacking the idea of the raping of the land for resources. stealing from the best. we all think we're the wisest and the best, and that the corporations and the profits and all this stuff is progress, that it's the best way to go, but it's not, necessarily. there's a lot to be said for the things we leave behind, and the things that we don't understand anymore in our traditions."


1997-05-16: world cafe:

interviewer: "scooter boys seems to be about a lot of things. i don't, i don't know the image of scooter boys. what is, what is that about."

amy ray: "um, i don't have anything against scooter boys. but it's, it's an image of england to me. i mean scooter boys is like the epitome of england to me because i, you know, and in atlanta we have a lot of um scooter heads and i, i've, you know, it's like people i hang out with so it's not a, it's not like an image about specifically scooter boys, it's like a symbol of england to me. i was referring to the idea of england as an imperialist country. and argentina as a country that was colonized. i mean, i'm talking about colonization. and um you know scooter boys and argentinians, that's like, you know that's where we've come to. you know it's like um, and it's, and it's as much about myself, you know i'm talking about myself being of priviledge and, and sort of a blue blood compared to you know, any indigenous person. and you know it's like you get involved in your own self, you know self interest and problems and stuff and you don't, you forget sometimes and i think we've, we've been through a lot of things recently with honor the earth and i've been down to mexico a couple of times, down to chiapas with the zapatistas and it's, you know, it's like you, you get into your own problems and you forget about what's going on and then when you see what's going on you go 'wow', you know it puts you in perspective really quickly and i think that song, this song is basically kind of like about putting myself in perspective, and the world you know. that was, i just wanted it to be a reference because i just want you to think, you know i don't want you to, i can't explain it."


1997-05-31: hey kind friend, creative loafing:

according to amy, that first week or so in the studio is "always scary," until she and emily start working up the songs and planning arrangements. "but this time it was really - " amy pauses. "mine and emily's songs on this album are radically different." and although they had david leonard holding things together, they were basically doing it themselves. and in a lot of cases, doing it live. so, with nobody directing the give-and-take, it was up to emily and amy to voluntarily go places they wouldn't normally go.

"i said [to emily], 'i'm going to ask you to play a certain way and do a certain thing," amy recalls. "like in 'don't give that girl a gun,' i wanted her to play electric guitar in a way she wouldn't normally do, and she really ended up being more herself. it's inside her, and she knows how to do it, and so we would do a song like 'scooter boys,' and she wasn't even in the right tuning, she was just hooked up and messing around. i started playing the song, we learned it in 10 minutes and then we recorded it. that was it. we kept that take."


and what about amy's "scooter boys," with its unmistakable similarity to midnight oil's "beds are burning"? was that a mistake? "i was down in new orleans hanging out," amy explains, "and midnight oil was recording at kingsway with daniel lanois, and i had a long conversation with peter [garrett] about politics and stuff. when i finished writing "scooter boys," i was singing it like he would have sung it - not as a joke, but thinking of peter, because i love him, he's got such a distinctive voice." and they kept that take, too. they kept lyrics and songs that, as emily puts it, "teeter on the edge." they just went with it.


1997-09: no boundaries - indigos girls cut loose, acoustic guitar:

jpr: when you're recording with a lot of instruments and multitracking, how do you maintain a live feel?

ar: the majority of the song is done live. with "scooter boys," the whole song's live - no overdubs except for one guitar. and then a song like "caramia" was cut live, and then we went back in and fixed the guitar. you have to pay attention to [the live feel] the whole time so you don't lose it. part of it is being spontaneous when you're overdubbing - overdubbing inside the control room where the mic is picking up what's coming off the speakers, things that enhance a live feel to the tracks that you're putting down on top of everything. and then not getting so precious about every little thing really helps.

jpr: not worrying about mistakes?

ar: we worry about them, but we embrace them, too.


ar: "sometimes we come up with all these different tunings that sound good with each other, and then we forget what we've decided. like in 'scooter boys,' i don't know what tuning you were in..."

es: "e minor (e b e g b e)."

ar: "and i had the (low) e string dropped to d. our tunings don't match at all for that, there's discord notes all over the place. i had to listen to the tape to figure out what we were doing."

es: "there's even parts of that that i can't figure out what i did, 'cause it happened so spur-of-the-moment. i was in e-minor tuning because we were getting ready to work on a different song, and then amy started jamming on the song and andy (stochansky, from ani difranco's band) started playing the drums and sara was playing bass. so, i said, 'oh well, i don't have time to change my tuning, i'll just stick in this tuning and see what i can find.' "


1997-12: indigo girls - amy ray, curve:

sl - that song is my favorite on shaming. do you have a personal favorite?

ar - well, "scooter boys" was a really important moment for me. it was completely improv. i hadn't finished the song, emily didnt know it at all, andy stochansky [ani's drummer] was playing drum with us that day and had never heard it. we just started playing and all of a sudden we got into this groove. i said, "turn the tape recorder on" and we recorded it - that's the song you hear on the album. so there are sentimental reasons why that song is really close to me. i also love "everything in its own time" because it's so different. the writing reminds me of old emily, when we first met. its a certain kind of ballad - melodramatic, with hispanic-sounding chord changes. she used to write more like that in the old days, when we were first playing together.


2001-10-14: seven indigo songs inspire show, the atlanta journal-constitution:

"scooter boys" by amy ray, from "shaming of the sun" (1997): this is ray in political mode. specifically, it's an anti-colonialism song: "hey blueblood you're nothing new/ you see i come from privilege too/ a chapter in the book on the americas/ you're just another colonial terrorist." ray said the song was partly inspired by a conversation in new orleans with another socially and politically aware musician, midnight oil vocalist peter garrett.


2014-12-02: es.1996, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

in 1996, we started recording shaming of the sun and ended up working on it in nashville (woodland studios), atlanta (southern tracks), and austin (hit shack, arlyn studios). we were in a period of growth, change and experimentation. although we'd had great success and experience with scott litt and peter collins as producers, amy and i decided to co-produce shaming with david leonard who had engineered swamp ophelia. taking on the role of co-producers was indicative of our desire to stretch.

i wanted to play more electric guitar and then, as now, i wanted to break out of my natural instinct to write a ballad or a mid-tempo pop song. one of the many great things about working with amy is that she has an innate ability to rock, and i got to live my desire to play rock music through some of her songs. she continued in that rock vein on shaming with songs like "cut it out," which was blistering and raw, and "scooter boys," a fierce commentary on colonialism. i got to play electric guitar on both. even though "it's alright" is musically sunny in nature, i was writing about hatred in the world, and it was a song of self-empowerment ("i know i'm small in a way, but i know i'm strong"). i played slide electric guitar on the track to give it all the bite i could muster. when we played the song live, i used a hamer duotone guitar that switched back and forth from acoustic to electric. i could play the body of the song in acoustic mode and switch to electric mode for the slide solo; picked that trick up from michelle malone!

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