GIFT OF THE MAD GUYS: THE BUMPERS ADD A CAROL TO THE HOLIDAY CATALOGUEBy Dave Wielenga
The Bumpers are good enough that the Christmas-season gig they’ll play at The Prospector this Saturday was lined up way back in October, but apparently not bad-ass enough that they had a place to play a Halloween show. They helped a buddy move furniture, instead. That was kind of a pisser.
But welcome to the season of miracles. From somewhere in the mixture of The Bumpers’ made and missed holiday opportunities—as well as pretty much the greatest favor dudes can do for one other at any time of year—has come forth the Newest Christmas Song on Earth … or at least in Long Beach, anyway.
And lo, they have called it “I Need My Baby By My Side (On Xmas Night).” And on the down lo, well, it has turned out pretty good. Give a listen.
“It worked out really cool,” says Casey Lombardo, whose bass-playing and backup singing combines with Thad Paulson’s drumming and Matt Guy’s lead vocals, songwriting and guitar-playing to form The Bumpers. “We’re always kind of geeking out on American powerpop bands like Superdrag and Fountains of Wayne, where there is a solid tunefulness—not rewriting the rules of the book, but melody and structure. That’s what we were thinking of at the time.” Part of the time, that is.
“Honestly, we were hoping to get some kind of Halloween booking,” Lombardo confessed. “But nothing ever worked out, and maybe that was part of impetus, too: screw you, Halloween!”
So, don’t be thinking The Bumpers’ carol is going to be about the Baby Jesus showing up to save the world, although it may just be a coincidence that they spell “Christmas” with an “X” in the title. “I Need My Baby By My Side (On Xmas Night)” is about a different kind of baby, and one who the opening lyrics reveal is shaping up as a no-show.
It was Christmas Eve /In the LBC / I was all alone /Where could you be?
You can almost hear the tear-jerking violins—almost, because there aren’t any, which is good because they probably would have been drowned out by rest of the instrumental tool chest The Bumpers emptied onto the tracks.
“It was kind of a lark,” says Lombardo. “I’m sort of a garage-band hobbyist, with a little recording software or whatever, but I’ve never attempted anything as ornate or elaborate as what we ended up with on this song.”
“I Need My Baby By My Side” was recorded in various garage around town, plus bells and xylophone were done in the music room of Hughes Middle School as kids filed in. It was mastered by Jeff Lewis, one of the principle engineers at The Compound recording studio in Signal Hill.
“We were learning on the fly, but every layer we put on top made the sound thicker and better. It gives the band a chance to be more flamboyant, over the top. By the end, after the chimes and the glockenspiel, we used a big key change to wrap things up.”
The Bumpers are calling Saturday’s show the Rock & Roll Yuletide Jubilee, and the bill will feature all Long Beach bands—the Young Dudes (with members of Limbeck), the Commotions and the Greater California Holiday Folk Choir.
“In the end, my thoughts on the holiday season are that I’m pretty lucky,” says Lombardo. “I’m hoping for a Happy 2011 … and that nothing too dangerous gets Wikileaked.”