Back with my next cover, this time I wandered over to Invented and settled in on Coffee And Cigarettes.
Check out the original recording by Jimmy Eat World:
Now check out the cover:
I gave Invented a quick spin through and there was no easy choice here, but I’ve always had a soft spot for for Coffee and Cigarettes and pretty instinctively knew what I wanted to try with it. As much as I love the studio recording of this track, I know it’s almost definitely not what I would have done if I was in the producer hot seat that day (Which was a Tuesday if I’m not mistaken. Z, can you confirm? I’m holding on Zoom).
For my version I went with a strong acoustic base because to me, the song itself really calls to that lone-soldier making their way across the country-vibe and generally that means you’re not carrying a wack ton of gear along for the ride. But, I had a clean guitar line already formulating in my head so I went ahead and decided to run with a full band cover. (Yeah, I’ll do an acoustic-only of this one, too , eventually).
That lead guitar is really what drives the entire song and is pretty Jimmy Eat World inspired. I know that seems like a silly thing to say but hopefully you get what I mean. It’s clean, melodic, mostly just pokes through in and around the vocal line instead of trying to take over the entire track until it’s given the space to really shine in the bridge.
The drumming is pretty minimal throughout, shuffling along with mainly snare and kick for the bulk of the song. I had half a mind to do just that but threw in a couple toms for good measure and to help drive it along. Even the bass here seemed to be best suited to just chug along with the rhythm of the acoustic, but I gave it a bit more spotlight in the final verse ahead of the last chorus.
That one little section is really the biggest change from the original song. I let the acoustic guitar sit on the F while the bass carries through playing the chorus rhythm. Oh, and in the verses I changed the rhythm slightly as well. In the original recording the band plays the same rhythm in the intro. In mine, in each verse I play the F for half the time, then move to the Dm and lay longer on the A# instead. It’s a small change but it makes a significant difference in how I’m able to perform the vocal melody.
The other major distinction, going back again to how I feel like this song really lends itself more to an acoustic-base than the electric-base the band went with on record, is the amount of vocal processing. You really hear it on the original record, it’s actually almost out of character entirely for the band (though they do dive in and out of these techniques throughout their albums). I, on the other hand, tend to favour a fair bit of vocal processing but on this one what you’re mainly hearing is 1 solo vocal with some light compression and reverb. Only in the chorus do I tuck in a little bit of backing vocals just to give it a bit more body and even those have pretty minimal effects, a single delay and touch of reverb.
I’d be curious to hear why that was the direction for this one; it’s more anthemic (anthemic? Is that a word?) which is definitely cool but lyrically it doesn’t fit the “anthem-rock” vibe at all.
I gotta say, I like the easy-going flow of my cover. But that original solo though… I didn’t get a chance to put one in, it wouldn’t make sense in mine, which is a pity.
Anyway, enough about all that – let’s talk lyrics!
Coffee & Cigarettes is a prime example of Jimmy Eat World’ s ability to craft a song that’s completely universal which is no easy featnby any means, in fact I’d argue while a lot of bands try to do this, few truly succeed. This is what sets bands like this and other heavy hitters (The Rolling Stones, Tragically Hip, come to mind) apart from the rest.
It’s a hard think for me to personally explain but I’ll do my best here. Coffee and Cigarettes starts by plopping you down into a real location, grounding you to it immediately. If you don’t know what a “townie” is, your country almost definitely has its own variation of the term, and for the sake of this one we’ll just describe it as a small-town kid. They’re people who aren’t necessarily given the greatest hand when they’re first finding their footing and figuring out who they want to be, normally because of some sort of systemic barrier in place which makes the more likely to stick with a blue-collar minimum wage job and often times, keeps them in that very same town they grew up in.
If you don’t know any better, you might go on your entire life this way without ever aspiring to leave and see what else is out there (nothing wrong with that), but, if you’re fortunate to be exposed to another type of life, another way of living, say by listening to Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits, you have probably felt this same drive to get out at some point in your life.
I’ve felt this way much of my own life and I remember it starting when I was really quite young. This urgency and desire has been a strong part of my own internal decision making, for better or for worse.
When I was 13 years old I started making calls to the local businesses in my towns to get myself a job, unbeknownst to me at the time that legally in Canada you’re supposed to be 14 for this to be in any way possible. Nonetheless, I got my first job while I was 13, starting officially on paper when I was 14 at my local Taco Bell. Among other prestigious businesses I applied to work at then? Pizza shops, paper routes.
I graduated high school at 17 years old, a little ahead of my peers due to a combination of taking courses over the summer (Canadian history), online (American history), and being forced into a more extreme semester course load when studying in Italy. It was very much my intention for much of my life to then find a school out of province for college or university (I didn’t care which), and even had gotten all the information I needed about how to take the SAT’s as a Canadian for required admission into schools in California.
You could say I was a bit of “go-getter” in my younger years.
Instead, sometime around January/February 2008 I found out that I’d been accepted to study music production and audio engineering at Metalworks Institute of Sound in Mississauga, Ontario, which is (in no traffic) only about 30-40 minutes drive from where I grew up and so, not exactly the escape from my hometown that I’d been longing for.
But I hadn’t been great about applying to anywhere else yet (again, I was a little a head of the game here, but not in all aspects) and I had in my mind that going to school for music made the most sense for me. Plus, Sum 41 had recorded All Killer No Filler, in part, at Metalworks, so it seemed a good fit for a kid like me.
Needless to say, I decided pretty much on the spot that I would stick it out in Ontario another year (the program at the time was 1-full year beginning in September, taking you right through summer until the following September, a little unconventional by Ontario college standards).
But I still felt like I absolutely needed to get out of the province for a bit. Things at home with my family were driving me a little nuts and I needed some space. Of course, I couldn’t outright say this to them because “parents just don’t understand”.
Instead I crafted a little fib, telling my folks some friends of mine and I were going away for a week to drive around to different campuses in Ontario for them to see universities, since they were all in the middle of making their own decisions about post-secondary education.
And I don’t think my parents necessarily believed a word of it but they allowed it, and instead a friend of mine let me use her credit card to book myself a plane ticket.
For a couple different reasons, instead of making my way to sunny California, I ended up in not-so-sunny Calgary, Alberta. I have family in the area and I hadn’t seen them in something like 10 years, and the friend that I convinced to join me along for the trip had a boyfriend in the city, too.
A long-distance relationship at 17, I couldn’t imagine, but it worked out well for me because now we had a free place to stay and that was critical to the trip happening at all.
Despite having worked a slew of random jobs while I was in high school, I wasn’t great about saving my money. A guitar amp was my first big purchase after working at Taco Bell for a few months, and then I needed other things too, like my Gibson Les Paul Special Custom that I track all these covers with.
You know how it is.
I never brought much with me when I travelled as a kid – just a CD player and a couple of my favourite albums. Yeah, we were still in Sony discman era at this point in my life – the first wave of iPods were pricey, man.
I tried cigarettes for the first time in high school, although, I’ll tell ya, the first time I ever considered trying them, or at least wondering what they’d be like? Sometime in 7th or 8th grade after we watched Stand By Me. Young me had a thing for young River Phoenix. Funny that. Was devastated when I found out about how he died.
I think I must have been 16 when I tried them for the first time. A bunch of my friends smoked and I never understood the appeal but I’ve often had the view on life that, “you only live once, so might as well smoke a cigarette”.
Anyway, I didn’t care for it and didn’t understand it and mostly stayed away from them. In Italy you can just buy them from vending machines which is insane, so I had one or two from there (after a friend bought a pack), but I can’t remember really getting into the habit until I was 19 or so. And it was a while still after that that I found myself really in the habit of them, usually chain-smoking while out at the bar.
Cigarettes were never allowed in my house and you had to be careful that you didn’t smell of ’em when you got home from a night out, so that helped keep me at bay but also made them that much more attractive the further I was from home.
But eventually I did grow fond of them when they didn’t make me feel like total shit, and pairing them with a coffee is always the best way to enjoy them.
This chorus brings me right back to that early sunrise or late sunset, sitting out on a parking lot curb doing just that – having coffee and smoking a cigarette.
I had a friend for a while that was a lot like me in that he always seemed to have somewhere in mind he had to get to, but he was much better at actually getting out there and seeing the places he wanted to see. Something he’d start to say after a couple years of this, no doubt feeling a little nostalgic for his home town after spending so long out of it, was, “I’ve seen a lot of places but I never gave myself time to explore my own backyard” and that sentiment is sort of what this verse reminds me of.
There are some things you just can’t find when you’re out exploring the world and a beautifully scenic lookout is never the same as when you’re sharing it with someone you love and care about.
That same friend would regularly say to me when he’d come back into town, “when we’re older and about to retire, we should just get a place and sit out on a porch overlooking the lake, sipping on some drinks”. Now, he’d continue to say this after I’d gotten sober which would always strike me as odd, seemingly lost in some strange fantasy I had no interest being a part of, but that’s a story for another blog and another day. The sentiment, though, again, very much along these same lines of what this song brings me to.
I’ve often found myself out travelling by myself and usually the one thing that I find myself saying is, “Wow, [name] sure would’ve loved to see this,” or, perhaps more honestly, “I wish I had someone who wanted to share this moment with me. Who saw me the same way I’m viewing this.”
Honestly I think that’s one of my greatest fears at this point in my life, to never “meet someone in a stare” and share a unique moment like the one described in this song. And I think we’ve all felt that way at some point.
Like I said, perfectly universal.
I just finished up a full band cover of “Call To Love” which’ll be up before ya know it.
In the meantime, feel free to check out my first stab at it that I tracked last year in Barrie, Ontario.