I started playing guitar very soon after learning to play the drums, mainly because as a drummer, everyone comes to your house to play and will usually leave their equipment around for you to pick up from time to time. I started learning guitar this way, and very early would contribute guitar parts to Midget Farmers songs, Go-Steadys songs, and Car Vs. Driver songs. I never contributed guitar parts to hal al Shedad songs, but that was mainly because Ben and Ed were such amazing and unique musicians, any songs that I would bring them would have sounded like a completely different band. So I played guitar with various people during the hal days, eventually playing with Mathis Hunter, Justin McNeight, Marcus Lowe and Matt Mauldin in a short-lived band called Joyce, but then Matt Mauldin and I went on to form Chocolate Kiss, and the other three started The Good Friday Experiment.
At around 1996-1997, I started getting into obscure bands from the UK under the Slampt! and Guided Missile labels, like The Yummy Fur, Male Nurse, Lung Leg, Red Monkey, Milky Wimpshake, etc. To me they were so individualistic but also very unpretentious and humble about their music and presentation. Also, as they were coming from places like Newcastle and Glasgow, it was like they were coming from another world compared to my life in Atlanta. These bands wrote simple, catchy songs that existed completely out of the DIY Post-Punk world that I was immersed in at the time. Their artwork was also completely different, mostly hand-made and totally in the other direction from the high-concept graphic design of the current records that had been around. As bands and labels they were not into over-production or trying to be something that they weren't, and it really got me excited about playing in a stripped-down, simple band with your friends, which is essentially what Chocolate Kiss was. Even the name was trying to be unpretentious and a bit silly. Most people were pretty put off by it, but we weren't interested much in first impressions and more interested in tweaking people a little bit.
Jon Rothman started out as our first drummer, with myself on guitar, Bob Medina (who recently relocated from Denver) on guitar, and Matt Mauldin on vocals. We had no bass player, but at the time we did not know one, and that was also in line with our mission to just play with your friends and not worry about it. After two shows, we got Kip Thomas recently from Galanas Cerdd to play drums, and I believe at that point Jon moved away from Atlanta again. We wrote these 12 songs fairly quickly and recorded them at Chase Park Transductions in Athens by Andy Lemaster, who plays with Bright Eyes and is the leader of Now It's Overhead. I think he did a good job considering we didn't have a bass in the recording and our sound was made up entirely of two midrange-heavy guitars. I kind of regret not adding bass to the songs, but oh well. As a band, we were mostly interested in pure melody - no non-traditional time signatures or song structures, just simple catchy songs that were easy to play and didn't need too much practicing. I have always been influenced by Mark Robinson (Unrest, Air Miami, etc.) in my guitar playing, and there is a definite element of that in it, but we definitely do not sound like any of these bands, although many of the bands on Teenbeat are also an influence for Chocolate Kiss' aesthetic. I am very proud of the music I made with Chocolate Kiss, and even though I realize we were never a very popular or well-liked band in Atlanta, I know there were a few people out there that really understood and enjoyed what we were trying to do.
1. Horizon Sky - One of our best early songs. When we played our last show in 2002, we played this song first and last. The song was about situations might not being as bad as they originally might seem. I think of our songs (and especially the lyrics) a lot over the years, to me they had a zen quality to them.
2. Yellow Bear - I think the song was called Yellow Dancer at first, but we changed it to Yellow Bear to make it sound cooler. Matt has so many great lines in Chocolate Kiss songs, including on this one "To build a bridge I'm falling from".
3. Get On Down - This was an early song that we dropped soon after recording it, but I always liked it. The verse melody was awesome, and it was fun to do backups on the "Get on Down!" chorus.
4. Saturday Nite Party - Another classic. This might have been the second song we wrote. What was nice about CKiss was that Matt wrote lyrics about everyday life, and this one was simply about getting up for work in the morning. I love the lines "morning radio is not a substitute at all, for the moments of, tranquility found only, between the sheets and blankets".
5. Sunshine Slowdown - Another song about driving to work. At this time I was graduating college and starting my work life, so it was funny writing all these songs about everyday life like driving on the highway as the sun is rising.
6. Delayed Reaction - We played this song all the way through our band's history. I love Matt's high-pitched vocals. I also love the lines "You're wondering painful thoughts aloud" and "I've got a cleft in my fist". There was one show at MJQ when Bob was too drunk/high/messed up to play, and we played as a trio. This song came off best at that show.
7. Moment of Clarity - What is worth living for? What is worth dying for? Playing the break-down/quiet part of this song was a lot of fun.
8. Gathering of Children - Matt told me it was about describing a drawing his son made. I love the description given in the song, I always wanted to see the actual drawing. This song was quite a rocker live, and I remember playing it at the 99X Music Midtown festival to the mostly indifferent crowd.
9. Days A Wastin' - Our first song. I wrote the guitar part to be like a Male Nurse song, but of course it sounds nothing like them. One of my favorite CKiss lines of all time "I've got plans to act on impulse".
10. Pow - This was originally a Joyce song, with a James Brown-style breakdown, but it later became a Chocolate Kiss song and was probably more Unrest-style than any of our songs. The break when Matt keeps singing was great.
11. Saturday Nite Party 2 - We were so ridiculous in this band, we wrote a sequel to one of our own songs. And on the same album. It was about having a quiet night at home by yourself and falling asleep on the couch. This had the great line "Black dog he's all give-out, man it was a hot one today". I sing that line all the time during the summer months. We wanted to try something different, so we had Kip and Matt start the song without guitar, which I think they liked at first, but later hated and we dropped the song after a few shows. It was also the last song we wrote before recording, so it feels kind of unfinished. We should have re-arranged it and brought it back later, but we wrote another 3 albums worth of songs as a band over the years, so I guess we just moved on.
12. Slump - This was probably our most dramatic song dynamically and lyrically. It was amazing to play live, as that low-D chord really resonated. "As ugly as the last conversation ... as beautiful as the first kiss".