By Jacob Sprecher
A few years ago a good friend of mine gave me any extra copy of an old KXLU compilation. KXLU is a non-commercial radio station down in L.A., and this particular disc came out in 199, Volume 4 in a series of live, in-studio recordings. It features the likes of Beachwood Sparks, Jurassic 5 and Money Mark, to name a few. Most of it though is otherwise forgotten indie acts from whereabouts unknown.
There’s a song on that record called “Fish” by a terribly obscure Swiss band named Sportsguitar; probably one of the most absurd band names ever created. But this particular song moves me in a way I can’t really describe. It’s an irreverent piece of jangly, straight-ahead, mid-tempo pop; the structure is irregular, the melody is lazy, the tones are bone-dry—and it just couldn’t be any better. I tend to put it on when I feel particularly perplexed by my general state of being. With the windows down in the evening I’m able to zone out far beyond my given space by focusing on the simplicity of the lyrics…
“I was thinkin’, I wish, I was, a fish. But then I forgot. For it’s been, a long time since, I last saw the sea. So I went down, to the place by the sea. And it all came back to me. As I was standing there, wishing I was a fish, and I felt free. Like, I think, fish feel free. Swimming, in the sea.”
If that sounds banal, that’s kind of the point. It gives me this strange Shel Silverstein feeling that not many other things in the world are able to do. And given the band and song’s apparent obscurity, I often feel like I’m the only person in the universe hearing it.
But I’ve been thinking “Fish” a lot lately. I saw old Synthesis staffer Daniel Taylor driving past 6th and Main in his Miata one afternoon. He gave me a honk and a point and had this huge fucking grin on his face. That little red car couldn’t have looked anymore beat, and his Wisconsin hat was all faded and sun-bleached. He looked free. “Like, I think, fish feel free.” It’s not always an easy thing to find, that free feeling. I think that’s reason most of us drink and smoke and drug, or whatever. Music has that power, and it can be packed quite heavily in three-minute intervals during a 45-minute set. Baseball also has that power, at least for me. I can sit there and watch a game, be it in my living room or at the park, and just turn everything else around me off. Nothing is able to penetrate that three-hour shell. I kinda envy people that can muster that sense of peace and spiritual harmony within the contexts of organized religion. Even as a kid at Sunday school it didn’t make a lick of sense to me, and that hasn’t changed. But at least I’ve got something, and I’m not so sure that everyone does.
How else can you explain suicide? I often ruminate on the circumstances surrounding my friend Dusty, who took his own life a year ago September. When I think about a song like “Fish,” or the release I get from watching the ballgame, and compare it to the last stages of Dusty’s life, I can only surmise that he came to a point where he wasn’t able to find that thing. He wasn’t able to feel free. So, unfortunately for everyone else, he took the most drastic step possible in acquiring the freedom he so badly desired.
That’s some heavy shit. And when I think about all of that and how tragic and ugly things can get, it makes certain that I don’t take songs like “Fish” granted, nor watching the majesty of a Madison Bumgarner shutout on replay at 2:30 in the morning on a Thursday after the bar. “Yeah I was thinkin’, I was wishin’ I was a fish, but then I forgot.” Believe it.