Das Defino: a song suite

by Ben Smith

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1.
04:17
2.
3.

about

In 1996, Das Defino’s notebook was found in a field I’ve never visited, behind a yellow farmhouse in rural central Virginia, by folks I’ve never met. I’ve never seen the notebook either, except for a xeroxed copy brought to me by a friend I never see anymore. Whatever I found interesting from that notebook, I scrawled into a notebook of my own nearly twenty years ago and then promptly lost the original.

Who was Das Defino? That’s a good question and not one I’m prepared to answer, even after spending a year writing and recording a suite of songs about him. The Das Defino I know is a phantom--made up of details from a transcription of a copied, junked, apparently rain-soaked, discarded notebook somewhere near Charlottesville, Virginia.

The contents of the notebook read like a diary. It was full of self-affirmations and childhood memories. It was an inventory of life-goals and a dream journal. It was definitely odd, but probably not any odder than what another personal notebook or journal might look and read like out of context. Some of it was like reading someone’s Google search history for a year.

Except this person’s name is Das Defino--a very musical name, one that is a lot of fun to say and sing. That sound worked its way into some equally discarded and unfinished musical ideas I’d been hoarding for the last few years, and a year later, I’ve got the Das Defino Song Suite--a story told in three songs.

I tried to put together a group of songs that would seamlessly lead into one another. I knew I wanted the project to have a grand sound, so I reached out to composer Joshua Stamper to arrange parts for string quartet. Josh is an amazing composer who’s worked with a number of great artists. His work is moving (and moving) and unpredictable. I knew he would write something special for this, and he did. Josh brought in musicians from the Dark Horse Orchestra of Philadelphia to play the parts. It was really something else to watch and listen to Michelle Bishop, Shelley Weiss, Petula Perdikis, and Daniel Delaney bring those parts to life.

I was fortunate to have the talents of Matt Magarahan and Tim Celfo again, on drums and bass. It’s a great reminder that your half-ideas can become something really special when you involve friends as talented and creative as those two.

The same goes for Joel Metzler who produced and mixed the music. Joel has likely spent more time with the music than I have, and so it seems, as it does with great producers and engineers, that this project is more ours than mine.

Philip Shaw Bova mastered the record from his studio in Ottawa, Canada. He’s worked on projects for Feist, The Stars, and Bahamas, and I was happy to have him apply the final polishing.

I hope you enjoy this collection. It’s available now at my Bandcamp site--and soon some of your other favorite listening spots.

credits

released 30 March 2015

All songs by Ben Smith, 2015

Ben Smith -- vox, piano, guitars
Matt Magarahan -- drums
Tim Celfo -- bass

String arrangement -- Joshua Stamper
Violins -- Michelle Bishop, Shelley Weiss,
Viola -- Petula Perdikis
Cello -- Daniel Delaney

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Ben Smith West Chester, Pennsylvania

West Chester, PA songwriter Ben Smith's songs sound good in both your front parlor and your back barroom---all Tin Pan Alley piano and a fading choirboy voice.

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Track Name: Das Defino
Das Defino
What really do we know?
(just what you left outside the house)

We read bout the choices
and all of the voices
you're not scared to death
you're scared alive

The nicotine's ransom
the anger is random
you're overwhelmed and under the gun

You dream of going
but Moscow is snowing
and the mirrored walls are closing in
closing in on you

You've been told
bout the Emperor's clothes
but you never seem to mind

You look for the truth
but you find that it bruises
like a kiss on the mouth
on the mouth

Das Defino
Where are you now?
Track Name: In Your Own Words
Write it down
every word
start with the nouns
and get to the verbs

and all your thoughts
they’re casting lots for us

don’t let fear keep you down
pick yourself up from the floor
trust your words
and let them out
don’t hold them anymore

you’re not out of sight
you’re just getting heard
you’re not out of your mind
you’re in your own words

walk out the door
into the street
the neighbors line up
they all want to see

for all their thoughts behind their walls
they're just like you

don’t let fear keep you down
pick yourself up from the floor (harmony)
trust your words
and let them out
don’t hold them anymore (harmony)

you’re not out of sight
you’re just getting heard
you’re not out of your mind
you’re in your own words
Track Name: Between Now and Never
Now that you're back
back for the summer
you can get what you want
you can quiet the rumors

(and like) the scene of a crime
it's covered in vines
Always the right sins
at the wrong time

Haven't you had enough,
enough of the ones who would love to see you fall?
You should just call their bluff
no time to be wasted on all those simple ones

It's a long time between now and never

If this is the end
then hurry the rapture
The voices will stop
and they'll get what they're after

(and like) the scene of the crime
it's covered in vines
Always the right sins
at the wrong time

Haven't you had enough,
enough of the ones who would love to see you fall?
You should just call their bluff
no time to be wasted on all those simple ones

It's a long time between now and never