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about

Russ wrote this song for Laura in 2010, just before they started dating. It began with just the jaunty piano line and a few verses, but quickly exploded into the longest, most lyrically-deep song he and I ever wrote together.

It's certainly no typical love song. It's highly structured nonsense punctuated by matter-of-fact declarations of helplessness in the face of an overpowering love.

Though the song isn't written in any particular classical form, it has a consistent rhyme scheme of ABACD EEE. And though Russ often wrote in free verse when writing poetry, when writing lyrics, he enjoyed the challenge of choosing a fixed form and extruding images through it.

The trochaic meter (LAU-ra WALKS on FEET like SPI-ders) lends a forward-leaning motion to the similes, almost as if the images are tripping over one another to get out. There's a baked-in urgency to this song that is relentless and undeniable.

The chorus' first lines shift with each return, altering their wording, but saying essentially the same thing: "Everything is true," "All of this is true," "Nothing isn't true," "This I know is true," "She's beautiful and true," and again, "Everything is true" - a delirious spiral, wending outwards and turning back in on itself.

The man was not above a rhyming dictionary, either. He would search and search for the right rhyme - one that was musical, unexpected, and fresh - and then he'd weave the image around it. It was a form of bibliomancy, staring at the long list of words until his subconscious surfaced through one and said, "Pick me!" It was a method of self-collaboration; a way to leave room for mystery.

Russ loved Lewis Carroll, particularly the poem "The Jabberwocky." He loved the semblance of meaning it had, and the way it captured what it must sound and feel like to hear but not understand English. He understood that nonsense often had more sense than sense - that it could be a gateway through conception to direct knowing.

We wrote this song in one day and spent two more days fine tuning it and mixing it. We both agreed this one *had* to be perfect. We were scheming together to win Laura's heart. It felt like a mission.

Looking back, the only thing that's really off about the song is the trumpet. It's just slightly out of tune. I was using my old middle school trumpet that hadn't been played in years, and the tuning valves were frozen shut. I did everything I could to try and loosen them, including giving it warm and cold baths, but they wouldn't budge. We'd both cringe a little when we heard it, but we knew that eventually we'd redo the song and replace it.

The buildup of the song was important - that each time a new verse/chorus pair would come around, some new instruments would come in, driving the song forward until eventually climaxing into this whirling opalescent space-borne chorus. He ended the song in a thick multi-part harmony that consciously aped The Beach Boys - one of his biggest influences.

In writing and performing the song, I felt an awesome responsibility to help him realize something truly commensurate with the way he felt. I had written many love songs in my time, and I knew how powerful a form of communication they can be. I mean, how many of you reading this have ever had someone write a love song for you - let alone one this good?

To witness a love like theirs so closely and when it was so fresh - it was profound. Early on, I talked a few times at length with Laura about just how amazing Russ was; about how happy I was to see him so happy with her. Of course, Russ had many friends and people who loved him. But when I talked to Laura about Russ, it felt like we were conspirators, or members of a secret club; like we were the only two people in the world who *really* understood just how special he was.

Russ and I eventually moved in together into a house in Lakewood. We thought we would spend all our free time writing music together. But that wasn't what happened.

When you live with a creative partner - or really any partner - it's easy to feel like you'll always have time *later.* Because you don't need to make special plans to meet up and make music, it becomes easy to never make those plans.

A few months after we moved in, we booked time at the Tri-C recording studio with Drew. We were going to redo "Laura" and make it even better. We were both excited to get back into making music, and to have nice instruments and microphones to record with.

But when it came time for Russ to lay down his vocal track, I realized he didn't have the song memorized. And though Russ was never the greatest at singing pitch-perfect, he was particularly off that day - probably because he was trying to read the lyrics scrawled onto this little torn piece of magazine - the only paper we could find in the studio.

I was angry. I had practiced and prepared for going into the studio. I was ready to come in and lay down my parts and do it quickly, because we didn't have much time. But Russ seemed distracted. And I didn't hide my frustration, which didn't make thing easier, either.

On the way home, we argued. It was the biggest fight we would ever have. We were screaming at one another at the top of our lungs. I was mad about the studio, and he was mad about me being a bad roommate. Which I was - I was terrible. He was particularly pissed about me getting stoned all the time and eating all of his ice cream sandwiches. If you knew Russ, you knew you didn't want to get between the man and his sweets.

I decided to move out. It was a big fuck you to Russ, who I stuck with the lease. He found someone to move in soon enough, but I know that stressed him out a lot.

What I didn't tell him though was that the proximity to him and Laura - well, there was a point where it stopped being magical and fresh and light. Not because of anything they did, but because seeing them so happy together became a constant reminder of how miserable and alone I felt. I spent most of my time in my room rolling spliff after spliff, watching Netflix until I passed out.

That was the beginning of a long, deep spiral into depression that lasted for years and years. I moved back down to Asheville again, washed dishes, and just coasted. I met some wonderful people my second time there, but the good times with them were overshadowed by my aimlessness, anxiety, and self-loathing. Making music by myself just wasn't the same after playing with Russ.

Eventually, I moved back. I got my old job back at the Diner, and I made up with Russ. I think he was really wary of me at first - there was something between us that broke that day on the way home from the studio. But we started hanging out again and making music. In some ways, our friendship became deeper and stronger than ever, even though that wound was still there.

I felt humbled that he forgave me. And his life was going so well. He had met Jordan, gotten back into writing poetry, and in general was just looking fit and fly as fuck.

But I couldn't take the stagnation, living with my mom yet again, washing dishes, going nowhere. I moved away to Eugene, Oregon in search of something - I thought maybe I'd teach English abroad in Korea since I didn't get into Teach for America. But I just ended up washing dishes out there, getting day-drunk and going to the movies by myself.

Crippled by anxiety and depression, and on the verge of suicide, I moved back home a broken man. I admitted for the first time in my life that I might need professional help - that this cloud wasn't going away on its own.

When I came back, I really wanted to see Russ. I emailed him and told him what was going on, and why I came back yet again. I felt like he was one person I could definitely count on to be there for me.

A couple days went by, and I didn't hear from him. Hurt and angry, I lashed out. I told him that if he couldn't make time for me, well, then fuck him, I never want to talk to him again.

And I left it at that. He never wrote me back. That was the last thing I ever said to Russ.

Years passed, and then...well...

You always think there's going to be time. I thought maybe when I got my head on straight, I could come back and apologize to Russ and we could be friends again. I knew it wasn't his fault. I was angry at other people and took it out on him. No, really, I just hated myself and thought if I could push everyone who cared about me out of my life, it would be that much easier to kill myself.

Russ knew me better than anyone. And I think he knew one some level there was something deeply wrong with me - and he knew that he couldn't help me.

I saw that Russ had rerecorded "Laura." I listened to it, and I was...underwhelmed. The newer version is a shadow of this one - it feels rote and lethargic where this one is incandescent and explosive. There's an immediacy to this version that borders on desperation. It yearns for something that was yet to be.

The other songs, though, are beautiful. Heartbreaking, even. That sadness, that thing that had been eating him his whole life blankets that album like a fog.

But the truth is, we were always better together. We were partners in the truest sense. We had the fire, and we brought it to everything we made.

But my depression made it impossible for me to see him - to see his pain. When I looked at Russ, I saw someone who went to Hell and came back riding a motorcycle with a six pack, Ray Bans, and a wicked farmer's tan. He had a beautiful wife, a stable of creative and tragically hip friends, and a family that just adored him. I really thought Russ had achieved escape velocity from who he used to be - something I wanted so badly for myself.

Like a lot of you, I'm sure, Russ's passing has made me reexamine my own life: where I am and where I'm going. But I won't try and spin some lesson or moral out of his death. It was pointless, cruel, and a waste.

There were so many more songs left in him. So many jokes, so many poems - so many hugs and kisses.

Those are the true lost years.

Date written: 11/15/10

lyrics

Laura walks on feet like spiders;
laughs like water;
smiles like tigers;
and when she talks to me
I grin like a fool.

Everything is true.
There's nothin' I can do;
exist by you.

Laura moves like pretty ocean;
shrugs like magic;
steel-like motions;
and when she walks with me,
I feel like a cloud.

All of this is true.
There's nothin' I can do;
think of you.

Laura...

Laura speaks in toothy whistles,
Roman candles,
honey thistles,
and when she looks at me
birds begin to sing.

Nothing isn't true.
There's nothing I can do;
sing for you.

Laura grooves like sparking wires,
kicking legs,
and candy fire,
and when she touches me,
rooms all start to spin.

This I know is true:
There's nothing I can do;
move with you.

Laura...

Laura looks like starry diamonds,
hula hoops,
and sandy islands,
and when she thinks of me,
galaxies align.

She's beautiful and true.
There's nothing I can do;
be with you.

Laura walks on feet like spiders;
laughs like water;
smiles like tigers;
and when she talks to me,
I grin like a fool.

Everything is true.
There's nothin' I can do;
exist by you.

Laura.

credits

from The Lost Years (ft. Russell Brill), released March 4, 2017
Russell Brill: Lyrics, Vocals, Keys
Mark Boyd: Backup Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Trumpet, Drums

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Bimini Road Asheville, North Carolina

Bimini Road is Mark Boyd, a reclusive Asheville-based musician who rarely ever plays out anymore.

Mark works for two music tech companies: Endangered Audio Research and Audulus.

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