The Whole Bolivian Army
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C R E D I T S
MB, vocals, percussion; Matt Kite, guitar, vocals, keyboard, percussion; Jay Perry, bass; Dave Warburton, drums, percussion. Produced by Scott Ross and TWBA. Preproduction and arrangements by Claude Flowers and TWBA. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Scott Ross at Hanzsek Audio (Seattle, WA). Cover photo courtesy of Scott Ross. Music by TWBA. Lyrics by Matt Kite. © 1999 Gargantuan Records/TWUBBA Music (ASCAP).

T R A C K   L I S T
1. Too
2. Split Rail
3. Absolutely
4. Amnesty
5. Big Frank
6. Crack in the Tree
7. Party on the Prairie
8. Ah-Ah-Ah
9. Death of a Thief
10. A Thousand Miles Away
11. Wake Up
12. Indian John Hill

V I D E O
"Big Frank" live/unplugged at the Kite house (2011)
"Too" (Amnesty) live at the Kite house (2011)
"Party on the Prairie" live at Graceland (2000)
"Ah Ah Ah" live at Graceland (2000)
"Amnesty" live at Jamnesty (2011)

R E V I E W S
"TWBA mixes hypnotic guitar riffs, dynamic arrangements and Mary Beth Kite's versatile vocals into a musical Cuisinart that spits out some engaging rock 'n roll... Amnesty is a satisfying contemporary rock CD. The band has developed a cohesive sound that pays tribute to its influences without sounding particularly derivative. It's an album that I can put on without ever wanting to reach over and skip a track. Definitely a worthwhile album for those who like their rock with a little edge to it."
— Wayne Ellis, The Every Other Weekly, Feb. 10-23, 2000

"The noise of the Whole Bolivian Army isn't the ominous stomping of boots on dirt, Paul Newman and Robert Redford's sweat making wet splats in the dust as their fate approaches in a flurry of gunfire. This Whole Bolivian Army is from Seattle, not South of the Border, and dispatches a crisp-as-Wasa-bread power-pop sound, spread with a touch of honey and butter for added sweetness. 'Modern rock' -- that is, the left-of-center pop mode that predated "alternative" -- is a descriptor that springs immediately to mind. Mary Beth Kite's throaty, vibrato vocals slither over resonating guitar chimes, and elastic bass lines alternately recall the Sundays and 10,000 Maniacs."
— John Graham, Willamette Week, Jan. 7, 2000

"The key to any creative act, whether baking cakes, building model airplanes, or making music, is to improve with each endeavor. With Amnesty, The Whole Bolivian Army have succeeded in this, smoothing out many of the glitches that made 1998's Spinner an enjoyable but inconsistent record. Mary Beth Kite's clear, high voice, which grated on some of Spinner's tracks, sounds much more relaxed and confident. She still glides through mid-tempo songs such as 'Wake Up,' but she handles the faster songs much more capably. TWBA play guitar-based, melodic, modern pop music with brains. Their songs are all about something, rather than mouthing pleasant generalities; many of the lyrics on Amnesty seem to deal with people trapped in no-win situations. 'A Thousand Miles Away' is a simple, impossibly sad tale of a relationship splintered beyond hope of repair. 'Party on the Prairie' is hilarious, skewering any romantic notions of an idyllic life in the old American West. Featuring the most dysfunctional family since the Ramones' 'We're a Happy Family,' it'll prevent you from watching 'Little House on the Prairie' for weeks. As always, Matt Kite's sure-footed guitar work is the core of TWBA's instrumental sound. On several tracks here, he seems to hit a groove just as the song fades out. Still, that's a minor quibble. Amnesty shows a band hitting its stride."
— Robert Allen, The Iconoclast, Fall 1999

"Great big wonderful things do come in small packages — proves front woman Mary Beth Kite of The Whole Bolivian Army (TWBA). Unlike the soft, girly-like vocals saturating the airwaves these days, Mary Beth delivers something beyond an extraordinary ability, she delivers passion."
— Stacy Emerson, Tacoma Reporter, Nov. 18, 1999

"'Ah-Ah-Ah' is the greatest song I have ever heard. The whole album is pretty."
— KEXP's John Richards, Pandemonium Online, Oct. 26, 1999


S T U D I O   J O U R N A L


TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 1999

When Matt came to me with the lyrics (and the annoyingly addictive melody line) to "Party on the Prairie" (aka, "Buck Teeth"), I really thought he was kidding. I mean, I thought it was just his usual personal jab at me, making fun of the fact that YES, I do record Little House on the Prairie every single freakin' day and I watch it when I get home from work. The show, which Matt lovingly refers to as "Little Outhouse," is a childhood favorite, which can still give me a good, cleansing cry at the end of each day. Call it therapy, call it a little strange, call it really strange -- it's what I do. Anyway, as for the lyrics (and that annoyingly addictive melody line), I really thought he was just picking on me. I mean, he wasn't serious was he? I ask you, is it any wonder so many mistake us for brother and sister rather than husband and wife? Well, after about five days of hearing him sing the song around the house -- his favorite little trick for getting me to like something that initially made me laugh or cringe (this song made me do both)-I relented. "Okay fine! I will consider it. You have my permission to introduce the song to the band." End of story I thought. They're never gonna go for this. Think again.

So before I know it, we are back in the studio (weren't we just here?) and recording not only that song but also about 14 others. Truly, I lost count. After three days in the "cave," I am still trying desperately to remove the smell of Hanzsek from my nose hairs. I just canNOT seem to shake that smell! Even the food we brought home from the studio tastes like Hanzsek -- serious gag reflex. Aside from that, I think we all have good feelings about our current project. Dave is back and with that, the band has regained some (if not more) of that ol' chemistry that seemed at one point forever lost. Mmmmmm… chemistry. Mmmmmm… Dave. So basics are down and most of the guitar.

The only disappointing part of the weekend for me was that I was only able to lay down 4 vocal tracks. I am used to working much faster than that but have decided that I will take a little more time this project and not feel as rushed. I want to give the vocals everything they deserve this time around. BUT, being my anal-retentive, obsessive/compulsive self, I now feel behind… but I have company. Jay wasn't able to lay as many tracks as he would have liked either, so at least I'm not alone. When I took off Sunday evening around 9:30pm, he was still in the control room hashing through bass lines, a song at a time. He looked pretty beat, and I felt really sad for him. That night, I had a dream that he was sitting on my front porch, just looking all forlorn and saying that he'd wished he was able to get more done at the studio this weekend. I plunked down beside him and said, "meeeee tooooooo!!" I'm a whiner, even in my dreams!

The dream ended there, but we still have two more weekends ahead in the studio. More vocal tracks, more background vocals, more bass, a little more guitar, some piano, tambourine, percussion, more mildew smell… the list is miles long. And ultimately we will have to decide to axe a few of our ideas in the absence of endless funds. It always comes down to that, doesn't it? The money. Cashola, mula... Never enough of the stuff, and what we have goes fast, so whadayudo? Punt. Excuse me a moment -- I have to go scrub my nose hairs for the SEVENTEETH TIME!!

- Mary Beth


MONDAY, JUNE 28, 1999

The first thing you need to know about Hanzsek Audio is that it stinks. It's perhaps Seattle's best bargain of a studio, and it comes complete with the town's most efficient engineer, Mr. Scott Ross. But it stinks. Kind of like that old pair of gym shorts in the corner of the locker room that's been there since the beginning of the school year -- it has the power to ward off vampires, evil gym instructors, even. But mustiness becomes Hanzsek, which, from the outside looks more like a bunker or a bomb shelter than a recording studio. There are no windows -- save for one in the office (blinds closed) and one in the bathroom that gazes lovingly at an auto repair shop. You're in Ballard, a block away from the bridge. But you could be in Blaine. Or Belgrade. So when you step outside for a breath of fresh air after spending eight or nine hours fiddling with knobs and kicking your amp 'cause it sucks, you can't help but squint. You feel like you've just emerged from the cave for the first time, wondering where you put your club. "Ugh."

The Whole Bolivian Army has recorded its last two albums at Hanzsek. And now we're back for another go around, working on No. 3. Despite the stink, despite the florescent bathroom light that has strobed on and off (mostly off) since we recorded a demo there in 1997, we're back. We want to get it right. Even if that's an impossible quest.

When Dave left Saturday after recording his drum tracks, he handed me a little wadded up piece of paper. It was his click track sheet -- a list of the songs and the meters we had worked out for each during pre-production. It was also physical evidence. Proof of a little studio irony. You have to prepare. You have to plan. And then you have to be willing to chuck everything. Tempos, guitar sounds, melody lines -- everything has the potential to go sour once you're under the microscope that is the studio. You spend years learning to play live, learning the laws of physics, and then the studio turns everything upside down.

By now, the band has a pretty solid working relationship with Scott in the studio. We know what works, what doesn't. We know where to spend our energy and what's worth serious discussion. But we've thrown a little wrench into our idyllic world: Claude Flowers. Claude is a music writer whose review of our last album impressed us. "He gets us," Dave said after reading Claude's review of Spinner. So we invited him a couple months ago to practice, where he listened to our songs and threw out ideas. We used some suggestions. Shook off others. The studio, though, has proved a more challenging testing ground. We've invited Claude into our private, intense world, where a shrinking budget and time constraints are the least of the pressures we feel. And the experience has been illuminating. While Claude has been a veritable fountain of ideas (this journal being one of them), what I've found is that this band already knows exactly what it wants. And we're even learning how to get it, though, in my case, it sometimes takes a Marshall in the face.

On Saturday, after 45 agonizing minutes of trying to get a fat distortion sound from my little Fender Deluxe amp, I ceded to Scott's long-held battle cry: "Let's go get the Marshall." We hopped in my little Toyota, drove the 20 blocks to Fremont's Louder Music, rented a Marshall half stack, shoved the head into the trunk and the cabinet into the back seat, and returned to Hanzsek with the beefiest tonemaker known to humankind. The Marshall had no volume control, just tone. But Martin Klem, a friend of Jay's and an engineer in his own right, braved the main room to check the cabinet's sound. He returned with some impressive information. "It's so loud it's wiggling the guitar cable," he said. "It's trying to push sound through the jack."

- Matt


TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1999

Ahhh, Hanszek Audio. Much has been written in these pages about the concrete bunker with the stench that requires the Holy Romanum Ritual from a team of priests (with medical personnel on standby) to remove from your clothes and hair, so I'll leave that one out.

It was a great recording session for me back in late June, quite smooth and relaxing, mostly stress-free and yet with a festive air to it, with all the guests. Thanks for coming goes out to my honey De Ann (who documented it for me on camcorder), Martin the L.A. engineer, Gabriel the all around cool young fellow, and Claude, who pointed me in the right direction of unabashed cymbal bashing on the "Ah Ah Ah" song. I missed a lot of the Kiters and Mr. Perry's tracking sessions due to my meteoric rise from the slums of the Lower Magnolia/Burlington Northern Railways District to a dead psychiatrist's office in the U-District. In short, I moved.

I was able to come down on July 23rd, my (oh dear) 33rd birthday, to drink beer all day, offer ridiculous drummer advice on new guitar parts to "Wake Up", and play dual guitar w/Matt on his Les Paul with a drumstick, the guitar body resting on a stool, and Mr. Phat himself lying down on the floor underneath, manipulating the neck with his supple fingers. That's a recording session for the books. Brings new meaning to the title of "rhythm guitarist." Why was I there on my birthday? Because it was a Friday, I was out of work, and I have few out-of-work friends. They were all at the studio.

Mixdown was this past weekend, Aug 6, 7, 8. I tried my hardest to avoid the studio completely and let the songwriter and the engineer mix the record, but I finally broke down and accepted an invitation for a photo shoot/band meeting on Sunday. And while there I tried my hardest not to argue for "more drums! more cymbals!" but I failed miserably. So if some of the drums are up too high in the mix for listeners, that would be my fault. Overall, the record sounds fine, and screw the mix anyway -- the SONGS are the only truly important thing on any record. These songs are to my ears the best we've ever done, and among the best Matt and MB have ever written, which was why I jumped at the chance to rejoin the band last spring. Happy listening to our fans when it comes out -- I think you're going to really dig this one.

- Dave


TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1999

I don't listen to radio much. And my CD collection is pretty small. When I was in college, I would hit the record store about once every month or so, picking up the latest Smiths album or the new Peter Murphy. I think that was the last time I bought anything that could be considered "hip." (Some might argue that Peter's still wicked cool.)

Regardless, I've been in a cave since.

We emerged from Hanzsek Audio last Sunday night. Ears fried. Concentration burned up. Opened the door to an especially muggy Ballard night.

All weekend, we watched Scott Ross hunched over the mixing board, making the songs sound better than when I had first dreamed them up in my head. I swelled with pride. "That sounds fat," I said. "Fat with a PH."

But as soon as I left, the doubts began to emerge.

It's the same after every album: will anybody care? More importantly, do we suck? Do we play cheese?

The crisis came to a head this morning when I was surfing the FM dial while running errands in my car. I listened to about six or seven songs. And I didn't get it. I thought some of it was OK. But mostly I didn't get it. It left me feeling empty. And I was surprised how much technology has invaded rock music. Even Cheryl Crow, someone shamelessly wed to the 70's and this decade's nifty retro refit, loads her songs with drum loops, samples, stuff I can't comprehend.

I started to feel old. And extremely uncool.

And then I remembered: I've ALWAYS been uncool. Whew! What a load off my mind. When everybody was listening to the Boss, I was cranking Iron Maiden. When everyone graduated to Depeche Mode and started wearing trench coats and bringing their skateboards to school ("skateboards are for little kids," I thought), I went back to AC/DC. When rock took a nasty, glamorous turn, I rotated to Devo. (What the heck!) Even when I went through "hip" music phases, I was always a few months (or years) late discovering what the rest of the music world had already digested. I didn't latch on to U2 until they released the "War" album, long after my savvy friends said they weren't cool anymore. I dug Kate Bush when a girl introduced me to her while I was a freshman in college. "The Hounds of Love" album. Still one of the best. But long after Kate's core fans had discovered her.

I still listen to U2. I still think "War" is one of the most passionate albums ever written (next to "Unforgettable Fire"). And I just listened to Ms. Bush the other day. I dig "The Morning Fog."

To me it's all about the way the music makes me feel, and that's where I'm stuck.

The Whole Bolivian Army started playing live when grunge was reaching its zenith in Seattle. What a horrible time to be a pop band. We were just trying to write songs we could still care about in 10 years. But we lacked flannel. Then came alternative and then ska and then electronica and then swing. And what now? I guess we're back to RAWK for the moment.

TWBA has never been cool. Never been cutting edge. Never been the flavor of the month. Never known the trends, much less followed them. Hopelessly isolated in our own little world of what moves us.

Heck, I still think Sabbath's "The Mob Rules" rocks utterly beyond belief. And when I hear "Bad" by U2, I still get that longing in the pit of my stomach -- a feeling somewhere between nostalgia and déjà vu. A feeling that everything that ever happened in my life led me to this moment right HERE, and nothing has ever been or ever will be this important again. And everything just keeps unfolding into the same limitless horizon I felt when I was 16.

I never want to lose that feeling.

- Matt

Too

too unkempt for myself
for my way
to the broken glass in my room
in my way

you won't find me
you won't find me
you won't find me anywhere

I wash the mud away
the mud, the mud away
I wash the mud away
the mud, the mud away

too much muddle for me
for my head
too much trouble to repeat
what I said

you can't hold me
you can't hold me
you can't hold me anymore

I wash the mud away
the mud, the mud away
I tried to get clean
to clean the things I've seen

I tried to make it straight
I tried to make it right
to take the gray
and turn it black and white

to the spoken word
I lost my past, I lost the truth
too much wasted breath
to break the cast holding you

I can't see you
I can't see you
I can't see you anywhere...


Split Rail

snow underneath studded tires
it follows me as the road goes higher
I've never been in -- I've never seen a white out before

headlights plow a line of sight
they show me how to pray tonight
I found out
I found God
I found everything buried in white

summer's long gone
suddenly
I can't feel the road I'm on
suddenly

horizon fades, shrinking silhouettes
the split rail thins around the furrowed fields
I tunnel inside the frozen cloud
I watch the flakes swirl on the windshield

headlights plow a line of sight
they show me how to pray tonight
I found out
I found God
I found everything buried in white

summer's long gone
suddenly
I can't feel the road I'm on
suddenly
I take my foot off the brake
suddenly
I know I can stay awake
suddenly


Absolutely

I'm from L.A
I love the rain
I love the way the farmers walk

I'm from New York
I love that town
I love the way the cowboys talk

I know you know
you know me
absolutely, you can see me
I'm not from here
I'm not me
I crashed this party
and now I flee thee

I'm from the south
way up south
I broke my arm in North Dakota

I'm headed west
to the rising sun
I bought the farm in East Virginia

I know you know
you know me
absolutely, you can see me
I'm not from here
I'm not me
I crashed this party
and now I flee thee

I'll keep the light on
I'll keep the fight up
I see the way you look at me
you've got your guard down
I'll keep my pants on
despite the way you think of me

I'm from the country
in front of me
you can still see where I was buried

I'm from the city
wild, open city
you can see the stars like crazy

I know you know
you know me
absolutely, you can see me
I'm not from here
I'm not me
I crashed this party
and now I flee thee


Amnesty

at night when I lie awake
I feel your heart beat to survive
you're a thousand miles away
and I pray you're still alive
I sent you a letter
but they wouldn't let you read it
and I sent food for you
but they wouldn't let you eat it

love, my leader, it's strange
I saw you with her, and I changed

you swore by your God
that the truth would not burn
you held your head up high
as the verdict was returned
you can't chew your food anymore
or walk in a straight line
but you stood up for us all
as we waited for a sign

love, my leader, it's strange
I saw you with her, and I changed
I led them to you, you see
I hoped they'd break you, then me

you never thought about your family
or what this might do to us
the boys, they try not to hate you
but they've learned to tell lies and to cuss
We wait for you...

at night when I lie awake
I try to imagine your cell
I sleep on the cold hardwood
and dream about your hell
I wonder if you know
I'm the one who turned you in
I never thought they'd take you
now I know my sin

love, my leader, it's strange
I saw you with her, and I changed
I led them to you, you see
I hoped they'd break you, then me


Big Frank

you need what I don't have
you want what I can't give
you see what I don't say
and I don't know...

if I can change all you can take
if I can bend but not break
(two rivers run inside of me
I dam the one that swallows me)

I don't want to cut you down
I don't want to break us down
I don't want to make you cry
you don't want to wonder why
we don't want to tear this down

'cause we can't change your secret sin
but we can bend in the wind
you can change
your secret's safe
you can bend... you can bend
(two rivers run inside of me
I dam the one that swallows me)


Crack in the Tree

I threw
I threw my love away
I threw
I threw the letter away
I feel
I am
I feel like a fool

I wish I had a second chance
I would not run away
I wish I had a second chance
I would not run away

the tree
I stare at the crack in the tree
look at me
there's no one left but me
I feel
I am
I feel like a fool

I wish I had a second chance
I would not run away
I wish I had a second chance
I would not run away


Party on the Prairie

here comes Laura down the hillside
she's got hornets in her bonnet
she's screaming through the gap in her teeth
buck teeth

here come five desperate people
they throw parties with no laughter
and someone's really angry with you
what's new?

soon we'll be away from here
we'll run so far away from here

I think Mary's got the fever
I think Charlie's got the cancer
thank God for the leaches we found
we're cured

there's a fire in the barnyard
there's a fire in their hearts
thank God they help us live out our lives
we're spared

soon we'll be away from here
we'll run so far away from here

here comes Laura down the hillside
she's got hornets in her bonnet
she's screaming through the gap in her teeth
buck teeth

here come five lonely people
they throw parties for each other
they're coping with their problems again
again...


Ah-Ah-Ah

I wanted to be you
I wanted to feel what if feels like to be you
I wanted to beat you
I wanted the world to watch me while I beat you

ah-ah-ah...

(Thomas) Mann would have loved you
with your blue eyes and your blonde hair
he would have loved you

ah-ah-ah...

ooh -- I love you
ooh -- you love you

I wanted to meet you
I wanted to see what you see
but I already know you
there's nothing inside you
it's all on the outside and that's fine
I guess I love you

ah-ah-ah...


Death of a Thief

let me feel this on my knees
I've always hated what's good for me

all my life now
I've run from you and my own fate
so I'm shaking now
you've come to steal the life I made

do you feel the man?
can you see who I am?

let me see her one last time
I've always loved her
she was good to me

I dreamed I saw you here
but you were the one in chains -- not me
and Allah spoke to me
he told me I should set you free

do you feel the man?
can you see who I am?
will you feel any pain?
can you ever be the same?


A Thousand Miles Away

the truth -- it's simple
it's sitting in front of me
just sitting in front of me

won't you be true to us?
and say goodbye to me?
just say goodbye to me

you won't be happy
'til you're a thousand miles away
a thousand miles away

what am I to do?
what am I to do with you?


Wake Up

sweet morning kiss
on my breath
on my lips
falling hard
falling fast
on my life
to the last

sweet morning rays
on my skin
on my face
trusting you
trusting me
in my heart
I am free

wake up
wake up, boy
I saw you dreaming
I heard you speaking
something's haunting you
I felt you crying
I held you screaming

sweet morning kiss
on my breath
on my lips
falling hard
falling fast
on my life
to the last

wake up
wake up, boy
I saw you dreaming
I heard you speaking
something's haunting you
I felt you crying
I held you screaming

something's wrong
but I don't know what
If you don't talk to me
we'll never sleep

sweet morning lost
in the scream
in the cost
shaking you
shaking you
in the dark
please come to

wake up
wake up, love
I saw you dreaming
I heard you speaking
something's haunting you
a voice somewhere low
coming from the radio

I can hear the bells ringing
hear the pigeons scatter
I can see the church glowing
hear the old town clatter
we're golden in the sun
golden in your sun
our eyes shimmer like the sea...


Indian John Hill

the sky's frozen still
grey against the steel
I found my lover still
asleep against the wheel

across the broken hills
stone against water
I found my lover's hill
the engine running hotter

he told me
"be still, be free"
he holds me
we run on empty
I'm falling
today, too fast
I'm dreaming
one more, one last

the valley cannot hold
a storm we've never seen
I see the clouds unfold
come to wash us clean

inside a frozen truck
he's got no heat to spare
we've always been stuck
somewhere next to nowhere

he told me
"be still, be free"
he holds me
we run on empty
I'm falling
today, too fast
I'm dreaming
one more, one last