Subplot A

Bonbonnieres. And songwriting.

Seven years ago, Arun Lakra didn’t have a clue about either.

He zapped eyeballs all day, wrote screenplays all night, and was quite content in his obliviousness.

Then he met her.

And one fateful mind-numbing Saturday afternoon seven years ago, he learned. About bonbonnieres. And about centerpieces. And the up-do. And most importantly, he learned what most men learn sooner or later… that weddings were not about the groom.

And he was cool with that. He didn’t care whether the tablecloths were beige or taupe or even eggshell. He also learned (quickly) how to say “I don’t care” in several ways that didn’t sound like “I don’t care”. (eg. “You have much better taste than I do”, “I love them both/all”, “There’s a great sports bar down the street with amazing tablecloths.”)

Arun decided to defer every decision about the wedding to his bride.

With one exception. The first dance song. And it would be a surprise.

And she was cool with that. She may have said, “I don’t care”.

So after hours of screening a variety of musical contenders, which loosely fell into five categories…

…he needed a better idea. Fast.

That night, he was driving home and heard Brian Wilson interviewed on the radio.

And he said to himself (and accidentally out loud, within earshot of the creeped-out lady who had pulled up beside him at the red light), “I know… I’ll write our first dance song. How tough could that be?”

Only slight problem… he had never written a song. Oh, and he couldn’t sing. And because he had sort of lied to his grade seven piano teacher who thought he was the world’s most untalented pianist ever… (“I guess if you’re practicing four hours a day, we should probably bump it up to four and a half hours”) thereby depriving himself of the Juilliard education he desperately needed if not deserved, his musical abilities had never realized their full potential. (Or worse, maybe they had.)

Undaunted, Arun put pen to paper and wrote some words. They rhymed. Kind of. Then he called Paul, his pal of many hats and years.

Paul tinkled on the piano (as they say in Britain after one has had one too many pints and can’t find the loo) and voila (as they say in France while they offer you a croissant de chocolat and regarde de condescension… aka combo #3), they had a song.

Wes, friend of many talents and stories, played bass. Paul sang. Bobby recorded. And Arun did what he later deduced to be producing.

And she married him. And they danced. And she was surprised, in seemingly in a good way (the opposite way of that “surprised” guy in that Joe Pesci scene in Goodfellas).

And Arun kept writing songs.

There was no particular goal or method or rock star fantasy/delusion. His fantasy/delusions remained more filmy than rocky.

Still, it was part fun, part catharsis, part creative release.

He wrote words. He learned how to write music. He worked at it. Not quickly. Not exclusively. But seriously. (But, of course, not too seriously.)

Over seven years, Arun wrote and recorded a bunch of songs. To varying degrees of completeness and goodness. With lots of help from many talented and generous friends and musicians.

And a couple of years ago, Arun realized that he had inadvertently produced an album.

This is it.

Seven years ago, he was 35 years old, single, drove a two-seater convertible, didn’t glare at people for talking too loud in a movie theatre, would not have considered a two-goal performance in a rec soccer league game to be worthy of a mass email, and could not infrequently stay up past 11 pm.

One wife, two kids, some physical and psychological grey hair, and a minivan later, this album tells the story of those seven years.

Like when Pluto got demoted and he felt an inexplicable need to launch a musical protest into the universe (Pluto Rocks).

Or when his wife was expecting their first child and he wrote a heartfelt song for their unborn daughter (Starry-eyed) who popped out a few months later… as a boy.

Or when he found himself throwing up in a toilet and realized in a moment of epiphany and drool that even Bill Gates puked alone (I Puke Alone). Sure you can hire someone to clean it up, but the actual puking into a toilet… it’s every man, woman, and child for himself.

Or when he heard himself complaining about some kids playing their music too loud (Cranky) and it didn’t sound pleasant or familiar.

Or when he got strip-searched at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (Two Empty Seats) and it wasn’t because of his attire - unless terrorists are camouflaged in Aloha shirts these days. (And no, it wasn’t the fashion police, but thanks for asking.)

Or when one too many people wearing one too many colored ribbons interrupted one too many dinners with an uninvited doorbell (I Don’t Care) and the ulcer-inducing raging inner conflict that ensued.

This album is messy. Like puke. Like kids. Like a doctor's handwriting. Like aging and disease. Like his life. And maybe yours.

And this accidental album is a mere subplot.

Not so much the centerpiece. More like a bonbonniere.

Hope you like it.

How do you describe your music to people, Arun?
With great difficulty. So rather than bumbling around using such words as "organic" and "fusion" and other terms better reserved for food, I have taken the liberty of pasting a couple of paragraphs which we have on the website. I know it's a cheat, but I suspect it would be better than boring or confusing you.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE FOOD, the words would be the ice cream. The words would be one scoop each of chocolate chip cookie dough, triple tornado, and rocky road, with no vanilla for miles The music would be the cone… nice enough, but really, everybody knows it’s about the ice cream. Who orders just a cone? Except maybe Mozart. He had a thing for cones. And music. Without words.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A FILM, it would be a cross-genre indie flick written by Charlie Kaufman, directed partly in black and white by Christopher Nolan, starring John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Ben Stiller, and Marisa Tomei, with a cameo by Jon Stewart as Homer Simpson. It would receive mixed critical reviews at Sundance (after being soundly rejected by Cannes) before the Weinsteins purchase the rights and launch this film to moderate indie box office success. It would become a contentious coffee-shop conversation piece, as viewers debated the dichotomous layers, the suspend-your-disbelief plot twists, the self-indulgent meta-story, and the question of whether the film is goofy with serious undertones or serious with goofy undertones. One reviewer would momentarily lose his glib façade and write with unfortunate sincerity, “I laughed, I cried” (but regrettably his review was never published as his editor fired him on the spot for inappropriate and non-ironic use of a trite 70s cliché. He now works at Hallmark.)

IF THIS ALBUM WERE A BODY PART, it would be the corpus callosum, that intricate network of tissue which connects the left brain to the right, which allows creative juices and pheromones and unspellchecked chaos to flow bidirectionally to the logical and mathematical chess-playing inner geek who pronounces Linux with a soft “I” and gets you to your office on time. It would offer valuable public relations and conflict resolution services to the heart and cerebral cortex and groin.

IF THIS ALBUM WERE... UM... AN ALBUM, people who constantly complain about the intra-album musical homogeneity of current releases would have no choice but to shut up. People who lament the paucity of meaningful lyrics and fresh perspective would never again be allowed to use the word paucity in public. People who moan that today’s music can’t skip like a 33 1/3 needle from silly to poignant to irreverent to angina-inducing-sincerity before revealing secret truths by playing a song backwards, will have to throw their preconceptions out the window of their 1973 Pinto.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I was minding my own business, trying to balance a day job as a doctor and a night job as a screenwriter, when I decided to try my hand at writing a wedding song for my bride. I figured writing is writing. I had grown up playing piano, so I dusted off my keyboard and on the third attempt, I managed to identify middle C. With the help of a friend, I managed to put together a mushy little song (Movie Moment). And I was hooked. I loved the process, all the way from conceiving a song to writing it to producing it. Seven years later, an album was born.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Other than playing with my kids, which is a clear number one, I would have to say "writing". Whether it's screenwriting, playwriting, or songwriting, taking pen to paper, I immensely enjoy the creative process.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Time. Unless the goal of writing is to have enough paper to make a spectacular bonfire, any creative endeavor takes a disproportionate amount of time and energy to send out into the world. Too many hats, too many directions, too little time.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

The sequence probably went something like this...

Astronaut... Hockey Player... Astronaut... King... Writer... Doctor... Aerospace Doctor... Writer

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
It's all about the stories. Being surrounded by a vibrant culture, generous people, interesting stories has inevitably influenced what I write and how I write it. This album, as an example, would only have been possible with the tremendous assistance from some very talented people. I am in their debt. Really.

What other artists out there do you love?
Barenaked Ladies
Tom Robbins
Flight of the ConchordsBill Bryson
Christopher Nolan
Larry David

What does your future hold?
I'm working on a few different projects. They're all essentially writing, but all in different media/format. I generally try to allow the story to dictate the form, whether it's a three minute song or a two hour film script.