Introducing: SLW cc Watt’s “Be The Bones”

The premiere of the first single off the new record from Samuel Locke Ward and Mike Watt.

Behold! “Be The Bones,” the first single from the album Purple Pie Plow by SLW cc Watt.  

SLW cc Watt is the long distance, home-taper, pen pal band between myself (Samuel Locke Ward) and the great Mike Watt. We make our music by recording at home and sending the tracks to each other cross country — Iowa City to San Pedro, and vice versa — and layering our parts over each other.  

It’s a lot like making a record in a recording studio, but really far apart and totally different from that.

SLW cc Watt began in the tail end of 2020 during the height of the pandemic in an improbable type of way at an improbable time in the world.  

In mid-2020, Mike Watt had begun playing my self-released, DIY issue, solo music in rotation on his radio show The Watt From Pedro Show. I didn’t really know Watt. I mean I LOVE Watt’s music, I LOVE the Minutemen, I LOVE his solo records and collabs. But we’ve only spoken in person, like, a couple times ever.  

In 1998 as a 16 year old underage cigarette-smoking, band-nerd goober, I somehow talked my parent into letting me and a friend drive to Iowa City to see Mike Watt and The Black Gang, with Nels Cline and Bob Lee, on the “Puttin’ the Opera to Bed” tour. It absolutely blew my mind. Watt was so intense and amazing and Nels Cline played a guitar solo with an egg beater. They were this wild combination of being unbelievably tight and veering into improv and never losing it. Completely bug nuts and big time inspiring.  

After the show I went up to Watt who was selling shirts on stage out of a garbage bag. As I bought myself a shirt, I asked him what the most important part of playing the bass was, and he yelled “DYNAMICS!” And then leaned into my ear and whispered, “because sometimes that quiet is real fuckin’ loud.”  

I left completely convinced I’d seen the best show I would ever see in my life.  

Then I maybe drunkenly shoved a copy of my double CD-R More Songs into his hand, after the show where my band SLW & The Garbage Boys opened up for Il Sogno del Marinaio.  

But anyway, I didn’t actually know him for real. I knew him from afar. So when Watt started playing my music on the regular on his radio show, I was over the moon.  

I’d go on these long ass drives in my car and listen to the Pedro Show. At such a low time (we all remember 2020), it was a big pick-me-up to me. One day, I decided that I would write Watt and thank him. He wrote me back and was super kind. Modestly I replied, “Do you wanna start a long distance pen pal band and make a Guided By Voices amount of albums?”   

Since then, we have recorded well over 100-plus songs together, including the 30-song LP Real Manic Time and the 45-song cassette EP Let’s Build A Logjam.   

“Let’s Build A Logjam” should just be SLW cc Watt’s mantra.  

For our third record, we decided to build a grand assembly line and invite guests Dean Clean and Joe Jack Talcum (of the Dead Milkmen) to play with us, as well as fellow Iowan and improv noise heavy Bob Bucko Jr. on saxophone and flute. All musicians I love and respect so much.  

The assembly line went like this: 

  1. I would start each track in Iowa City, writing and recording acoustic guitar and vocals.
  2. Then the song would be sent to Philadelphia, where Dean Clean would record the drums and get them perfect.  
  3. Then the song would be sent down the line to Watt in San Pedro, where he would do bass. 
  4. After the bass was locked in, the song would then be sent back to Philly for Joe to put guitar and keys on.
  5. Then Bob would dub in the saxophones and flute in Dubuque, Iowa
  6. Finally, I would take one last pass on the song and add the backing vocals.

We did these for about half the tracks. The other half started with Watt doing spiels and us building the song backwards. After the songs were finished being recorded, I would then send them off to my longtime collaborator Jon Hansen, who would mix and master each song.   

Receiving each track and hearing the songs come together piece by piece was a true joy. Each instrument playing off the last. Each track changing the sound of the song completely.  

The final song we recorded was “Be The Bones,” which is the first one that anyone will hear.  

As Watt says, ”the internet isn’t just for spreading lies and bullshit. You can use it to make connections and music too.”  

Hope you like it.

— Sam

SLW cc Watt is Sam Locke Ward and Mike Watt. Home taping log jam from Iowa City via Pedro.