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THE SoCAL SONGBOOK

'L.A. Is Mars'

Biirdie | 2007

January 20, 2008|GEOFF BOUCHER

The Glendale band Biirdie has a layered, tremulous new song about the alienation of separated lovers and a vagabond life:

L.A. is Mars

Where the wind blows money and stars

You are the peak of the mountain top.

In those lyrics, Biirdie member Jared Flamm was channeling feelings familiar to any heartsick East Coast transplant, but the actual history of the song -- and his band -- is far more unusual.

It began with a simple question: "Would you be willing to keep an eye on my place for a few months?" Flamm was fresh from college in humid Gainesville, Fla., and the invitation to housesit in Silver Lake was an irresistible adventure -- especially since the homeowner was his new boss, Daniel Lanois, the esteemed music producer famous for his work with Bob Dylan, U2 and Peter Gabriel.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 20, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Biirdie album: The SoCal Songbook column in today's Arts & Music section says the new release by the group Biirdie is called "Catherine Album." The correct title is "Catherine Avenue."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 27, 2008 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Biirdie album: Last Sunday's SoCal Songbook column said the title of the second release by the group Biirdie is "Catherine Album." The correct title is "Catherine Avenue."

In the fall of 2004, a wide-eyed Flamm found out just how unusual the adventure would be when he passed through a creaking wrought-iron gate and up toward a Gothic manse that looked fit for a Norma Desmond or, in the inky dark of night, an Uncle Fester.

"Daniel sort of lives a, uh, vampire life," Flamm said. "There are some dark corners."

Flamm immediately started calling friends back in Florida to relay his strange new coordinates. One pal, Richard Gowen, promptly came out to stay with him. They hosted some parties and at one of them, on the night before Halloween, a young musician named Kala Savage was among the revelers who came through the front door. The three fast friends ended up hovering around the piano in the foyer all night.

"It was the piano Bob Dylan used on 'Time Out of Mind,' " Flamm said, referring to the 1998 masterpiece that won the rock troubadour and Lanois each a Grammy for album of the year. "You sit down at a piano like that and you sort of feel like you have to come up with something good."

What the trio came up with was a band called Biirdie. (Flamm and Savage, who also began dating, are devotees of musicals and adored "Bye Bye Birdie.") Their second release, "Catherine Album," arrives in stores Tuesday with the song "L.A. Is Mars."

You miss the houses of Beverly Hills and the midnight radio

I am waiting for you still in a rain on Embarcadero

Where we said goodbye for as long as arms could reach

To Florida skies, Indian Rivers and Satellite Beaches

The lyrics are split between Florida and California, but Flamm said he no longer views himself as a visiting caretaker on the West Coast. "No, this is home now."

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