Love is Kinda Funny Sometimes marks either Derek's fourth album, or his second, depending on the particular set of semantics by which you abide. Originally with the two-man outfit Head of Carbonation, Derek released the 23-song minimum-opus To Our Laundry With Love. He followed this up with an original cast soundtrack to his musical comedy, The Unusual Suspects. So it could well be concluded that his third album, Death by Song, released in 2003, was technically his solo debut.
Either way, Derek enjoys playing and composing music as an escape. He feels the field of comedy music has degenerated into songs about sex, death, or feces. As such, he has limited the amount of comedy songs on this album about these topics to a mere five, depending on your interpretation of 'feces'.
Whether writing comedic music or serious, Derek prides himself as a lyricist more than a composer. As a writer since middle school, Derek has honed his ability to rhyme (who else would rhyme be bold enough to rhyme 'Liszt' in a song with 'ventriloquist'?) and his surprising use of wordplay (as is evident with the alcohol-inspired lyrics "I love you when your spleech is surred." Furthermore, and much to his surprise, he has received more than a few compliments about his ability to rap. To these accolades, he giggles unabashedly.
As a self-taught composer and instrumentalist (piano, accordion, and percussion), Derek fully realizes that, while his music has an inimitably original feel to it and his lyrics are subtly clever if not somewhat inaccessible, he likely will never see top 40 radio play. He is comfortable with this. However, he has found marked success on several internet podcasts, most notably his Elfman-inspired instrumental March of the Clowns, which has seen play on over eight different stations in the past three months.
Derek has composed the score for three plays and even a movie, though none of which were what we'd call "any good". He tried scoring an 'adult movie', but his efforts were rejected when it was discovered that the entire score was accordion-based.
His expansive list of musical influences consists of, but is certainly not limited to, Danny Elfman (which is all-too apparent), John Linnell (They Might Be Giants), Rick Wakeman (Yes), the harmony stylings of Moxy Früvous and Eddie From Ohio, The Austin Lounge Lizards, Ugly Duckling, Bryan Fenkart (who has forever changed his piano-playing technique), John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats), the Flaming Lips, and Danny Elfman again, because he's just been that big an influence.
Genre: Instrumental/Soundtrack Comedy Scale: Serious Key: Fm, C# Influences: Danny Elfman's Corpse Bride Soundtrack Story: Many times, I have an idea for a very full, orchestral sounding song, and very often I determine that that will require an awful lot of work and I end up with something much less full-sounding. Sometimes I give up altogether and just play video games. On this song, however, I said 'screw it' and spent 14 hours one day hammering out nearly all of the 15 tracks on this song. Aside from leaving out the chorus, which I think was for artistic reasons and not labor saving ones, it came out exactly as I had imagined. Plus a gong. Now if only I had a good orchestral sound module... or better yet a real orchestra... Interesting Notes: One of the very few songs I left room in which (for me) to solo.
2. Women Are Insane
Genre: Acapella/Barbershop/Chant Comedy Scale: Comic Key: C# Influences: Austin Lounge Lizards The Drugs We Need, the weird chant part of the performance piece Land of Dreams that I had to sit through too many times Story: Based on my knowledge, albeit limited, of women, I needed to pen a little ditty that best put my feelings towards them out there. Why it ended up being a combination of barbershop quartet and African chant is still a bit of a mystery. It stands unrivalled as my most sexist song to date. Interesting Notes: See the notes for Parade Rag. Also note that there are actually 10 me's in this song. You might ask why I bothered to have Fenk come in and sing one line. Well, I ain't no tenor.
3. Memo to All Potential Girlfriends
Genre: Vocal/Folk Comedy Scale: Serious Key: G Influences: Bryan Fenkart's Empty Handed Story: Bryan had written a great song that warned girls of what to expect from a relationship from him. Having just gotten out of my fifth relationship in the exact same fashion as my other four, I thought I'd write a song warning all my potential girlfriends of the pattern I'd fallen into. It got podcast play on a comedy radio station. I don't know, I thought it was a sad song. Interesting Notes: The weird plucked instrument is a melody harp. It's a poor-man's autoharp that my brother gave me as a present and I've been itching to use in a song for years. And it just sounded better with a delay.
4. Something Great
Genre: Punk-Pop/50's Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: Bb, C Influences: Bowling for Soup (entire catalog), That Thing That You Do Story: I originally wrote this song about one girl in my life, but immediately thought it was all lies. So for a while I thought it was about nobody in particular, when it suddenly occurred to me that Something Great is about an amalgam of girls that have come through my life. There's probably references to a dozen different people in there. I tried counting but it hurt my head. Interesting Notes: I recorded the vocal track one day after the worst case of food poisoning I'd ever had in my life. It explains why my voice sounds weak and whiny (which I felt appropriate, given the genre). Yeah, for some reason I wrote this song too high to sing normally, and in my sickened state, I was able to hit all the high notes. As for Ron's drums, as we were driving to the place where we were going to record them, Ron listened to a demo version of the song for the first time. So he played his drum track more or less on the fly. Sidedish is good people.
5. That's How We Do It (In the Suburbs)
Genre: Hip-Hop Comedy Scale: Comic Key: Bbm Influences: None Story: Several years ago, friend and one-time Head of Carbonation member Kevin "T. Mob" Gilbert was in town and we decided that it wasn't fair that rappers got to reap the financial benefits from having an Eastside/Westside battle. Since he lives in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and I live in the suburbs of New York, it seemed only fitting that we add fuel to the already blazing fire of costal hatred, only in a much sillier way. I have drawn first blood in this feud. We'll have to see if T. Mob answers. Interesting Notes: This song was once inexplicably described as 'pretty cute'. Until I see any royalties come from our feud, there ain't nothin' 'cute' about it. Also, it's pretty interesting to note that Bryan, when asked what his supporting rapper guy name would be, immediately answered with Froz'n Dakree, complete with spelling. That frightened me.
6. Will You Still Love Me (When You're Sober)?
Genre: Country/Folk Comedy Scale: Comic Key: D, E Influences: Arrogant Worms Lonely Lab of Broken Hearts, A Kiss At the End of the Rainbow from A Mighty Wind Story: Another song born from a joke held long ago. A friend of mine would get herself drunk so she could hook up with me without feeling guilty. And one day, I asked her, "Will you still love me when you're sober" and we both agreed it would make a killer country/folk love ballad. Just don't ask me if this is parody, homage, or actually an attempt at a real country love ballad, because it dangerously dances around all three of these monikers. Interesting Notes: Sam Brown, who sings the lead, says she probably can't ever perform this song live because her mom comes to all her shows. That's a shame. Also, it's possibly my first ever deliberate accordion solo since the days of Head of Carbonation.
7. Sand Daggers
Genre: Instrumental Comedy Scale: Serious Key: Abm, E, Fm Influences: none Story: none Interesting Notes: The original title of this song was "Knitting Sand". This title came to me as I was about to drift off to sleep, and I somehow remembered it the next morning.
8. The Truck Song
Genre: Derek Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: A Influences: none Story: While in Arizona for the Amateur World Disc Golf Championships, I spent much time with my friend and fellow Faction member Dave "R.C." "Cromwell" McHale. While driving one day, he was stuck behind a truck when he started singing this little melody. Also combining it with his insistence that I 'don't call it a come-uppance', this song was all but written. All I did was add a fake tuba and boom, it's music history (or, I guess, music obscurity). Interesting Notes: Cromwell didn't seem all that impressed with the early mix I sent him. It was, however, pre-fake tuba.
Genre: Goth Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: Gm Influences: Evanescence's album "Fallen" Story: I had just been getting heavily into Evanescence when I chanced to hear Paula Abdul's old 80's hit Cold-Hearted Snake spill out of my radio. Though I'd heard the song hundreds of times before, I only then realized that the chord progression in Snake was essentially the same as the chord progressions that dominated Evanescence's album "Fallen". Putting these two ideas together was easier than I thought. I only wish I had the recording capabilities and the musical resources to add the full choir and string symphony that I had wanted to. Maybe on the remix. Interesting Notes: Mike had purchased his talk box years ago to perform one song live. Obviously, this was not a wise financial decision. He has subsequently used it for me on two straight albums now. He says it is finally paying for itself. I think he's forgetting that I'm having him use the talk box in the middle of a cover of a Paula Abdul song.
10. Parade Rag
Genre: Ragtime Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: B Influences: Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Martin, C.L. Johnson Story: I had written an instrumental a while back that I played for my uncle (who is, in his own right, a phenomenal pianist). He complimented it, though he said it was a 'great ragtime song'. For some reason, this got under my skin, because to me it didn't even sound vaguely like The Entertainer (or any other Joplin). So from there, I set out to write an actual rag song. I wasn't going to include this on the album, but it seemed to be a good lead-in to Bourbon Street, so I included a sample of the rag song. Interesting Notes: The original song that my uncle called a rag eventually would turn into Women Are Insane. Now does that sound like ragtime?
11. Bourbon Street
Genre: Derek Comedy Scale: Serious Key: various Influences: none Story: While in New Orleans, I went to a karaoke bar on Bourbon Street. There, I sang two songs in front of a crowd of hundreds. I sang the karaoke classic, You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, and What's Up (by Four Non Blondes). During these songs, I had the crowd eating out of my hand and I honestly felt like the king of the place. So for a while I would tell this happy story, but in telling it, I realized something. How popular and cool was I, really? Nobody asked me to hang out afterwards, and aside from random compliments as I passed by and someone handing me a test tube shot, nobody even stopped to talk to me. This weird in-retrospect thought left me with an empty feeling. It was a decidedly happy event, but I felt really bad about it. What squeezed out as a result was this song, which explains why the lyrics sound much happier than the music implies. Interesting Notes: This song clearly illustrates the limitations of my sound module.
12. The Biscuit Blues
Genre: Blues Comedy Scale: Comic Key: F# Influences: None Story: I had already had a song warning a girl about a guy (Snake), so I figured I needed a song warning guys about a girl. I also figured those old-school blues songs where they compare women to odd objects are priceless, so I needed to hop on that bandwagon. This let Mike actually bust out some old school blues riffs, so needless to say he had a good time with it. Interesting Notes: The last two songs written for the album were this and Women Are Insane. I began to feel a bit bad about this, as if I had become a misogynist. I might very well be, but I also determined that these two songs were pretty funny, so they deserved to be kept on the album. Also, Mike had never heard the song before the day we recorded it. It goes to show that blues is blues no matter what, and that Knuckles is a guitar god.
13. Askance Dance
Genre: Dance/Derek Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: C#m Influences: none Story: For some reason, on each album I like to have one gothic song and one dance song. This was the first song I recorded for the album, and I had no idea at the time that I'd eventually write Main Titles, so I decided to try to make a dance song as if Danny Elfman were doing it. I figured he would make weird minor changes and sing, for some reason, in a European accent of some sort. In terms of success, I think I failed. Interesting Notes: This song was only even written because as I was browsing through the various tones on my sound module, I came across this one sound effect (the 'bong' noise you hear in the beginning of the song, and throughout). I felt I needed to base a song around this noise. In fact, it was the noise that determined what key the song would be in. As for the term "Askance Dance", it came about years ago in a conversation between Susan and I. Susan named the song Instead on the last album. I guess in addition to putting one dance song on each album, Susan's gotta name one of the songs on each album.
Genre: Showtunes/Derek Comedy Scale: Tweener Key: Am Influences: none Story: Since Death by Song, I noticed that my songwriting had simplified a bit. I was concentrating much more heavily on composition and orchestration than on actual songwriting. With only a few exceptions (Before You Go and Something Great being two of them, and those were the first two songs written for this album), the number of chords in my songs had lessened and everything had become much simpler to play. Long gone were the days of 100 Songs and Everybody Wants My Angel. So I decided I wanted to play a song that incorporated more of my multi-chordal attack. I think this song fits the bill. Interesting Notes: The chord that plays under "I don't recall this part at all..." is a chord I can't readily name. For you music enthusiasts, you name it. It's an F#, G, A, B, and D# all over a D#.
15. Christmas at the Armenian Prison
Genre: Christmas Comedy Scale: Comic Key: A for most of it Influences: Weird Al's Christmas at Ground Zero, Arrogant Worms album Christmas Turkey Story: I noticed something about comedy Christmas songs. They're all inherently negative. Universally, they're bad things happening around Christmas. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer being the most famous. But as I listened to the Arrogant Worms' Christmas CD, I noticed that every song was negative Santa getting arrested, family getting a stomach virus, Santa kicking your ass... The same goes for the Bob Rivers Christmas CD's 12 Pains of Christmas, most notably. So I set out to write a funny Christmas song that was positive. Obviously, by setting it in a Turkish Prison, it just sets the groundwork for a positive, uplifting song. I think I actually achieved my goal, though there are naysayers out there who say otherwise. Interesting Notes: Sam Brown originally did both female vocal parts, but she sounds really creepy when she harmonizes with herself for some reason. So I got longtime compatriot Stephanie Adams to come in and help me out, as well as Writhing Kumquats' bandmate Aaron Bell.
16. Before You Go
Comedy Scale: Serious
Story: I don't remember writing this one all that much, truthfully. It was written just after Death By Song was finished. It is widely considered to be my best song, and though that used to upset me because it was my most serious song, I've come to accept that it is pretty solid musically, lyrically, and vocally. It also doubles as a nice, light, jazzy instrumental piece that I can play as background music almost anywhere.
Interesting Notes: I played this song live, and Sam Brown came up to me afterwards, having heard it for the first time. She was very complimentary, and she went as far as pointing out, "You even made that girl in the front row cry by the time you were done." I smiled and said, "She's who it's about."
Derek Sonderfan is:
Derek "Fats" Sonderfan keyboards, accordion, piano, melody harp, vocals
Mike "Knuckles" Lucibello guitar on Something Great, Will You Still Love Me (When You're Sober), Snake, and Biscuit Blues
Sam "Defender of the Universe" Brown vocals on Will You Still Love Me (When You're Sober), Snake, and Christmas at the Armenian Prison
Ron "Sidedish" Zampini drums on Something Great
Aaron "Eesup" Bell - vocals on Christmas at the Armenian Prison
Stephanie "Scrubs" Adams vocals on Christmas at the Armenian Prison
With extra-special guest:
Bryan "Froz'n Dak-ree" Fenkart vocals on Women Are Insane, Something Great, and That's How We Do It (In the Suburbs); affirmation on Before You Go
All songs on Love is Kinda Funny Sometimes by Derek Sonderfan except:
Snake by Elliot Wolff
And The Truck Song by McHale/Sonderfan
Bryan Fenkart appears courtesy of Wake Me Music. No, seriously.
Sam Brown appears courtesy of divine intervention.
Ron just sorta appears now and again.
Cover Art and all photography by Samara Gomez
Derek would like to thank:
All the girls who have ever come into his life, whether for years or minutes. Without you, my music would be emptier and less aggravating. You all know who you are.
Bryan for being less imperfect than me, Mike for the apologizing and loaning me the microphone for probably over a year, Sam Brown for making this album sound infinitely classier, Ron for finding the time to help, Aaron for the chunk lite, and Stephanie for just about everything else.
Jason Lawton for the inestimable time spent trying to make my career happen.
Samalama for the awesome ideas and for finally working on something together, and for not having a nervous breakdown.
John Taglieri for your guidance and help.
Lico for being Lico.
My family for tolerating all my piano playing when I wasn't very good.
Brit, Brockett, Bunter, Corey, Cromwell, Cyrus, Erika, Jaclyn, J-Mar, Jamieson, Jessica P., Jon Q, Jules, Kelly, Kristy & Stacey, Mark & Rachel, Mike Lamparello, The Mullet Man-Mittenz Fondleham Bitch-Tits Mitch Ripley, Prokop, ReisMAN, Rob, the Jester, The Ladies, Suds, T. Mob, Tink, TT, and Will.
Everyone who I didn't name personally who has helped me/inspired me/not sued me along the way.
Lastly, everyone who has supported me in any way whatsoever, whether it be purchasing this album, seeing a comedy show of mine, or simply telling me that I'm pretty funny. Your kind words mean the world to me.
Quite possibly the most unanticipated release of 2006 is Love is Kind of Funny Sometimes by Derek Sonderfan. Sonderfan is a post-modern Weird Al Yankovic. His most recent release grabs all the pop styling of a Ric Ocasek production, complete with confident vulnerability in common time with major chord progressions, yet he never shys away from his quirky accordion roots. "Love" opens with an intricate orchestration that Danny Elfman could be proud of. The only drawback to the opening number and, for that matter, the whole album is the insistence of the synthesizer. On tracks like "That's How We Do It (In the Suburbs)", a hip-hop fiasco featuring a Nate-Dogg inspired backup vocal from Froz'n Dakree, the synthesizer sounds right at home. However, when combined with more complete orchestrations such as "Main Titles" and "Christmas at the Armenian Prison", the synthesizer challenges the listener to concentrate on the rest of the song. Despite its comic appeal, the synthesizer approach tends to give the album the feeling of a recording for children. But make no mistakes when you turn the corner from "The Truck Song" to the 80's hear-me-roar anthem, "Snake", you know to put the kids to bed because it's about to get dirty.
Though Love is Kind of Funny Sometimes is a bit of a concept album in its experimentation in romantic tragedy, the album title and subject matter of most of the songs only proves that comedy's origins and consequences are indeed tragic. Allow yourself to bask in the glorious revelation that "Women Are Insane", and thank God someone said it. Though it could be passed off as an empty remark, four part harmony and careful composition let us know that Derek couldn't be more serious when he says, "oh my God women are insane". Not only do we understand his hypothesis on the psyche of the female race, Derek follows up his opening statement citing what seems to be a rather vulnerable side of himself with his "Memo to All Potential Girlfriends". Quite possibly the highlight of the whole album is the Moldy Peaches infused "Will You Still Love Me (When You're Sober)". This song makes this album maybe only for the line, "I love you when your spleech is surred". It's clear that Derek is calling out romance for being just as awkward as a 14 year old at the homecoming dance, but with all the experience of a 27 year-old who lives with his mother and watches Looney Tunes. In that same vein, he allows for all the sides of love to be represented; not just it's ironic or silly moments but also its gut punching capability, as is captured in "Before You Go".
Love is Kind of Funny Sometimes is a treat for the ears. It will provide you with everything from carefully composed instrumentals to throwaway euro-trash house hits; four-part harmony and inspired collaborations; to deep cut early years TMBG, and of course pop-punk guitar work you haven't heard since KIDS Incorporated. This album will not open anywhere on the Billboard Charts, and I'm pretty sure the folks at Billboard don't know or care that it is being released. But I got a surprise for them: D-Sond don't give a fuck what Billboard thinks - he's a coldhearted snake baby, and this album is a candy store. So you better get to trick or treating.
-Lico "Chooch" Whitfield
Lico is the resident music reviewer at Caroline's Comedy Club. Or at least he works at Caroline's and has reviewed a few albums.
Yo, dog, the CD was just kinda a'ight for me, man. A little pitchy in spots, yomsayin? I mean, it was still a'ight and you did yo thang on it and all, I gotsta give you mad props fo' that yo.
-Fake Randy Jackson
There is a recurring theme on [Love is Kinda Funny Sometimes] (I'd probably classify it as "Lack O' Booty" if I was forced to.) While I am not a rap-minded person, How We Do It In the Suburbs was far and away the best track on the CD in my opinion. I had a hard time getting my brain around some of the barbershop quartet stuff, but then again my head was still pounding from drinking Bud, and I am not 74 years old. The accordion solo(s) were pretty cool...but country isn't really my bag either.
I think the random insertion of genetalia references and vulgarities would instantly put the CD on the shelves of Kmarts everywhere.
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