Da Vinci's Notebook

While Da Vinci's Notebook has incredibly clever and funny songs, they want to be taken seriously. During my recent inteview with the band, one of the members took offense to my question about Davinci's Notebook ever making a "serious" album. Although no malice was meant by my question, I can see why the question would irk them. Although the band has been described as "Bobby McFerrin and Weird Al Yankovic colliding on stage," there is alot more to the band that just funny songs. There is a cleverness and craft to the songs that has its own charm and elevates the band above the mere "throwaway" comedy-song status . They also have incredible pop hooks (just listen to their song "Heather Graham") and vocal harmonies that alot of bands would kill for. Offstage, the band has a great wit, evidenced in this interview. In fact, their answers came so quickly that I had trouble separating who said what! So, with that in mind, all the answers are credited to "Da Vinci's Notebook"...

E.C.: You guys used to have a doo-wop group, right? How did you make the jump from a doowop group to your present incarnation with social satire?

DaVinci's Notebook: We got rid of all the people that wanted to be in a doo-wop group (laughs) Well really, we seceded from the group. I mean, we like doo-wop too but we’re just not trying to make a living out of it. But the guy who started that groups’ favorite quote was “We don’t want to do any Oingo Boingo shit.”

E.C.: Did you always have humorous satire songs or did you start out writing serious stuff?

DaVinci's Notebook: We didn’t always have them persay…we were doing mostly covers when we started, but even those were funny. One of the groups we covered a lot is the acapella group out of San Francisco called The Bobs who do humorous original songs, and Moxy Fruvous who’s from Canada.

E.C.: How do you feel about the comparisons between your group and artists like Bobby McFerrin and Weird Al?

DaVinci's Notebook: Anything that will help people understand what we do is welcome. Bobby doesn't think its very funny.

E.C.: DaVinci's notebook reminds me more of the Beach Boys in 1967, but on expresso instead of acid...

DaVinci's Notebook: Yes, that will work, we'll take that!

E.C.: Will you guys ever branch out into video as a way of extending the humorous aspects of the songs?

DaVinci's Notebook: Funny you should say that, we’re actually working on doing a concert video. If any major network were to pony up the bucks to do any kind of thing we would certainly find something. Or even a minor network for that matter (laughs).

E.C.: You can have a prop like the Stones did with the giant phallus for the "Enourmous Penis" song...

DaVinci's Notebook: Ahh...no plans for a giant phallus! We want to leave everything to everyone's imagination. We can rent the one from the Beastie Boys!

We are really our own props...

E.C.: Have you ever been hit with threats of lawsuits for any of your songs?

DaVinci's Notebook: Threats of lawsuits? No… We’re fully confident that anything that we do that people have a problem with falls under the “fair use” parody law, the “fair use” copyright law… so we feel like we’re pretty safe. No one’s ever come up to us and said “Stop using this song or we’re going to sue the pants off of you.”

E.C.: Have you gotten any feedback from anyone mentioned in the songs, like Billy Joel or Heather Graham?

DaVinci's Notebook: No, we haven’t gotten any feedback from any of them yet, let’s leave it at that.

E.C.: Speaking of the "Heather Graham" song, that song has all the catchy pop sensibilities of a hit song...

DaVinci's Notebook: (laughs) From your words to the station manager's ears...

E.C.: Have you guys ever thought about doing a serious album at some point or is the humorous stuff working for right now?

DaVinci's Notebook: Not to force this on you, but I resent the impression that our material lacks legitimacy of some kind just because it’s funny.

The truth is, I had a rock band for nine years doing serious stuff, and I didn’t do squat or go anywhere. So I mean, we have a niche and we love what we’re doing and we’re haviung fun with it. We’ll follow it wherever it goes, but for now, this seems to be what our audience likes.

E.C.: Is there any topic that’s off-limit when it comes to writing your songs?

DaVinci's Notebook: There’s certainly stuff that probably can’t or shouldn’t be joked about, it’s a case by case kind of thing. We try to keep an eye on where the line is and try to get right up to it but never really cross over it. Generally we do more commentary about the cultural as opposed to the political. We’re not trying to piss people off, we’re just trying to make people laugh.

E.C.: How do you come up with your ideas? Are you inspired by stuff that’s going on in the world or do you see something on TV and an idea comes to you?…

DaVinci's Notebook: They come from all sorts of things. We’re just coming from four different points of view and we’ve been in different bands for long periods of time and we’ve traveled, and you just brainstorm with a whole bunch of different ideas.

E.C.: A lot of your vocal arrangements remind me of the Beach Boys around 1967 with the SMiLE album; have you guys ever thought of doing a parody of any Beach Boys songs?

DaVinci's Notebook: We have one actually, it’s off of our second album called "Seaside Lament". That’s inspired by that era. We’ll probably take another swing at it some other time too.

E.C.: I love the name of your music publishing, "Sleestac Serenade"! Have you ever thought of doing a cover of “The Land of the Lost?”

DaVinci's Notebook: We thought about it, but I think that appeals to a pretty narrow audience, although that narrow set of people would love that. Though we have been known to do like Banana Splits and stuff like that, just randomly onstage.

E.C.: Do you improvise or use a set list on stage?

DaVinci's Notebook: Yeah we have a set list but we like to keep things fresh for ourselves and for the audience, for example one of the things we do in concert is we take audience requests and that keeps us on our toes. No matter what it’s always going to be a different show for the audience, and sometimes it falls flat and most of the time it works really well.

E.C.: You have a four-part harmony, so for the requests do you just set it up so one of you always sings the low parts, another the highest parts and so forth?

DaVinci's Notebook: Bernie tends to do the bass, but after nine years together we sort of know where we generally fall so it’s almost instinctual at this point as to who goes where, or we’ll arrange it by who knows the lyrics to the songs.

E.C.: How did you come up with the name, DaVinci's Notebook?

DaVinci's Notebook: You’d think there’d be a good story behind that, that it’d have some sort of meaning, but really we’d just spend a lot of time wheit we were supposed to be rehearsing sitting around trying to come up with cool band names. You go through a bunch of two-word names and eventually you end up with ? DaVinci's Notebook? And our first album cover was inspired by his art and we have a logo that we have for our latest album, but we don’t want to be locked down to his art.

E.C.: Do you see this band having the longevity of artists such as Weird Al? How long to you plan to go on?

DaVinci's Notebook: As long as we’re having fun and people keep coming, our bills are met and our families don’t kill us.

Click here to visit the official Da Vinci's Notebook website