No. 3, “Toe the Line,” a command to conform. Layered atop a shaky backbeat and orderly guitar, singer Aaron Tarr’s sullen vocals unfurl a limp white flag. The song’s persistent lyric—“Everybody toe the line/Everybody toe the line”—doesn’t exactly hold the key to dismantling the status quo. Instead, its repetition lends an unconscious feel to the tune’s cynical underpinnings.
“The origin of the song was a beat from some little ‘Idiot’s Guide to Drumming’ book,” says Arlington resident Tarr, 27, who wrote the track with bandmate Charles Gray, 27, when the two were a few beers in and down a drummer. (Fellow Arlingtonian Spencer Vliet, 25, joined later.) “Charles just grabbed a beat and tapped it out on his keyboard with those canned synth drums.” The song’s lyrics relied less on presets. “I just sang lyrics that came into my head; sort of like freestyling but not that coherent,” says Tarr.
Getting lyrics out of Tarr’s head is easy; putting them back in is more difficult. Before a recent show at Jammin’ Java, says Tarr, “Charles bet our audience that I couldn’t learn the words to ‘Death or Glory’ by the Clash, which we were going to play as a cover.” Time restraints forced them to cut the song, but Tarr figures he would have botched it anyway. “Strummer really mumbles those lyrics,” he says. “I mean, listen to it—he sings them weird. They will not stick in my head,” says Tarr. “As you can see, lyrics are not my strong suit.”
The City Veins play DC9 on Thursday, Nov. 8.