Episode 166 - ¡Aaaaaagave!

Ep. 166 - ¡Aaaaaagave!

Published on June 24th, 2019.

Recorded by Shannon and Scott.

Transcribed by Shreya Shanker.

[tuner sound]

SHANNON and SCOTT: 1, 2, 3, 4.

[theme song plays]

SCOTT: Welcome to Song Salad with Shannon and Scott!

SHANNON: I’m Shannon!

SCOTT: And I’m Scott.

SHANNON: I’m a professional writer and your resident lyricist.

SCOTT: And I’m a professional musician and your resident composer.

SHANNON and SCOTT: And together-

SHANNON: We toss up a new song each week.

SCOTT: Using a random music genre-

SHANNON: And a random topic.

SCOTT: That's right. Using our proprietary, patented, parched, industrial-strength salad spinner, we randomize over 500 music genres!

SHANNON: And hit the "Random Article" button on Wikipedia to get our topic.

SCOTT: Yep. Tell our listeners what we did last week, Shannon.

SHANNON: Last week, we wrote a J-Ska, or Japanese ska, song -

SCOTT: Or, juh-ska.

SHANNON: Juh-ska, as the kids know it, about a movie called Hellraiser. (SCOTT: [laughs]) With special guest Maggie Carr from Harridan Productions!


SHANNON: And it was terrifying and lovely.

SCOTT: It was spook-tacular.

SHANNON: [laughs] It was spook-tacular. Also as the kids say.

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: Also wanted to mention, if you notice any difference in how we sound this week, we are recording remotely, so it might be a little bit different than usual, but still here. Still bringing ya a song.

SCOTT: Yes. Hello from the nation's capital, Washington D.C. Cue the West Wing theme song.

SHANNON: [laughs] Scott just has a mini-boombox and just plays the West Wing theme song, so everywhere he goes, it's just playing.

SCOTT: (over Shannon) I mean, I took a bike ride to the Capitol yesterday and, like, was looking at the Washington monument and just, like, singing it to myself. [laughs]

SHANNON: [laughs] And then he got chased off the Mall, (SCOTT: Yeah, exactly.) and someone tazed him. Yeah. Just skulking around the Capitol.

SCOTT: Yeah, it's a beautiful place to be. I like it here.

SHANNON: Do you wanna say what you're doing there?

SCOTT: Yeah, if anyone is in the D.C. area, I am co-orchestrating the musical Blackbeard, about pirates here at Signature Theatre, and it's going to be running from mid-June to mid-July, so check that out!

SHANNON: Yeah! (crosstalk) Go on down.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) It's a swashbuckling good time.

SHANNON: [laughs] That's what your wedding invitation said. (SCOTT: Yeah.) It's a swashbuckling good time. Scott's marriage.

SCOTT: And then everyone showed up dressed as pirates and they were really disappointed when there was no theme.

SHANNON: And everyone else was really mad because the guests were dressed as pirates.

SCOTT: Yes. [laughs]

SHANNON: Yeah. Anyway.

SCOTT: Anyway. Let's see what's in store for us this week, as we fire up the salad spinner to generate our genre and topic.

SHANNON: Let's do it!

SCOTT: And... today's our Salad Bowl episode.


SCOTT: So we will generate a random music genre, but get a topic from our collection of Salad Bowl Suggestions from our loyal Patreon donors.

SHANNON: Yes, if you donate $10 and up per month on Patreon, you get to suggest a topic and genre every month, and it goes on our special list. The list is getting longer and longer every month! So it's definitely more fun to randomize and see the really weird things that come up from months and months ago.

SCOTT: Yeah! So this week, we are writing a song in the style of...

[whirring machinery sound effect begins, then comes sound of something splatting out of the machine]

SHANNON and SCOTT: Cabaret noir. About...

[sound effect ends with a ding!]

SCOTT: Tequila! [laughs]

SHANNON: Just tequila. [laughs]

SCOTT: Thank you, Chip.

SHANNON: Thanks, Chip!

SCOTT: Okay. (SHANNON: Okay!) What do you know about cabaret noir, Shannon?

SHANNON: Um... nothin'. More than I usually know about the genres, which is nothin'. Um, I mean, I know what cabaret songs are (SCOTT: Yes.), and, y'know, standalone songs sung in a kind of nightclub or burlesque sort of style? (SCOTT: Right.) Usually, like, they're not necessarily in a narrative production of anything (SCOTT: Yeah.), and noir is French for the word "black" or "dark", so I'm going to guess that, like most things with the word noir appended to them, they have a kind of, like, darker, grittier, more melancholy or pessimistic view.

SCOTT: Sure. And I think the cabaret aspect of it is going to be fun, because that implies that the song will have, like, a little story of its own (SHANNON: Right.), and we can do it in a sort of live performance style of just having piano and drums accompaniment, or something like that. Probably. So.

SHANNON: I guess we'll see.

SCOTT: I guess we'll see. And then write it about tequila.

SHANNON: Yeah! I think that's perfect! I know-

SCOTT: What do you know about tequila?

SHANNON: I know a lot about tequila.

SCOTT: [laughs] You're, uh- intimately familiar?

SHANNON: I am! Um, I mean, I really like tequila. It is one of my preferred spirits, I would say.

SCOTT: In what type of drink?

SHANNON: Um, really? Almost anything. I like margaritas, but I also like tequila just, like, as a mixer in other cocktails, especially like-

SCOTT: [laughs] You like tequila as a mixer? [laughs more]

SHANNON: No, no, I mean- [laughs]

SCOTT: Yeah, can I have a gin and tonic, but instead of the tonic, can you use tequila, please? [laughs]

SHANNON: Could you just use bubbly tequila? That would be great. Uh, no, I mean like, as an ingredient in a mixed drink. [laughs]

SCOTT: Right.

SHANNON: Because I think it goes really well with, like, spicy and smoky cocktails (SCOTT: Oh yeah.), and I really like spicy and smoky cocktails. Mezcal? Which is sort of like a cousin of tequila, um, (crosstalk) I also really enjoy.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) Yeah, it's- it's tequila's hotter, more interesting cousin.

SHANNON: Yeah! Yes. It's the cousin that doesn't always come to the family reunion, but then when they do, you're like, "wow, they had a glow-up, oh my god."

SCOTT: Right. [laughs] "They're doing really well in L.A."

SHANNON: Yeah, yeah! "They've been booking some work, I've actually heard." But I also know that tequila is made from the agave plant.


SHANNON: Eh... and, that's- I dunno. I dunno what else. What do you know about tequila?

SCOTT: I mean, the major thing for tequila with me is that I don't love it? Unless it's good quality? [laughs] Y'know?

SHANNON: Oh, yeah, sure, sure, sure.

SCOTT: Because you can have, like, gold tequila that's in a plastic bottle that will make you wanna barf the minute you taste it (SHANNON: Yeah.), but then you can have, like, really good, like, silver tequila, that's smooth and delicious, y'know? So.


SCOTT: It's not one of my go-tos, but if I know I'm at a place where they're gonna have, like, good tequila? Then I'm into it.

SHANNON: Alright!

SCOTT: Yeah!

SHANNON: I have probably done my fair share of tequila shots with you. Yes?

SCOTT: Probably yes.

SHANNON: Probably, yes.

SCOTT: Probably yes. [laughs]

SHANNON: [laughs]

SCOTT: And rightly so, we probably can't remember any specific instances.

SHANNON: Yeah, exactly. Hey, guys. Content warning. We're going to be talking a lot about alcohol this episode. So.

SCOTT: And cabarets.

SHANNON: [laughs]

SCOTT: In case that's a thing for you.

SHANNON: In case that, um, like triggers any traumatic feelings about- about cabaret performances. I mean. Who knows, who knows.

SCOTT: Let's do some research!

SHANNON: Yeah. Let's go.

[Timestamp: 08:03]

[transition theme plays]

SCOTT: (as the theme plays) Alright, I'm gonna stop Logic.

SCOTT: (after theme is done, probably after the cut) This is fun!

SHANNON: It is very fun. And varied.

SCOTT: Yeah. And a little bit more, um, in the mainstream recorded music world than I expected.

SHANNON: Some of it, for sure, yes! Yes, yes yes. (SCOTT: So.) Yeah, I expected most of this to just be like, live performances? (SCOTT: Right.) And, like, someone capturing live performances, but it's not.

SCOTT: Yeah, more underground, actual burlesque show, kind of stuff.


SCOTT: No, these are bands that were influenced by cabaret and burlesque and vaudeville, but were playing in a more goth and punk style from the 1970s and beyond, so, cabaret noir is also known as dark cabaret (SHANNON: Yeah.), if you wanna translate it. [laughs] And, like I said, it's also connected to punk rock, gothic rock, dark wave, and steampunk.

SHANNON: Yeah, and you talked a little bit about the origins of this in, like, vaudeville or more traditional cabaret, specifically like the Weimar era in Germany? So we've talked before on this podcast about Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, probably when we did our vaudeville episode, I would imagine.

SCOTT: [laughs] Was that, um, "Haven't Got The Zest"?

SHANNON: It was, it was indeed. In which we played an older married British couple arguing about, like, going for a walk or something. Um-

SCOTT: That was a fun one.

SHANNON: Great. Uh, but yeah, I feel like we've definitely talked about Threepenny Opera before, and songs- standalone story songs like "Mack the Knife".

SCOTT: Right.

SHANNON: And, and those, you know, came out of an era where a lot of art was reacting to the political times, but in a way that was extremely subversive (SCOTT: Right.), and was trying to be, like, dark and seedy and underground. So that's the kind of, like, bedrock of this genre too.

SCOTT: Well, I think we should play a little bit of "Mack the Knife" then (SHANNON: Oh, sure!), in case people aren't familiar, but basically, what made this song stand out is that it's about a murderous anti-hero, and that kind of subject wasn't really popular in music 'til that time? So, that's the sort of dark, noir aspect of it. So, here's a little bit of "Mack the Knife" from Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.

[Timestamp: 10:47]

[30 seconds of "Mack the Knife" by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.]

SCOTT: So, this whole genre and idea was expanded upon in the mid-70s, starting with an artist named Miko in 1974, who influenced more goth and punk music artists to start writing in this style, and we found an example from 1989, this group called The Tiger Lilies, where they performed in- it looks like this true cabaret style with, like, accordion and drums and upright bass and stuff, and they're wearing, like, kind of mime makeup and stuff (SHANNON: Yeah.), but the singer, Martyn Jacques, sings in a very high falsetto, which makes them unique. (crosstalk) So I think we should listen to him.

SHANNON: (crosstalk) But he's singing - yeah, yeah. And then we'll talk about the things he sings about after, I guess.

SCOTT: [laughs] Okay. Here's a song called Bully Boys by The Tiger Lilies.

[40 seconds of "Bully Boys" by The Tiger Lilies.]

SHANNON: So, he's singing about, in all- not just this song, but he's known for singing about blasphemy and prostitution and bestiality, and again, topics that you wouldn't normally be musicalizing, especially not in this kind of, like, upbeat simpering sort of-

SCOTT: (crosstalk) Jaunty style. [laughs]

SHANNON: (crosstalk) yes, exactly, exactly. So really the- the material is, um, not undermining the music, or vice versa, but like, there's a comment being made because of the dissonance between the topic and the style.

SCOTT: Right, exactly. And where it gets kind of into the whole idea of steampunk is that, you know, steampunk as a genre, in fiction and in art and things, basically is showing this root in the early Industrial age, and y'know, steam engines and gears and clocks and very complicated machines and stuff, but also putting it in a very futuristic context? (SHANNON: Right.) So it's kind of fun that these bands were like, as we'll hear in a second with another example, using modern instruments like distorted electric guitar, but also dressing in these period costumes and using accordions and toy pianos and things. So I think it's a cool style.

SHANNON: It is. The- the aesthetic reminds me a bit of some more mainstream bands like The Decemberists? Um- it's this kind of, like, romanticization and lyricism about this bygone era, and it's, y'know- all of the Decemberists songs are about these kind of, like, twee, sweet, pastoral kind of scenarios, but they're actually really messed up and dark if you listen to what's being said.

SCOTT: Or even another mainstream example would be Panic! At The Disco. You know? [laughs]

SHANNON: Yeah! [laughs] Yeah.

SCOTT: Where they're, like, acting as if they're in an 18th century circus, but doing punk rock, y'know. [laughs]

SHANNON: Right. Yes, yes.

SCOTT: So let's move into that more punk side of it and listen to another example. Um, well, first let's talk about The Dresden Dolls, I guess, yeah?

SHANNON: Yeah, sure! I love them.

SCOTT: The Dresden Dolls - one of their more popular songs is called "Coin Operated Boy", which you probably will recognize, but let's hear a little bit of it.

[1 minute of "Coin Operated Boy" by The Dresden Dolls.]

SHANNON: One of the things, I think, that's coolest about- about that- and it's also just, like, such an interesting- I mean, it's a testament to Amanda Palmer's musical ability also, is how she replicates the speeding up and slowing down of a machine in-

SCOTT: Right, like a wind-up doll.

SHANNON: Right, exactly, in how she plays! And like Scott was just saying, that kind of steampunky idea of having a little boy who is a little robot powered by gears and steam and making a little machine, but it's for love purposes. It's not for, y'know, optimization at the factory (SCOTT: No. [laughs]), it's this, like, high-tech, low-tech kind of combination.

SCOTT: Right. Let's do one more example.


SCOTT: Let's listen to "Push Button" by Stolen Babies.

SHANNON: Ooh, jeez.

SCOTT: And this is probably the most punk example that we have, so this is gonna kind of show the range in which we could work with for our song, like, all the way from the more simple Tiger Lilies kind of ensemble, all the way up to this, like, hard-hitting punk rock sound from Stolen Babies. So, check this out.

[30 seconds of "Push Button" by Stolen Babies]

SHANNON: Boy, that sounds like the early 2000s, doesn't it?

SCOTT: They sound similar to the band Garbage, do you know the band Garbage?

SHANNON: Yes, yeah.

SCOTT: Yeah, but I, you know. Any of these bands that have a punk rock influence and a belty, sultry female lead, y'know?


SCOTT: Brings me back to that era.

SHANNON: Dressed like a pirate wench.

SCOTT: Yeah, exactly! (SHANNON: Yeah.) Can't go wrong!


SCOTT: And speaking of pirate wenches, I was saying to Shannon when we were starting to research this, y'know, this whole steampunk kind of genre is what influenced our orchestrations for Blackbeard here at Signature Theatre, so if you like this music, come hear it in a musical!

SHANNON: Wow! Go figure, we didn't even plan that.

SCOTT: No. Good advertisement.

SHANNON: [laughs] One other little thing I just wanna- I just wanna read, um. Dark cabaret is kind of often associated with something called neo-burlesque, starting in the 1990s, and neo-burlesque is just a way to refer to, like, the new burlesque scene, which, if you don't know what burlesque is, it's dance and musical and otherwise performances on, like, smaller stages, and they tend to be a little more experimental or risqué. Uh, but, so neo-burlesque and dark cabaret have kinda become linked, and I just wanted to mention that, uh, they've become linked because a lot of performances- performers do both, like the Chicago burlesque orchestra Apartment, which ran from 1997 to 2005, and the emergence of something called gothic belly dance-

SCOTT: What.

SHANNON: Yup, um, which also has gothic fusion belly dance, dark fusion belly dance, and gothic tribal fusion, and it's-

SCOTT: That's a whole lot right there.

SHANNON: Yeah, I know. And that's a dance movement distilled from influences of the Middle Eastern dance, tribal fusion goth subculture, and neo-paganism. So.

SCOTT: Neo-paganism.

SHANNON: Just putting that visual in yins' heads.

SCOTT: I love it.


SCOTT: Okay, well, I guess we should find out how we're going to connect this to tequila.

SHANNON: Tequila! (sings a tune)

SCOTT: Mm-hmm.

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SCOTT: Not very dark, that song.

SHANNON: It could be, though!

SCOTT: Well, I guess it could be.

SHANNON: Like, you could- if you just made the (sings the same tune) into minor, wouldn't that sound horrifying?

SCOTT: Yes. [laughs]

SHANNON: Anyway. Yeah, we need to learn more about tequila.

SCOTT: Let's drink.


[Timestamp: 21:06]

[transition theme plays]

SCOTT: Tequila!

SHANNON: (sings the same tune)

SCOTT: (sings the next line of the tune)

SHANNON: I just want (SCOTT: (in a deep voice) Tequila.) there to be, like, that little sting, every time we say it.

SCOTT: [laughs] You want me to add it in in post?

SHANNON: [laughs] Yeah!

SCOTT: Whenever we say the word tequila (tune plays), (crosstalk) I'll put it in.

[Note: from now on, every time the word "tequila" is said, the tune plays.]

SHANNON: (crosstalk) It'll get so annoying.

SCOTT: It's gonna be great.

SHANNON: Yeah. Uh, yeah, let's learn about this- this drink.

SCOTT: I learnt some things!

SHANNON: Yeah, we- okay, so like we said, we're recording remotely, so I can just hear Scott and not see him, and vice versa, and the whole time we were both just going, "oh. Hmm."

SCOTT: "Hmm. That's interesting."


SCOTT: "Hmm."


SCOTT: "Huh."

SHANNON: [laughs]

SCOTT: "Ohhhh."

SHANNON: Yeah, there's a lot of information here. And it's pretty cool.

SCOTT: Yeah. I mean, that's the thing with these seemingly simple topics, you know, like topics that everyone's heard of, there's going to be a lot of information on Wikipedia, and probably more than we need for whatever song we're going to produce (SHANNON: Yeah.), but, uh, there's some fun facts that we can pull out.

SHANNON: Yeah, so let- let's hit the highlights. Tequila, obviously, is a distilled alcoholic beverage. Uh, it's made from the blue agave plant, and it's made only in certain places in Mexico, it's- y'know, it's kind of like champagne in France, like, you can only call something tequila if it comes from a certain place. That would be the area surrounding the city of Tequila, which-

SHANNON and SCOTT: Makes sense.

SHANNON: Uh, which is located in Guadalajara and the Jaliscan Highlands, so that's the Mexican state of Jalisco.

SCOTT: Yes. And what I did not know is that tequila is a type of mezcal, not the other way around.

SHANNON: (crosstalk) Yeah, I though the other way around)

SCOTT: (crosstalk) And the regions of production of the two drinks are overlapping. So the distinction is that tequila must use only blue agave plants rather than any type of agave, and I guess mezcal can be made with any type of agave.

SHANNON: So let's talk about these agaves, huh?

SCOTT: Tell me about agave.

SHANNON: Yeah, so I wanna talk about these spiky boys. They, um, they're- okay, have you ever seen an agave plant in person?

SCOTT: No. I have not.

SHANNON: They're enormous. Or they-they can be. Like, they can be, like, much bigger than a person. And-

SCOTT: But they're, like, low to the ground, right?

SHANNON: Well, yeah, they come directly out of the ground, but their- their big spiky leaves can definitely be, like, over your head, and (SCOTT: Got it.) just the, like, breadth of them? Like, how wide they can get? Is also really impressive. And agave, you may also be familiar with agave as a sweetener (SCOTT: Yes.), cause you can also distill its, like, juices and natural sugars into a sweetener that's similar to honey. Um, but these agave plants, when you harvest them to make tequila, what you're really actually harvesting are their, like, middle bits? Um, it's something called the pina, or the pineapple, because when they trim all the leaves off the core of it, it actually looks kinda like a little pineapple inside. But those pinas, the middle cores, can actually weigh up to 150 pounds (SCOTT: Oh my god.) when they're harvested. Yeah. (SCOTT: That's crazy.) Like a person-sized co- juicy, pulpy core of this plant, and the reason- (SCOTT: Mm. [laughs]) I know. The- the reason that a lot of this tending and planting and cutting of agave plants has resisted modern machinery and is still almost all entirely done manually is because the- the guys who do this work, they're called jimadores, and they need to know exactly how long to cut the plant, and how to grow it, and how to trim it so that it doesn't flower and then die to soon? Because then it won't reach its maximum size, um, so I just think it's really cool that all of this work is done, mostly by hand, and it- yeah. Crazy.

SCOTT: It sounds similar to the wine-making process, actually, where you have to have people that really know what they're doing and tending to the vines and, y'know, replanting and growing the vines in the right way, but then also how to treat the fruit once it has been harvested, and how to best go about the fermentation and aging process.

SHANNON: Oh, I'm sorry, the pinas in the Highlands can get up to 240 pounds.

SCOTT: Holy shit.

SHANNON: Yeah, the 150 pound ones are in the Lowlands, so Lowland and Highland are two kind of very general differences in agave plants, and they can lead to different tastes in the tequila.

SCOTT: Crazy.


SCOTT: So let's- while we're talking about taste, let's talk about, um, what makes different tequilas taste different ways.


SCOTT: Uh, so there are more than 300 known compounds in tequila, many of which are produced during the fermentation process, and a lot of those compounds are different types of alcohols, and higher order alcohols, which I've never really heard of, cause I'm not a chemistry person (SHANNON: Yeah.), but, um, some of these are esters, which is a type of higher order alcohol, and there are more than 50 different types of esters that can occur in tequilas, and those are the main types of alcohols that give them different flavors and smells. So, for instance, there's one called isovaleraldehyde (SHANNON: Wow.), which produces a sweet cocoa and chocolate-like flavor. There's two called 2- and 3-methylbutanol, that produce a malty flavor. There's ones called vanillin and syringaldehydes, which produce a fruity and herbal aroma. There's one called eugenol, which delivers a spicy flavor. So I think it's super interesting that, you know, there's 300 different compounds and, like, one of these alcohols could cause the whole tequila you're drinking to taste more fruity than another, you know?

SHANNON: Did you ever do, um, experiments in high school chemistry with esters?

SCOTT: No- I didn't take chemistry.


SCOTT: Yeah.

SHANNON: We- my only exposure to, like, the words that you were just saying, like, esters and fruity esters is in chemistry class in high school, they gave us all these different little clear vials of solution, and they were like "these are fruit esters and you have to smell them and guess which different fruits they come from." Or, like, which different fruits they evoke, because in a lot of artificial flavor production, they just use these fruit esters, it'll be like- you'll smell it, and it'll really, really smell like banana, but it didn't come from a banana or anything. It's just, like, an ester that smells like banana. And my- my, like, memory of this [laughs], which is kind of sad, was in high school after, uh, after I broke up with my high school boyfriend, who had, like, cheated on me and embarrassed me in front of the entire- entire cast of the school musical, um- [laughs] we were still chemistry partners, and we had to do this stupid esters thing, where you had to sniff all the things, and then decide which fruit they were? And so, I'm with my ex-boyfriend, and we weren't speaking otherwise, and we were just passing vials of these little smelly things back and forth going, "I think it's peaches, do you think it's peaches?"

SCOTT: [laughs]

SHANNON: "This one's strawberry. I don't- I think it's actually grape. I'm gonna go with grape." Like, it was so-

SCOTT: That's the saddest thing I've ever heard.

SHANNON: It was awful! It was awful.

SCOTT: Oh no. I'm sorry to have brought up that memory for you.

SHANNON: Yeah, you- the second you said "esters," I was like, "oh my god."

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SCOTT: And I'm here like, "ooh, fun fact!"

SHANNON: I know. No, it was very traum- it was very traumatizing, but (crosstalk) oh well.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) I'm very sorry. Oh well.

SHANNON: Oh well. I need to go drink some tequila now.

SCOTT: Yeah, seriously. Well, I guess the only other major factors that affect the flavor of the tequila are the color and the color is often related to aging, so silver tequila, or sometimes called blanco, is the tequila that has the least aging on it, and it is distilled, so it is obviously a clear or white color. Gold tequila, as I mentioned, is my least favorite, and here's why. Apparently, it is silver tequila with the addition of grain alcohol and caramel color.

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laughs]

SCOTT: So if you're getting a gold tequila, that's not the good aged stuff, that's just grain alcohol in there.

SHANNON: Yeah, okay, so avoid gold.

SCOTT: If you want the actual aged tequila, you should get, uh, reposado or añejo, which are tequilas aged in wooden containers, usually barrels, most of the time, white oak barrels, and a lot of the time, they are barrels that have been charred, in the same way that whiskey barrels are charred, so it's actually popular now to experiment with aging tequila in barrels that have formerly been used in the production of things like Jack Daniels, for instance, to see how the flavor is affected, so.

SHANNON: That's interesting!

SCOTT: So yeah, that's- that's how you get the different tastes in your tequila.

SHANNON: Hey, I know you were reading about this, but I want to hear about the tequila worm.

SCOTT: Oh, yeah! The tequila worm. So there's this kind of folklore-ic thing surrounding tequila about having a worm in the bottom of a bottle.


SCOTT: Have you ever seen this? In a bottle of tequila?

SHANNON: I- not in a bottle of tequila, no.

SCOTT: No, I've never seen it either, I think it's, like, more the stuff of legend? (SHANNON: Yeah.) So, apparently the mezcals- there are certain mezcals from Oaxaca that are sold "con gusano", which means "with worm". Uh, the worm is only added as a marketing gimmick, it is not traditional in any way, the Tequila Regulatory Council does not allow these worms to be placed in tequila bottle, and the worm itself is actually the larval form of a moth (SHANNON: Eugh.), which lives in the agave plant, and if you find one in the plant during processing, that indicates an infestation of these moths, and subsequently a lower quality product.

SHANNON: Ahhhh. Lol.

SCOTT: So don't go for the worm, it means you're drinking something infested and cheap. [laughs]

SHANNON: Yeah, and also fake.

SCOTT: And fake!

SHANNON: Oh my god.

SCOTT: Um, there are also sometimes scorpions-


SCOTT: -too, in the bottle, so don't go for those either.

SHANNON: Ewwwww.

SCOTT: Yeah, so that's- that's the debunked tequila worm thing, you're not gonna, like, eat the worm and get, y'know, hallucinogenic consequences or anything. [laughs]

SHANNON: Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. Okay. And, shall we talk about, um, Wikipedia's description of how to drink tequila? [laughs]

SCOTT: Yes, we should. [laughs] So, there's actually a little bit of something interesting here. So the standard American way of having a tequila shot with salt and lime is distinctly American, that is not a traditional thing from Mexico at all. In Mexico, tequila is typically had just neat (SHANNON: Yeah.), so like, straight up, with nothing on it, or you can have, like, an equal sized shot of tequila next to a shot of what's called sangrita, which is a sweet, sour, and spicy drink made from orange juice, grenadine, or tomato juice, and hot chili, and you alternate sips between the tequila and the sangrita, which sounds delicious. [laughs]

SHANNON: Hmm, yeah that does sound good.

SCOTT: So the process of putting salt on your hand and taking the shot and then taking a bite of a lime wedge is called "tequila cruda", and is sometimes referred to as "training wheels." [laughs]

SHANNON: Loool. That's very funny.

SCOTT: And the way Wikipedia describes this is like an alien observing humans and writing, like, a description for his leaders.

SHANNON: Yes! Yes, exactly.

SCOTT: It says, (slightly monotone) "the drinkers moisten the back of their hands below the index finger (usually by licking) and pour on the salt. Then the salt is licked off the hand, the tequila is drunk, and the fruit slice is quickly bitten. Groups of drinkers often do this simultaneously." [laughs]

SHANNON: [laughs] (slightly monotone) The social purpose is not readily apparent of this ritual. [laughs] (normal voice) Like, what?

SCOTT: (slightly monotone) Nor is the nutritional value. [laughs]

SHANNON: Further study is needed.

SCOTT: Right. (slightly monotone) Observations to continue.

SHANNON: So, but- the interesting thing is, like, why do we do this? Like, why do white people do this? And-

SCOTT: Uh, cause we can't handle the taste, I dunno, why?

SHANNON: Well yeah, I mean, so what Wikipedia says is, "the salt is believed to lessen the "burn" of the tequila and the sour fruit balances and enhances the flavor. In Germany and other countries, tequila oro-", so that gold tequila that Scott was mentioning, "-is often consumed with cinnamon on a slice of orange after, while tequila blanco is consumed with salt and lime." And this is similar to mezcal- I feel like usually if you get, like, mezcal, it usually comes in a little terracotta dish and you just kind of, like, sip it, but it comes with an orange dipped in chili salt, usually.

SCOTT: Yeah, that's delicious.

SHANNON: Yeah, I do love that. I dunno if that's traditional, but it is very tasty.

SCOTT: Right. [laughs]


SCOTT: Okay, so, that's probably enough to know about tequila, yeah?

SHANNON: I think so. Yeah, sure!

SCOTT: I know more now than I did before.

SHANNON: I mean, I know a lot now, yeah.

SCOTT: So... cabaret noir.

SHANNON: Yeah. I think that there's- I think that there's a good opportunity here, tapping into the roots of this at some kind of political unrest kind of, uh, level, maybe talking about the jimadores? And, like, the workers who farm the tequila and who are spending their lives tending the plants? Like, I dunno, I can just kinda see a Dresden Dolls song that's about the agave- the plight of the agave farmers or something, y'know?

SCOTT: [laughs] Sure. [laughs louder] That's one way to go about it.

SHANNON: Yeah, I dunno, so I'm thinking- I'm thinking about that angle, possibly.

SCOTT: I kinda was thinking about the more steampunk-influenced kind of, like, almost magical, mystical angle, like, if you think of "Coin Operated Boy," maybe some kind of story about, I dunno, about a jimadore who made the world's most magical tequila or something, (crosstalk) I dunno.

SHANNON: (crosstalk) Yeah, yeah, yeah! But I feel like it has to- like, he has to have made it- he has to have bottled it to win the love of a woman, or something. Like-

SCOTT: Something like that.

SHANNON: Yeah, like- only when he became the world's most accomplished tequila maker would his lover's father allow him to marry her, and so- and so he spends a hundred years trying to perfect tequila, and then when he finally does it, everyone he loves is dead. [explosive laughs]

SCOTT: That's good, that's sad. That's pretty dark, that's pretty dark.

SHANNON: The pause before you said, "that's good" was very telling.

SCOTT: [laughs] Well, it was also just imagining what if, maybe, it's a jimadore who makes a tequila that's so strong that it powers his flying machine. [laughs]

SHANNON: [laughs] It's just jet fuel.

SCOTT: He makes jet fuel.

SHANNON: It's literally jet fuel.

SCOTT: [laughs]


SCOTT: And he flies and colonizes the moon and plants the best agave ever one the moon.

SHANNON: Amazing - I mean, it does like volcanic ash and soil, so.

SCOTT: [laughs] I dunno, I'm gonna let you decide what the story is going to be, cause that's what you're better at than me.

SHANNON: Well, I think- and, I mean, you- as you write, we have been saying, it should be a story. Like (SCOTT: Yeah.), it needs to be- it's narrative because these songs are standalone songs, so you have to get a story just from one and not from a whole show.

SCOTT: Totally. Uh, and for the music, I'm gonna start playing around with a combination of instruments that has things like accordion, but also has things like electric guitar, and see what kind of fun sounds we can get.

SHANNON: I wonder if you can get any references to, like, traditional Mexican music in there.

SCOTT: I could try to throw something in there, sure.

SHANNON: Yeah, it might be a cute little nod to our topic.

SCOTT: Yeah. And also feels stylistically appropriate, that they would root things in the world of wherever the story is taking place.

SHANNON: Yeah, I think so, totally.

SCOTT: Let's go!

SHANNON: Alright, let's go see if we can do Chip's topic justice.

SCOTT: Vámonos!

[Timestamp: 39:15]

[transition theme plays]

SHANNON: I have some lyrics!

SCOTT: What's our story gonna be?

SHANNON: So, I did kinda decide to go with the sort of workers' lament of being replaced by machinery. [laughs]

SCOTT: Okay, cool.


SCOTT: Makes sense, Industrial Revolution-y.

SHANNON: Yeah, yeah, and I tried to, like, make it feel as lyrical as possible, um.

SCOTT: Okay, cool.

SHANNON: And what I- what I did was, I did- there's not necessarily, like, a chorus, really, but there's a kind of bridge-y part that gets you from verse to verse, and I've done two verses, then a little bridge, then a third verse, and then we can end on the bridge or something, I dunno. (crosstalk) You can let me know what you think works.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) Okay, cool. Great.

SHANNON: And then, the other thing that I wanted to do with the song is- a lot of cabaret songs are kind of tongue-in-cheek, or have a sense of humor, or are a little bit funnier, employ wordplay in some way (SCOTT: Yeah.), so I wanted to do that too? And then I also wanted the verses to feel a little more stylized, so you'll see that, with the exception of the third verse, in verses 1 and 2, I repeat the same line several times? So it's like (SCOTT: Okay) the line pays off, uh- the line- it- you'll see what I mean, you'll see what I mean.

SCOTT: Sure. Great.

SHANNON: But it- it just makes the whole thing feel a little bit more like- heightened, you know?

SCOTT: I love that! (SHANNON: Yeah.) Gotta have the drama.

SHANNON: Yes, exactly! Um, alright, should I just go?

SCOTT: Yeah, tell me.

SHANNON: Alright, here we go. "In the red volcanic highlands of Jalisco / My brother jimadores tend the plants / In the red volcanic highlands of Jalisco / For centuries we’ve done the age-old dance / All our lives we’ve cut and gathered piñas / Until a shiny soldier showed his face."(SCOTT: [laughs]) "All our lives we’ve cut and gathered piñas / Until this metal farmer took our place."

SCOTT: Oh...

SHANNON: And then the bridge is, "Aaaaagave!"

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: "The situation is grave." (pronounce grah-vay, to rhyme with agave)

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh more]

SHANNON: "Si, tequila! So we quila or we’ll all be quiled."


SHANNON: Yeah. And then, the- y'know, I just wanted it to feel like, that- I feel like there's a Brechtian wail, do you know what I kind of mean? (SCOTT: Yeah.) This, like, Weill, Brecht, they just have this kind of, like, (wails) "ggggggaaaaaahhhh," like, at some point in the song?

SCOTT: [laughs]

SHANNON: And I wanted it to be agave. [laughs] (SCOTT: Yes.) So- okay, so there's the- then, here's the third verse, where I- I kind of mess with my structure a little bit, but you'll see why. "We crept into his barn by light of moonbeam / To take our vengeance on this steely friend / We doused his gears and carriage in tequila / To ensure the rust would get him in the end."

SCOTT: Nice.

SHANNON: And then we can go back into the "Aaaaagave!"

SCOTT: (draws it out even more) "Aaaaaaaagave!" [laughs]

SHANNON: "The situation is grave!" [laughs] Yeah.

SCOTT: I love it.

SHANNON: (crosstalk) Good. Thank you.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) That's very good. And then- yeah. I do like that you got the element of the, you know, mechanical threat to their way of life (SHANNON: Yes.) coming in.


SCOTT: And they use the tequila to thwart him! Hopefully.

SHANNON: Yes! Exactly, yeah.

SCOTT: That's great.

SHANNON: Yeah, thanks!

SCOTT: I think it'll work very well with the music I've come up with.

SHANNON: Oh yeah?

SCOTT: I do have accordion.

SHANNON: Perfect.

SCOTT: And it does a little bit more tango-y than, like, Mexican-influenced, but I think it still works. [laughs] So here's what the accordion sounds like.

[Timestamp: 43:19]

[10 seconds of the accordion track.]


SCOTT: And then I have sort of this, like, old-timey saloon piano happening too.

SHANNON: Yes, great, yeah.

SCOTT: So here's the piano.

[6 seconds of the piano.]


SCOTT: And I start with those elements to keep it, sort of, feeling in that older world before bringing in distorted electric guitar, bass, and punk rock drums.

SHANNON: (crosstalk) Ooh.

SCOTT: (crosstalk) So that's where the 1980s punk influence of the dark cabaret sound comes in, so here's, in that order, a little bit of guitar, bass, and drums.

[10 seconds of the guitar line, 10 seconds of the bass line, 10 seconds of the drum line.]


SCOTT: Punky Brewster. Uh, how should I sing this?

SHANNON: Yeah, so we heard the Tiger Lilies guy has that kind of, like, super put-on high falsetto with, like, a very affected accent, right? (SCOTT: Yeah, he-) He was rolling his 'R's very exaggeratedly.

SCOTT: I was gonna say, I- I probably should roll my 'R's if we're going with the, you know, Spanish influence too.

SHANNON: I mean, as you all-

SCOTT: (in a falsetto, rolling his 'R's) "In the rrrrrrrred volcanic highlands-"

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: I do kind of love that. I mean, you could almost turn it into a grito, right?

SCOTT: Oh, yeah! The grito!

SHANNON: Remember?

SCOTT: I forgot about the grito.

SHANNON: Yeah, the traditional kind of yell or cry in, uh, some Mexican folk music.

SCOTT: Yeah, Mexican folk and Norteño music, yeah.

SHANNON: Yeah, yeah. (SCOTT: Hmm.) I mean, you could- you could almost do that, or you could- you could try to make it more just the, like- I dunno, the other thing that I associate with, like, cabaret, like Brecht, Weill kind of cabaret, is the sort of, like, still very proper and affected and aloof sort of style (SCOTT: Right, yeah.), but like, no- singing with no visible emotion, but putting the emotion in your voice.

SCOTT: And, also, the kind of, like, affected sliding between notes and sort of having a devil-may-care attitude about the way it sounds.

SHANNON: Right, yes.

SCOTT: Um, thinking back to things like "Mack the Knife", y'know.

SHANNON: Yeah. Yes.

SCOTT: Hmm, okay, okay. I think- to do the whole thing in a falsetto seems a little bit ridiculous to me. [laughs]

SHANNON: [laughs]

SCOTT: But I think I can add elements of the falsetto without doing the whole thing that way.

SHANNON: Okay, I'm curious to hear what that means, but yeah, great.

SCOTT: Me too!


SCOTT: Should we call this "Aaaaaagave!"?

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: Yes, like, for sure.

SCOTT: You know what we need to do, though, is put the upside-down exclamation point before it.

SHANNON: Oh, you're so right, thank you, yes, we do need to do that. We need to make sure that our, uh, hosting platform can accommodate that in an episode title, but yes, yes.

SCOTT: I hope so.

SHANNON: We need that.

SCOTT: [laughs] So, here is "¡Aaaaaagave!".

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: A cabaret noir or dark cabaret song.

SCOTT: About tequila! Thank you, Chip.

SHANNON: Thanks, Chip. By Shannon and Scott.

[Timestamp: 47:29]

[Song plays - all the tracks from before are layered, with affected, aloof vocals over it.


In the red volcanic highlands of Jalisco

My brother jimadores tend the plants

In the red volcanic highlands of Jalisco

For centuries we’ve done the age-old dance

All our lives we’ve cut and gathered piñas

Until a shiny soldier showed his face

All our lives we’ve cut and gathered piñas

Until this metal farmer took our place


The situation is grave.

Si, tequila!

So we quila or we’ll all be quiled

We crept into his barn by light of moonbeam

To take our vengeance on this steely friend

We doused his gears and carriage in tequila

To ensure the rust would get him in the end


The situation is grave.

Si, tequila!

So we quila or we’ll all be quiled

So we quila or we’ll all be quiled.]

SCOTT: Uhhhhhh, that was fun.

SHANNON: Yeah, I think we should take this act on the road, you know?

SCOTT: I was gonna say, I'm a little sad that we didn't get this genre for a live show. [laughs]

SHANNON: I know, right? Aww, man.

SCOTT: There's still time! And there's other variations on cabaret styles.

SHANNON: Oh man, yes, yeah, for sure. Sooo many different variations on cabaret. We can always come back to it. The well will never run dry.

SCOTT: No, no.


SCOTT: Yeah, cause we could even do, like, a straight-up Brechtian song, at some point. [laughs]

SHANNON: Yeah! No, we totally- we totally could.

SCOTT: Without the punk influence.


SCOTT: But I think this was a- a good combination.

SHANNON: I do too! It really worked out very well. I mean- when you look at, like, the- that kind of burlesque-y, cabaret lens on basically anything, you just have to make it as, like, twee and pretentious as possible, I think, and then you can kind of get there.

SCOTT: You could say that tequila was a good mixer this week.

SHANNON: Ahhhh, buh-dump-tshhh. (imitating a rimshot)

SCOTT: [laughs]

SHANNON: You suck.

SCOTT: Thanks. (SHANNON: Yep!) Alright!


SCOTT: I think we have some people to thank, right?

SHANNON: We do! We have a new review!

SCOTT: I love that.

SHANNON: Me too! Minabee23 (pronounced My-nabee23) or Minabee23 (pronounced Mee-nabee23) gives us 5 stars and says we are "smart and hilarious!"

SCOTT: Thank you!

SHANNON: Thank you, Minabee23! Um, I can-

SCOTT: That's so nice.

SHANNON: I can also see that several other people have rated us, even if they didn't leave us a review, so that's super awesome, thank you for putting your ratings in- on iTunes or on Apple Podcasts. And anywhere else you can rate us or review us is certainly appreciated, it's just hard for us to find all of them sometimes?

SCOTT: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]

SHANNON: Cause we don't always get, like, notifications, but if you give us a rating or review, we'll thank you as best we can, just like Minabee, thanks!

SCOTT: Thank you! We've also had some new activity in The Produce Section, which is our Facebook group, and I love seeing the posts from everyone on there, and we've gotten some really nice compliments and comments, so thank you to everyone in the Facebook group, The Produce Section.

SHANNON: Yeah! We met a lovely truck driver named Kurt who said he found us streaming over Strange Label, which we- a internet radio station that we stream over, so hello to all you other truck drivers out there, maybe?

SCOTT: Yeah, I love that.

SHANNON: Yeah, me too!

SCOTT: Our salads being spread across the country.

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

SHANNON: Like Johnny Appleseed, but with salads.

SCOTT: Johnny Saladseed.

SHANNON: Johnny Lettuceleaves.

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh more]

SCOTT: Uh, where were we? Oh, yes, Facebook. Join it. Um, follow us on Twitter too!

SHANNON: Yeah, @songsaladcast! And, if you wanna be like Chip and have your topic or genre selected during one of our monthly Salad Bowl episodes, you can donate $10 and up on Patreon, but really, any little bit helps! We now are officially putting out transcripts, so a lot of your Patreon donations are going toward paying a lovely transcriptionist named Shreya, um, and so, you're actively supporting making our podcast more accessible to people who need it!

SCOTT: Yes. How many "a"s do you think she's going to put in "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagave!"?

SHANNON: Well. She'll- she'll put however many I put, because I give her the lyrics. [laughs]

SCOTT: Oh, okay. [laughs]

SHANNON: I was like, this is going to make your life a lot easier, I'm just going to give you the lyrics, because otherwise, I'm so sorry. And for everyone who knows, the past, like, month or so, we've kind of been recording ahead and behind, and we've been remote, and so we will be soon back to your regularly-scheduled in-person recordings, and we will be more, like, on top of the current events that are happening? In, like, the podcast world.

SCOTT: [laughs] Not that we really talk about current events that much.

SHANNON: No, no, I just mean, like, people who've donated to us, or left us a review (SCOTT: Sure.), it's like- y'know, the timeline of, like, when we're talking about it is all- all messed up, but yeah, so, thanks for your patience, and we will be back to being more responsive shortly.

SCOTT: Yes. Aaaand until next week!

SHANNON: I'm Shannon.

SCOTT: And I'm Scott.

SHANNON: And this has been Song Salad. Shoot your veggies!

SHANNON and SCOTT: [laugh]

[tuner sound as they fade out]

SHANNON and SCOTT: 1, 2, 3, 4.

[outro theme plays]

Shannon Deep