It makes sense that both titles can double as personal mantras, as I tried to retain something resembling a mind despite the fact that I woke up most days feeling like I was being fed into a psychic wood chipper.
The term “musical genius” gets tossed off too casually, but there are a finite number of ways one can accurately describe someone like Thundercat (born Stephen Bruner). He has a seemingly innate ability to translate human emotion into musical notes with 100 percent fluency. But apart from that, he’s a workman in the way that only a true session musician can be, which brings us to this week’s song.
“I Love Louis Cole” is a tribute to Thundercat’s best friend, a dopey yet cerebral jazz composer and percussionist who whaps out brain-meltingly complex beats with Terminator-like precision.
The song’s lyrics read like a hungover iMessage conversation between Thundercat and Cole. “Let me say good morning, my friend,” Thundercat sings in his Michael McDonald falsetto. “About last night, I don’t know how it ended. I can’t find my phone and I can’t find my shoes. But nothing beats being in a party with you.”
Then Thundercat sings from his new friend’s perspective: “Yeah, I remember you were punching my friends. Made an oil spill that makes Exxon offended. Then you fell asleep on the laundry in my room. And this is why I love to party with you.”
Then the two friends’ refrain: “Let’s do it again / Let’s do it all again.”
The star of the track isn’t Thundercat’s vocals or even his bass. It’s the drums, played by Cole himself. They fucking rip.
This song is about honoring someone you see as a true equal while they’re still alive. But the way I hear the song, it’s more of a tribute to a friend, a kindred spirit, another true session musician. It’s about the excitement of meeting someone new who sees the world the same way you do, and by doing so helps you feel less alone in the world: “It’s just more fun when you’re around / Even if I act up / You let me know that I’m not crazy.”
I love the story of how they first met. Thundercat met Cole through a mutual friend, Austin Peralta, a virtuoso pianist who died in 2012 at the age of 22. One night, Peralta called up Thundercat and told him to come to the Del Monte Speakeasy to see his friend from high school play. Oh, and he should bring his bass just in case.
“Anybody asking me to bring my bass, it’s a fucking setup,” Thundercat remembered. “But I brought my bass anyway because of course, you know, I’ll do anything, like, several times.”
They get to the gig, and the pianist introduces the bassist to the drummer. Thundercat’s first impression of Cole left something to be desired. He compared Cole’s lanky, hunched frame to the Blair Witch, Michael Myers, Slenderman and the Babadook rolled into one.
Thundercat asked Austin when Cole’s show was going to start. “Whatever time we get on stage,” Austin replied.
“I was like, ‘You son of a bitch! You just booked a gig and didn’t tell me!'” Thundercat told Pigeons & Planes. “Austin was a beautiful person for that moment. Bless his soul. Now, me and Louis Cole are always in each other’s lives.”
I like to imagine Thundercat and Louis Cole like two warriors standing back-to-back on a battlefield as the enemy encircles them. Thundercat wields his giant bass like a claymore while Cole slashes frenetically with his twin daggers. Together, they stave off the darkness through sheer force of will. They have to. To do anything else would dishonor the friend they lost, the friend who brought them together in the first place.