The title of the lead single off Diners’ new album three, called “Fifteen On A Skateboard,” telegraphs what the song is about, at least on the surface.
The song begins with some audio of skate wheels on pavement, and as the chorus hits, brimming with warm, hazy nostalgia, singer Tyler Broderick reminisces about his younger days. “I was 15 on a skateboard / skating through the neighborhood.”
The AV Club debuted the single on July 11, and wrote that the song was about the “light-hearted joy of bombing a hill.” The thing is, had the writer listened a little more carefully, he might have picked up on a somewhat deeper meaning in the lyric, “heard another song / so familiar I was long gone.”
See, the song isn’t just about being 15 on a skateboard, though it functions nicely as that as well. It’s about an experience Broderick had at a Stephen Steinbrink concert about a year ago listening to the singer perform his song, “Huachuca City.” It was a song Broderick listened to over and over as a teenager, and hearing it for the first time in years catapulted him back into the tracts of memory and the particular feeling of being 15 and skating. So, broadly, the song isn’t about being young, but about how songs can trigger memories and how ingrained music can be with different times of our lives.
“I’m totally straight-edge, and it felt like I was tripping out, in a way,” Broderick says of the concert experience. “So I wrote a song about it.”
It’s a moment of lyrical prestidigitation that makes three such a rewarding listen. The entire album is nostalgic and melancholy, filled with instrumentation and sounds that recall the sensibilities of Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson. Diners is a band that performs with up to five or six people at times, but the name is just the name for Broderick’s solo project. Three, recorded by Jalipaz Nelson at Audioconfusion Studios, is Diners’ second full-length album, the third if you count the seven-song EP Throw Me A Ten as a full record, which Broderick basically does. (“It flows like an album,” he says.)
Broderick is the type of songwriter who writes about his personal experiences, but not directly. Instead, he’ll write around them, aiming for the margins of the page instead of the lines. His songs — and he is a prolific songwriter, one of those musicians compelled to compose like the rest of us are to eat — function as a journal for him.
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“I don’t talk about every big thing that goes on in my life, but I write about my day,” Broderick says. “If something happened in my day, I might not talk about it, maybe dance around the thing. … I like obscuring things a little bit, but to the point where it still makes me feel exactly how I felt.”
In person, Broderick usually has a smile on his face and emits a general affability that shines through in his music. His biggest musical influence is the Beach Boys, to the point where the only description on his short-lived Tinder account was “Let’s just talk about the Beach Boys.” (He didn’t get any matches.) Get him talking about the band and you’ll find yourself in a fascinating conversation about the dynamic between Mike Love and Brian Wilson and the bizarre appearances the band made on Full House and Baywatch.
“I just saw a picture of Mike Love with Donald Trump, and it hurt me! It hurt me to see it,” Broderick says. “[Before seeing that picture] part of me was even still trying to stick up for Mike Love ... Then I saw that picture and all those feelings, and there weren’t many, just vanished. Mike Love is wearing a Beach Boys hat and Donald Trump is wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.”
Diners is scheduled to play Rebel Lounge on Thursday, September 15.