Drave Cochems was so amazed at the size of the massive, extra-large burrito he got at a Mexican restaurant that he thought it should be immortalized in song. That night, the 27-year old resident of Hayward, Calif., sent an e-mail request to Andrew Pants, creator of the website Songs to Wear Pants To. "I think you should write a song about a man ordering a burrito and being extremely intimidated by the size of it," he wrote. "The music should be Celtic techno." Two days later, Cochems had an anthem for his fast-food experience: a song with a driving techno beat, Celtic flute and a stuttering voice track talking about one very intimidating burrito.
"I absolutely adored the song," Cochems says. "I saved it and I uploaded to my on-line journal. I shared it with all of my friends and they loved it as well."
The website songstowearpantsto.com is a gathering place for people who aren't interested in songs about love, life and loss, but rather, people who enjoy creative and bizarre songs about toenail clippings and vitamin C pills. The site is also a part-time job for 20-year-old Andrew Pants, better known as Andrew Huang by his professors at York University's music-composition program. People contact him through the site and pay a negotiated fee (between $5 to $102) to have a custom-made song written for them on any subject and in any genre they can imagine. (Pants is only limited by the type of instruments he can get his hands on and he will only sing in English.) You can also request a song for free, but there are two conditions: Pants will only do it if he feels like it, and the end result will be less than 71 seconds.
The songs are posted on the website, resulting in a bizarre archive of hip-hop, classical, doo-wop, electronic, folk, rock and heavy metal tunes performed entirely by Andrew Pants. There's a crooning ballad about an albino kitten, a disco song about dancing robots and a hip-hop version of the Super Mario Brothers theme. Some of the songs are unlistenable, suitable only for late night college radio, while others are surprisingly good. In any case, visitors to the site can't help but be impressed by Pants' uncanny ability to create authentic compositions in such a wide range of genres. Songs to Wear Pants To has rapidly gained popularity, spread by e-mail and on-line journals, and Pants says the site receives around 10,000 visits a month.
Andrew Pants came up with the idea last spring, while he was searching for a part-time job to get him through the summer. He dropped off his résumé at various movie theatres, record stores and book stores, but had little response. Perhaps they didn't like Pants' creative approach: His résumé was a comic strip with cartoon figures saying why he should get the job. Instead, he decided to put his musical talent to work and sell an original song on eBay. He listed the instruments he had available -- drums, guitar, bass guitar, turntables, keyboard, recorder, harmonica, megaphone, etc. -- and offered to write a customized song on any subject. The idea was a hit: the first three songs he wrote sold for around $75 each.
"I was practically wetting myself when the bid went to $15," Pants says. "It went a lot better than I thought it would."
Soon Pants set up his own website, naming it "Songs to Wear Pants To" after the title of a solo CD he put out when he was 17. "The name doesn't mean anything," it says on the site. "I really don't care if you listen to my songs without wearing pants, and in fact, I'm often not wearing pants when I record them."
Pants writes songs in his bedroom in the North York house he shares with his roommates. He certainly doesn't struggle with writer's block: It never takes him longer than two hours to write and record a song, and often he improvises the free requests. He records each instrument individually and mixes them on his computer. Pants says he makes several hundred dollars each month from the site.
"Songs to Wear Pants To became the part-time job I was looking for," he says. "Compared to a regular job, it's definitely better money for the time I put in, although it's not very reliable. Over all, it's definitely been a blessing and I'm enjoying myself. My roommates all have regular jobs. One is a receptionist, one works at an amusement park. It seems like their jobs are boring, whereas mine rarely is."
Andrew Pants says he doesn't know what he'll do after he graduates next year. "All I know is I want to somehow make a living with my own music," he says. And it looks like Pants is already halfway there.