/ A couple years ago, I posted a Letter Luke sent me about his river-boat living and the music he wrote while traveling. We’ve been in touch and he’s sent me some new work that I’m totally vibin’ on right now, but he also sent me a great note that hit me just at the right time. Thanks, bud!
Hope you’re well - I just wanted to send you my latest release - it came out on Soundcloud (with a free download) 4 days ago and initially, I was just uploading it because it represented quite a special few days for me.
It’s called Figures and is a little longer at 6 minutes; it’s just this gentle swathe of Spring vibes - a poem underpinned by acoustic guitar - what’s a little surprising is that it’s been met by a really fantastic reception on Soundcloud. I think it could fly a little if you gave it a repost and I would love to see it fly so check it out and if you dig the track I’d appreciate the boost.
A little background: this song pulled itself together from a series of thoughts that manifested over the course of a single journey back home to see my parents and extended family over the Easter holidays. The drive is more or less entirely through vast expanses of beautiful rolling green country side and the weather in England this year, right now, is like all of the Summer’s we’ve never had have gotten lost and turned up at this very moment in Spring.
I wanted to capture the feeling of presence I felt. The stillness and contentment. Life is a roller coaster of emotions generally. And eventually, everything happens. We breeze through the highs often so embroiled in the joy of the moment that we never take a second to step back and say ‘this is what it is all for.’ I wanted to capture the feelings of happiness I was feeling and slow them down to a long enough freeze frame that, on a gentle drive or lazy summer’s evening, this song might give you just enough distance to think a soft 'thank you’ to the Universe.
The song also deals a little with sorrow - without sorrow, there is no happiness - and beauty is the blend of understanding those two factors work together to make each more significant. I can’t remember where I heard it - but a phrase that always sticks with me is: 'the depth of your sorrow is the well of your bliss.“
I think it’s beautiful to appreciate - through the sorrowful times - that you are carving a depth to your future happiness. A ravine that will flood with joy when the inevitable revolution of your emotions comes to pass. This song is a drive through the rolling green - a meditation on thought - a prayer to the universe - an ode to family - and a thank you to the now.
Where were you on #Y2K? I was at #BigCypress in Florida, dancing w my friends to an 8+ hour long @phish set wondering if the world was burning to the ground around us outside of the Seminole reservation. (at Big Cypress Indian Reservation)
A lot of us are struggling, and it takes bravery to put yourself out there. I got this Letter the other day from this Atlanta songwriter and thought you’d enjoy the way she told me about her path in music. She’s not the only one of you, struggling to make it in the brutal music world. Just keep working. Just keep working. And dig this track as you read…
I’m typing this to you on the computer that I produced the record on, in my home in Atlanta. Tomorrow I drive to Nashville to play these songs for the first time live. It feels like the perfect time to write to you because though Seersha came to fruition in Atlanta, this project was born in Nashville, after letting go of a dream I sold myself on that wasn’t really mine.
I’ve always been pretty good at selling–in fact, that’s where my career started, in corporate B2B sales. 3 years ago, work was great but I was going internally numb. Working 50-70 hour weeks selling something you don’t really believe in leaves little energy for creating. I hit the wall and left to give music a real shot. I took acoustic gigs anywhere and everywhere–art festivals, coffee shops, sports bars, corporate events. I put out an EP with no real unifying sound. I wrote commissioned songs for couples getting married. I cut vocals for some demos. Looking back, I was throwing whatever I could get my hands on against the wall to see what would stick.
Somewhere along the way, probably after a demoralizing wallpaper gig at a restaurant, I got it into my head that I didn’t want to be an artist; I didn’t want to tour and perform; I didn’t want to produce (I’d never done it before, where would I even begin?); I just wanted to write songs. Sitting in a room with other writers all day churning out songs was my dream come true, I thought. My mentors looked at me quizzically (“Are you sure?”) but dutifully sent me to Music City to pursue a publishing deal.
It took me less than 6 months to realize the reality of sitting in a room churning out songs like a machine was not a dream–it was my personal nightmare. I had found a way to turn the free, creative expression I loved into a formulaic, impersonal and frankly corporate activity. How could I possibly have thought this is what I wanted?
The human mind craves safety and resists change. Getting a corporate job felt safer than pursuing a career in music. When my mind lost that battle, staying behind-the-scenes as a songwriter felt safer than finding my voice as an artist and producer. With the help of some pretty amazing people in both Nashville and Atlanta, and armed with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, my mind lost that battle, too. I moved back to Atlanta in October 2016 and wrote and self-produced the record in Ableton in 3 weeks.
“Your Name” is probably the most personal song on the record; definitely the most specific. It is the kind of song I never would have written in Nashville. I can hear the feedback now–“We can’t say that, it will never get cut.” Seersha comes from the phonetic spelling of Saoirse, which means freedom. I’m finally giving myself the freedom to find my voice and my sound. It’s not easy. It’s not safe. But it is mine.
Andy Warhol with Stevie Wonder backstage Madison Square Garden, at a Rolling Stones show Stevie opened, July 26, 1972 (Mick’s 29th birthday). A legendary show! Read about it here. Photo via Christie’s, my edit.
The other day, I connected with my old friend to catch up on life, new projects, old projects, and how we all dream of living in Big Sur. He just happens to write gorgeous songs that sound like he’s been living there all along, not the gritty city.
Mark Schoneveld: Hey brother! Are these internet wires working? :)
David Hartley: hey man! yes I think the dial-up modem in my garage is finally up and running.
Mark: hahah right on
David: sorry, this is the only instant messenger I use, or am really aware of anymore. is AOLinstant messenger still a thing? I used the shit out of that in college.
Mark: I think it is, yes. I’m not sure anymore either, tho. I just use Messages on Apple products mostly. But anyways, Gmail works.
David: right on
Mark: I’ve been wondering, since I last saw you (when was that? at a Jesse Hail Moore’s show?), how long have you been working on this new record?
David: I started writing the songs during some time off during the last The War on Drugs touring cycle… I was living with my then-girlfriend (now wife) in Ridgewood/Queens and started demoing while she went into Manhattan for work every day. Then when the Drugs finally took an extended break, I rented a warehouse in Kensington and started working in earnest last winter.
Mark: So do you still need to be up in NYC from time to time? Where’s your full-time home?
David: No, I’m full-time Philly. I realized the other day that I’ve lived in Fishtown longer than any other place, ever. Which shocked me… my wife still commutes to Manhattan a couple times a week but we’re dug in here in Fishtown, at least for the time being. I constantly fantasize about moving to Hudson or Ojai or Asheville, like most people, but home is where your friends are. I’ve found the density of wonderful people/musicians/creatives in Philadelphia second to none.
Mark: Philly does have a certain “dirty magic.” But your music - like a dream from Ojai - seems oddly in place, doesn’t it?
David: It does. And it has this way of wrapping its arms around you. I’ve watched it happen with my wife first hand. When she first moved here, she was reluctant.. but she loves it more every day.
Yeah, I think the narrative of this album is the Fishtown-Big Sur/Ojai/Lost Coast connection.
My wife and I were married in Big Sur, we fell in love there, we’ve spent a lot of time there. For our honeymoon we explored the Lost Coast and some off the path Northern California spots… but all the songs were born in dirty/cold (most of the songs were written last winter) Philadelphia..
And, for me, anyways, the California influence works well from afar… The songs aren’t about Big Sur, they are about the *idea* of Big Sur… the *memory* of the Lost Coast.. so the songs are about the feeling, not the place.
Mark: All of us Fishtowners have always had day-dreams of living out in the wilder west. Some have left, though! Adam Granduciel did the jump. Is War on Drugs based there now?
David: Adam’s back on the east coast – living in Greenpoint currently with his gf. I think we’re still a Philadelphia band, at heart.. Robbie, Charlie and I are based here and we are very close to signing a lease on an amazing studio space in South Philly that will serve as our clubhouse for the foreseeable future.
Mark: Ooooh! Awesome!
David: The Drugs have gotten to the point where we can kind of be wherever we want, and just assemble for tours… so we have spread out a bit, band and crew.
Mark: I need to get invited to your parties haha. Been a long time since we all were chilling’ at The Compound, eh?
David: The Compound. Fishtown’s halcyon era, for sure… To be honest it’s been a long time since I went to any kind of party, really. I’ll catch a show at Johnny Brenda’s and, you know, have a dinner party now and again, but I’m so happy with a quiet life–recording all day, reading at night…
Mark: I hear that, man. Hey, I have kids now, so I don’t get to see as many shows as I used to, either. Also, we moved out to the Main Line (crazy!). Way different lifestyle than the ‘hood.
David: Do you miss Fishtown?
Mark: I miss seeing shows 4-nights a week, for sure. But when I do, I make a point to make them good. I’m going to see Molly Burch at Boot n Saddle tonight, actually… She was the first person I interviewed for YVYNYL in its modern version.
For me, Fishtown is mostly an interesting dream, a memory. Obviously, it’s changed for you a lot too!
David: No way… Lindsey will be there. She’s a big fan.
Mark: Oh cool!
David: Yeah, I have a complicated relationship with Fishtown. In some ways I’m proud of having been here for a long time… but the rate of forced gentrification is way too rapid, for me. Lots of prefab junky condos going up, we have a juice bar, a fancy gym, vape stores and what have you. It doesn’t feel like progress.
Mark: Yeah, I understand that. I did 3+ years in West Philly before we moved out to college-land, and I kind of hold 48th and Baltimore dear to my heart.
So are you out to SXSW next week?
David: No SXSW for me… can’t say I’m disappointed. I’ve participated a bunch of times.. it cultivates a climate that I find toxic. I don’t think music needs to feel that competitive …
Having said that, it’s a rite of passage and I think every musician, at least in this field, should experience it a time or two…
Mark: How does the Nightlands project feel like to you? A “Lost Moon”? haha (god, I love that song)
David: What do you mean? What does the project, overall, mean to me?
Mark: Yes, I mean, is this a project that is a long-term goal of your own? Building your own art, not being part of someone else’s stuff. Is it hard to do two bands at once…
David: Well, I certainly take it seriously, from a creative perspective. I totally lose myself in the creative process, and I am hell bent on doing something original. And I don’t think it sounds like anything anybody else is doing, really. I’m engaged in a harmony arms race with myself–no one else is participating… lol… but I am not interested in creating some large infrastructure around Nightlands. I like playing some shows, and I enjoy the challenge of translating these recordings in a live setting, but I don’t have massive ambitions of headlining Red Rocks or anything. It’s about the document.
And when I finished this record, I thought to myself, “I’m really proud of this. I think this will be my last record as Nightlands.” And of course a month later I’m getting the itch to record, to tinker… I just love the lab, I love that recording is a science facilitating a wholly subjective pursuit.. so in that sense it feels like the Wild West.
Mark: Excellent. So you’ll be heading out for a May tour or the States, and then you’ll see what comes next. Maybe more music bubbles up in your mind while you’re traveling, too.
David: I’m going to do some shows.. my band is really special. We’re going to sound insanely fantastic.. and then by the time that tour wraps up The Drugs will be ramping up. I also have been and will continue to produce other bands/artists.. I just finished a full length with the Dove & the Wolf, which sounds mega. Sounds like Air or Sade, with shit tons of harmonies.
Mark: Oh! That sounds amazing. I’ll need to hear some of that soon!
David: You will be!
Mark: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing your show here at JB’s, but hope to cross patch with you, brother, before then!
/ I’ve been pretty stoked to be close to this project. My good friend Donny Felton has been working for a time on his solo stuff, and I’ve been listening to his new work with anticipation. He’s so on-point with the mix of homemade-digital beats and tripped-out sounds, and he jumped out of his regular gig with Grubby Little Hands to slowly craft this new record. He gave me the pick of the litter to premiere, and this one just popped out at me with effervescent charm.
I always describe Berdmajik as my “new project” but when I think about it, it’s actually my oldest project. My earliest musical impulses were fueled by a mixture of golden-era hip-hop, like ATCQ, De La Soul, Geto Boys, etc., with the jazz and classic rock that filtered down from my parents’ and grandparents’ collections.
I was always attracted to the hypnotic quality of boom-bap rhythms, as well as the enchanting musical gestures of jazz and the more harmonically rich end of the rock/pop spectrum. I think you can even hear the intersection of these influences in some of my Grubby Little Hands compositions like “Feel in my Back” or “Dial Tone,” but they are tempered by the collaborative identity of the band. For better or worse, Berdmajik is an unadulterated manifestation of a particular set of my artistic proclivities.
I consider these songs to be fictional and like most works of fiction, they are made of autobiographical components, but they are deconstructed, rearranged and re-contextualized into fictional narratives, which coincidentally mirrors my compositional process for much of the music. I record segments, then chop up and rearrange the pieces into mutated versions of the original ideas.
I have always had a tendency to do things to create artificial distance between myself and my work. When I can create enough distance that it starts to feel unfamiliar, I can start to feel comfortable enough with it to unleash my best ideas. I once jokingly told a friend that managing my own self-doubt defined my entire creative process.
It’s funny how truth has a way of revealing itself through humor. This project has, to an extent, been a study in acknowledging this neurotic compulsion and even embracing it right down to the bones of my art. At the same time, it’s also just a hedonistic scratching of the itch to make shit that feels good. In any case, it was a purifying and cathartic experience and I’m excited to finally be sharing it.
I really appreciate you taking the time to listen so thoughtfully to this record and for helping us introduce it to the world!
David Lynch’s film “Eraserhead” gets batted around a lot when people talk about Philly, or when people leave this city. Eric Slick, the drummer of Dr. Dog, wanted to start a new solo project once he had moved away from our town a couple years ago. We got online to chat about where he went, and how it influences his music writing. I feel like he found the deeper meanings of his work beyond a catchy melody after he ditched. Listen to “You Become the Light” while you read our conversation below.
Eric Slick: my service is terrible in my apartment. let’s text away
Mark Schoneveld: I hear ya! No sweat. Happens to the best of us. Are you in Comcast Land? I know Philly isn’t your home base anymore…
Eric: I’m in Richmond Virginia now! No longer the land of Comcast. Dominion perhaps? Oh, wait. It’s Xfinity. So yeah. Still KableTown.
Mark: hahah yup. So you needed to get out of Philly? How long have you left our fair city?
Eric: I grew up in Philadelphia, so I watched it grow and become something that’s positive for the transplants and confusing for the natives. I left for the first time in 2013 and I moved to Asheville, then I returned back to the island (like the show Lost). I moved to Richmond in 2016 and didn’t tell a soul.
I’m the kind of person who needs to move. It’s called ADHD
I’ve made peace with Philadelphia though and I love it again.
Mark: Is this a way to tell all your pals that you’re in Richmond now?
Eric: Exactly. Come visit. it’s clean here!
Mark: My sister lived in Richmond for a few years, it’s a really lovely city. The Fan!
Eric: That’s where I live!
Mark: I imagine there’s a great bunch of music nerds living that ‘hood…
Eric: Yeah. My partner is Natalie Prass and there’s the whole Spacebomb music community in our neighborhood. And Jellowstone Records/Butcher Brown crew. It’s unbelievable.
Mark: Oh nice. I didn’t know that, but I’ve seen Natalie play at Boot n’ Saddle a few years ago! Great performer.
Eric: She’s the best, but I’m completely biased.
Mark: Of course! Do you guys play together? Doing any duo work, or do you like having your own personal creative stuff?
Eric: Yeah! She occasionally plays bass and keyboards with me. Very gracious of her. If it wasn’t for Natalie, this record wouldn’t have gotten finished. I haven’t played her music yet - I don’t think I’m skilled enough! Maybe I’ll shake a tambourine on her next record.
Mark: Tambourine works!
Mark: Traditionally you were mainly a drummer. Are you doing more guitar work now on your new solo record?
Eric: Yes. Guitar, mellotron, Moog, marimba, and vocals. All new territories for me. I read an interview with David Lynch while he was making a record and he said, "I guess I’m making music now.” I can relate to that 100%. I also started practicing meditation because of Lynch. He was an unknown catalyst to my process.
Mark: That’s excellent. I share this practice, too. I was thinking about Spalding Gray - his monolog Swimming to Cambodia, particularly - when it was mentioned in the email to me. I haven’t read Impossible Vacation yet, but how did this play with your music now?
Eric: I read Impossible Vacation in 2013 and it changed my whole course of thinking and creating. It was so brutally honest. Gray achieved something pure in his writing that I’m still grasping at. It also toyed with the concept of the impossibility of Zen, that you never really get there until the afterlife. You either drift or desire. Life is just a means to an end, so you live in the now moment as much as you can. Grays life was comically tragic/tragically comic. I relate to that. A lot of my friends see me as a comedian. I was the class clown in high school. But the other side of comedy is a tragedy. My album deals with that a lot. I almost wanted to put the smiling mask/drama mask on the cover but I can’t be too literal!
Mark: There has to be some humor in death, doesn’t there?
Eric: I think there is. Death is the ultimate mindfuck. I lost a lot of people close to me very early on my life. They say black is all the colors at once and it’s analogous to death for me. Death is every feeling at once. So humor is there. I love morbid humor.
Mark: Me too. What’s a film or a show that can encapsulate that for you?
Eric: I loved Jodorowsky’s Dance of Reality. That movie hits the mark of diving into death and absurdity. Inland Empire, too. Laura Dern’s character gets stabbed and then the film lights come up.
To me, it was a statement about constant rebirth.
Mark: Does this relate to your work on Jungian dream therapy?
Eric: Absolutely. I started doing dream therapy in 2014. My teacher would analyze my dreams and then do tarot readings. Dreams of death and sickness have plagued me my whole life. Then she told me it didn’t mean literal death. It meant constant renewal.
Mark: I love that.
Eric: She also pulled the craziest card one time. Our last session, I had a dream that I was overlooking an ocean and wearing a gold cape and I was singing. I was leaning on a cane. And someone walked up to me and said “keep singing!”
The first tarot card she pulled, completely random, was a man wearing a gold robe, overlooking the sea, holding a scythe.
I nearly passed out.
Mark: Um, isn’t that now your album cover!? 😊
Eric: You got it. That’s why I did it.
Mark: Amazing. She was on to something there.
Eric: Totally! and I am very self-conscious about entering this territory of writing songs and singing, and it was like my dream was giving me permission to do it. And then the tarot confirmed it
Mark: Fantastic. You have several projects right now, but what about the biggest one: Dr. Dog. How’s that going?
Eric: It’s going well. we’re finally taking a short break after 7 years of nonstop work. it’s been so great. everyone feels recharged. We’re doing a few festivals this year and then recording sometime in the future.
Mark: Recharge and rejuvenation is important for any creative team. And your new solo work is giving you that!
Eric: Exactly! creativity is a renewable resource. people forget that.
Mark: A trip around the East Coast, a bit of SXSW, and then some summer dates with the Dr. Dog festival circuit…
Eric: Like I said, I need to keep moving.
Mark: Both in your dreams and in “reality” right? 😊
Eric: hah! Yes. And hopefully without too much negativity attached to it. Music is supposed to be a great time. It seems to me that the tortured artist paradigm is finally coming to an end. Or at least I hope it is.
My musical friends are all working hard to be healthy. It’s inspiring.
Mark: So important. Health should be our all #1. Mentally, spiritually, physically. It’s my point of view, for sure. For me, music helps keep those things all in working together
Eric: I love that! I think you’ve always been a positive force in the Philly scene
Mark: Doing my best. 😉
Eric Slick plans to take his solo act on the road in 2017, starting with a string of performances at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Mar 06 Richmond, VA - The Camel
Mar 09 Philadelphia, PA - Underground Arts %
Mar 10 Baltimore, MD - Metro Gallery %
Mar 11 Asheville, NC - The Mothlight
Mar 13 Dallas, TX - Three Links*
Mar 14 SXSW - Noisetrade Day Party (Blackheart Bar)
Mar 14 SXSW - Riot Act Showcase (Sidewinder)
Mar 20 Birmingham, AL - Saturn *
Mar 22 Charlottesville, VA - The Southern *
Mar 25 Ithaca, NY - The Haunt *
Mar 26 South Burlington, VT - Higher Ground *
Mar 27 Brooklyn, NY - Baby’s All Right (School Night)
I’ve been collecting new tracks for this project so that I can share them with you together in one bundle. I’m thrilled that this project is attracting wildly talented new and innovative artists from all over the globe. On this short mix, you’ll hear diverse elements: two songs from Japan (though one of them pretends to be Russian for shits and giggles), a poetic song from Australia, another from New Zealand (the one track here not a premiere, I just love it so much I can’t help but plug it again), yet another from England, and of course a smattering of new ideas from far corners in the United States. I love that part of doing the premiere mixtapes. Have a listen!
Photo by Jeffery Silverstein from Singles Club, used by permission.
Time passes. Or it doesn’t. Maybe it’s a trip that we all get fooled about experiencing together. In that vein, I decided to put together a group of songs for you, dear readers, that feel the essence of my elemental beings of music here in the late summer days of 2015.
Artwork by Colin Holloway, used with permission.
Time tangles some mighty webs, don’t it? You blink yr eye and all of a sudden you’re in a completely new world, new skin, new haircut, new seersucker suit. This weird journey we’re on, the surrealism of it all keeps yr mouth agape and full of wonder. And this, friends, is just a small soundtrack.
Tracklist + DL = http://bit.ly/catscradlemix
Don't give in to the A/C - roll those windows down! Crank up that stereo. Embrace it. Maybe these are a set of summer tunes for yr vacation roadtrips, or perhaps just yr backyard BBQs. Slow down and feel 'em.
Original artwork by o_lie. Used with permission.
Check out more yvynyl mixtapes here: http://bit.ly/yvynylmixtapes