/ I hated it when people told me I was “too young” to do things in life. This sibling duo - Finn Billingham and sister Poppy Billingham - is working hard to respond to that challenge in their nascent music career. You’ve got to get to the later half of this song to really get its gravitas. At about 2:50, the song breaks apart into a hot, melting downbeat that you’d wish went on into the next track. Hello, DJs (hint, hint)!
Thanks for giving us a place to talk about the song and the reasons we are so happy to be making and writing music at the moment. Me and my sister begun writing songs together last summer, predominantly inspired by the music being made around us. The part of London we live in has loads of great artists coming out of it that pushes you to find a sound that captures the uneasiness of being young in a city like London.
Going through this process with my 17 year old sister has added another dimension to this unease, with the struggles of a young female singer being so apparent, as her influences are not being heard and some people miss the nuance of what she is trying to craft. People are eager to group us in with pop acts where young women trying their hand is maybe more familiar and less threatening for some of the musicians who are trying to do a similar thing.
In the end we feel this comes out in the moody tone of the song, which living in London has helped to facilitate. Primarily due to its community of artists with similar ideas and sounds, like Babeheaven, King Krule and Jerkcurb, who definitely inspired us to find our own identity. On top of this, growing up in the same household, where we were exposed to a range of music, from Nina Simone & James Brown to Groove Armada and the Gotan Project, has made it much easier to find a coherent sound as we both draw on similar influences.
The last piece of the puzzle was finding the right people to help bring these songs to life, which our band mates have definitely done. Elliott Higgs, who plays keyboards in our shows pointed us towards what is going on at the moment, showing us bands like Cellar Door who have such a good sound. Finn Boxer, who’s put his own take on the song and our music, helped lock the song to a groove which differentiates us from lots of what’s going on.
We hope to show this all this with our latest track. Creating something unique, that still captures the feeling of the community, is essentially what we are trying to do. We want to keep the songs sounding raw/authentic and make sure we retain the passion we have for this now for a while longer. At the moment we’re focused on getting our live sound polished, as we’ve put a lot of time into recording demos over the past couple of months. Getting to know other artists who want to create a similar experience has given us an even further taste and hopefully we will be back with something soon.
Alex Napping is a band that has worked hard on finding their place in the music cosmos. But it has taken time and moving across the country to find its way. When band leader Alex Cohen wrote me again since she sent me a Letter to YVYNYL under her solo project Pema, she said, “there’s definitely a certain agony to waiting (to release a record) – do I even connect to these songs I wrote almost two years ago? (Yes, I do, thankfully, but from a completely different perspective).” That perspective is what I wanted to learn more about, to understand where she’s been traveling over the past couple years.
Alex Cohen: Hey Mark! It’s Alex.
Mark Schoneveld: Hello! Great to connect. 😊
Alex: Yes! Sorry about all of this confusion haha… Really not sure what’s up,
Mark: #technology, right? 😊
Mark: So where are you right now? home? work? the park?
Alex: I’m at a coffee shop/diner in Brooklyn called Trade Union. One of my favorite neighborhood spots!
Mark: Nice! I’ve been there. Brooklyn is good like that. You go there a lot? Or are you living there right now?
Alex: I’m actually living in Brooklyn, yeah! I moved up here last June. The rest of the band are still in Austin (I go back there a lot). T
Mark: What brought you to BK? Why the move? not for the winters haha
Alex: Haha you know I thought the winters would be a lot worse actually! This has been a mild one, though, I hear… But I’ve always wanted to live up here. I felt stagnant in Austin. Professionally and creatively. I felt like the energy of the city didn’t match my internal energy anymore. It was a great incubator and a great place to figure out a bunch of things about myself. But once I figured them out I felt a strong push to leave.
Mark: You hadn’t grown up there?
Alex: I moved there for college and stayed a little bit afterward, so I was there for 7 years. I was actually born on Long Island and spent most of my early childhood around the east coast (both of my parents are from Philly) so I jokingly say that I’ve finally returned home after all of these years.
Mark: haha nice. Do you get back to Philly a lot?
Alex: I wish I went more often. I still have a lot of family there.
Mark: I’m not a Philly native, but I’ve been here over 10 years now. I love this city. Will you be touring down this way anytime soon?
Alex: It’s a super fun city! We’re planning a May tour right now and will definitely be rolling through. I’m excited to get a chance to play a show there – bunch of incredible bands coming out of Philly right now.
Mark: Who are some of your favorites?
Alex: I love Mannequin Pussy! The record they put out last year was incredible and we got to play with them in Austin in November. Super sweet people also. Love S P O R T S also.
Mark: I’m listening “Romantic” right now. Very Blonde Redheadish, right?
Alex: Oh yeah. Also just generally a versatile record, which I feel like is something I look for a lot in music these days.
Mark: Grrrl bands, eh? Do you associate yourself in that realm?
Alex: Hmmm. You know I’ve always felt like we’re not punk enough (and not in a bad way), but the older I get the more I realize that being a woman in the “indie rock” (or whatever) world is inherently punk. Well, punk in the sense that I feel like anybody of work I make is some sort of political statement.
Mark: Indeed. ’Tis the season/world we live in. Do you write any political songs?
Alex: Not overtly political. But I do write a lot about my experiences as a woman, which can be construed as political, I suppose!
Mark: Tell me about your band. Sounds like you’re all close buds.
Alex: Yeah! We definitely are. So, Adrian is the other guitarist and probably my closest creative collaborator in the project. Andrew plays drum and Tomas plays bass I’d known all of them for a long time before we started the project. We’d all been involved in different projects around the Austin music scene. One of those situations where I don’t really remember how I met any of them, they were always just kinda there. Haha.
Mark: haha, I know how that happens. 😊 blessed with friendships, along for the ride.
Alex: yeah! it’s been pretty surreal how things have panned out. I mean, I liked all of them as musicians, and they were all my first picks to be in the band when I was toying with the idea of starting my own thing. But it’s a. crazy that they all said yes and b. crazy that they all stuck around. In retrospect, none of us had ever collaborated and it seemed like a pretty random selection of musicians in the beginning haha. But it’s worked out!
Mark: so what’s coming up? the new record! what’s the summer going to look like for you?
Alex: Yes! We have a record coming out in May! We’ll be doing an East Coast run in May and then head out to the west coast in late June/early July. I’m also finishing up the 2nd record for my other project right and so I’m also trying to do a short east coast tour for that to tighten up/work out the live set. So, in essence, lots of touring. I’m also hoping that we’ll be heading back into the studio this fall, so I’ll probably head to Austin for a good chunk of time to rehearse for that.
Mark: Busy! That’s great. Do you have to balance a day job for all the travel plans?
Alex: I’m very fortunate that I can pay the bills with a remote part-time freelance “day job” – I have a little bit of anxiety about how that’s going to work out with the amount of touring that I’ve got planned for the year, but I will cross that bridge when I get there!
Mark: Trust. All will work out. 😊 Thank you for your time, Alex. I truly appreciate it. Get another coffee and have a wonderful afternoon!
Alex: Of course! Happy to chat with you! Have a great afternoon also and hopefully see you down in Philly sometime! 😊
/ Learning how to love and experience the end of love is a part of life, but particularly a big part of making music. Here’s a good low-fi song from Spokane’s Daniel Kinne about his journey.
I started playing music sometime in 2011 after being urged by two close friends to learn guitar so I could play in their band with them. Although I loved listening to music (as most people do) I told them I didn’t think playing/making music would ever be a huge passion of mine, but I started learning some chords just to humor them. It’s funny because opposite of what I had told them, I began to find myself addicted to playing music and throwing chords together every chance I could. Over the next few years writing music became all I really wanted to do. Even though that first band dissipated after a few years, I continued making music on my own.
This song is especially important to me because of how personal it is. I felt like it wasn’t a song I could really play or record with anyone but myself. See I was with this girl for something like four years, and I’m only 21. Maintaining a serious relationship throughout the last years of high school and especially the years that follow is not easy at all. Most people would recommend not even trying to do that until later on in life. I thought it was worth it though; I thought she was worth it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t settle down and give her the love and attention she deserved. I worked nights, late nights, and she worked early mornings so our time with each other was limited. On top of that I was spending the time I could have given to her just drinking beer and running around chasing the night with my buddies. I felt torn, I loved this girl, but knew I couldn’t be tamed. I was trying to make sure I didn’t get caught up living an “average” life; working a full-time job I hated and drowning my ambition day by day (I had to escape).
All of this ended up tearing us apart and bringing her pain. How could she feel like she was important to me if I couldn’t even give her the time she deserved? After being with someone for so long parting ways is not simple or easy at all. She up and left to end it before thoughts or feelings kept her from staying and continuing in the pain I caused her. After that, it seemed like she was always trying to do something to break me down and intentionally hurt me. I realized there was nothing I could do about it besides take a step back and realize you can’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. Not an easy thing to accept at all, and I was miserable for quite some time. But I found solace in channeling my pain and sadness into this song. This experience also taught me that emotional distress, suffering and heartbreak can create some of the best and most meaningful music and art. So I’m actually glad all of this happened to me.
/ This song tastes of the Pacific Ocean, but shows its true intent: to let you close your eyes and be wherever you want to be in that 5:56 minutes. Perfect new piece of music craft by my friend Dave Hartley.
/ Who doesn’t love hazy, lazy Sundays? This song should hit that spot just right. I like the story Toby Corton sent me about his friend that inspired him to start diving deeper into music. To learn the craft and to figure out what songwriting meant to his distant friendship.
My names Toby, and I’m a musician from London. I’ve just recently released a track called “Hazy Sunday,” it’s a snapshot of my university memories.
I recently (well I say recently but it was last July and it seems as if someone has press fast forward on life) graduated from University in Nottingham, England, the home of the legendary Robin Hood! It was four of the best years, made some lifelong friends and memories. It was also here that my I refund my passion for making and performing music, when I was coerced by a crazy guy, Abdulla from Bahrain, who I met on my course, to get back into singing and writing. He was and still is the biggest Jimi Hendrix fan I’ve ever met and I was quite taken back by his obsession with music. To be honest with you, when I first encountered him in one of my lectures I thought to myself “who the f**k is this guy?” and “why doesn’t he shut up?” He ended up being one of the greatest friends I’ve made, I took him to his first music festival!
When we spoke briefly, I let it slip that I sang and that I wrote music (although I hadn’t really done much of it for a few years) and then that was it, he pestered me until I gave in and had a jam with him. It was fun! It made me realise how much I missed all of the music stuff I did whilst at high school. I started to write more and more, we jammed more, we made recordings in his bedroom and played some gigs. We argued, well more disagreed, but we’d always make up. We come from very different places musically, geographically and demographically and the vision I had developed for the music I wanted to make differed from his sometimes.
We entered a competition to play Fred Perry’s Dot to Dot festival in Nottingham, we won and it spurred me on to continue music once I graduated from University. When I moved back to London sadly Abdulla had to go back to Bahrain. Lines on a piece of paper decide where we can call home, and there was no way he was getting a Visa to reside in the UK, for I hear they are bloody hard to come by. I continued writing, reflecting back upon my time in Nottingham, and so “Hazy Sunday” was born.
My flat (apartment if you’re American) was the cosy retreat after a long weekend of partying. Sunday would arrive and sprawled out in my 2 person flat would be all of my friends. We’d try not to leave the flat all day, smoking, watching Disney films or David Attenborough documentaries and eating food. If we ventured out it would be 2 minutes to the shop to maybe buy some cheap Prosecco (hair of the dog), and for a group of people who normally took pride in their appearance, we dressed liked slobs. “Hazy Sunday” is what is says on the tin I suppose, its a reminiscing of those Sundays spent with my friends.
I’m gonna be releasing more stuff soon and just made a DIY music video in my bedroom with my friend on my family’s old tape camcorder, so I look forward to sharing that with people. Getting back into music has also made me realise my enjoyment of creative pursuits!
So I suppose I owe a thanks to habibi Abdulla for reigniting the flame! It seems I’ve wrote an essay; didn’t realise I had that much to say HA!
/ Jesus, this song is just shattering me. Mac is a genius. I just pre-ordered the vinyl on not one copy, but two. I know already that I’m going to be sending this as a gift still in its perfect plastic wrap to someone I love.
This amazing album is 40 years old today! Released February 4, 1977 it hit the top of both the US and U.K. Charts and went on to be in the top 10 highest selling records of all time. (at Analog Record Shop)
One of the all-time best. You gotta own at least one copy of this record. No wonder it sold so well at the height of the vinyl production age. Can you imagine what 30,000,000 copies of 12" vinyl weighs?
/ Lebanese-American George Abi-Hannawrote me a few years ago with a story and song. Now, he wanted to send me some more to share in a new social climate. His words made my own anxiety about the energy coursing through everyone’s minds these days feel a little calmer. He considers how we might treat one another, especially our fellow Americans, and how to use ways that may help us move forward. This new piece is strongly political in all the best ways: empathy, tolerance, hope.
I hope this letter finds you well. In light of the current political climate I feel the need to share some thoughts I had hoped needed not be said. As songwriters, our lyrics more often than not a product of lived experience and conveyed in the first person. I hope my rather personal song, “Al-Go-Rhythms” will be welcomed by listeners much like I have been welcomed in my adopted home here.
My decision to live in the US was a very deliberate one. It was in New York City that I found my safe haven. I came here for grad school and wound up prolonging my visit for the sake of music. Finally, the reason I’m staying is for the life I have made for myself, the people I have met, and the culture of openness and hospitality I have experienced. It will always be inspiring, seeing people of different backgrounds living together, sharing values of mutual respect and tolerance, irrespective of nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. If we truly live in the land of the free, it is tolerance and respect of one another that makes this freedom possible, and it is with bravery we accept the differences between us all to contest the current rising tide of fear-mongering and xenophobia.
I’ve mentioned in a previous letter how disparate sonic cultures from around the world make their way into my music, and I feel that my sound would have not been conceived anywhere else but here. Made possible by the hospitality of friends from and in America, originally from Haiti, Cuba, Germany, and from all over the Middle East; finding common ground, sharing great music, good food and memorable times. It is through such interaction between cultures that America’s greatness lies, as this is something I’m sure you can relate to, living in "the City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia.
As an Arab-American hailing from a turbulent region, I can say that these are the principles people seeking shelter hold most dear. A ban on people based on their religion and nationality only enforces the life-threatening prejudices these same people are escaping from. We take for granted the ability to choose where we want to live or what to believe in - we Americans can practically travel anywhere and get an entry visa on arrival - whereas countless others don’t have that luxury. When silence bespeaks consent, I’m glad to see our remaining right to free speech and assembly be put to full effect. The eruption of peaceful marches and protests in the name of values we all hold dear, is an expression of the very soul of our country. Like many of us, this election year and its result has me shaken to the core. However, I’m glad to say that the emerging worldview espoused by the current administration does not find its reflection in my beliefs, or in any of my friends’ for that matter. And even if it did, I hope we could still preserve a modicum of mutual respect.
The song “Al-Go-Rythms” is about the bizarre unfamiliarity of this election, which has since become the norm. But it’s also about the love that keeps me and my circle of friends sane amidst the chaos. The song’s framework was born from a voice message that my grandmother left me, where she can be heard opening and shutting doors and ends with her saying “–now he’s gone” (in colloquial Lebanese Arabic). This seemed appropriate to sample on a song about the media building up a giant they once thought could be contained, as he now attempts to reshape the country through a narrow perverted lens. Like many here, I treat others with the deserved respect and hospitality especially at a time when the rest of the world choose to keep their doors open to us.
This thought set off a scavenger hunt through public domain archives for inspirational footage to illustrate my sentiment. The product of which shape-shifted into a fictional music video about the power of peaceful assembly. My well-intentioned version of an alternative fact, since such “facts” should solely lend themselves to the imaginative pursuit of artistic expression… rather than influence politics. I’m not a proponent of explaining the intentions behind my music and videos to the point of granularity, as I believe in the power and enjoyment of open interpretation. However, in exceptional times like these, I feel the need to write this letter in order to be exceedingly clear about what I stand for. By speaking my mind through song and image, here is my modest contribution towards reversing these tides of intolerance.
/ I believe that color guides all senses, beyond sound and smell. When musicians make visual art a part of their music, it feels right. Jesse Hughey wrote me a note about how he searched for comfort and rejuvenation while he traipsed around California. Listen while you read…
I just released my first solo EP and a photobook. It’s a piece of work reflecting on a complicated year.
In August, I turned 30 and lost my job. Both events felt appropriate in a collectively bleak year. I spent the next couple of months stewing in the dark. I didn’t leave the house much and spent hours pouring over dismal Craigslist postings and the more dismal news.
By October, I needed to escape, so my wife and I drove up the California coast through Big Sur. We camped on the beach, got stoned listening to cassette tapes, woke up early, shot a few rolls of film, and wrote for hours. In my memory, everything is sunset colored.
The next week, I spent three days recording with an old friend in the basement of his house out in El Cerrito. In the mornings I walked around Oakland with rough mixes in my headphones, singing to myself and writing. The resulting songs are broadcasted from inside of a temporary, joy-filled, dream-state: Music made while away: Latebloomer/Slowburner.
In addition to the EP I’ve printed a collection of photos taken with disposable cameras over the last year. They are double and triple exposed, hazy, sun-bathed photos from my happiest moments in a harsh year.
I shared “Latebloomer/Slowburner” online. You can see some of the photos here too. I’m not doing much press for this, but enjoy a lot of the music you post on YVYNYL, and I’d be thrilled if you’d post a track. My favorite is the second, “Less Rage”.
Sometimes, an artist will simply mesmerize me from their first note. Molly Burch did just that. Her sound is a throwback yet a fresh take on alt slash retro country. Her upcoming record enveloped my ears and melted my heart from beginning to end. I got the feeling that I desperately needed to dive in deeper, so we connected to chat. We hooked up the other day to talk about relationships, songwriting, and her influences:
Molly Burch: Hi!
Mark Schoneveld: Hi, Molly! So, I’m one of the lucky ones who got an early copy of your new record before it is coming out. Wow. Outstanding. When did you start writing music like this?
Molly: Thank you so much! That is so kind of you to say. I’m glad you got it. I started writing the album when I moved to Austin in late 2013.
Mark: What brought you to Austin? The music scene?
Molly: I moved on a whim after a break-up in Asheville. I was drawn to the music scene for sure. I was debating whether to go back to my hometown of Los Angeles or a new place all on my own. I chose Austin because it seemed more manageable and I also jumped into a new relationship really fast and he lived in Austin. It was incredibly lonely here at first but I’m glad I stuck it out. I love it here.
Mark: Ah, love. Are a lot of these stories what your songs are about? “Downhearted” for example. Or “Wrong for You”
Molly: Yes! Most of the songs are about my break-up in Asheville with Dailey Toliver who is my current boyfriend. We reunited and he is the lead guitarist on the record.“Wrong For You” and “Downhearted” are more make believe. The slower ballad type songs I was thinking about Dailey.
Mark: So your relationship broke up and then reworked itself in a new city? He plays in your band now?
Molly: Yeah! We were very young when we started dating. Dailey was 20 at the time and I was 21. We jumped into the relationship super fast and moved in together after a couple months of dating – mainly because we wanted to decorate an apartment together haha, we both love interior design. But then I felt scared and not ready for something so serious. Having time apart really helped us both figure out what we wanted and also being in a new environment helped too. He recorded lead guitar, keys (on 7 out of 10 songs) and some backup vocals on the album.
Mark: That sounds very mature of the two of you! Glad it’s working out.
Molly: Haha, thank you!
Mark: Helps to have a partner on tour…
Molly: Yes, I’m really excited we can do that together.
Mark: Are you a fan of Angel Olsen? It feels like you tread in a very similar space.
Molly: Yes, of course! She’s amazing. She moved to Asheville right when I left. One of my best friends plays guitar in her band now. Very excited to see them play in Austin in February.
Mark: Awesome. That’s right! Asheville! How does Austin differ for you?
Molly: I feel they are similar in that they are both liberal pockets of otherwise mostly conservative states. Austin is a bit bigger. Definitely both creative places with wonderful people. I miss Fall in Asheville. Austin lacks traditional seasons. But we have Barton Springs and wonderful places to be in the summer.
Mark: What’s the music scene like right now? Do you have a crew? A scene?
Molly: The music scene that I feel apart of here is really supportive and hard working. Everyone I am close with here is a musician. We all play out a lot and collaborate with each other and attend shows constantly. It’s a really nice balance of hard work and loving support. So much love in this bubble of ours here in Austin.
Mark: That’s great. Did you go to school for music? Has this been a longtime goal of yours? Or did you fall into music?
Molly: I did, I graduated with a BA in Jazz Vocal Performance. It’s always been a goal of mine to pursue music and a dream to release a record.I’ve always been a singer, but a late bloomer for sure. I struggled with shyness and confidence. So I feel like it’s taken a while for me to figure out what my “goal” is I guess.
Mark: Sounds like you sound the right track. Where did you come into this style. Who influences your sound?
Molly: Haha, thank you! So nice. I think I fell into my style in the same way I fell into music. I waited a long time to start writing music. I think I found my sound when I truly isolated myself, moving here all alone and pushing myself to do it. Studying Jazz influenced me and listening to Billie Holiday and Nina Simone growing up. I started by studying voices and then songwriting came later.
Mark: And Patsy Cline of course…
Molly: Yes! Definitely her and other icons. Peggy Lee, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield.
Mark: What did your parents listen to at home when you were a kid?
Molly: I honestly have no memories of music playing in my house growing up. We would watch movies. My dad had a huge laserdisc collection. My parents are both in the movie business. My dad did play the banjo though, and introduced me to Earl Scruggs. He also introduced me to Fiona Apple, thank you, DAD. Huge influence of mine as well.
Mark: Haha that’s awesome. Dads are the best, aren’t they?
Mark: So, tour this spring? SXSW?
Molly: Yes! I’m so excited. The album comes out on February 17th and then my band and I are supporting Tim Darcy on tour for all of March. His album comes out the same day as mine. He’s so great. And we have some SX dates too! First time playing in the fest, very excited.
Mark: And your home base, eh? Always a fun time.
Molly: Yes, home base. Can’t wait. Will you be here?
Mark: Probably not this year. I’ve done 6 years of SXSW, but I think I’m done w it haha
Molly: Haha, yeah.
Mark: Well thanks for your time!
Molly: Thank you!
Mark: I hope to see you here in Philly in a few weeks.
Molly: Ah, yes! We’ll be there March 7th at Boot & Saddle.
Mark: I am truly excited about your work.
Molly: Would love to meet you! Thank you so much, that makes me very happy!
Mark: Indeed! Have a wonderful day!
Molly: You as well!
Molly Burch’s debut album Please Be Mine will be out on Captured Tracks on February 17, 2017. She will also be on tour of the US this March, making a stop in Philadelphia at Boot & Saddle on March 7th.
photo: Kelly Giarrocco
I’ve done a few interviews in the past, but I haven’t done them often. I decided it was time to change that and dive in again. If you’d like to chat, send me an email.
/ I’m thrilled when I get stories of adventure that come with love, not loss. Jeremy Macachor went out into the world looking for something unknown, something wild, and he found an incredible city and the love of his life. Now, he’s applying those experiences into song, and a Letter for us to read while we enjoy his words!
Musically, the seed for this song was already planted 7 years ago. I had just finished audio engineering school and got an internship at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, Iceland. It was a huge dream I had of one day being able to go to Iceland and I was lucky enough to do it in a way where I was working in a studio where some of my idols were working and have worked in. I was there from Jan-March 2010 and it was my first real experience of what nordic winters can be like. I had some truly life-altering experiences during that time and am living now in Tartu, Estonia, married and with a dream day job working as a live sound engineer for a really great cultural venue called Genialistide Klubi, because of that first trip to Iceland.
After Iceland I went back to California and life just wasn’t working out for me there and I still had this really strong pull to go back to Europe. So I managed to get an unpaid internship in Edinburgh. I spent most of the 3 months I was there couch surfing, changing places every few nights and working in the studio during the day. I had met some people from Tartu in Reykjavik so I decided to make my way over to Estonia and see where it leads me. My friend’s friend had a room to rent since she was leaving for a few months so I moved in. After couch surfing for 3 months, getting my own private room in a really cool old wooden apartment building with wood burning ovens was a feeling I’ll never forget. And the rent was only €80 a month! I decided to stay a while and to cut the story short…I ended up marrying my roommate in 6 months. It felt like I was living in some indie movie.
So fast forward to now, we’re living in Tartu and life is good. I still had a lot of the feelings from that first trip to Iceland in me, and one morning while nursing a medium sized hangover, I wrote the track. I sent it to my friend at Greenhouse and asked if he knew any singers that would be interested to sing on it and he recommended Katrin. It worked out really smoothly and she tracked the vocals at the studio a few weeks later. And after everything came together, I somehow got the feeling of closure, I’m not exactly sure on what though.
So since I have this track and this EP ready, I’m working on getting the word out. Part of me doesn’t mind it, but it’s something I kind of struggle with, the whole self-promotion thing, especially on something so personal. I’ve been emailing blogs, and started using this submit hub website. It’s definitely part of my growing process to accept all peoples criticism with a grain of salt and not take it personally. I had the thought the other day, if I had all the food and shelter that I need (which I’m lucky enough in my life that I do). And there was no such thing as the music industry, blogs, record labels, competition for premiers, etc etc…what sort of music would I make? That question for me will be the foundation for the music I make for the rest of my life. I’ll still pitch to all those blogs, but if I’m not enjoying the process of making music for me and I’m trying to compete with the 10s of thousands of musicians pitching their music to the same blogs, then I’d rather not even make music.
So I guess I’ll end the letter with what I’m doing right now, which is watching a live feed of earth on YouTube and writing this letter. Enjoy the view.
/ I’m definitely feeling what Sydney's Oliver Badman discusses here in the introduction to his letter. Luckily, it’s helpful to stay positive, relaying a strong state of mind. And dancing.
About a year ago I finished reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, a book I consider a metaphorical warning of the dystopia that western civilization is traveling toward (or already existing in) because of our relationship with technology and mind-numbing entertainment. With mindfulness being the word on everyone’s lips, trying to shake off our anxieties, fears and sadness in order to be in the moment; present, it’s hard to avoid being affected by the concept. I think we’ve all been in the zone, or in the moment at one point or another and paradoxically it’s the awareness of being in the moment that tends to pull me right back out of it.
One particular passage of the book (spoiler alert) is a man, a former drug addict, who’s been shot and is refusing opioid-based painkillers in fear of relapse. His existence is reduced to second after painful second, one heartbeat to the next, and it’s between each beat that life happens. Take a big problem and make it smaller. The character realizes that no second is unendurable, so long as you don’t think about the next minute (or tomorrow), think about the one you’re in. The old AA adage rings true, ‘one day at a time’.
I felt compelled to write a song about this.
It took a few months of jamming out ideas. Replacing one bass line and chord progression to something simpler, keeping the verse quite groove-driven, something to highlight the idea that life is here, it’s happening, something that says “won’t you join in and live in the moment? It’s always here, you just need to be aware that you have a choice”. For fear of sounding didactic or preachy, this is a reminder and a self-realisation, I’m talking as much to myself as I am to whoever may be listening. I’m definitely no wiser than anyone else is, and hope this song conveys this sincerity.
The chorus wasn’t coming until finally, a few days after hearing Nick Cave’s track “Rings Of Saturn” that it all fell in to place. It came out within ten minutes, that kind of brilliant, surreal moment where I’ve tapped into something that’s beyond me. I live for these kinds of moments. I turn up every day and write and compose and 99% of it’s rubbish, because that mildly transcendent feeling isn’t there. The one that makes sense of everything, the one that you can’t take ownership for, you just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The chorus is the flip-side of rejecting the idea of being in the moment or mindful, it’s the often-unconscious slipping down and out of control and having life passing you by faster and faster without you being able to do anything about it - without you being aware of it.
/ I was just listening to Animal Collectives early record Sung Tongs and then I played my bud Keith Birthday’s newest release. He came down from NYC and played some of this new work more acoustically at the benefit show I ran a few weeks ago, but certainly feeling the relationship to how early AC’s stuff influenced him.
/ Pop-garage punk artist Justin Daniel Rutz took a moment from his pretty chill job as an art museum security guard to tell me about the fresh music he’s been working on with his dedicated free time between shifts.
Right now I’m typing this on my phone where I work. It’s not the most ideal but it’s where I have the most time. An art museum is a strange place to inhabit. Especially as a security guard. I’m surrounded by the greatest most celebrated artists that have ever walked the earth and also the everlasting slew of forgotten artists whose names no one will remember. And I’m not talking about the artists on the walls that I don’t particularly care for that day. They already did it, they already won.
I’m talking about the guards that work here. The people that wander the halls. They’re all artists, in their own write. Some may be actors, or musicians or painters, but all of us are the same. Artists are all the same type of people, whether they’re a 26 year old white kid, a refugee from the siege of Sarajevo, or a baby boomer that was a former Black Panther. We’re all exactly the same as the people that hang on the walls that surround us. But there has to be a difference right? Something that stands between those that hang on the walls and the slew that meanders the halls? Is it pure talent? You could hang any of their paintings next to a Picasso and 9/10 people that walk in wouldn’t notice anything different. Pure luck? No, I can’t believe that I have no role in deciding my future. And then something snapped.
I had been in a few “bands” around Portland, playing my own material or buried in the rhythm section of a multi-genre skipping band with more band members than audience members and it just wasn’t working anymore. I couldn’t juggle working 40 hrs with three bands hoping something will strike gold while never feeling like I was in control of where I was headed. So I decided to act like an artist, I threw a fit and crumpled up whatever work was in front of me and started over from scratch with a fevered pitch.
I had been really inspired by the mixtape movement that happened in hip-hop and the idea of the guerrilla musician using any way possible to get ahead. I can record everything myself now, I have a way to release everything myself now, I have a way to market myself now. That worked for me, I was rich in time not money, so I downloaded free recording software, bought the cheapest interface I could find, opened a bottle of wine and started. I basically just sat in my room every night and just recorded everything I had. It wasn’t that much but I had a group of skeleton songs. I wanted it to be garage rock, it’s near and dear to my heart and it’s the only choice aesthetically that I could really get away with on my budget.
I wrote most of the bass lines or lead guitar parts on the spot, so a lot of the time what your hearing is the first and only time I played it. I whittled away at it though and after about a month I had pretty much everything recorded. Except drums. I had planned on using a drum machine, which sounds crazy now but I wanted it to be all DIY. That didn’t work, like not at all. so I called my friend Donovan Allen that grew up in the same bleak seaside town as me and thankfully he was amazing, the drums and the vocals were the only thing I couldn’t really skimp on. Luckily at the time where I was living, my landlord had worked at some studios in Portland in the 90’s and made out like a bandit when they all had to close, so he made a studio out of the basement of his house and thankfully that was readily available, outside of the odd metal band that would go in and shake the entire house from time to time.
Somehow everything ended up coming together better than I could have imagined. I still don’t know what the difference is between the names on the walls and the faceless hordes that occupy the halls. But I’m still working at it. Maybe luck, maybe talent, maybe nurture, maybe nature. I don’t know. Whatever it is though I want to try and find out. I want to be there, whatever muddy bank I have to climb I will, if I have to fight tooth and nail I will, I’ll do whatever it takes to get there, even if it’s just so that someone will mispronounce my name in two hundred years time. It will still be my name.
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