Zoë Brecher wrote me a while back and has since created more tunes. I hope she doesn’t mind, but I’m going to combine two letters she sent me a couple months apart.
I’ve been a HUGE follower of your blog for ages now. My name is Zoë Brecher and I have been the drummer of a few bands (Oberhofer, Brainfreeze), but HUSHPUPPY is a solo-project I started this year where I sing and play guitar!
I’ve battled with depression for a few years now and writing songs has always been a useful outlet. I started HUSHPUPPY as a way to share my music with people. I just released my first album and one of my favorite songs on it is called, “I’m At Home With You” about my girlfriend María. She has been, not only my biggest musical influence, but also a huge positive influence on my emotional health. This is the first song I’ve written that is directly addressed to someone, so it has a special meaning to me.
María is from Spain and I’m from New York but we met in college while she was studying abroad in the states. We did long distance for the first two years of our relationship, where I would go there for weeks at a time and she would come here for a while. But now, we have an apartment together in New York, which makes things a whole lot easier.
As cheesy as it sounds, the idea behind the song is basically that being with her, no matter where we are, Spain, New York, or on the road touring with the punk band we have together, she makes me feel safe and protected. I’ve always been most comfortable hiding out at home, but because María’s there I don’t feel as lonely and equally, because she’s there I feel more able to be social. She’s like my human shield against the bad stuff and also my tour guide through life. So “I’m At Home With You” is just a small way for me to thank her for all she’s done for me. And although it’s a personal song for me, I hope it resonates with someone else out there too!
I’ve always been the drummer of bands but I’ve been writing and recording my own stuff in my bedroom on garageband for years now which people don’t really know. I’ve always been shy and nervous so I’ve never had the guts to actually share anything with people. I’ve always been comfortable drumming because I get to be on stage, in front of a lot of people, but still be kind of hidden behind a kit. But recently I started seeing a therapist and it’s really helped me open up and build some confidence. As a result, I’m finally ready to share my solo music with the world!!!
Nacho Cano has been hustling great tunes for a minute now, but he’s been struggling with some shit and thought he’d write it out to a letter to me:
It’s midnight here in LA and I’m sitting outside my back porch, or the best version of one, debating whether or not I should send you this track. It’s been out for a while but I felt the need to send it to you, or at least more or less, send you a letter.
I feel like I’ve been most honest with you than any other writer, or than with any other friend. I’ve told you just about everything, things that I could hardly ever rewrite or beg to retell. However, it’s honesty that’s been killing me lately.
Ever since the release of the last record, and it’s subsequent little songs, I’ve found myself wrapped up in the honesty, or lack thereof, in this adult world. I just turned 24 and I find it harder and harder to allow anyone into my heart, or even into the most mundane aspects of my life. In many ways I feel like I am this way because honesty is punishment. It changes the perception that others have of you, it changes the language you speak, and the consequence of everyones character. I felt closeted in my honesty. I felt like I made a record that undeniably told how I felt, so that maybe the pain that I was hiding behind would dissipate. I felt that maybe if it did well it would justify anything painful and unforgivable that happened to me.
As if I could just let go of these moments, in the art and soundscapes. Unfortunately I don’t feel like it panned out this way. I felt like I was negotiating my truths and my soul with other people. As if I could give a peace of myself and justify the sacrifice without fault. I had to surrender my faith in my work and my faith in my relationships to hopefully catch a glimpse of release. As if an album, or a project, could make me feel free. It didn’t.
Instead, I feel trapped. The record got done, it got published, it got out, and it met some reception. I had a different expectation but alas, it vanished in the noise. People still look to who I was and the kind of music I made then. In my dorm room, listening to Wild Nothing and Destroyer, feeling like I could hone in on the formula and maybe get that one girl to like me.
Now I wanna give who I really am the world. Offer to them what I feel is often lost around my peers, my word and my honesty. After the record, it felt like it got really devalued, like it never really mattered. As if what I said was too complicated, too simple, not on the nose, too on the nose, or just lost in general. I guess art is about finding the path. I haven’t really found it and every day I feel like I lose a piece of myself to my ambition. Like I’m forcing myself to martyr to myself. I don’t really know how to put it. But honestly, it just feels like I can’t really make anything just to make anything. I can’t really deal with the rejection, the lack of communication, the lack of honesty there is in people.
If it were bad I’d rather just hear that. If it wasn’t clear, or if it wasn’t what you wanted, I’d rather hear that. I can surrender to that. Maybe then I could move on and make something else and hopefully get to where I want to be. I wanna feel again like I really did have something to offer. The formula, the person, or the record. I had honesty to offer, but now I don’t feel like it at all.
Anyway, the song is about letting it get worse. Everything sort of does when you carry expectation.
Once again, I don’t have to publish this, I’d almost prefer that you didn’t It just feels nice to send letters to a blog about my music, and be honest to someone about it without inhibition.
This is the solo bedroom synthpop project of Steve Goldberg who told me this song’s “title is from a short story by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges:
In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted “tiger” of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Paraná, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can only be faced by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: this is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! Never can my dreams engender the wild beast I long for. The tiger indeed appears, but stuffed or flimsy, or with impure variations of shape, or of an implausible size, or all too fleeting, or with a touch of the dog or the bird.
/ Even in the depths of nowhere, you might find bright colors and dark music. I can’t stop listening to this heart-blasted and ripped new record coming out on Mirror Universe. The band’s guitarist Sean Neppl wanted to give me some more context in a Letter, so while you listen read ahead:
My name is Sean and I play guitar in the Minneapolis post-punk, dream-pop band Posh Lost, formerly Gloss. This is somewhat of a follow up as our old drummer Jordan sent you a Letter, with our track “Front Porch”, back in 2013. Jordan’s no longer with the band unfortunately, he left two years ago to start his own band Frankie Teardrop which quickly gained praise, popularity, and a devoted fan base.
In his letter Jordan talked about our tenacity and our excitement for music and life in general. Which isn’t exactly wrong now but we’re definitely different people. Time has made us more cynical for one, something none of us would have expected five years ago playing twee pop in my parent’s basement. But our love for music has compounded into more specific things; I work at a record store, Jeff studies guitar parts religiously, and our keyboard player Emmy started working at a non-profit venue in town. We stopped going to shows for the most part though and I’d much rather listen to Swans than The Smiths. Our singer Jeff started his own band which sounds more like Naked Eyes than anything else has in the past 30 years and our new drummer Josh plays doom metal on the side. We’ve all grown into our vastly different musical tastes and somehow it still works.
After Jordan left we took a bit of a break. Jeff and I were both in school; Jeff got through it, I did not. And we waited for the right person to come along. Josh was a friend of a friend who, though an exceptional guitarist, somehow ended up playing drums in whatever band he was in. So we asked him to jam and quickly realized that he was perfect, as good a friend as a musician! We bonded over The Simpsons, La Croix, our love for terrible puns. Within two weeks practice was filled with a brand new set of inside jokes and we spent as much time trying to make each other laugh as we did playing our instruments. The time off also saw us getting into harder edges, Sarah Records was replaced by Factory and early 4AD. Jeff and I fell head over heels for Goth and Post-Punk and our first distortion pedals soon followed.
Our first show with Josh came pretty quickly. A local friend/DJ invited us to play a covers night put on by his radio-show/dance night. The show, Transmission, is indebted to all things 80s’ and alternative. In high school it was the first place I’d heard the Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, solo Morrissey. We were ecstatic and quickly agreed to play despite only having two finished songs. Had it been a regular set we probably wouldn’t have been able to play. Despite our different taste picking covers was pretty easy. We were set to open the show so we figured we’d kick things off with an obvious choice, Joy Division’s Transmission! We found the vocals for the song were a little too low for Jeff so our bassist Jack offered to sing. We figured why not, we were practically starting over anyways. Now Jack sings on half of our new record! The others two covers we chose were Flock of Seagulls’ Space Age Love Song and New Order’s Ceremony.
As the night of the show arrived I was more nervous than I’d ever been. It felt like the 75+ shows we’d played with Jordan had never happened. It was the biggest venue we’d ever played, Jack had never sung in front of an audience, and the Ocean Blue had been added to the bill; we were all freaking out. Before I knew it we were half way through Transmission, then through Space Age Love Song, our original song, then Ceremony, and then we were done. I flubbed the second solo on Ceremony, which subsequently started a long line of terrible attempts at covering a song we all know by heart. The whole thing was exhilarating and I quickly remembered why I enjoyed playing music in the first place.
Skip to now and our debut LP is done! Soon to be released on Brooklyn-based tape label Mirror Universe, the record contains a little bit of each of our personalities. The track I want to share, “Limerence”, is probably the closest to who we were before though; shimmering and sweet. But this time yearning and youth have been replaced by content and maybe even happiness.
I meant to share Ariel Starling’s letter to me a while ago, but sometimes the universe doesn’t work in chronological order, does it? Her story resonates with me, having shared similar experiences, and her vibe puts things in their proper place.
One of my earliest memories is of being in a flying house. I’m three years old and I look out a window and see only a map moving beneath me. It sounds like a dream, and for a long time I thought that it was. When I was 22, I realized it wasn’t a dream at all, but the memory of my first time on a plane.
In the nineteen years between that flight and the next one I didn’t travel at all. I never went to a beach until my 23rd birthday and went no further north than rural Arkansas to visit my great-grandparents. I had the same vague desire to “see the world” and “get the hell out of [wherever]” common to pretty much all angsty young suburbanites, but had no real idea what that would be like. Then when I was 17 my mom died. She had spent a semester in Toulouse in college and never shut up about it, and shortly after her death I read some diary entries and letters she’d left from that period. There was a poem about wearing the country around her neck. A month or so later I happened to pick up The Sun Also Rises, thought it was the coolest thing ever, and set my sentimental sights on Paris.
I spent the next several years wavering on how the hell I’d make that happen and struggling to save money, and finally in 2013 I (went into a ridiculous amount of debt and) transferred to The American University of Paris to finish my BA. Weirdly, I didn’t experience an ounce of culture shock. Paris suited me and I suited it and despite the standard difficulties of life in a foreign country I spent the two happiest and most productive years of my life there and didn’t visit home once.
But of course, all good things must come to an end, and eventually I graduated. I probably could have extended my visa if I’d really wanted to, but it would have been a near-impossible feat financially, and I felt it was time to go back and take stock. I gave up my place at the end of May and spent June at my BFFL’s chambre de bonne because I didn’t want to go home yet and she was amazingly generous enough to share her twin bed with me even though I snore and hog all the blankets. I met this girl at school and seriously, our friendship has been the single most satisfying and uncomplicatedly positive relationship I’ve ever had with another person. I had a lot of anxiety about hopping back across the pond for myriad reasons, but a big one was leaving her.
I wrote this song over the last week I was there as sort of a pre-grieving process for the end of this period in my life, trying to prepare myself for this homecoming experience I hadn’t actually had yet. I imagined feeling alone and confused and vaguely angry at everything–and lo, I indeed felt all those things. I figured no one would understand what I was going through, and they didn’t. Luckily I’d already recorded a rough draft of the song, so while it may be lame and a little egotistical, this product of my weeks-old self helped me through the transition.
It’s been about four months since then. I’m now in NYC pursuing graduate studies in philosophy and performing here and there, and I think I can safely say I’m over the reverse culture shock. BFF and I FaceTime on the regular, I’ve gotten used to hearing English everywhere again, and it matters less to me whether people understand my experiences or not. I’m probably a better person. And I still like this song.
After getting simply a poem and a song without description from Bordeaux, I figured I’d ask more questions, so I got another whole letter from artist Arrigo Di Lupo. So now you have two letters for the price of one:
in the days when animals talked like people so the story goes, twas in somebody’s time, in the long long ago, so long ago that we have lost count there were three brothers. those brothers were the sons of a mighty sovereign. one day the sovereign sent out for his sons and addressed a speach to the assembly.
my venerable sons, he said, soon I will be as new as the world, as the grim reaper reaches out for me. whereas I consider it winsome and complacent to pass away peacefully, i want my sons having found their places in life. i deem this impossible and untrue for the time being. i give you one task, one final task, which will prove advantageous which one of you will prove himself worthy of not only leading our people through the drawing winter but also worthy of shaping the world around us for that it will await and embrace us softly.
my sons, find the golden wolf, as it is him who was chosen to carry the world as a burden. subdue and displace him. subdue him, and you will subdue the world.
the eldest son was flustered. wolves deserved severe treatment, he deemed. he could not think of how to keep the people together without having to fear loss and wounds.
the second eldest was abound of zest for action. wolves deserved severe treatment, he deemed. he could not think of how to keep the people together without levying an army immediately.
the youngest son had already set sail for the wolf. he believed the wolf to feel depleted and void, after having carried the world for aeons. therefore the son carried efficacious remedy.
eftsoons, he came across the wolf which had a shimmering, glittering skin. but under the weight of the world the skin had become crushed and untidy. so the youngest son cut the wolf loose.
as for the world - it stayed in place, as worlds are used to notwithstanding what happens inside.
the wolf shook and the skin regained its sleekness. then he took a leap - and was never seen again.
and now his story is yours.
:: part two ::
several thoughts lie behind this little piece of poetry (or at least, thank you very much that you call it “poetry”). to start with, i have to say, that at lupus the third we are ordinary people. not to say boring, but just normal people who love to sit together during warm summer nights with the terrace door open. and we love to make music together. and of course we would like to spread this music, to show it around, to our friends, to interested bloggers like you, also to journalists. we consider it the only piece of work we can do: write text, think of music to combine with the lyrics, then combine it.
at lupus the third all the members have different experience in bands. all of us played, sometimes more, sometimes less successfully, music in different bands, in different countries, with different instruments. but one experience connects us in a very particular way: that people are only interested in your music, if there is - a story.
unfortunately, most of the times this is geard towards everything but the music. people are so more interested in some of the following things: why your band is called what it’s called. what this particular band name means. how the band rehearses. what the band rehearsal room looks like. where all the band members live. where the band members got to know each other. and so on. it is very human to want to know more about not only the product itself but also about its process of origination. the problem is: not only are the answers to these questions boring. (they always are. no matter who you ask: beyonce, bowie, etc.) they also lead away from the things everything should be about, at least in our opinion. about the things good songs can do to you.
so, what should we do? we thought at lupus. what is our story? after a severe amount of time we were actually considering making something up about a stolen band van somewhere in russia - we threw everything away. we are ordinary people, we said. if people don’t like our music because we are ordinary people, because we didn’t have an interesting band name whatsoever - we could live with that and wouldn’t care. because we didn’t want to make something up with no substance behind, a straw fire.
if people want a story we give them a story, we said. everyone knows that music is about stories. but not the real ones. it’s about those which were made up and made up good. everyone wants to be taken away by music, wants to experience different things than those we are experiencing every day. so we invented a story from bottom to top, from beginning to the end. and even if it’s completely made up, it reflects the concerns of lupus better and in a more adequate way than any true story ever could. read the story and let your self enchant. read the story and find it stupid. listen to our music, like it, dance to it, drink a tequila sunrise to it. listen to our music and hate it, find it really awful. we would like people to judge about little pieces of music because of the music and nothing else.
maybe this is just hopeless and there is one dumb part in the story and it is played by lupus. but that is our dream. we don’t want to be reminded of our little, decent lives. there are many things in life which glue us to it tightly. but music has another job to fulfill.
so this is the story about the not-story of lupus the third, a band who doesn’t want to have a story. and it’s almost tragic that that, again, is a story. but then again… that’s what people do.
all the best for you so far and thanks for reading - if you made it until here :-) -arrigo
/ I’ve been wondering what Chinese indie hip hop is like these days. Luckily, my bud Andrew de Freitas was in the perfect place to tell me more:
I was in China recently and made a video for this rap crew that in my opinion are at the top of the ‘underground’ right now in China.
I was in China carrying out an art residency, and ended up producing a clothing collection as well as a video reel. The video reel featured some reportage about some surreal [but real] events taking place last year at the UNIQLO store in Beijing, as well as this music video for Cosplay, and some other material. The piece I developed in China was built around clothing, streetwear, looking at what it means to wear something, clothing is a signifier. Also trying to stay close to rap, and look at this in a Chinese context.
The song ”Cosplay” gets at this too. I found some really interesting examples of the way the State is also appropriating hip hop and rap as a way to reach youth. In the reel I also included some excerpts from a song on a youth TV show where they rap about the relevance of Karl Marx post-90s, as well as a really brutal recruitment video for the PLA [Peoples’ Liberation Army] which uses rap as a means to communicate their propaganda.
I could say a lot more about that! But I think for a post it’s maybe best just to focus on Higher Brothers and their work. These guys are trying to forge their own way in China with this music, and in China it’s really difficult to forge ahead with anything, given that the state has been super harsh on people in the recent past who speak with too independent a voice. Jail etc. From a North American perspective, if you compare this to the Atlanta scene or somesuch, it might seem quite soft, but in China this is rare, and they also take a risk in pushing the format like this.
I was in touch with the Chengdu crew before I was in China because in my opinion they are the ones pushing it the most over there at the moment. And I like their sound. They’re developing a real scene around the music. They have a label called CDC, releasing lots of good stuff, and putting on tours. Even though hip hop has a relatively long history in China, it has always been very much an underground thing, but I think it might be slowly changing…
This Nashville duo “is a band that believes in something. They believe in failure. They believe in redemption. They believe in broken hearts. They believe in loud guitars. Most of all, they believe in each other. To see them play live is to step into a world created by Deezy and Alex, a world where heartbreak leads to hope and the drums drown out your doubts. They sing, they sweat, they say something awkward, and they’re back at it. The harmonies in their singing, the dynamics in their playing, it’s the musical equivalent of two people leaning on each other, worn out and weary, but walking together through the world. Sad Baxter is a band that makes intensity comforting and dissonant melodies catchy. All they ask is that you come as you are, sadness and all, and sing along.”
Fantastic, glittering single from down south in Georgia. They actually sent me the whole record and I can’t wait to share it with you all. It is drop-dead gorgeous with every single bite. Start with this taste.
a story about one of our songs: rush used to say that “freedom” by wham! was his favorite song ever. not the solo GM house song where his jukebox explodes in the video, but the powerpop wham! song. we were going to cover it when we were in an older band together, but never got around to it. so i knew some of the lyrics and got the idea that it was an anti-possessiveness, maybe even anti-monogamy song because the first verse is all about how this person is cheating on george michael, but how he’ll forgive her, and then the title line is ‘i don’t want your freedom’. so wanted to write a song like that, and i came up with 'hanging up on u’ which is supposed to be like a kiss-off to boys that think they can tell rush what to do, who he can hang out with, etc.
when i showed it to rush, he was into it, but then i told him it was inspired by freedom. and he says, basically: 'that’s the opposite of what freedom is about. george michael is saying he doesn’t care about their freedom. part-time love only brings him down and shit.’ and i looked at all of the lyrics and now i have no idea. is it pro-monogamy or anti-monogamy? anyway, 'hanging up on u’ is supposed to be like the song i thought 'freedom’ was. writing music is weird.
Robert Tate aka rapper Sarob. wanted to let me know about his and his friend’s efforts “to attempt to bring some unity between Columbus’ burgeoning rap and alternative scenes. We have so many movements happening at once sometimes we forget that we can all help each other!”
I’ve been excited about this project after seeing their video “Porcelain”. Jeremiah Meltzer (vocals, guitar) and his bandmates Cary Workmon (vocals, bass), and George Powell (drums) are currently out on the road supporting their first EP, but while they were traveling spent some time to write me a story about where the trip and the music inspired. #FuckCancer
Writing this letter to you from the basement of our old drummer Blake’s house in the outskirts of Seattle. MoondreamzzZ and Extra Spooky are on our first West Coast Tour, “Paradise in America Tour 2016”. This is MoondreamzzZ’s first tour ever, and the first tour I’ve ever done personally. This also Extra Spooky’s first time up the west coast after recently transplanting to Los Angeles from Akron, Ohio. So the tour has been just as exciting for both of us. People from both bands are in Blake’s backyard picking wild blackberries that grow like weeds on a two acre plot of land behind his house as I write this to you.
I want to thank you foremost for premiering our first single “Shy Toes” off our upcoming EP Leap Year. We recorded the entire 5 song EP a couple weeks before embarking on this tour with Dave Newton (The Mighty Lemon Drops) at his Burbank home studio, who so kindly mixed the single for us before we left on this wild journey. The EP and this tour is a homage to my godmother Pia who passed away February 29th (a leap day in a leap year) after an almost two year battle with stage IV breast cancer; I lived with her the last ten months of her life. I don’t know if I would be alive today nor if I would be performing music in the capacity I am today if it was not for the love and guidance of that woman.
P.I.A. or Paradise In America Tour has taken on a new dimension as we traverse the coast. As cheesy as it sounds- we have grown from friends to brothers. Vinny, the videographer, chipped his tooth and had to see an emergency dentist in Olympia. We played the last show ever at Chinatown Youth Center, a seven year volunteer run & operated hardcore punk venue in Fresno, where people did barrel rolls on the floor and threw glitter on us that we were washing off the next couple days. We played in a packed 100 degree basement in Chico, Ca. We performed on public access tv in Olympia. John the bassist/singer for Extra Spooky cut his hand trying to close the band van window that shattered last night in Seattle. We swam, bathed, and jumped off boulders into a river near the Oregon border. We hung out with an adorable puppy named Ginger Ale in Eugene, Oregon (which was a trip for me since ginger ale was the last thing I gave my godmother before she passed away). I have also smoked way too many Black & Mild’s (my only vice this tour).
The tour has restored a sense of childlike optimism and limitless adventure to be had in America for all of us, during these too often dark and uncertain times. We are doing what we love-playing live, while also meeting new people seeing new sights, and becoming best friends. The highlight of tour so far was playing at Samoa Beach near Arcata, California during the Fourth of July on top sand dunes that stood less than seventy feet from the Pacific Ocean. The day my godmother passed away at Cedars Sinai Hospital in West Hollywood I drove immediately to the coast from the hospital (between Malibu and Santa Monica).
Pia talked about the ocean being a very important place for her, helping her on her spiritual journey as an obvious example of a power bigger than us. That day she passed the tide came up unexpectedly high soaking my pants. I felt like it was Pia’s spirit saying goodbye to me. This whole tour I’ve carried this old photo of me and her, with her beloved dog Maxie in my pocket, but that day at Samoa beach I couldn’t help but be filled with joy as I felt her smile looking back at me in the glistening waves, and later that night as we watched our brothers in Extra Spooky perform as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
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