/ I’m a huge believer that music is medicine. Paul Dunne shot me over his new work and a Letter about his struggles with alcohol and depression, but also his belief that a new path is possible for him. Believe it.
My name’s Paul Dunne and I’m writing from a place I never really envisioned myself at. In the last few months I’ve been housed in a sober living environment in Los Angeles while undergoing some therapy at a psych treatment center, mainly for depression and anxiety. The sober living comes from me and a heavy drinking problem I slowly acquired over the last couple years. I’ve been writing songs for a couple months on my own and calling the project Garbage Boys because I think the name is funny and I often find myself claiming the descriptor of ‘garbage’. I lived in Boston for the last five years and played in a garage-sludge-punkish band called Dinoczar and pretty much disbanded the group by me coming for treatment. It constantly bums me out and I hope that starting something new for me in Los Angeles will get me to that exciting place of being able to play shows again.
I’ve recognized at this point that almost all of my songs are just about girls or how I drink too much, and I even say that on the first track of the EP I’m putting out soon (aptly titled EP2). I try to branch out stylistically but at the same time I try to write what’s primarily on my mind and what’s weighing heavily on my heart. Lots of shame and misunderstanding, misalignment, distracting or tricking myself into self-destructive behaviors; I try to keep the music light and a weird combo of fun and dark, so hopefully the music isn’t actually depressive. I use it as a poetic emotional outlet. Anyways, I was looking through blogs to send links my new EP to and found this fun little Letters to YVYNYL section and needed to take a smoke break and get some words out of my mind about what this Garbage Boys project means to me. Thanks for reading and maybe thanks for listening.
/ I have had this Letter in my bucket for a couple weeks, constantly meaning to get back to it, but then the holidays, blah blah. So here I am digging through the long lists of un-posted intentions. Chad Caroland put’s his own style out there. It drives his songwriting. He’s brazen, and he’s not shy about it. This track is just one of the best moments, but the entire thing is simply perfect. There isn’t a turkey in the bunch.
Hope you’re doing well. My name is Chad Caroland, I’m a 21-year old Chattanooga, TN native and I just put out my debut album, “Chasing Skies” under the name Dirty Blonde (like my hair color). I just want to start out by saying - I’ve spent a lot of time honing my writing skills in the context of songs, but not in the form of letters and essays so forgive the horrid grammar and sentence structure that is bound follow this introduction.
The other day I was at a coffee shop talking with some people when someone said, “I don’t know, I feel like musicians are just kind of selfish people.” As soon as that slipped out they looked at me, realized I’m a musician and then quickly apologized. I told them there was no need to apologize because for the most part, I agreed with them - Because I know I’m pretty selfish. I’m kind of a diva, I’ve always loved attention (I mean my album cover is a hand-painted portrait of me. I don’t think it gets much more vain). I’ve always loved to be the thing people are talking about, I think that’s probably part of what attracted me to playing music in the first place. But even knowing that, I’ve found that it’s actually pretty hard for me to talk about myself with others beyond just funny stories. It’s pretty hard to let anyone into my thoughts, including those that I’m close to. So with this letter I guess I’d just like to say a few things about how therapeutic the process of making an album was for me. Also since I’m the selfish musician type it’s all about me - so buckle in.
My album Chasing Skies deals with a lot of different topics and themes but boiling it all down, I think it’s really just about me. This album is by far the most personal thing I’ve ever done, not only laboring on it for so long (two full years doing all of the writing, production, recording, mixing and promotion) but all the songs are snapshots of different moments of my life throughout the past four years. The album is me learning how and being okay with writing extremely personal thoughts and emotions down, working through them on my own and also being okay with sharing some of the less “noble" parts of myself with anyone who listens. I decided I had to write what I needed to for me and not care who listens whether that’s my parents, little sisters, ex-girlfriends, old youth pastors, whoever. I think in that aspect it’s also a very intentional rebellion against the southern-Christian culture I’ve grown up in and still exist inside of; the culture of not being able to bring up personal problems and struggles with friends and family or social groups; acting like you don’t enjoy cocktails on Friday nights, like your marriage is always perfect, like you never get sad. I just want to be comfortable with not being perfect, learn from my mistakes instead of acting like they don’t exist and hoping maybe it will help others know they can share a little bit more honest too.
Growing up I listened to and wrote a lot of folk music and was obsessed with writing extremely “high-brow” complex narrative-driven songs. I idolized artists like Blitzen Trapper, Josh Ritter and Iron & Wine. I did that for a while but eventually got pretty disenchanted with it. I always had to prove something with my songs, impress myself and other people and eventually it sucked the joy out of songwriting and gave me writer’s block because nothing was ever good enough. Hearing artists like Night Beds and Drake just kind of laying it bare on tracks with super personal, emotionally messy stuff was kind of a game changer for me. I realized I could write songs about real things going on in my life and the emotions that came with them and be way more proud of that than a complex song that didn’t really represent who I was. It was also a nice songwriting challenge for me to get into that stuff without it sounding too cliché or like a diary entry. As I wrote more and more material it also became really therapeutic for me too; helping me figure out what I actually thought and felt about things, rather than just having a millions things in my head that I couldn’t keep track of. Writing it down made my experiences and emotions way more tangible and helped me organize it all into a story that I could process and connect with.
So I guess to end, I’ll just say this; whether or not anyone else likes the music, it’s something that I’m 100% proud of and I think a super important step for me as an artist and a person… But also I’m kind of a diva and I really hope other people dig it too.
/ I’ve been blessed to get to know so many artists all around the globe and I am so proud seeing them thrive. Steph Thompson graced me with this stunning new single she’s finished recently, and she wrote me to tell me about the struggle, illness, and death that went into the process in creating such a warm, gauzy, and mellow song:
hello friend! i do hope this note finds you and your sweet fam happy and well. i have to say i absolutely love this section of your blog. writing a personal letter about music seems so fitting to me when thinking about sharing new creations, because that’s what music is after all.. personal.
i wanted specifically to write you here when thinking about sharing my new single from my upcoming EP ‘happy’ because it has been such an intense process creating it, and i wanted to release it with as much heart and realness as i could.
i was talking to my brother, tim (he says hi ha), a while back after finally finishing this EP about how i should release it. as you know, he helps run a rad cassette label (chill mega chill). i was asking him what he thought the best way for me to do this was and he asked me, “well, what do you want to get out of this?” i love him for this because i had been quite caught up in the ‘business’ of it all and his question quietly brought me back to the heart of things. my answer to his question was that i just wanted it to mean something. i wanted to share it with some sort of intention that felt true and real. i think this is often a hard thing for artists, feeling like our work will mean as much to other people as it has meant to us. after all, it IS a piece of us. our souls are poured into the nooks and crannies of every melody, every chorus, every line drawn, every word spilled.. the thought of it going unnoticed into the abyss if often times a crippling thought for me.
it’s been over five years now since i released my first ever ‘album’ on bandcamp. i say album loosely because i literally recorded the entire thing on my MacBook at the time using nothing but garage band and the built in microphone haha.. the funny thing about that album though is that it was my most pure and honest offering. it might sound like shit but it was real. i had no agenda in sharing it apart from the fact that it was necessary for my souls survival. this is the place i want to come back to as i release this new EP ‘happy’. just me.
i started recording the songs on this EP over three years ago. between beginning this process and now, i’ve experience some of the best and some of the hardest moments of my life. i fell in love. i lost a dear friend to a sudden accident. he was my best friends fiancé (whom the song ‘jimmy’ on the EP is written for). i’ve been in the hospital with sickness and in the process learned i have an auto immune disease. i’ve lost jobs. band members came and went. i’ve lost dear friends and gained new ones. these hard life events simultaneously derailed everything i had going creatively while also setting them all on an entirely new course. i began to hear music in a way i never had before. i remember sitting at my desk at work shortly after jimmy had died, i was playing music as i often did, and 'berlin’ by RY X came on. it was as if i’d never heard music before in my whole life. it was so utterly and painfully beautiful. it wrecked me. right there at my desk at work it completely destroyed me and i just sat there and wept.
everything i thought i had inside of me creatively just halted. i could barely pick up a guitar and attempting to write anything new seemed impossible. so i began to listen. i began to sit. i began to slowly pour what i could, even if it took three years to finish. this EP was a process in grief. in wholeness. of letting go. it was a slow unfolding. it was an act of patience. it was a reminder that life doesn’t always work how we think it will. sometimes things have to come in and rearrange our entire perception of things. i am finally learning to be ok with this and let things piece themselves back together how they are supposed to.
'happy’ is about pain and loss. it’s about love. it’s about letting go. but it is also about being happy. it’s about somehow uniting the pain and the beauty. because i think when you see the dark side of life and look it right in the face, everything beautiful and good and right in the world becomes that much more present. this is art to me.
so, as i write this i’m excited to share this piece of art in a way that is most true to myself. in a way that somehow feels noble to the art itself. so here is the single, the title track ‘happy’, off of the new EP. i’ll be releasing the entire thing on my bandcamp on february 3rd.
thanks for creating this space for music and art to be shared so honestly and beautifully. it truly is a rare thing.
i hope to see you in the coming years at SXSW or some other beautiful music filled place! keep on being rad and amazing.
/ I lost this incredible story in my email inbox from over a year ago. I don’t even know how I found it again. So bummed I hadn’t posted it earlier, but this letter is extremely worth the read and the record is fantastic; dreamy, heavy. Arlo Klahr’s letter hits hard. The experience he tells us about having his friend getting randomly murdered fits well with blasting guitars.
How are you? This is Arlo from Fragile Gang. I wanted to tell you about our new album, For Esme, and some of the stories behind it and behind our lives in music.
First off, the album is a tribute to our friend Esme Barrera, who passed away in 2012. She was a vital part of the Austin and El Paso, Texas music scenes and a volunteer at the Girls Rock Austin camp, among many other things. She touched hundreds and thousands of people’s lives with her energy and enthusiasm and friendship. For our part, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say we might not have made it past our beginnings as Fragile Gang without her.
Secondly, this is the first time anyone besides us has ever put out our music. (Our friends in the band Young Jesus just put out the album as the first release on their label, Hellhole Supermarket.) Aisling and I have been playing and recording music together—being in the same musical orbit—in some form or another for almost 20 years now.
We both met Esme around 2003 at our first Fragile Gang show in El Paso. It was in a building inside a junkyard out in the desert part of town. The bands played up on the flat bed of a big truck that was about six feet off the ground. I was about 29 then and thinking I’d have to leave music. I don’t know why. It’s too complicated to go into. Just feeling like a loser. I couldn’t see any kind of life in music from the place my mind was at then.
When I was younger, things had just seemed so much easier and more spontaneous. The feelings in my heart were undiluted. I was more sure of myself.
On one tour (back in the grunge days) my band Foss showed up in San Francisco without a show. We noticed there was a Matador Records band playing that night. An idea sprung up between us: we went to a payphone, found the number for the club and pretended we were Bruce and Jonathan from Sub Pop Records (we liked Sub Pop). We asked if the club would consider putting the band on the bill because the label was thinking of signing them and wanted to see how they’d do in a few live situations before that. We had to call the club back a few times and talk to a bartender, a booking agent, a manager, but somehow we got the show.
Then we proceeded to suck.
It was one of our worst shows. We hadn’t practiced in a while and we were kind of freaked out playing in a big city with a big band. At one point I managed to pull loose all the cables from the amps while thrashing around, so the song was just the drummer drumming and ad-libbing words that weren’t part of the song.
But despite this, or maybe because of it (and the Sub Pop connection), the reactions were strangely positive-seeming: “So…Sub Pop’s signing you all?” It sounded like a complex statement full of disbelief, awe, envy, confusion. Or: “Hey, what’s your name again? Where are you from?” another person asked. “You were rad.” But were we rad? Or did we suck? The overheard conversations—ranging from disdain to befuddlement about whether we were the future of grunge or how Sub Pop must really be branching out—gave us no conclusive answers to those questions. But those kinds of questions never stopped us for long back then. We just wanted to play.
On another tour we sneaked across the Canadian border (pre 9/11). It was to play a show with Leslie Feist when she was in a band called Placebo and before she became known worldwide as Feist. We had become friends with her on a previous tour. The band was turned away at the border and banned from the country. We had booked a tour of Canada with no documents and our alibi fell through under scrutiny by the border guards.
Another idea sprung up: One of us (the one who couldn’t drive a stick shift) was a dual American/Canadian citizen. The band drove out to the smallest crossing in the middle of some farmland in North Dakota and then in the middle of the night drove out farther to some fields. The idea was to walk north (and to guess which way north was) and the driver would go back to the border, try to get across and then wait somewhere down the road.
He managed to drive the car (full of fireworks and amps and records) and get through the crossing. It took the rest of the band about an hour walking across fields and marshes, flushing geese out of lakes, getting wet, being scared, walking, sometimes running in the pitch black. They hit the road somewhere, took a left (good guess) and eventually saw some tail lights. It was the tour station wagon. We missed our show in Winnipeg but ended up playing with Leslie in Calgary. (This story is sort of documented, but just barely. There’s a garbled video online where she introduces her song and mentions our band sneaking across the border to play.)
But back to that night at the junkyard, we tried to play well, but I just got the feeling that it didn’t matter. Or no one was listening really. Or that we weren’t really that good. The sound was lost, the people were scattered, we kept making mistakes, and I was trying to overcompensate. I also had a weird (and maybe perfectly reasonable) feeling being older: What did I have to say? Who could relate to it? Should this lifestyle be over? And also the frustrated feeling that I did, we did, have something to say. That there was a reason for this—but that I just couldn’t reach it.
A girl came up to us after our show. She seemed young (about 19 or 20) and also just full of life, had a shy yet bold demeanor. It was loud and dark in that place with the next band tuning up and people talking and songs being played over the PA. She leaned in close and shouted something.
“You’re my new favorite band,” she said. One of us might have even said “What?” in surprise and disbelief. But then she went on: “You’re just the kind of band I like: a girl, a guy, both singing, playing guitars. Just like all my favorite bands. Can I be in your fan club?” That was Esme. We became friends and we became part of her fan club. (She had a big and growing group of Esme supporters.) We even wore buttons that had her name. Went to dance parties where she DJ’d. Wrote and mailed letters back and forth (even when we lived in the same city).
And we stayed friends with her (even when we moved to different cities). In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2010 my mom passed away after a number of years living with and fighting cancer. When we did our album Twister in the Ocean a few months later, Esme was there. We recorded it in the living room of the ramshackle house I grew up in surrounded by the tumultuous and vibrant oil paintings my mom had left behind from her life as an artist and teacher. Esme came in from Austin where she was working with special needs children and volunteering for the rock camp and was selling music when she was on the job at Waterloo Records. She was also learning to play the drums. (We always said we would be neighbors and be in a band together one day.)
She took the sunset photo that became the album cover and she sang some backing vocals. She even helped convince us that we should keep the name Fragile Gang, which we’d been thinking of changing. On the last minute of the last day of the five days we had set aside to learn and record the songs—as the sun was starting to fade outside—we finished the album. We had just done the backing vocals on one of the songs (they felt triumphant and joyous) and then the group of us walked up the hill at the end of the street. There were a few drops of rain falling and an electric sky. Esme snapped the picture. I only wish she was in it.
Two years went by. It was New Year’s Day 2012. I was sitting down to observe the anniversary of my mom’s death and to appreciate her and to try to work on some writing. It was a bright blue sunny cool Los Angeles day. You could see a little snow on the tops of the mountains. It felt like such a beautiful day to start something new, appreciate what you have, remember what you’ve lost. Our friend and bandmate Matt called from El Paso. He asked me what I was doing and how I was. I told him what I was up to. There was an uncomfortable silence and then he told me the news that Esme had been murdered.
There’s a front-page article in the El Paso Times from around that time. The headline calls Esme a beautiful and gentle soul. She was. It was a horrible time for everyone who knew her. We were in shock. Someone had come into her house in the early morning hours of New Year’s and killed her. Later we found out that he had assaulted two other women that night. And others during his time in Austin. Then we found out that he had killed himself in a gruesome way. There was no justice. No closure. No explanation. Just horror. I found it hard to do anything during this time.
It took awhile, but we started writing new songs. We began to realize that they were about Esme. Sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. About her or inspired by her or just written with her somewhere in our hearts and thoughts. We volunteered at the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls in Los Angeles that summer in Esme’s honor. We talked about her with other people who knew her and with people who didn’t know her. Then we decided the songs would be a tribute to her. If we could do it in the right kind of way, then we should.*
Music was always a place for me and my friends. A place to hide away and a place of possibilities and joy and sharing. Our experience back then in El Paso (probably no different from a lot of young people anywhere) was that you had to find ways to be creative, entertain yourself and your friends, support each other. It was communal.
One time back in the Foss days we got on a local cable access TV show by claiming we were a gospel band. It was a conservative, religious-oriented political talk show and we figured we could learn a couple of classics (we were into folk music of all kinds) and play our songs too. While we played our songs and were being interviewed about the dangers of gangster rap, a bunch of bored kids—some we knew and some we didn’t—from all over El Paso called in and pestered the host and his sidekick. It was nighttime. They were stuck inside their homes. There was nothing to do. They saw some music on the TV. It was live. They called in.
Esme helped me remember the spirit of those times: how important music, sharing and community can be. Despite any day-to-day struggles she might have had, she was unfailingly positive. Her influence spread far beyond our small scenes.
It’s part of why I’m here sharing this with you. Although it can be hard at times with people I love gone, Esme still encourages me to play and keep hold of some of the best that music can offer. Spontaneity and openness. Inspiration and joy. Being connected to people you love and who love you. The chance to bring some color and light and motion into being. Some gentleness and beauty. Some vulnerability and strength. Some good times.
If any of this interests you, we’d be honored to be mentioned on YVYNYL and are happy to make your acquaintance this way and bring our Fragile Gang music and stories to your attention and to your readers.
/ Making music projects across the seas can be a challenge, but the reward is worth the effort. The moments of alternative movements on this multi-location band hits all the right places. Something that truly impressed me was the photography they took on the road trip tour they wrote about to me:
My name is Bernie. I stumbled across YVYNYL in my many hours spent a while back scouring the net for interesting music blogs to eventually send some of my music to. I particularly love the unique platform you’ve created for musicians to tell their story in “Letters to YVYNYL.”
I play guitar and sing in a somewhat unorthodox band with a couple of friends called Moe Meguro (named after the Japanese curling champ). We all live in disparate parts of the world: I live in Texas, our drummer lives back in California (where we’re all from, originally), and other guitarist/singer lives in… Japan. We’ve been a band for about five years now and we’ve released two full-length records, but I’m pretty sure that nobody has ever heard of us because we don’t really play any shows (we just did our first tour ever this past summer).
Getting together to play music is a monumental undertaking for us and we usually can only eke out a few days together every year to actually all be in the same room. Those few days that we spend together are like a flash of creative lightning where we write, rehearse, and then record 3 or 4 new songs. As you can imagine, it takes us a couple of years to complete enough recordings to put out a new album and, in that span of time, as we all sit on demos or incomplete mixes, the songs grow with us.
I grew up listening to The Beatles and Beach Boys religiously and later graduated to bands like Radiohead, Joan Of Arc, My Bloody Valentine, and Teenage Fanclub (along with a brief fascination with 90s math-rock). Our group has recently put our most recent effort: a self-titled, full-length LP. Our goal in making this album was to have a very diverse set of music with lots of dynamics and different timbres, like so many of my favorite records (we even covered a John Lennon tune!). The album features dense power-pop compositions with lots of hooks but little repetition, which is probably a product of all of the pent up creative energy that we have by the time we get together. Please give our new album a listen. We’re happy to provide a digital download code, physical copies of our music (vinyl!), or any more information. We would love to be reviewed on YVYNYL!
/ I got this pretty heavy note from Marek Alozie. I love when artists share their spark of creation, even when they come from the darkest of places. Sometimes, the darkness leads to the light.
This past August made seven years without my twin brother Vincent but the way I feel, it might as well have happened yesterday.
He was 17 and took his life during his first week of college (and a week before mine.) Even though we usually managed to make the best of a pretty tough living situation, he took the pitfalls a little harder than I did and always reacted pretty strongly, sometimes desperately. Looking back, it seems like one grim harbinger after another. Needless to say, his death up-ended my whole life and turned 2009 into year zero for me. There had already been a lot of self-discovery for me that year as I was preparing to lead a life where I identified as something other than one-half of Marek and Vincent.
His death sent me headlong into a period of self-reinvention that hasn’t really stopped since and has yielded the kind of love, promise and newfound fraternity that I could no longer imagine my life without. There’s a kind of reassurance in knowing that I’ve experienced what’ll undoubtedly be the hardest thing I’ll ever go through but of course, I’ve got to reckon with the fact that it’ll never really end. One of the strangest and saddest things I’ve had to come to terms with is that as old as I get, he’ll always be the same 17 year old dude. I’d thought about surviving my brother before and we’d discussed the possibility but the idea of getting visibly older than someone you’d grown right alongside never really occurred to me and now it’s this mindfuck I face every time I see his picture.
Also, though I haven’t consciously debased or blocked out anything, its become harder than ever to recall his exact voice, smell etc. and that’s devastating. More devastating still is that I’ll never know exactly what it was that put him over the edge or just how deeply he was hurting when he died. Every day’s the long goodbye and yet I’m able to take some comfort in knowing that I did my best to be there for him literally womb to tomb. A lot of people say they’ve been “best friends with [someone] their whole lives” and though it’s sweet to say, it’s often a bit exaggerated. Not for me though.
“Imitation Sun” is about how I rebuilt myself after his passing, how I had to reassess my identity after being a twin all my life. Many of the hugely life-affirming things that happened to me in the wake of his death are shared here, rendered sonically and impressionistically.
Here’s to fortune, reinvention and brotherly love. here’s to the years I spent in southern California, which fostered some of the biggest and most exciting adventures I’ve ever had at what was otherwise my life’s unquestionable nadir. here’s to the friends I made out there, every one of whom helped to save my life. here’s to whatever we can remember: good times, bad times, El Atacor #3 & 4 times, ‘72 times, BERT times, Z Times, A1 times, 562 times…primetime, to be honest.
Though I am sending you the whole record for preview, I would like to spotlight a couple of tracks for sharing as per your instructions. The two singles, “Every Really Do” and “One Trick” can also be found on the discography sidebar in “+2” packages, though you can honestly share whatever you’d like to.
It’s 29 tracks, 69 mins., split into four sides (delineation in “about” section.) though it all hangs together pretty well, it does have the sorta “grab bag” vibe that doubles tend to have. even with all the stylistic ground I feel it covers, I guess it could best be described as my take on psychedelic soul. you’d have to tell me though. I know doubles can be unwieldy, so I’ve kept those single packages up for anyone looking for a way in at first without listening straight through. thanks for taking the time ++
Just caught up with this old VICE video of Mac DeMarco doing his thing in the far, far north of western Canada. Aside from laughing my ass off watching this, it makes me miss the Yukon having traveled there myself many moons ago.
/ There are too many ghosts in the air this week but indulge me. I can hardly wrap my mind around what happened in Oakland last weekend. The tracks Chris Murphy sent me a fitting, name-and-all strong, deep house piece he conjured up, so he asked me to share with you. I recommend you listen to it in honor of the lost ones in the Bay Area. “Now that we’re gone, I keep holding on.”
Hello Mark, I hope you’re doing well.
I’d love for you to listen to my new single, “Gone/Never Found.” It’s the culmination of several years of musical unrest for me. In order to focus myself, I approached this single from an extremely narrow point of view: warmth. I wanted these songs to exude warmth. It was summertime in the south, and during the summer, that suffocating, woozy feeling permeates every part of your life. “Warmth” sounds incredibly broad, but it forced me to work within a concept. I limited myself by using almost exclusively analog gear and samples that were around 30+ years old. The other foremost consideration that I think about in every song is atmosphere, and for “Gone,” I wanted to establish this thick, balmy atmosphere with the main pad. “Gone” needed to sound familiar in the way a long forgotten favorite would.
“Gone” is the heart of the single, because it represents, in large part, the manner that I internalize dance music. To me, Peak time house music is visceral; it’s expressive, confrontational and occasionally turbulent. And I love it, but truthfully, I enjoy house even more at its most reflective–when your body moves but your mind dwells on the impact of the moment. It seems like every time I start making a “banger” it eventually becomes forlorn. “Gone” is the moment of reflection after a dramatic change. And that’s fitting, because my life certainly has had its share of changes over the last few years. I started working on “Gone” two years ago and even after I knew it was done, I couldn’t bring myself to release it until now.
I’ve never considered myself a traditionalist by any means, the last few years, I’ve certainly taken that route. I got married at 27, got a steady job last year, bought a house a few months ago, and then turned 30 in July. I don’t think about it much as it happens, but when I dwell on it, I’m confounded by my entire path to get here. Life can change so instantaneously. I’m doing all of these things that I faintly even considered before, and why? Because “that’s just what people do?” It raises the question: Who the hell am I anymore? And furthermore, what the hell am I doing? Has whatever edge I once had been sanded down to a pulp?
But as I think about the headspace I was in when I made these songs, I reconsider my stance. I used to think “Gone” was about the feeling of lost love, but I’ve come to realize that it’s actually a lament about the loss of youth. And I’m fine with it. I expect more of myself now. Even if I’m not as impulsive and reckless as I once was, I’m not “gone,” because I am the sum of my parts, both past and present. There’s not as much time for making music as there used to be, but you set aside time for the things you love. And there is seldom a greater feeling than when everything finally clicks on a song. That’s why you work on a song that you feel strongly about for two years. It’s been worth it. So here we are, and this release is the resulting product. And all it took was thousands of listens before I assured myself that it was ready.
All of the proceeds from this single will go to Wilderness Southeast, a nonprofit corporation that helps enrich science education in underserved public middle schools around coastal Georgia/Savannah.
/ Plenty of us don’t know what is the right point to start putting their project out there into the scary universe of the unknown. Maybe it truly is simple. Just jump.
I firstly want to thank you for giving unheard music, talent and voices a platform. It’s platforms such as this which reiterate the humanitarianism that will never be taken from the force that is music. No matter how corporations and money can sometimes seem to be at the centre of this industry, without heart there’s no music and so, no industry. Music will always be an art form in itself, but I think it’s clear from history and from how it can make us feel, that music is so much more than its form. In my opinion, the legacy, the emotion, the social change and reflection music provides, makes it the most powerful magic in this world.
I want to talk about my debut EP ‘& so…’ (came out on 11 Nov 2016) The title is a double entendre. ‘And…So!’ sounds like an introduction to something but also reads as, ‘And? So? Yet another new artist, why should I care?’, which in the context of this blog gives the irony I intended real weight. ‘Nail Polish’, the track you will find directly here, is the lead single. The video, which will be online very soon, was co-directed by my friend Rebecca Courtis, we studied Fine Art together at Central St Martins, and we shot the video in our studio. She made all the moving image visuals which we projected onto me live for each take. If I was to personify a song it would be ‘Nail Polish’, that emotional grit, the grunge. It’s just very me. I wrote it when I was 17, and now at 22 it has never felt better to play live. I’ve just graduated, I’m trying get my music off the ground, I’m at a crucial point in my life and there’s this fire in my belly which I can really tap into with this song. Sonically and lyrically there’s a kind of ugliness to it, a dissonance which makes it really cathartic to perform. I’ve got to thank my producer Christov Brilliant for that electronic eeriness on the track!
I wrote ‘Echoes’, another of the three tracks, when I was 16 years old; an angsty, insecure teenage girl with an obsession for music but too scared to sing. Writing ‘Echoes’ was a pivotal moment for me, it was the moment that I really knew my contribution to this world would be song-writing and that only I could be the one to sing my songs. It was the catalyst for a really crucial song-writing spell in my young life. Before this point I would labour with frustration to feel an ease and contentment with my craft. ‘Echoes’, a song about grieving the loss of my aunt just poured out of me with such fluidity and gave me a such feeling of fulfilment, empowerment and otherworldliness that I knew this truly was what I needed to do in my life.
Lady Gaga, who is a momentous figure and role model for me, while discussing her creative process said some of the most wonderfully vivid and vital bits of indirect advice that will never leave me: “honour your vomit”. She refers to that moment when something within you takes over, an urge to regurgitate all that you feel or want to play or sing or say. That’s the magic, that’s your talent working in your subconscious. Honour your creative vomit, let it spew and then craft it to the point of personal fulfilment. Not perfection, not satisfaction, but fulfilment.
These songs, such as that on the EP – ‘Echoes’, ‘Nail Polish’ & ‘When I Was Younger’, and many others still to be heard, have shaped my sound and set me up for what I now really need to express as a young woman with so much passion, anger and love for the world in which I exist. I am now at the stage where a seed is planted in the song-writing process, crystallising as a record and then becoming something other when I perform. I want to feel reborn on stage. Live performance is this new exciting element in my life and in my work that I finally feel ready to explore. My sociopolitical views have become vital to who I am as an artist and my personal struggles are now something I want to reclaim in order to empower not only myself but hopefully others. And this is now what feels so thrilling to be a musician, visual artist and filmmaker; these cross creative disciplines are now ready for an orgy. I have so much to say, so much to reveal and so much I want to achieve but this is just the start. It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s unpredictable but bring it on!
While I am inextricably a music maker and artist putting something out into the world, it all starts with what you hear, what you see and what you absorb. I have met such incredibly talented, creative, open-minded friends and collaborators whilst at art school, who have quite frankly changed my life. In the space of two weeks I will have seen PJ Harvey, James Blake and Peaches perform live, all artists that I admire and aspire to emulate in different ways. In this mad, enigmatic 21st century we have such a calibre of music, film and artwork available literally in the palm of our hands. So I will conclude this ramble by echoing the sentiment of Lady Gaga’s phrase: honour your awe, honour your inspiration. As this is where the cyclical magic begins and where it ends…only to begin again.
Woody Guthrie: Dead Or Alive [restored Wire Recording]
Little out of the normal post scope here, but this is super interesting, and I simply love reading about arcane forgotten audio formats. There’s something magical about how audio was recorded on to things like wax cylinders pre tapes and records, and even more magical still when these ancient recordings can be played back a century later.
So did you know recordings were made to steel wire? And invented in 1898 with limited continued use all the way in to the 1970s and it is currently the longest used recording format? Super low fidelity, but you could make hour long recordings way before tapes and records caught up…you just needed about a mile long spool of wire to do it. Good thing that wire was slightly finer than human hair, so a mile spool could be squeezed on to a spool slightly less than 3 inches wide.
So regarding the Woody Guthrie song today: “This is how wire ended up as the audio format used for the only live recordings of the legendary protest singer Woody Guthrie, the Dylan of his day, whose 1949 performance at Rutgers University’s Fuld Hall was captured on wire by one Paul Braverman.”
A group of sound engineers and mathematicians restored the damaged wire recording, and ended up winning a Grammy for the album of recordings they released. Just listen to this before and after restoration clip I found, freakin brilliant.
I donated immediately after listening to the first track of this awesome indie music mixtape project put together by James Smith of Fox Food Records. Already some great tracks on this 40+ song compilation raising money for some excellent organizations. It is important to support these in our strange, strange times we live in. Join me and do your #GivingTuesday right here!
Friends For Equality is an epic compilation of over 40 previously unreleased tracks by artists and bands from all over the globe
Featuring brilliant songs by Good Good Blood, Hand Habits, John Andrews & The Yawns, Henoheno, The Prids, Spartan Jet-Plex, Chris Harford & The Band of Changes, Henry Demos, G Lucas Crane, The Blank Tapes, Fair Mothers, The Sunken Lanes and many, many more!
/ The system is just below us. Friendship is music. I’ve blogged about Tim Krause’s work before. Here’s what he wrote to me about his new project which, as the title may hint to, touches on the deeper self.
This is Tim, for context, since I know you get a buttload of emails I directed the video for The Pen Test. Hope you’re doing good dude! Hey so I have a project called, Material, with my longtime bud Sam Molstad, he is the mastermind behind Orchard Thief. Anyways we just self-released our self-titled album, Material, and we are very proud of it!
Short story for this. Sam and I have known each other for ten years. We met playing beer pong in the dorms at the University of Minnesota, classic story I know. That night we decided we shouldn’t wear pants when we played, by doing such it would separate us from the other teams, and it definitely did that. I think we got more amusement out of this than anyone else, probably too much still to this day. That sealed our friendship, as though things usually do.
Sam is one of those rare people, that come into your life and you know you will be friends forever. Your paths will always be intertwining. I also realized quickly what an amazing musician and artist he was. Lucky for me, we share a lot of the same musical tastes. Thus, we have played in various projects over the last ten years some successful, some not so much haha.
Last year, around this time, the band we were in took an indefinite hiatus, much to our disappointment. That band had become too complicated and what had started as a simple idea, had grown too quickly, become convoluted, and the band collapsed on itself. Sam and I decided that for our next project we would stick to a simple idea and really ride that out to see where we end up. The idea was to continually jam with an intricate yet concise setup of a few synths, drum machines and fx pedals, and with that, Material would be born.
Since the formation, we maintained that one consistent setup of electronic gear for the entirety of the year, recording every practice and show in the process. What happened is it allowed us to talk and have conversations through our instruments. I know that sounds corny, but it is crazy what that approach accomplishes! In every other musical thing we have done we have grown restless and added components without ever really learning what we DID have. By the end of this year we had really learned OUR setup and the album works as a conduit for an intimate conversation between Sam and me, and, that, is what I most proud of.
We have delved into a style that has been incredibly strong in Minneapolis in recent years (The Pen Test, Food Pyramid, Dreamweapon, to name a few) and we have added our own unique experience and voice to that scene. If we could go back in time and tell our younger-selves, as they giggled on box wine in their boxers, “This is the album you two will make together in ten years time.” I think they would be excited as to what the next ten years would bring them. Here is to those ten years, and many more! Haha sorry that wasn’t that short!
I’m stoked to present an intimate live performance with rising LA outfit DYAN at Green Engine Coffee Co. They will be playing at the hippest spot in my neck of the woods, just down the Main Line west of West Philly. There will be excellent things to eat and drink, and of course, the music will be breathtaking.
Don’t miss this performance and pick up a fresh copy of their gorgeous, limited edition vinyl!
For more information, check the event on Facebook.
/ My friend Peter English produced this beautiful video this past summer, and while my posting the backstory is not specifically a Letter to YVYNYL I figured it’d be appropriate to share what he wrote about making it in his new newsletter:
In July, Tamar Dart and I had the idea to shoot a music video at a carnival in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Tamar is an immigrant to the US, so I wanted to put her in a quintessentially American environment and document her experience. I thought her perspective might illuminate something interesting. Over the course of 2 nights we explored the Our Lady of Mt Carmel Italian Festival: the lights, the rides, and most importantly the people.
To be more specific, Tamar is from the Middle East, and honestly, I was concerned about heading out into a rural area–with cameras no less. It’s really hard to get a beat on the world these days, and I couldn’t tell if we were heading for trouble. But my gut said it could be a special idea, so my crew put their trust in me and we packed up our gear and drove an hour out to Hammonton, NJ.
The gamble paid off. We found ourselves in a tremendously diverse place, full of incredibly generous people. All of whom were excited for us; all of whom wanted to share some part of their stories with us. We spent our time talking to people and taking their portraits–Carnival workers, Mexican and Haitian families, Italian grandmas, white teens & and black college students. So many amazing, fascinating characters.
I found it to be a really uplifting experience. One that reminds me to reach out to people personally when I’m feeling disheartened by the world. That strangers are still capable of kindness and warmth. That people still like art, and are honored to be involved. I won’t soon forget it.
I am thrilled to be hosting such fantastic artists in one of my favorite venues in Philadelphia. We are raising money and awareness for an organization that helps young people through their cancer journey by bringing them on life-changing adventures, and building community in the process.
Also, the show happens to land on the eve of my 40th birthday, so if you can come to Fishtown, Philadelphia, I’d love to see you and celebrate! We’ll have great music, a sweet raffle, rad merch, and super positive vibes all around.
If you’ve got any questions about the organization or the show, don’t hesitate to contact me! If you don’t live nearby, you can always send along a donation and love.
/ When you build music with your scene that clearly is inspired from early Neutral Milk Hotel you’ve got something going to catch my ear. This single pops up as a simple perfect little nugget of joy. He told me a bit more about how this song comes together:
My name is Mateo. I live in Los Angeles and play music with my friends under various names. We are all pretty much terrible at the business side of music, so even though the stuff we do probably deserves a wider audience, we don’t have one. I am the least bad at business, so I run a little record label called Miedlena.
I recorded this album, “Fourteen Weeks” while living at one of the co-op houses in my community. There is a big front room where underground shows happen. It has great acoustics, so when I was living there I started my “song-a-week” project. Basically I wrote and recorded a new song every week and published each one as I went on Bandcamp. I play most instruments ok, and I know how to engineer recordings ok, and I write songs ok, and I had a lot of free time on my hands at the time, so it seemed like a reasonable project to undertake. When it got to the point that I had made 14 songs I figured I should call that an album, and I named it Fourteen Weeks. (I kept going until week 23, so another album is forthcoming.)
The album is mostly acoustic guitar, electric bass, and drums. I recorded it all on a 4-track cassette machine. The songs are mostly about living in a big weird artist community, being in a new relationship, and watching that relationship fall apart. Some of the songs aren’t really about anything at all. Not on purpose, at least.
Once I was done with that I moved on to other things. As I hinted at above, I play in a lot of projects in addition to my solo work. One day I happened to do a little research on how albums get released. The boring back-end stuff like ISRC codes, performance rights organizations, copyright, etc. So I took everything off-line and started releasing stuff more proper-like. That is going ok. I’m not really great at the promotion-side of things, which is why you are probably one of the few to have read this far. I’m almost up to the present day recordings, which is exciting because we’re all getting so much better at making great music.
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