In Case “You’re Fired” – 5 Ways to Keep Chins and Spirits High

We all dread being let go – and sadly, under the current economic conditions, it’s becoming more and more common. Supposing you’re holding coffee or Gatorade one moment and a pink slip the next, how do you fight discouragement and stay hopeful?

I’m no expert on these weighty matters, but having recently experienced a major cut in my hours, I’m willing to venture a solution or five:

5. Buy a record/album.

I did. As soon as I found out I wasn’t making money, I spent some. I ordered 151a by Kishi Bashi, my first album on vinyl. (And the best part is, the record is white vinyl…very nifty.)

And someday, when I’m a millionaire (or whenever I have money again), I’ll own a turntable. For now, I’ll use the phonograph machine that was built into the cabinet circa 1963 in the living room.

Besides, now my record has a great story. Much better than a pocketed, crumpled receipt and a shrug. “I don’t know…I was like, whoa, don’t have this one and it’s here and I’m here and why not?”

4. Learn some cool dance moves.

Here’s where you can start:

(If you can do this, you’ll be making more connections than Southwest.)

3. Write the first chapter of your autobiography.

You know that book you’ve always wanted to write, but never had the time? Well now, you have a whole bundle of hours all to yourself. Start writing! You might even begin with a line like “It was the worst of times…” or “One dark and scary evening…”

2. Dress like Jeeves, cook a sumptuous  meal and invite friends to join you for cocktails & dinner.

Wait, who was laid off? Nobody. In fact, you were so bored with seeing the roof of Home Depot from your office window every day that you decided it was time for a change…right before the manager invited you into his office with that grave expression.

So you’re making dinner (it’s a black tie/formal dress affair). Tomorrow you’ll be making impressions and deciding where you’re working next.

1. Buy/build something of value for your significant other.

Tell her/him that you’re rethinking life or starting fresh or that the while the value of money will always fluctuate, the value of ____ (you fill in the blank) will be constant,

Just like love.

Is all of this foolish? Maybe. But why give a dying man his last cigarette? Life is not about money (the U.S. dollar is losing value anyways), it’s about living and dying well. And sometimes, the only way to endure hard times is to dance through them – not in a sentimental, inauthentic or pretentious way, but in a tearful way…to drink our sorrows like wine or scotch or hot chocolate. And always while hoping for the best – trusting in Providence – knowing that we are like sparrows and will be provided for.

*Incidentally, the author writes this not only to console others, but to console himself. Should you wish to commiserate, send him an email or call him sometime. 

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Ed Droste’s View of the World

I was browsing FB one day and fell upon this amazing photograph which Ed Droste (from Grizzly Bear) took, followed by this description:

“What I look at everyday at rehearsal, shows in about 2 weeks starting in Cambridge and Nottingham, UK! Can’t wait to play the new material! Xo (hope you all enjoyed Colbert last night)—let us know what songs you NEED to hear this tour and we’ll try”

It’s a simple, slightly scary photograph, right? An overwhelming tangle of cords, an array of pedals bristling with settings and switches, a hardwood floor for standing on.

This is what Ed Droste looks at everyday. Every show begins with a soundcheck, which begins with unraveling those cords and setting up those instruments and pedals.

I’ve realized the horrible tendency in myself to flare with enthusiasm when I’m excited by a new project or dream, and the tendency to lose that flare or enthusiasm when I’m confronted by reality, by opposition, by time. This picture reminds me of the daily work that goes into everything we do – of the tangle of tasks and the seemingly innocuous two-steps we must take to accomplish perfection in anything, particularly ourselves.

I’m sure Ed Droste isn’t swooning every time he looks as this mess. But he returns to it everyday. He works and re-dedicates himself to his art.

Here’s to the week, with all its sweat and anxieties and sufferings. Here’s to the art you are accomplishing, whether it’s teaching, cooking or cleaning.

And here’s to you, reader. Be strong, and best regards.

~Joseph

Posted in experimental, lo-fi indie pop, psych folk, Ramblings | Leave a comment

Track Notes

First, I want to thank all my readers for reading this blog, when they had a myriad of choices of other blogs to read from. Even if there are only ten of you, I’m stoked. It means a lot to me to have a small, genuine readership. I’ll take that over 20,000 Twitter followers.

Second, I want to thank everyone who listened to my EP – hopefully your experience was a good one. Recording this little demo was an exciting, exhausting experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

I’ve been meaning to put up some track notes for a while, so now that I have a somewhat free day, I’m going to do so. Being a music geek myself, I am enthralled by the writing process and sources of influence of other songwriters and musicians. Hopefully you’re interested in that sort of thing, too. If not, you can safely skip this post, because here it comes.

These are some of my thoughts about writing and recording The Scale HousEP.

1. Loving Her, Loving Whim

This was one of those songs where, as I sat on my bed and struck a chord, the melody fell into my lap. I revisited the song a month or two later while in Pennsylvania and finished it there (which was a surprise to me, because although it began well, I was struggling to give it resolution). The chorus was probably the biggest surprise of all – I had to acquire satisfaction with its simple “pop” nature. But as I played it back to myself, I saw visions of a small chorus of other vocalists singing with the song in a sort of doo-wop style, and I was won over. So it stayed.

I wanted this song also to have a 50’s pop, surf-pop kind of sound. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Drums and wanting to capture a cross between them and the Beach Boys. The sound of these bands resonates with me somehow – I love their use of the guitar and the simple, vintage sound. I’ve always wanted to capture a lo-fi, old school guitar sound ever since I began listening to the Beach Boys and The Shins. Thanks to the dusty Ibanez guitar in Sam’s studio, this dream was realized at last and the harmonic electric guitar part practically wrote itself. It was one of those lines I heard in my mental orchestra chamber before it became an entity on mp3.

This song is about being surprised by love or genuine interest and essentially telling yourself to slow down so that you don’t ruin it. I think the length and rhythm of the song reflects that well.

2. Fathers & Sons

This song was written from a whirling washing machine of emotions. I was preparing to graduate college and suddenly realized I had no clue what came next. I didn’t have a sense of purpose or career, my family had moved around so much that I felt homeless, with nowhere to return to, and I struggled with my dad’s more practical ideas and my dreams. I was wondering what sort of legacy I was coming from, and what sort of legacy would I leave.

This was another one of those songs that developed on its own. I wanted the production on this song, like that of the entire EP, to be simple. Lo-fi, truthful, even rough.

I think the single Tachiok drum provides a nice impact, a plumbing of the depths beneath the song’s current. Sam added the seagull-like guitar line, creating a sense of wandering and loss, which I think fits the tone and character of the piece nicely. And I like how the guitars are just a little off – it lends a disturbed, disonnant quality.

3.    The Riverbed

This song is about appearances vs. interiors – about the smooth river’s surface vs. the darkness and the murkiness beneath. We often display polished and carefully prepared exteriors, but there’s frequently a lot of hurt and decay underneath. I wanted the song to be primal – something acoustic, a spiritual relationship between the physical strings and the vocals. I think the swelling harmonies and even their scattered flatness create a nice sense of space.

4.    Sailors have St. Elmo, We have the Sea

This song is about a long distance relationship that was based primarily on digital media – the friendship was there as a foundation, but I wanted to convey a buoyancy because there was nothing to really ground it. When relationships are too digital, the result can be distance and strained communication. This recording of this song was inspired – we began piling on melodic layers: chimes, organ, upright bass, mandolin. The atmosphere suits it perfectly.

5. Up, Arlington Break

I wanted this song to have an indie/rock sound with a handful of sand and shells thrown against it; a sort of surf-board shadow over the piece. It’s an edgy post-break up piece and the title is supposed to have a Dewey-Decimal system-type name – a library book feel. The song is reminiscent of moving on, so the title seemed apt. Like a phase of life that you categorize and put away – it’s still there, but it’s also been shelved. I wrote this song about three and a half years ago following a breakup, and during the time I was living on Arlington Avenue in Steubenville, so that’s how the song got its name. I think I wanted to leave the event with the place, a desire which proved harder than I thought, but did eventually happen.

I think Arlington sets a good tone for the EP and for my music in general because of its rough quality – I didn’t want something too produced or too polished. I wanted a few mistakes because its honest – it shows listeners where I am as a musician, but also lends the songs an earthy, more intimate quality.

Sometimes, learning happens outside of the classroom.

I learned a lot while recording this EP. I learned how rough I am as a musician, but I learned to respect that and to work hard and anticipate growth. I learned that my music stands on its own and that, even within the noisy, distracted scene of a simple open mic, it can reach people. I’ve given out two CD’s since performing here in Jacksonville to people who were moved by one of my songs and asked for a copy.

I learned to have faith in myself, in my music. Not everyone will like it, but many will, and music is a way of serving them, a way of reaching them. And thanks to the inspiration of artists like Grizzly Bear, Freelance Whales, my friends Shane Dabney and Peter Lee and Mandy Sloan, Gerard Manley Hopkins and so many other greats, I’ve been inspired to put myself out there, to not be afraid of stepping into the world with my gifts. God has given them to me – I ought to use them. I am confident that if I work hard, write well and but put myself into a playing space, He will do all the rest.

Okay. Thanks for listening.

Now back to the cool stuff.

Posted in acoustic, Folk, lo-fi indie pop, psych folk, Ramblings | Leave a comment

Kishi Bashi

If Jonsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros met and married a geisha, Kishi Bashi would have been their child.

After touring with Of Montreal and Regina Spektor, this singer/songwriter/violinist virtuoso from Seattle, WA, released his beautiful album 151a this year. The album is as rich as a romantic moment – its melodies hum with ebullience, color, sound and light. Kishi blends his Japanese heritage and artistic intuition together to create such ear-d’ouevres as “I am the Anti-Christ to You”, “Atticus, In the Desert” and “Manchester.”

Every song is delightful, really. The entire album pleases – and it offers the attentive listener layers for sifting, feeling and evoking. The man writes beautiful melodies that stand solidly on their own, and warm you within the context of the album. Listen to him, spend time with him, revel with him. Kishi Bashi will not disappoint you.

I owe the discovery of this artist to my friend Sophie Bellevance’s blog, Good Music Tuesdays (which I recommend for your listening pleasure…she posts some fantastic music there).

Below you’ll find some videos of him performing live. If you find yourself closing your eyes, that’s okay, as long as you watch him long enough to “bravo” his musicianship.

The Wild Honey Pie Presents: Kishi Bashi – Manchester from The Wild Honey Pie on Vimeo

The Wild Honey Pie Presents: Kishi Bashi – I Am The Antichrist To You from The Wild Honey Pie on Vimeo

Posted in electronic, experimental, indie rock, psychedelic pop | Leave a comment

Here’s to Live.

Just a quick plaster of live music. It’s always cool to hear the stripped versions of artists’ songs – there’s something completely organic and natural about the results. I ran across these videos and had to share them. Check ‘em out.

 

1. Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait for the Others”

 

 

2. Vampire Weekend – “Walcott”/”One (Blake’s Got a New Face)”

 

 

3. We Are Trees – “Sunrise Sunset”

 

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Couch Art

You, on the couch. With the computer.

You’re sitting on art.

(It’s true.)

While we were in college, my friends and I used to debate each other for hours in the cafeteria about what art “really is”. What was true art, and what was not? What defined good art and bad art? The debates were intense and often heated. Ironically, the only person who took an ice cream cone to the back of their head was someone we didn’t know (during freshman year, I seem to remember my friend Shane doing this on a dare). Food fighting probably should have happened – maybe a face shoved in soup at least…

Most of us were either musicians or music-aholics. We took our genres and sub genres seriously. Mediocrity in music (or art or literature) didn’t only frak under our skin, it tightened our nerves.

Which led to lamenting. Which led to ideologizing. Which led to debating ideals. Which ended in frustration, because, although we passionately defended bright opinions, that’s just what they were: opinions. We needed truth on the topic…authority. What is art?

Finally, Shane discovered the forward by Ralph McInerny in the book Art, Beauty and the Polis, which described the difference between fine art and practical art.

You’re sitting on practical art.

Whatever’s coming out of your headphones is fine art.

There’s a drift here…are you catching it? Man is an artist. G. K. Chesterton writes in The Everlasting Man about how this is one of the things which sets man apart from the rest of creation. He is an artist.

Animals are not. They can neither express themselves creatively, nor observe and recreate from raw materials what they’ve observed. They do not abstract truth(s) from the material.

Man is an artist because he makes spoons, couches, tables, and ear muffs. This is practical art because it is necessary and practical. When Man isn’t surviving, wrestling bears or watering prunes, he writes, or paints, or sculpts, or composes. These things are fine art because they are not necessary to survival, but to the spirit.

I didn’t mean to write an essay. I just wanted to provoke your neurons.

And to make you appreciate your couch for what it is.

Since graduating college in December, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am, what my purpose is…all the classic questions that belong to each of us. I’ve continued thinking about art, too. I’m inclined to believe that Christians have grossly underestimated the power of good art. At one time, the Catholic Church was the patron of the arts in Europe. In the last 70 years, Christians have focused on social reform and music ministry. Not altogether bad things, but this focus has distracted artists with great potential and great faith into thinking that we must march to one sound (developed by Christian “praise and worship” songwriters in the 60′s and…continuing strongly ever since) and reform humanity with policy rather than charity.

In the meantime, art has degenerated into movies like Fireproof, music like Hillsong and art like this. Yes, this is fine art. And, it’s not bad fine art, per se. But is it good fine art?

And I’m not asking myself these questions for the sake of intellectual pattings on the back. Art has the power to move the soul. I point a sharp stick at Christians, and particularly the Catholics who, with all their depth of tradition, philosophy, literature and theology, insist on false emphasis – on emphasizing the Christianity of their work, rather than the art of it.

It’s something to contemplate.

God is truth, and the artist who develops his or her interior life, their relationship with God, while also developing his or her gift as an artist, will portray truth. The over-emphasis on Scripture-afying or Christian-afying our art, however, drains it of personal expression and dilutes the impact of art with all the fervor of water spilled on paint. It drains both the humanity and the spirit of the art.

If this is all we have to offer, if this is the best we can offer, then I’m raising poison frogs in the Caribbean and harpooning my supper from a pontoon boat. I’m resigning myself to these frogs because of their incredible color, and to the harpoon fishing in the hopes that I’m eaten by a great, gorgeous white shark, who will take me to the true and greatest Artist known and unknown to man.

This ramble is further demonstration of the purpose of the Room. I don’t want to introduce you to what is considered “christian”, but to what is True, beautiful, interesting, provocative. These things are found in Da Vinci, Evelyn Waugh and The Cinderella Man.

They’re also found in your couch.

I welcome your thoughts, reflections, objections!

Posted in Ramblings | Leave a comment

Samuel Haines – Artist Extraodinaire

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m recording an EP with my cousin, Sam, an artist who approaches everything he does through a contemplative lens. Even recording is an art for him: he toys with microphone placement, generally recording a single instrument through three mics at a time to achieve nuance and color.

Working with him and learning from him has been a privilege, and I wanted to bring this talented artist and musician into the Room.

Meet Sam!

When did you first start recording?

I first started recording when I was young…the first thing I ever recorded was an episode of the Ghost busters. I recorded the audio of it because I wanted to relive the experience and offer myself a new experience of that thing. We’re capable of so many reactions simultaneously, but to really live those reactions, it’s beneficial to be able to go back to the source of those reactions, the thing that inspired you, and experience it again. It felt like it increased my life and helped me understand who I was, by watching myself experience. And it was compulsion…compulsion has been the thing that guides the energy of it. Things that I’m so in to, I keep on seeking more of. I guess that’s what we all do, but try to keep the healthy ones in place.

Would you this defines your approach to recording?

No, I would say it speaks more to my personality, but my philosophy of recording comes more from the style of music that I’ve gravitated to in my upbringing: very much folk-base,d natural sounds. I have a  deep love of the natural art and world that derives from that. I do appreciate techno and more synthesized forms, but I believe that art requires a level of authenticity, and through that authenticity we’re kept responsible to God, really. He gives us these gifts and if we cheat and borrow someone else’s source…if we have the chance to start from scratch, then we should. So I really strive to create my own sounds and incorporate those into my songs. Plus it works better for mixing: when you work with things that are more organic, they blend well naturally.

You write music, too, right? Are you still writing?

I am still writing – I’ve had many years where I’ve worked alone, formally studying my writing style, breaking it down into pieces and learning various approaches to instrumental music that way, and I’ve had many opportunities to work in ensembles, and I’m enjoying the period of my career where I write spontaneously in the moment and I do a lot more of that: I do less writing for myself and more writing for others. It’s a love affair. It’s probably brought me the greatest joy so far.

What is one of the greatest influences as far as your art?

Wow, there are a couple of them. Well there are a few ways to kind of answer that: Strauss, early on, his piece of work entitled “Also sprach Zarathustra”…that caught my imagination, my whole being, very deeply. I would play it back over and over again on my parents’ record player as a child, like free play with Legos, and explore these deeper inner worlds. Science fiction is a huge source of artistic inspiration for me: Stanley Kubrick has influenced and helped form me…his work resonates strongly with my own artistic, inherent styling. He lines up a shot so nicely and incorporates a clear geometry and order to his work while expressing deep things that can only be suggested at. So that identifiable geometric form almost takes on a clear sacredness as it represents the natural world and the natural order. It’s a framework upon which we can thrust our emotional selves, to give an order to our expression. And then as a general collective inspiration, and approach and accomplishment, would be the Grateful Dead: the inner play that they had in live performances just hits the root of what I think that Bach and Mozart did, that kind of duo counterpoint that is present in so many great relationships and dynamic systems. It’s like listening to a representation of quantum fluid dynamics. To me it’s just beautiful, even with its mistakes and errors and flaws.

What’s your favorite food?

Spinach, fish and peppers. And almonds.

And if your uncle died and left you a hot air balloon business, would you accept?

Yeah. Absolutely.

What’s the song of the day?

I guess the one that inspires us to wake up: the one that remains silent that we keep searching for: a half-heard piece letter in the corner, waiting to dawn on us. It’s that fresh air to our lungs that we’ve been holding in our lungs while waiting for pop to the surface: whatever song that is, that’s the one.

 

You can check out some of Sam’s work and style here.

Posted in art, Folk, Neo-Folk | Leave a comment