When you are busking, you are on the side of the road, and you get sold. But the people strolling by, they don't know a thing about you. You get sold, and sell You to the sea on the patio…and you don't know a thing about them.
You suffer them. Less time than you wanted to, but you are only there for a moment. You never knew them…you never had the time to know them. Only there for a moment; When you are busking, the people strolling by are experiencing a version of you that is both Instant and Timeless.
Instant because they only "know" you for those few seconds or minutes that they care to notice something. Maybe it is your shirt, maybe it is your handmade sign, maybe it is a piece of your musical performance.
Timeless because once they move on, you are a memory, and that can last as long as a lifetime.
If I ever busk again, I need to remember this: On the side of the road, you get sold, but they don't know a thing about you.
EP number 2 from Idiot Science took one year to write, record, and release. Compared to EP number 1, which took four years to release, this was very fast. We were younger then, and our breaths drew deep. Moving more at the pace of alternative grunge. Suddenly, we sped up. Not to a freak speed, by any means, not like me in my personal life over that time. But just enough...that the culture we had fostered together…shifted…and that shift did not sit well with all.
Certain members of Idiot Science simply don't want to play music with other members anymore. I understand why, and its valid. However, its more micro-minded than I imagined this particular project to be. And thus, it does not sit right, with me.
What I valued in Idiot Science more than anything else was the memories and camaraderie we have from over the years. I fully enjoyed it all. It was one of the constants in my life. An anchor. I literally expected it to just continue, evolve, and keep its pace, a creative outlet I could grow up with. Five years can become ten, if you let it. Ten can even become twenty. I've gotten that far, so far, with people…who become family…and I know how it feels. At the end of all that time, looking back: are you really glad you got rid of ANY the friends that you did on the way here? In different small ways, I regret every single loss.
Not to be dramatic, but saying "lets just pull the plug on this for good" is really interrupting the pleasure.
I've never said this before, because I was always so completely sure; there was never any doubt that the beat was tight enough that there would always be more. But now, my faith is shaken. I could only break free when the faces in the room on Wednesday nights sang back to me. We built a place away from prying eyes. And then, it all somehow ended in a digital knifing party.
When I lay down on the couch with headphones to listen to the mastered EP for the first time, I had a deluge of memories. I had no idea that the lyrics I was writing for the second EP were ABOUT Idiot Science; the band, the friendship, the culture of five years that we lived in together on Wednesday nights. And the shows, the live shows, were the best parts. There is video to prove it. I believe this: Live bands live. Live music dies. Recordings Live Forever.
On Christmas Day 2013, I decided to look ahead to the next year, and test my idea of luck. I shot 50 free throws on my apartment's SportCourt. I made 37. This was a little disappointing. So I shot 50 more. And made 32. Uh oh! That's well below the free throw average of our NBA heroes. Things are looking a little grim…is this an indication of my future...what's coming next?? I gave it three days ("holi"days), and went out to shoot 50 more. 31 made. Not good enough yet! THAT"s IT. THIs Crab will not go quietly into the night! On December 29th, 2013, I went down to the Court again. I shot around a bit, goofing off, laughing at myself, breathing a little heavy in the crisp air, trying to keep things natural, loose, light. And in a certain moment, I realized it was time to get serious. I shot 50 more free throws. I made 27. I went inside my brain, at that point, and I came up with a single, specific, and sort of strange thought. I thought that perhaps I should swallow my pride in life, focus on living as unselfishly as I could, and always give others the benefit of the doubt. Life is hard for everyone, and unpredictable to boot. It is far too easy for me to start scattering blame all around in response to frustrations, awash in the illusions of manifest destiny and Entitlement. And I made a mental note to embrace this new mindfulness Immediately. Armed with this Christmasy message and a sure hand, I went on to make 35 out of 50. Not great, but not terrible. I apparently have a clear "average." The question now is, what does it all MEan?? Well, on January 19th, I went out again to find out. I was spurred by hearing some disheartening news on January 18th: Keebs, the guitar player for Idiot Science, no longer wanted to play music with us. This time, distracted and concerned about the future of funk-metal, I shot a paltry 28 out of 50. I gave it a couple more days, watching plenty of NBA games and actually working on a couple new promising song ideas. On Tuesday the 21st, I shot 38 out of 50. I started out 12 for 15, but then missed 6 straight. Discouraged, and enraged, but not willing to quit, I pressed on. And, at the point when I was 25 of 38, I made my last 12 in a row. Clutch. Just wanted to share. Have a great day!
I am a relic, foreign in origin. I travel through the air with a sense of purpose, while others of my kind skim the ground, or safely land. I am a tongue for the traveller displaced. Two Generations, paced. And a sense of haste. I am a relic forged from desperation.
I am a demon, sent back from the storm to make forgiveness for the wreckage I've born. I am a rogue, and I was surely torn and bloodied in my former life...Now a new purpose is born.
I am a demon, sent down from above to pay tribute: to the Lady I Loved, and now I know, though my body may cease:
My lost promises are not buried with me.
I've been wanting to be part of a Real music video my whole life.
In 2008, after some initial success with Searchlights In Mexico, I was in talks with Farm Records down in Los Angeles about a video script for the song "Long Time", which would have been the first single of the next album. These talks went all the way to 2011, and even got as far as a recording session up in Portland. But, for a few boring reasons, this never actually ended up happening.
Then, in December 2011, I met a Portland filmographer named Nicklaus Mather (I hope he's world-renowned by the time you read this!). He was filming an Idiot Science show at Hawthorne Theater. Joel took some of his footage, mixed it with my standing camera at the back of the room, and created a promo video for "Favorite Things", an Incubus cover. Before I had a chance to work more closely with Nick, he got a job on a production team for a blockbuster to be filmed overseas…took the job, and flew out a week later. Or so the legend goes.
This "Favorite Things" can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN8fbXRG8Ho, and is fun, and quirky, and cool; I count it as the Only music video I've ever starred in, to date.
Idiot Science set up several cameras in the studio as we tracked all five songs of our new EP.
A Crab's Life actually created video footage using crab-morph-suits for us and a pre-planned storyboard for "This Record Has Spun."
AND, I've been fortunate enough to start working on a larger body of live performance footage with my good friend Kate Kralman. Online, she goes by K8npdx, and you can find her film work on YouTube quite easily. K8 and I are in production of a couple different ideas right now: a live footage montage of "Burn Down The Moments"; a live footage montage of "Find A Better Way"; and a version of "This Record Has Spun", featuring parts of an Idiot Science performance we did of this song in Corvallis, November 2013, and cut with live collaborations with DJ Olde Toby, and A Crab's Life.
In the meantime, Jesse Tomaino of A Crab's Life and I have been sifting through the action shots from our filming session, and by the end of this, we'll have an actual music video storytime-style. This includes actual Acting. Wow.
In the meantime, Joel and I have started sifting through the studio camera footage, and are going to attempt "Find A Better Way", "The Hammer", and finally, to crown, "The Battle of Roland." The purpose of these videos is mainly to show a "making of" perspective, and to accompany the recordings we will release as
Idiot Science EP II Interrupt The Pleasure
So basically, I was just thinking, quite pleasantly, that since 2008 (5 years!) I have gone from having no video-making outlets/chances at all, and just biding my time and testing my patience waiting for the right person and right time…to seven simultaneous projects!
CoMiNg SoOn: More videos!
Its not often that I see a band that truly blows my mind and inspires me to reach for new heights...at ANY level in the industry. Blue Ember is there. Of course, they are talented players individually, and their songs are quite literally GREAT. But even better than that, they are Classy guys: hardworking, intelligent, multi-faceted, polite, and good to the core. Their new album "To Sandra With Love, Blue Ember" is beautiful. Their live show is flawless. I really dig them, and everyone from here on out should as well. Cheers to Blue Ember!
Thanks to their singer Keawe, I am totally inspired to reach for new heights as a vocalist...starting tonight with Idiot Science at Tiger Bar, and carrying into tomorrow afternoon at Oakshire Brewing in Eugene with The Tummybuckles. That man has pipes of gold, and a stage presence more natural than almost anyone I've ever seen live, ever.
Blue Ember, I've got your back from here on out, and I believe the other 160 folks lucky enough to know about the show at Analog Theater last night feel the same way. There goes My Heroes.
This has been an incredible summer. Not only did I read an inspiring (and discouraging due to its stark realism) book by David Byrne, his "autobiography", I have travelled to the Pac NW coast a couple times with The Tummybuckles, helped put the finishing touches on A Crab's Life album (our first!), taken Idiot Science to new heights with a new EP (in progress) and some killer live shows, reunited with Huge Sally once again, and come into a bit more confidence with my solo act. I've been developing my solo performing technique and songwriting for well over a decade now, and have recently jumped leaps and bounds thanks to the influence of The Tummybuckles, of my good friend Karma, of Oakshire Brewing and their enthusiasm for not only their fine product, but the culture that needs to be nurtured around it, of Russ and BadAustin and the "Pour Me Oakshire" sessions, of Lisa Lepine and her promotion techniques and ideas, of Artichoke Music, and of the unforgettable DoverLaff Effect.
But this is not just a Thanks To blog post. Of course, all these folks had their influence, and without them, I'd still be playing tiny bars for nobody on weeknights. But what I really realized this summer is that I have reached my 10,000 hours. I feel a complete mastery of my sound and technique. That by no means says I am perfect. By EVERY means though, it says that I am no longer a slave to the waves of lack of confidence, the fleeting tiny successes followed by too-long periods of ineptitude, or the self-loathing when the small things don't go my way and I felt I was off-the-path.
In other words, for the first time in a long time, and with a realness adding a depth to the bite, I feel Comfortable with where I am, and where I may or may not end up.
And that is something that I appreciate, as I have a cup of black coffee in my boxers, alone in my apartment at 9:56am on a Thursday. To look forward to today? A recording session with Leo of The Tummybuckles this afternoon at 4p, to make progress towards our 3rd EP; and then a mixing session with A Crab's Life at 7p tonight, our final mixing session before we call it "done" and ship to mastering.
And...here we go again!
Last night, I brought together some of my closest musical comrades. Relationships that spanned back almost 5 years, on and off, on and on, off and off for awhile perhaps but then always coming around again...and always coming back stronger and more dedicated than before. Over the past six months, I have been working up 3 different original songs with 3 different people, and yesterday, Friday night at Artichoke Music on the famous Backgate Stage, was our chance to showcase what we had developed.
I started out with my newest song 'The Relic," as a solo acoustic bit...with my trusty percussionist and very good friend Leo (from The Tummybuckles of course!) sitting in support onstage. Though he did not even play a note, his support up there meant the world to me (and I'm sure it built the drama quite a bit!).
"The Relic" is special to me right now for a couple reasons. I was inspired by Lisa Lepine's challenge to me to delve into my past, and discover for myself *why* I had this constant desire to write songs and push my lyrical message out there (be whatever it may in the moment) with force and precision and dedication. Her idea that it stemmed genetic back two generations, to grandparents whom as children had been relocated by force to America (by their parents) in pursuit of a new life, speaking no english and knowing not a soul, was very outside the box. Their inability to communicate with those around them may have been written and passed down as a rogue strand to me; my developed tongue may have generational origins adapted through a need to survive and form a community. My extended family has always appeared to me to be ALL about Family, almost none of them ever developing a social circle outside the immediate and extended family units. I am one of the first in the two generations of extended family I am familiar with who would be considered a "social person." And I am definitely the most public. Interesting. Perhaps "Relic" is too strong a word, but its the one that stuck lyrically, since it seemed to embody the parallels of past and present individual existence. After this conversation, later into the evening, I found myself waiting for none other than Woody Moran outside an open mic in NE Portland, at the Secret Society Ballroom (next to Wonder Ballroom on NE Russell St), and texting myself these lyrics: "I am a relic, foreign in origin, I travel through the air, with a sense of purpose...I am a rogue, for the traveller displaced, two generations, paced, and sense of haste..." By the time the open mic was over (I played "The Beacon" to about 50 attentive people, which was Rad), I did not have a song yet, but the muse was tapping with purpose at my window.
So that's "The Relic."
Next up, "Pour Me Oakshire." This one featured Dors Ward, who helped me finish the song when I was stuck on it about six months ago. We trade verses and lead vocals, and have a recording through Bad Austin Studios that is nearing completion. Ultimately, this recording will be dedicated to Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, OR.
I am going to run out of space here. They limit my blog character numbers. Everyone not asleep at the keyboard yet, head to Part 2.
Third song of the night was "Country Road." I wrote this song out at Helvetia Studios while I was living there (2011-2012), made a demo with Ryan Ferris, and made a demo at home, one of the first instances where I actually thought of a real piano part, taught myself to play it, and recorded it with great care. Daniel Work was a natural choice to perform this role, and I showed him my idea and we worked it up over several months. Our work and prep was mostly for fun and to develop, but ultimately, it led to this inclusion in The Showcase, and that was a fantastic culmination. The lyrics are about my childhood road, which was only a half-mile long, but to a child walking to a bus stop at 6am in freezing rain, and then back again in the dark in freezing rain, after a 12 hour day at school, sports, and music lessons, it seemed quite lengthy indeed. As an adult tho, I fully appreciated just how NOT LONG this road was, and where as a child I felt so far outside the city and my social life, I realized that Eugene is actually a very small city. And that is a beautiful thing. When I sing this song, I get twinges of emotion thinking about the late Will Downing, and the country highway where he passed his remaining days deep in the heart of south Texas, near McAllen and the Mexican border. Thank You to Daniel for working this song up with me, and most of all for taking the piano line that I had written and OWNING it completely, skipping nothing and making it bigger and better than I ever could have imagined.
Next, we played "Real Love." I wrote this song after seeing Jack White in concert (August 2012 in Portland), on his solo tour, alongside Megan Cronin (Tummybuckles) and my bandmates Joe & Jesse Tomaino from A Crab's Life, and taking some inspiration from his style and presence and voice. The other part of this tune was from hearing the Outkast double-album from 2000 for the first time, on a road trip down to Sacramento, CA with Megan and her sister about a week after the Jack White show. Sitting by the pool and the man-made waterfall, it occurred to me quite clearly that "real Love is a waterfall, there's only one direction to flow, and that's on…" Woody and I worked out a 2-guitar arrangement over the next few months, complete with vocal harmonies.
Closing the night was a newer cover song I'd been working on with The Tummybuckles, and then with this group, "The Promise", originally recorded and arranged by When In Rome.
Finally, the encore, demanded by the audience even though we were 20 minutes over our time (10:20p). Can't say no to a packed house, and when a fan called out Oregon Song! we had to oblige. Woody and Daniel stepped off to an ovation, and Leo and Dors and I tenderly ripped through "Oregon Song." We missed Megan Cronin on the violin, but we made it work somehow!
No place I've ever been loves and supports musical development like Artichoke Music, and I am proud to be involved in such a fine community.
Thank you Richard Columbo and all your crew that you inspire to lead on, even in your absence...
Thanks so much to Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, for their continued support of live music. Megan and I had a Great time performing for you, and by the next time I see you, I will have a copy of the Pour Me Oakshire song ready. Dors Ward, my co-writer for that tune, is planning to come down and perform it with me.
Here's hoping for the best!