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April 12, 2013 emblemThe Wall, Part Another of Many

Making progress again over here at Boy Island, one check mark at a time.

Boy Island progress

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March 16, 2013 emblemWalk the lake

Saint Strategy

Although I’ve often thought and talked about it, I think I’m just beginning to realize the importance of pushing outward.

When I listen to the songs and read the words I wrote as a teenager, I can hear this fearlessness of exploration. Granted, the end product was generally shit, but the sentiment behind it was real if only because I had no idea what I was doing. That type of innocence is difficult to recapture. From what I’ve found, one of the only ways to get it back– as fleeting as it may be– is to dive into areas you have zero experience in. Previously, I’ve been under the impression that this implies operating as a pendulum, marking one’s excursions into the dark with actual landmarks. Those spots are where you get your Metal Machine Musics and your Rite of Springs.

However, I’m noticing that these leaps are necessary so that you still just…land in the middle.

I meant that in terms of style, but maybe ‘the middle’ here is a way of determining quality too. Going to the extremes seems to me a rite of passage in maintaining some type of artistic integrity or talent. It’s going to the gym.

I was listening to Aphex Twin today. Historically, it hasn’t been my type of music. If it has a good melody, I’ll listen to anything, but Richard D. James was always more of a personality than a talent I could understand. I remember hearing tales that he owned a tank once and performed laying down onstage. Let alone that terrifying video for “Come to Daddy.” But with my recent foray into MIDI and drum mapping, I’m finding ideas in electronic music that I can relate to for the first time.

This is not my announcement to say the new Saint Solitude records will be electronic. I could never fully let go of my hands-on instruments. That being said, my mind has wandered. I’m both incapable of boredom and easily bored at the same time.

Despite all attempts from the world, I aspire to remain excited and to deny inactivity at all costs. “Momentum for the sake of momentum,” sings Neko to no one in particular.

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March 5, 2013 emblemDon’t stare into the

The joys of recording “at home” so to speak come with the inevitable setbacks of equipment failure.

Without boring the teeth out of your skull, it will suffice to say that I have to send an important piece of my recording studio back to the manufacturer for repairs. I got me a lemon.

Given my devotion to recording in the winter months, I’m seriously concerned with how I will fill the void for the next 2 or 3 weeks. I may have to retreat to somewhere near the armpit of Maine to find an acoustic guitar, for it seems fated that I have more acoustic to record on these albums than the last 2 combined- and then some.

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February 2, 2013 emblemSonelab

Sonelab tape

I write today from the hills of Western Massachusetts, where I’ve been recording the first bits of new Saint Solitude material. At the referral of several trusted friends and top-notch musicians, I’ve surrendered my aural fate to the mastery of Mark Alan Miller at Sonelab in Easthampton- only one warehouse away from where I played my first show in this area 4 years ago. It was evident from the first hour of setting up the drums that Mark knows what he is doing behind the board. My drums have never sounded finer- and as evidenced in the picture above, I have ecstatically returned to recording on analog tape. This is the first time I’ve worked the reel-to-reels, and the results made all of us giddy. Tape just makes things sound so natural, it makes me wonder why I didn’t insist on it in the past.

The excitement of all these new things- the studio, the people, the angles, the mics, the ideas, the tones- has been truly refreshing. It feels like a line in the sand is being drawn between my old records and these new ones. I’m already ready to share them and I’ve only just started…but I promise to make them available as quickly as possible.

Got a lot done on our first day- more than expected- so tomorrow should be even easier than anticipated. A few more drum tracks to go, then we move on to piano. Finally, I’ve got a full upright to use. No more fake keyboard piano!  More pictures to come. Cue the ballads and rouse the sad songs, for as many rowdy tunes as there are in this bunch, I’ve got some sweet ones to break up the riot too…

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November 12, 2012 emblemDefeats the dark

photo: Colleen Heslin/Hidden Spectrum

photo: Colleen Heslin/Hidden Spectrum

I like the fact that sometimes the idea of songwriting is enough to inspire me to continue doing it. I don’t even have to consider the instruments or my (in)ability to play them. By all means, music is my greatest confidant and my preferred prism through which to view the world. However, sitting down on the drum set or picking up a pen doesn’t always produce anything worth remembering. Though every musician struggles with one’s own technical abilities, I feel pretty happy knowing that, if nothing else, my mental motivation is, at present, alive and kicking. My hands and my feet and my throat follow my brain. I wrote an entire paragraph to come to that decision. Words…

I was walking home this evening in the wind and the rain, in what could generally be an uncomfortable experience for anyone (though it was admittedly my own fault for ignoring the forecast). Spacemen 3 were playing on my iPod. Surprisingly, the scene lifted my spirits.

I started dreaming of writing a song with no drums- just a tremolo guitar and some auctioneer-ish vocals. It was nothing new, nothing revolutionary. But I couldn’t recall if I had ever tried it myself. This was good enough reason for me to set out to do it. It could be one more colour to uncover in a spectrum only merely hinted at beneath a vast surface of inactivity. This is why I create, and why I think everyone should. To paraphrase Nick Cave, it is to resist the mundanity of the world . It is a shield. To this end, songwriting will never cease to be a beacon to me. I hope to never bore of it. I have ample faith that I will never exhaust its many tunnels and tentacles, as hard as I may try.

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July 24, 2012 emblemWhere I’ve landed

Despite so many attempts over the years, I wasn’t able to tear myself away from Asheville permanently until last week. I made the drive with my cat, Casco, up the coast, back to homeland of Maine. With the move comes a lot of unknowns- job, studio space, whether or not I REALLY missed the Northern winters- but also a lot of opportunity for change and new experiences in a part of the world I feel very at home in.

I’ve been working furiously on a bunch of new songs and ideas for the past 2 months, getting the kinks worked out at my new studio and still slowly replacing some of my stolen equipment. I left Asheville with more songs in my pocket than ever before. There is so much to work on! Many of them are still a ways away from being heard by the general public, but I seem to have a theme going of doing 180s mid-song these days. Just when you think the ballad is going to go one direction, it goes another- etc. I have an idea of releasing a free EP in the near future if I can get settled here quick enough and choose a cohesive set of songs.

Cohesion may be the trick this time around, since I seem to be working on different sounds every six months or so. Late last year I was doing a lot of groove-oriented instrumentals, which felt completely fresh, and I’d like to pursue that while I learn MIDI technology. But but but, the big rock choruses will always hold sway with me, I think, and there are plenty of those coming back around as well in the more recent past. Melody is hard to give up.

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May 23, 2012 emblemThe studio

…is alive!

As of Saturday, I am once again recording at my leisure. I couldn’t be happier. I tested out the new equipment with a straightforward cover of The Coral’s “Pass It On,” a favorite of mine from a few years ago. Reminds me of when I first moved to Asheville.

Now to catch up on all these new demos…

 

DUP

 

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May 18, 2012 emblemd’enregistrement mobile

Back in December, my one and only computer crashed on me. For once, nothing was lost and I was able to get it up and running again within a few weeks. I had been using this ancient thing to record my music for years with the most basic of setups (Journal of Retreat was almost fully recorded on it), but once I got it revived, it was obvious I needed a new system.

I set out to start building a whole new recording studio in February, but soon after ordering the computer I was, as you may have heard by now, robbed blind. It’s now mid-May, and I’ve only recently been able to replace all the equipment and instruments that was lost in some form or fashion enough where I can begin building the studio again.

I now have everything I need to start demoing out new songs (there are so many, of varying colors and shapes and in many forms of incompleteness) but the new hardware has not been making it easy for me. Once I get one thing working another fails. The pieces are there but they have yet to sync up to where I can actually create some tracks! This has been going on for a few weeks and it is beginning to drive me a bit crazy.

With all these unfinished songs in me, it is only a matter of time before I simply explode, shooting verses and stray choruses in every direction- song shrapnels piercing houses, children, and any nearby vehicles.

Hold my hand as I’m lowered into studio hibernation mode…

DUP

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April 22, 2012 emblemMake a friend when you listen to SS

Or just make a drink.

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April 16, 2012 emblemGreat Scott, exploring the Atlantic states!

By now, I’ve accustomed myself to running up and down the East Coast for two weeks every few months or so for tour. I’ve done the the run from North Carolina to Maine quite a bit in the last four years, but I must say, this most recent jaunt was the most fun I’ve had touring since heading out West in 2009 (mmm…those were the days…). Maybe it was the group we had going this time around (Lee White joined us on bass for the fist time), maybe it was the new songs we were playing (“The Curious Weights” translated to guitar is by far our new favorite to play), or maybe it was just getting out of town. Whatever it was, after the mess of the robbery in February, and my ensuing misery, it was really nice to hit the road and get my head out of the ground.

Our first few shows went off without a hitch- and it set the pace for the rest of the tour. In Charlotte, we met new friends from The Bear Romantic in Charlotte. Thank you Emily and George, and their amazing grey bengal cat Wesley, for their last-minute hospitality in putting us up. I haven’t had to book a hotel room once in all these years of touring, and we came as close as we’ve come before they offered their couches and floorspace. Not to mention they had oodles of vintage equipment for us to drool over. TWO Space Echos? That is unheard of.

By day two, I realized Durham is beginning to look a like Asheville with its coupled breweries and food carts, and Thomas and Jeremy began to perform a solid repertoire of 1980s pop culture references that proved that I needed to watch Ghostbusters and Back to the Future again. They were making me feel old. Note: upon returning  from the road, I have watched both and they are still brilliant films.

The most dangerous places to go with this group is either music equipment stores, or record shops. The past 2 tours I’ve nearly avoided them because keeping vinyl in the car is so tricky when we’re already fully loaded with our gear. This time we said fuck it. Thomas proved to be the most trigger happy vinyl shopper- he started compiling a stack the first day at Lunchbox Records in Charlotte. I waited til Providence  to spend the money I didn’t have- Analog Underground had me at hello with its surf record $5 finds. Not to mention the owner, Dave, was neither a dick or a snob- rarity these days, I swear. Lee bought two Molly Hatchet records for the album artwork alone (he’s a graphic designer and a metalhead- a sublime combination).

In Jersey, I swam the frigid sea, as per usual. Jeremy’s parents treated us to home-cooked meals on our day off.

Returning to Northampton, MA felt a bit odd, since it was now officially my ex-future home. But I still love it there, and in return it gave me a new hemp backpack (I was berated for this purchase by my bandmates despite its functionality, and my need to shed my long-faded man purse). We re-animated the Baystate at the Sierra Grille that evening, once home to the long-closed and much-adored dive bar. Lee’s Southern charm proved to be invaluable at the merch table. New fans were made. Morale was high. The Fawns let us into their home with my old friend Jose from A Severe Joy (and formerly of Spouse), and we stayed up late trading stories.

By this point I had consumed many pints of Arnie Palmers, my new favorite road beverage, and at least one hemp tea which both smelled and tasted of pot. Were we in California? No, too cold. Must be Vermont!

We climbed mountains and waterfalls there and had a rollicking good time with my dear old friend Tristan, whose band, Villanelles, unfortunately had to bail out of the Burlington show with us at the last minute. Nevertheless, we rocked the Monkey House til it shook out all its clientele, made friends and enemies alike, and learned that, despite whatever the drunk girl in the front row says, Thomas is not her cousin. No sir.

Portland is always a peak of the tour in many ways, and this time we had the pleasure of playing a benefit for some fire victims in Fort Kent (wayyyyy Northern Maine) and as a result, we played to a bunch of new ears. They loved our short but empassioned set, though it was tragic to not be able to play our Manic Street Preachers cover. There were actually people in the audience that night that might have known the song, for once (educate yourself). Somewhere we have a recording of this show, we’ll have to dig that up soon.

On our next day off, some of us metal detected and some of us took it easy and played drums. I drove up the coast a little and said hi to my mum and my hometown. As it always is this time of year, Maine was cloudy and grey, but it felt good to be there nonetheless.

In Boston, the band convinced me to eat at Chipotle and we found kindred pedal souls in the band Drifterswift. They have 3 Eventide pedals between their two boards…yummmmm. That night we actually had to break the streak and stay at a motel because all our Boston friends live in tiny apartments. Strangely, I do love Boston, but things like that make me realize that I do not miss living in a big city.

We realized near Mansfield that we had yet to eat a cheap diner brunch. We stumbled upon a 60 year old one that fit the bill and we devoured some watery eggs and brown bacon. Quantity not quality! Then we fished our way down to NYC (without a single toll, ha!) and played to a very attentive audience at the Living Room. My patience for New York is extremely limited (as I have blogged/bitch about before), so much to my delight we were in and out of the city in less than 8 hours. No tolls or tickets- that’s a first.

It rained, it sunned, and then it rained again. We played Ithaca on a rather mellow note, but were treated to an $80 tab paid for by a stranger. We connected the dots between the small worlds of Asheville and Ithaca, and downed as many kombucha cocktails as we could, before settling into root beers for the drive to the next motel (yup, another…dammit). The drive back to Asheville was long but not as long as we figured, and then we were back home, feeling surreal and spun as one always does after visiting 12 places in 14 days.

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