Writing to you this week from my cell phone while I’m playing shows in the northeast. Part of this was written in a minivan, part of this was written during a show, most of it was written sitting on our friend’s couch in Boston. Now I’m sending it to you (late) from a recording studio in Pawtucket. Please excuse any typos or unexpectedly brief writing, thank you.
The track this week is actually an excerpt from a larger project I was working on last month that has been unexpectedly shelved. I hope you’ll hear the full thing and it’s intended use at some point, and if it does come out I will let you know. But anyway - there are crickets from a summer night in Ohio and slide guitar and a synth with keys held down by tarot cards. The photo is from that rave in the woods I went to a while back (by the way, please keep sending me field recordings !).
Whatever’s Clever - the label I started in earnest this year - has a new release out today. It’s called Hyperion Drive:
I wanted to mention that I contributed a track to an extremely cool project started by composer/percussionist Clara Warnaar called “A New Age for New Age” - it’s gonna be an ongoing series of new new age music that she compiles and releases and the first volume features a track from this very email list. The project is looking for funding now and there are a lot of cool lil goodies available if you’d like to support: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clarawarnaar/a-new-age-for-new-age
Also ~ I still have a few shows left with Sinai Vessel, including tonight in Connecticut and a big show in New York with the full band on Sunday. It’s been extremely fun and deeply gratifying thus far ! Here are the dates:
Nov 21 - Bloomfield, CT - Slumhouse
Nov 22 - Philadelphia, PA - Free Candy
Nov 23 - Farmingdale, NJ - Little Hollywood
Nov 24 - NYC - Trans Pecos
Being on tour usually means driving through towns you’ve been through before - they resonate at a certain frequency that rattles loose the memories of that particular place. A highway interchange and an unexpected familiarity with a particularly rest stop or with a town. Caleb and I passed through a town on the border of Vermont I didn’t think we’d pass through and I made him listen to the record some friends and I made there all those years ago. I made him watch me actively relive (hands white knuckling the steering wheel as we wound through the hills) the early winter months where we slept on the floor and ran microphones down to the empty gymnasium. And like any memory I both lived within it and outside of it, I watched myself as I circled back.
I’ve lived long enough now to no longer keep everything in my head. There are conversations, nights, whole weeks I don’t remember. The things I do remember, though, are the stories I tell about myself. The things about me I perform for others. What stories do you tell? What myths do you allow to blossom on the vine? Do you allow yourself triumph in your telling to others?
At the show in Boston I saw someone I know from college, someone I haven’t hung with in maybe ten years (specifically, someone I know from the semester I spent living in a maritime museum and sailing tall ships, but that’s another email). He’s kept tabs on all of our mutual friends and filled me in with the surprising details of our shipmates’ lives - who has children, who has a PhD, who has transitioned, who has thrived. After my set he shows me a picture on his phone of me playing guitar - the first time he ever saw me play music, he says - which is from approximately 13 years ago. This all rumbles loose a flood of memories, but they are things I cannot place within time or logic - when this group of people had an impromptu reunion in Boston that one time, why we did that and what year it was elude me. Had I played in this venue before? Had I been to this neighborhood? The edges have all been wind worn on this particular neighborhood of my lived experience and now I can’t get a grip on em, they’re smoothed on out. I have failed to adequately perform these parts for others, and so they’re river stones.
Traveling in the way that we’re traveling has an interesting way of generating unique circumstances, little capsules of experience that, when communicated, seem almost like little jokes. For instance. We played uncompetitive ping pong for three straight hours on the top floor of a nearly empty mansion, answering our new friend’s incredibly probing questions in-between volleys and drinking hot tea (“what are you over compensating for?” he asks, also “when was the last time you experienced male anger?”). We crossed the river shortly after 2am in hopes of going to a pirate bar, but the pirate bar was closed. Later we found out that our host that night works as an underwear model. Or this. We ran across two rainy New Hampshire parking lots clutching instruments to our torsos, the street lights just popping on and being reflected in the puddles and the windshields. We were running late to a community radio appearance and for the half hour previous we had listened to the host of the show gracefully fill his on air time with singing his own songs and reading the poems of others, alluding to the possibility of our making it on air in-between (“we might have some guests soon”). But we did make it, I unfolded the harmonium during a station break and sang a song about god to an invisible audience. In upstate New York our friend shows us his impressively large collection of Todd Rundgren tour t-shirts in his room in a (different) mansion on the river. Shortly before this he fixes my guitar, then he plays us some songs he’s working on, and then we walk to Herman Melville’s house and the park that he built, watching the day get dark and the sky get reflected in the river. I’m put so at ease that I forget my guitar entirely, only to discover that the instrument’s gone when we get to the show that night. But it’s not a big deal, we work it out, and when we swing by our friend’s catering gig to drop off his house keys he brings us a garbage bag full of food, and so later that night I greedily eat vegetarian meatloaf in the darkened passenger seat of a minivan.
(it feels good to be doing this, I like the structure and I especially like hearing from you in reply. Is it raining where you are? Are you currently in or out of your zone? What was the first thing you said out loud this morning?)