good morning ~
(click the link to listen)
i don't have a new track for you today - ran outta time - but i do have something archival for you to hear. the record linked above - Ben Seretan & the Early's "In Two" - came out ten years and one day ago. we didn't necessarily mean for this to line up the way that it did, but I'm about to do a little run of shows with the current incarnation of the Early, so it feels appropriate to revisit this exuberant LP. you can check it out, and I wrote about it below.
gigs, starting tonight in Brooklyn ~
6/2 - IRL in Greenpoint - tickets and info
6/3 - cemetery house party in Hillsdale, NY (message me for info!)
6/5 - Avalon Lounge in Catskill
6/6 - the Hive in Burlington, VT - tickets and info
and here's the flyer, see you out there:
Ten years ago I put out a record I made with my friends called "In Two." It was the first LP I had ever made that had my name in the title, but it had their name, too: the Early, a nice ampersand right in the middle. We made it together, we collaborated on it, I spent 15 days sleeping on their couch in Portland, Oregon. They were really up to something those days - running a fairly notable house show / recording studio out of their multi-roommate cul-de-sac house, tracking music in the garage and hosting shows in the basement. A buzzing hub of activity on an otherwise suburban street.
It was a wonderful idea they had to invite me into their west coast world, their - even ten years ago - long history as a rotating group of musician buddies that met in high school in New Jersey. Their music was slippery, beguiling, hard-to-describe - you'd recognize a particular post-rock electric guitar move or a bebop ride cymbal pattern but you couldn't really understand why they worked together. But it did, still does, transportive. I had trouble counting time when listening to their music, the one would dart around, eel-like, give you a feeling like someone was going crazy on the world's gravity dial. And at the time I was tuning my guitar like a cello, bashing the hell out of it, and constantly trying to hypnotize myself - I liked to sing one phrase until the word lost all meaning, like sending a dollar bill through the wash again and again until it atomizes. Crucially, I had started aggressively playing alone. It was as if I wanted to see if I could face other bands and audiences with only my voice and guitar to protect me. We stepped fully into each other's methods. And in a very short amount of time while I was visiting we wrote and captured these songs, little netted butterflies.
There were many beautiful moments in those short weeks - for instance, we held a Thanksgiving dinner for anyone we knew with nowhere else to go and dozens of people showed up, so we put a spare door up on sawhorses to make room. Alex made the turkey, I took a disposable camera photo of him holding it up because it felt so momentous, an important roast. One afternoon we watched the sun set from a high cliff, Portland's many bridges below. We drank many, many cups of coffee. Our friend Ian came up for a visit from San Francisco and played the most perfect trumpet melodies over the last four minutes of the album.
And there's a lot of beauty on the album, too - some really intricate guitar interplay, the kind of thing you could never arrange, you just have to stumble into it and hope that you find something good. Jake's drumming is preposterous, prodigious flurries, sounds like his kit is being thrown down the stairs at many moments. Tim's sideways fake bass synth guitar work still perplexes me and, maybe because they were so thrown together, some of the chord changes still break my heart.
But the songs are weird, too. Oblong and obtuse. Some notes that some unsophisticated listeners might consider wrong. So many lyrics about or referencing dogs. Songs about freeway traffic and high school curfews and AIDS and doing cocaine in front of a television, only some of which I had any real life experience with. One track ends with an overly long manipulated sample of a duet by George Jones and Tammy Wynette. We put the house's wifi password on the album cover for reasons that escape me now (something about codes and access?). And there's an air of apocalypse to the record, a sense of doomed triumph among the world going to pieces (feels more pertinent now than it did then). And there's so much loneliness, at least as I hear it. The album's title comes from something a buddy once told me - his friend was trying to set him up with someone and he thought they'd really hit it off. Like, they would fall catastrophically in love. He said that when the two of you meet, the earth with crack in two, so vast is the power of this connection. How badly I wanted that to happen to me!
What I hear now when I listen to this record now is how resistant it is to approachable song structures, how loud it feels, how young my voice sounds. Some of the instrumental performances are astounding and some are hilarious (the saxophone on the last track made me laugh out loud). But mostly I hear an earnest and lightly naive belief that, because we had so much fun together, the world ought to hear the racket we made in their garage, no matter how abrasive or indulgent it might be at times. We had fun making it - we celebrated and we ripped our pants doing karaoke and we got the neighbors complaining and we played one incredible show all together before I left and we were pals making an effort, why wouldn't you want to behold it? To be among it? To immortalize it on a piece of scratched plastic?
I didn't understand then how inert recorded music is, how uphill a battle it can be to get someone to give your efforts a chance, how ugly it can get out there. I didn't know how brutally our collective attention would suffer in the coming years. And ultimately I was happy that anyone heard it at all - don't think I had the courage to believe in myself all the way a decade ago. This record is a photo album, an actual, mass-produced document that outlines a point in time when this work happened, when this work was possible, when hollering in my friends' garage was undeniably the absolute best thing I could be doing with my time.
But what about you? What were you up to ten years ago? Are you still screaming in the garage?