My favorite song on Paper Kingdoms is “Cassie At The End Of Things”. It’s the fall of Troy from the point of view of Cassandra, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot because I live in New York and it feels like the end of the goddamned world. There are sirens constantly, and I can’t stop thinking about me ten years ago, sawing away at a secondhand violin into a cheap mic, trying to add a siren effect to that song. I was looking to create a mood; if "apocalyptic" was the mood I wanted I’ve sure got it now.
In retrospect, recording alone seems like a batshit kind of decision for a total novice to have made, but at the time I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t really think about anything I did back then. Wherever I was, I just researched the next step and took it. Open mics? Check. Demos? Gotcha. Best cheap microphone for home recording? Audio Technica. Great.
I had been given a laptop by a coworker who I was desperately, unrequitedly in love with. Several of the songs I’d chosen for the record were about him. The laptop was loaded with ProTools, and also a folder labeled with his ex-girlfriend’s name. I deleted it without reading it, for the record, but I’m reasonably certain there was some terrible poetry in there.
I was off to an ok start at first. I borrowed an electric guitar and an old bass, and I bought that violin off some dude on Craig’s List thinking I would remember how to play (I did not). I had no particular idea what I was trying to make, I was just throwing sounds on top of my guitar tracks to see what worked. I remember doing the same verse over and over again trying to figure out how to communicate the song in my head with the limited tools at my disposal. I created delicate piano motifs that connected songs. I borrowed (stole?) some marching bells from a musician who didn't like me. No one had ever taught me the rules for music arrangement, so I made up rules of my own. I miss that; the more I've learned over the years the more worried I am that I'm somehow doing it Wrong. Music is still fun, but it was a different kind of fun when I didn’t feel pressured to make something Good.
After a few weeks of dicking around the computer stopped working. The program kept crashing and I couldn’t figure out how to save my progress. I did a bunch of googling, and the Sound Bros on the Avid forums said I needed an external hard drive. Ok, that sounds fine, I can handle that, right?
I waited until payday and waltzed over to the Apple Store near Columbus Circle where I was waitressing at the time. As I was crossing in front of the Plaza Hotel, a cab swerved into the driveway and when I dodged, I tripped. I knew the second I hit the ground that my ankle was broken. I figured - if it’s broken, I can’t work. If I can’t work, I’ll be stuck at home. If I’m stuck at home, I need the hard drive.
So I hobbled into the 5th Avenue Apple Store, sobbing and swearing the whole time, down the stairs and onto a bench. A sales associate asked if I was ok. “I think my ankle is broken, but can you sell me a hard drive?”
I tried to make it back to Columbus Circle (I had a shift that day, after all), but I barely made it across the street. A pedicab driver picked me up and drove me across the park to the mall. This is 100% true, and also the only time I have ever been in a pedicab. My manager took one look at me and told me to go to the ER, which, you know, fair.
My ankle was of course broken, and I spent the next six months in a brace. I remember it being less of an inconvenience than you would expect. I still went to work, I still went to shows, I still worked on the record. Listening back to it now feels like a time capsule. My music has changed so much since then, and you can hear that I’m trying SO HARD to make the songs louder than they possibly could be without a full band. In fact, I took five of the songs on this album later and reworked them with a full band to make the Ghost Stories EP.
My life is once again at a weird standstill, but at least a broken ankle has an end date. I’m immobilized in a small space, with faulty technology, trying to be creative and happy without having the resources to do so. New York is frozen in time, and quite frankly, I’m scared to go back to normal. There are a lot of aspects of my “normal” life that make me stressed and sad, and I dread walking back into that routine. I feel the pressure a lot of creative folks are feeling right now that I need to “make the most of this time” somehow. No one knows what happens after This Time is over, and it’s impossible to prepare. More than likely the world is changed forever, and I can’t research next steps on Reddit or buy a solution at the Apple Store. I’m falling through space, just like everyone else.
My band was supposed to go into the studio to record our new EP on May 10th but as you can imagine the plans are currently very much in the air. I can’t do anything on that particular project and it’s incredibly frustrating. I’m trying to use this quiet time not to MAKE NEW STUFF but to figure out what drew me to making stuff to begin with. I want to touch base with that busted waitress and figure out what compelled her to make a record in her apartment with no assistance. She had something I think I lost, and before we record again I want to get her back.
My heart doesn’t want to create right now, and all of my friends/therapists/tarot cards have been telling me not to force it. I need to do something though; I wasn’t built for relaxation. So I’m putting this quiet little record I made on Bandcamp on Friday, May 1st to share it with you. Because it makes me feel productive. Because it makes me feel like a real artist. Because it allows me to prove to the internet that I still exist. Sharing this album makes me feel more connected to the very brave, very foolish person I used to be. I'm hoping she can help me figure out what comes next.