Hello friends and enemies!
Happy 2016! In lieu of making any “resolutions” this year, I’ve decided to drop you all a note about the plans I have for the next twelve months. I’ve got a lot of exciting music projects in the works, and if I put them on the internet that means I have to actually do them. Thanks for your help in keeping me accountable for my various goals!
FIRST I’m excited to announce that I’ve just completed my next full length album. I recorded the 10 song LP with the incredible Nate Jasensky here in Brooklyn, aided and abetted by my talented pals Carl Limbacher, Max Tholenaar-Maples, and Wells Albritton. The album is called Cinemascope, and it’s a concept album about female identity based around classic film genres. It will be available to the public this summer, so watch this space for details to come.
SECOND I’ve just started working on a new EP, which I plan on self-recording and self-releasing at some point this year. The idea is to write five songs which can be performed three different ways; first I’ll upload a video of the song in a folk acoustic style, then a video of a punk rendition with the full band, and finally a lyric video with the song recorded in a pop style. In so doing I will a) develop a repertory of songs I can perform solo and b) finally learn how to make drums happen in Garage Band.
THIRD given my background in musical theater it was really only a matter of time before I decided to write an ensemble piece. I’m currently in the research stage for a song cycle based on creepypasta (for the uninitiated, spooky urban legends told on the internet). These stories scare the bejesus out of me, so I figured they’d be a good way to tap into a previously unused part of my creative brain. I plan on enlisting a group of Friends Who Are Good At Singing to perform the songs live in concert in New York City this October (spoooooOOOOOoooooky).
These three are just the things I’m prepared to announce at present. This year will also be filled with music videos, touring, the 4th annual Spring Fling 98 with the indomitable Haley Bowery, and lots of other delicious musical treats. If you haven’t already, please Like my Facebook Page or Follow Me On Twitter so I can keep you nice and updated.
I hope the first two weeks of 2016 have treated you well. I can’t wait to share all this music with you in the months to come!
Wells: I discovered some pretty sweet new sounds on my keyboard.
Carl: Black keys?
Hannah: The Black Keys. They live inside the speakers.
Carl: The earlier model came with the White Stripes.
“Video Games” - I was once very much in love with a man who, weirdly, promised to sing me this song at karaoke. It never happened, a sentence that sums up our relationship nicely.
“Life In A Glass House” - The favorite Radiohead song of the subject of most of my songs,a fact which, like menu items from old restaurant jobs or the plot of Swimfan, I somehow just can't forget. I briefly considered having my band learn it on the off chance he ever crashes a gig. Seems like a lot of work, though.
“#1 Crush” - I found out in the late 90s that this was the sex song of two of my high school friends. I will never again be able to hear it without thinking of two awkward teenagers discovering their bodies. And now neither will you!
“Sex and Candy” - Tried to cover it. Failed miserably.
“Rehab” - It’s not really fun anymore.
“Under The Bridge” - I once had a roommate who used to play this song, and only this song, on an out of tune guitar in our living room. New York is a magical place, everybody.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” - My first slow dance. You’re right, that does explain everything.
“This Woman’s Work” - Cause contemplating your parents’ mortality on the G train is kind of a drag.
Anything from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - It was red and yellow and green and blue and trite and bland and long and I had to wear a beard.*
“Colorblind” - We played this song on the night we “graduated” from theater camp, which mostly consisted of weeping and hugging mightily. Actually, I take it back. I listen to this song while drunk crying all the freaking time.
*if memory serves, the beard wouldn’t stay on my face, so I eventually wound up with painted “stubble” that didn’t make me look male, just dirty. High School was an interesting time for me.
I want to make a record and I’m fucking terrified.
This is hard for me to write about. Usually I need months, sometimes years of space after feeling something before I am far enough away from it to commit it to words. If I feel too much I can’t write. This is why I don’t argue with people. I can’t make the words come. All of the residual Goddamned Feelings from one too many years of drama school beat each other down in their quest for dominance, smothering my point in the process. Usually I find the words the next day and whisper them into my mirror as though my opponent were still in the room. I’m a little concerned that my roommate can hear me. I comfort myself with the thought that even if he can hear me, he probably can’t make out actual words. Right?
Suffice it to say, writing about what I feel right here, right now, this second is a challenge for me. Right here, right now, this second I am sick with worry over this. The cost of making music is ridiculous. I don’t think I can make enough with a crowd funding campaign. I know I don’t make enough on my own. I sincerely don’t know where this money is going to come from. Even if I find the money, I’m looking to spend thousands of dollars on something that only a few hundred people will ever hear. Why should I bother?
I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids in 2010, and I finished it on the day I released my first album. More specifically, I finished it as I was getting my hair done. I realize now how ridiculous it was for me to be reading a book with so much struggle and tragedy in a downtown salon chair, but there you have it. I used to love reading show business biographies. They made me think that even if I couldn’t see it yet, every tiny detail of my life would someday fuse together and form a trajectory so obvious I could option the film rights. A humble beginning, a harrowing middle, and a glorious end.
This week, in the midst of an unearned existential crisis, I am reading Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon. I can only read one chapter at a time, because it makes me sad to think about my younger self, who had enough hope and confidence to be inspired by the great achievements of others. It doesn’t help that most of their achievements took place in the city where I live. New York always seems to be the secret ingredient in these stories, it’s the place where paths cross at wild parties and novels are written in bars and lofts and guitars are purchased from thrift stores. That’s what the books promised.
Kim goes off on a pretty good rant about New York. Not her New York, or Patti’s, dirty and pulsing and thriving and scraping along like a living creature. She goes off on my New York. It’s the only New York i’ve ever known, shining and fake and safe and swarming with Millennials who romanticize her struggles on the L train to and from brunch but would never dream of living such a life. This is the very worst quality of my generation: we expect to succeed without sacrifice.
I think my desire to live comfortably is holding me back. That may be true of many artists these days; we don’t make art because it needs to be made, but rather because it’s the Next Step in our Careers. We live in a culture that encourages people to follow their dreams, but with the possibility of commercial artistic success comes a pressure to make something that other people might want. That’s not what our predecessors did. They weren’t thinking about record labels or TV placements or merch sales. They were getting through the fucking day, because that was one more day that they could spend making something beautiful.
There’s no way I’m not going to make this record. I’m currently considering an all oatmeal diet for the next few months. My hope is that I can move forward with this project not because it’s the next logical chapter in a show business fairy tale, but because I want this album to exist in the world. If I can escape the narrative I wanted for myself I can create something with no stakes and no expectations.
Still fucking terrified, though.