Friday, September 23, 2011

New Things, New Ideas, Progress, Fun by Jess Edison

So summer is over and fall is coming. It feels good.

Since our CD release a few months ago, we've been playing a lot of benefit shows, or free shows. We played two shows at Pour House, one for tornado victims and the other, Yoderfest, for the Chris Yoder building fund. Most recently, we played at SPARKcon (musicSPARK) on the musicSPARK stage near Raleigh Times. It was a great time. We especially liked the two-year-olds that were dancing in the street to our songs. You know, the classic double-knee-bend move that all kids know.

There is a trade-off to playing shows, and that is you have to rehearse for the show, leaving less time to write new songs. Well, we're fighting that tension as much as possible. We've recently gotten our hands on my favorite vocal mic, the Bluebird. And now we're recording demo versions of songs that will be on our next album. Our plan is for a full length.

The new songs are a more collaborative effort. We're trying to blend the nuggets we derive from improvisational jamming with the inspired solo pieces that typically make up the core of my songwriting. And we're also experimenting with new song structures and rhythms. My life has a new rhythm now - since I've been biking every day - and so I've been putting songs on my iPod that are fun to bike to: Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, the new PJ Harvey record, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and others. I think those artists have been inspiring me lately. The lyrical content has shifted as well. I say that as if it's separate from me, but I really do try to tap into a stream of consciousness when writing words. I try to flow instead of think.

We previewed some of the new songs at musicSPARK and for the first time we were compared to My Morning Jacket and The Cure. I think they were picking up on the post-punk influence that has either recently infiltrated our sound or has always been there under the surface. We still got the Radiohead comparison, which, I'll be honest, irks me at this point. People that have heard us a lot stop hearing Radiohead, but first impressions are hard to break. I think the main similarity is the occasionally long-held-out vocal note at the top of my range. That's Radiohead-like. I think I do that because I like violins and cellos and a voice is a good substitute. Radiohead is dramatic like us, but so is Sigur Rós (the only post-rock band I've ever listened to, besides local ones). And so is this song that I obsessively sang on a daily basis for years (how about those long notes, and falsetto?).

It took getting past teenager and rediscovering The Beatles for me to move beyond the grunge era and move towards a relatively eclectic musical taste. Tell me what Radiohead sounds like and it will take a while. Tell me what The Beatles sound like and it will take a while. (People of my mother's generation say we sound like The Beatles instead of Radiohead). Maybe we sound eclectic, I don't know. It's rock. I know it's not "Clear Channel" rock. There's a tendency in modern indie music to come up with super-labels for music, and it's become an alphabet soup, but I don't want to go there. I don't want to join a club that is so two-thousand-eleven. Music isn't fashion for me, it's art.

Suffice it to say, all the Radiohead references have compelled me to tone down what I think they must be talking about. I don't see it as a limitation, but more like an opportunity to explore my musical range. A lot of the new music is more upbeat, less somber. We have some swingy numbers, soulful vocals, epic instrumentals, open space, tightly coiled long songs and loose short songs. It's going to be eclectic, but it will sound like us.

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