2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Natalie Kirch)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Natalie Kirch and I only crossed paths, as far as I know, once when I was still living in Brooklyn. We were likely in the same room far more often than I knew. In the time that’s elapsed since I’ve left, Kirch’s name kept coming up more and more in conversations and I’d hear endlessly kind things about the Sharkmuffin bassist from people I trusted. Before long, we’d re-introduced ourselves via the magic of the internet and Kirch was graciously accepting an invitation to this series. Below, Kirch tackles the past two leap years, tracing the beginnings of what would become Sharkmuffin’s core to America’s current landscape. It’s an engrossing piece and deserves several reads. Look back and look ahead by looking below.


Leap Year

The last one we had was 2012. According to the Mayan calendar, the world was scheduled to end in December of that year. As ancient worlds came crashing down, a new world was opening up to me. Backtrack half-way from the Mayan apocalypse to the end of June 2012. I was finishing my second year as a full-time kindergarten teacher, about to start my second stint of graduate school student teaching, when my friend Nate Terepka texted me. His friend Tarra was looking for a bass player who could harmonize on vocals, and would I be interested in joining her band Sharkmuffin?

Nate knew I was “very green” but thought Tarra and my taste in music would mesh well. I had started playing bass guitar two months earlier. Prior to that, I had dabbled in guitar for a year in high school, had recently started trying my hand at song writing, and had entertained the idea of a band with my girls Emily, Marisa, and Olivia (we did complete one song!). Unless you consider my grammar school band The Hyper Girls (we played hand-made driftwood-and-tin-foil instruments) as experience, “green” was a very kind way of saying I had no idea what I was doing.

But Tarra had sent me some songs she had demoed with her Drew Adler on drums and Chris Nunez on bass, and I loved her style. I reiterated just how “green” I was to Tarra. She said that was okay, so I met up with my friend Taylor and had him help me with 10 songs she had emailed me. Tarra spent the 4th of July with my family on the Jersey shore. That week, I wrote my first Sharkmuffin bass line and melody for a song called “Soft Landing”.

Tarra liked it and added on lyrics and guitar. On July 14th, I played my first show with Tarra and Drew Adler on drums at an art gallery called The Hive. By September 2012, Tarra, Drew, and I had recorded the first 3 Sharkmuffin EPs. October 2012, the Jersey shore house was completely destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Only my troll collection survived, and a lone, hard-bodied 1993 Ken doll.

2016: Leap Year, we meet again. I was in Disney World on January 12th when David Bowie died, the contrast of joy and despair causing that deep dirty water feeling in my stomach. The Most Magical Place on Earth would be tainted even further exactly five months later with the Pulse Shootings. 2016 was a rough one for the world at large. I could name all of the incidents of murder, genocide, terrorism, racism, all the icon deaths that followed, or what it felt like to watch the first potential female US president lose to a misogynist buffoon.

But we all know about those horrors and tragedies already. So when asked to describe a moment of musical importance to me, I found myself torn. Do I discuss how the death of one of my artistic idols impacted me? How a peer’s performance inspired me? Or should I describe a personal accomplishment or loss?

As you can see, it was difficult for me not to cite an exact moment, but rather the way moments do what they do and interlock to create happenings and events. Because how does a moment last in time other than as a memory? It pushes another moment forward, and then another, and so forth. Crawling in and out of 2016, I found myself at the start of a circle, just as I had leaping from 2012 to 2016. 2016 was my first year as a full-time musician.

Sharkmuffin toured for two months with Kim Deuss. In that lengthened February, we recorded a new LP with the Kim that I am eager to release in 2017. By the end of 2016, our spinal tap list of drummers came around full circle and Tarra and I had the opportunity to play with both Drew Adler and Janet Labelle, our first two drummers. In 2017 we will also be touring with Drew on drums and Chris on guitar – the drummer and bassist on the first demos Tarra ever sent me. It feels like all those little moments are locking into place to ready us for the next year.

2016 was hard for humanity, but I hope there were moments of greatness for everyone on a personal level. Silver linings don’t diminish the losses caused by the storm, but even moments of grief can surprise us in how forcefully they push us forward. After all, a torch doesn’t appear so bright if it is not lit in the darkness. Now that all of our idols are dead or dying, does that mean it is our duty to try with all our might to fill those gaps in art, culture, and time? We need those gaps to fight for, towards, or against and keep the moments rolling.

It took me a long time to understand the concept of a Leap Year. I always found it cruel to deprive Leaplings of their birthday for years at a time, and why would western humans create a calendar that fits so unevenly into our mathematical perception of time? As we age, each moment passes by more quickly but carries more weight. I realized I should not be asking why we have that extra day every four years, but what we doing with that extra day. Perhaps it is in those quarter orbits, the last 6 hours of the average solar year, that we can really push the orbit to the fullest.