Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Loren Diblasi

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories

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.

Once again, I’d like to start off with thanking the 2016 crop of contributors for A Year’s Worth of Memories: James Greer, Lindsey-Paige McCloy, Amanda Dissinger, Loren DiBlasi, Katie Preston, Erica Sutherland, Nicola Leel, Jesse Amesmith, Phil McAndrew, Lindsay Hazen, John Rossiter, Sonia Weber, Lily Mastrodimos, Eric Slick, Jerard Fagerberg, Megan Manowitz, Amar Lal, Phyllis Ophelia, Elise Okusami, Isaac Eiger, Alisa Rodriguez, Ryan Wizniak, Nora Scott, Natalie Kirch, and Jessica Leach. There aren’t words powerful enough to adequately convey my gratitude for your efforts, time, care, and consideration. Apologies to anyone that may have contributed something that got lost in the shuffle (if this is you, please send me a note and we can try to work something out for next year).

As you may have noticed, every single entry into this year’s edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories (this one included) either ran or is running with the disclaimer up top. At the start of the year, Heartbreaking Bravery was effectively forced into a hiatus to work out technical complications that occurred due to what essentially amounted to a correspondence glitch. All sorts of things went haywire and reconnecting all the wires was a surprisingly difficult task. A number of things got lost in the shuffle.

For a brief time, I thought about ending the site permanently but reading back through the material that was still left on the table — as well as some of the material that was posted in the past — dissuaded me from calling it quits. These pieces needed to be published and it felt important, maybe even necessary, to continue this site.

While the timing may have rendered the 2016 installment of A Year’s Worth of Memories a little less timely than I would have liked, the pieces themselves largely transcended the time capsule-style trappings typically attributed to these types of works. Many touched on lessons that seemed timeless. All of them made me question what I’d eventually choose to write about it and how I’d present it whenever I did choose. The piece I wrote last year  was outrageously long and I didn’t want to go through something that exhausting again.

Eventually, I decided the best route would be to combine some of the common traits laid out by the 2016 series: splitting the piece into four pieces, focusing on personal triumphs while making room for gnawing anxieties, visual interludes, and paying tribute to the people and events that are worth celebrating. All that and more can be read below.

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SMALL FESTS & SHOWS

2016 was the year of small festivals; I’d always preferred them to the spectacle-laden retreats that seem to dominate the news cycles every year. Many of these small-scale events I’d been trying to see for years and 2016 just wound up being kind enough to allow me access to events like FRZN Fest, Wicker Park Fest, and Eaux Claires, among others. Unsurprisingly, each held its own share of memorable frustrations and scintillating highlights. In no particular moment, here are some of the standout moments.

Chicago was atypically warm for last year’s annual Music Frozen Dancing, which saw Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and the Black Lips playing outdoors to a packed crowd outside of the Empty Bottle. While all of the bands were good and the Black Lips, as they always do, managed to invoke the high school memories of discovering and participating in that genre of music, nothing could’ve topped Meat Wave unveiling “Glass Teeth” from what would eventually become their next record.

Ragged and sick, the band tore into the new material with the kind of excitement reserved for new material. It was a standout moment of a day that refused to end (my friend Josh and I wound up taking three different forms of public transit after the trains stopped running) after an off-the-books Heavy Times show wrapped in the early hours of the morning. It was a surreal moment and allowed for an extended view of Chicago at night. Exhausted, content, and desperate to get back to our sleeping quarters, it was a difficult night to forget.

Months later, I’d return for the unreasonably stacked Wicker Park Fest, excited to see a long list of friends and more than a few bands that had been on my bucket list. The weather had different plans. Not only did getting turned around on the way to the fest’s first day wind up forcing me to walk a few extra miles before being saved by a generous taxi driver who offered me a free ride after the first rain of the weekend started descending, more than half of the bands I’d intended to see got cancelled because of storms on both days.

Nearly as soon as I got through the gates, I was already rushing to take shelter with a bunch of other festivalgoers who had effectively sequestered themselves in Reckless Records, which would eventually lose power and offer up a faint glow with candles set up in various parts of the store People browsed records, reading materials, and gathered by the wind to watch the storm lift tents out of the ground and send them ricocheting down Paulina St. There was an odd magic to it all.

There were bright musical spots in the midst of all of that chaos, though, including an unbelievably explosive Jeff Rosenstock set that saw the songwriter leaping over the barricade gap, guitar still attached, to crowdsurf at the end of an abbreviated set. The whirlwind nature of Rosenstock’s performance, which came after the storm delays and restrictions were lifted, felt like an appropriate maelstrom of energy; a whirlwind performance driven by some unknowable force.

Five or six songs in length, it’d wind up being the highlight of the festival. Somewhere nearby, one of the trains on the blue line wound up getting blown off the rails by the intense winds and caused festival organizers to proceed with extra caution on the second day, which was hit with an even worse run of weather.

I spent much of that day with Sasha Geffen — the fist young music journalist I can remember truly admiring — who was with me when I was forming the initial idea for A Year’s Worth of Memories and was a vital part of its finalization. We took in great, sunny sets from Bad Bad Hats and Diet Cig before the storm reappeared and spent a lot of time in a powerless Emporium Arcade. During that run — which forced cancellations of both Pile and PUP — I was also fortunate enough to meet A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor David Anthony.

The last memorable moment of that festival caught me paralyzed in between two stages, with Ought ripping into “More Than Any Other Day” on one side and Alvvay‘s launching into “Archie, Marry Me” on the other. I took in both, unable to choose between two of the best songs of the past ten years before rushing over to Ought, who had their industrial sensibilities enhanced by their backdrop, trains running along the blue line in the background while being cloaked in a calm, post-storm glow. It was a perfect way to cap a very chaotic festival.

Three more small festivals had their fair share of spectacular moments as well: Bon Iver debuting an entire record at Eaux Claires, sending chills down my spine for the entirety of “715 – CR∑∑KS” while crickets audibly chirped on the forest perimeter, their sound elevated by the reverential silence of a crowd of thousands. Tickle Torture playing shortly after that set and delivering a slew of the festival’s best moments, including a finale that saw bandleader Elliot Kozel (formerly of Sleeping in the Aviary) getting completely naked while screaming “MY LOVE!” at the top of his lungs. That day starting at the gates, listening to the sounds of an expanded Tenement lineup blowing away a festival crowd and spending that day in the presence of some of my favorite people, including A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors Nina Corcoran (who I wrote about for my piece last year) and Sam Clark (who has played in more than one band with me).

Turkey Fest’s final day had a stellar lineup boasting four great acts: Wood Chickens, Trampoline Team, The Hussy, and Nobunny, with the latter two delivering incredible sets full of ridiculous high-energy antics. FRZN Fest had more than a few moments that wound up being burned into my memory. None more frustrating than an infuriatingly chatty crowd refusing to give Julien Baker anything beyond a modicum of courtesy. None more exciting than a characteristically perfect Charly Bliss set that had me continuously grinning while singing along to songs that comprised the best EP of this current decade and will litter one of 2017’s best records.

As much as I love both Julien Baker and Charly Bliss, though, there was something about Torres‘ set that felt almost holy. Playing after a good Eternal Summers set and the best Palehound set I’ve seen to date, Torres dove headfirst into a set that alternately gave me chills, lifted my spirits, calmed me, and — almost inexplicably — at one point had me on the verge of tears. To top it all off, Torres’ goosebump-inducing one-song encore wound up being tantamount to a religious experience that included a lovely moment between bandleader Mackenzie Scott and my friend Justin. I was fortunate enough to capture that moment in full and revisit it frequently.

For individual shows, there were a number of great outings that were peppered with heartening moments lingering around the peripheries of the main event. Walking into the High Noon Saloon to be greeted with an onslaught of hugs from my friends in Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos, only to be whisked away for a coffee reprieve in a nearby shop by Gabby, Greta, and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Athylia Paremski, before circling back to a powerhouse show. Charly Bliss and PUP combining for what was, bar none, the most intense show I’ve ever experienced (at one point I was nearly choked out by a girl clutching the neckline of my shirt to keep herself upright in the swirling sea of chaos behind me).

As meaningful as both of those shows were, though, it would have been impossible for anyone to top an event that occurred early on in December: the official reunion of Good Grief, a band that meant an extraordinary amount to me that was nearly gone forever, taking place in Guu’s, the tavern that’s acted as a refuge for me during my various stints in my home town. People from the shows that dominated my fondest Stevens Point memories from that run all flooded in from various parts of the upper Midwest to see this take place and everyone lost their voices screaming along. Making things even sweeter: an opening set from Heavy Looks, led in part by my friend Rosalind Greiert, watching her hit a stride as both a writer and performer, and feeling an irrepressible rush of a million good feelings as I watched her come into her own in real time.

To see something like that happening (both the Heavy Looks set and the Good Grief set), surrounded by friends so close they’re considered family, engaging in something meaningful is an exhilarating feeling and a lot of people who were present are likely still feeling some of those feelings reverberations. Good Grief weren’t exactly a household name before their dissolution but they were — and remain — one of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Get caught up by watching the videos from that reunion set right here:

PLAYING MUSIC

In 2016, I had the good fortune of playing the most shows in any given year that I probably ever have in my life. In addition to finishing writing a (forthcoming) solo record, I was able to play in three different bands with people I respect, admire, and care for deeply.

The band I played with the least was the band that I’d played with the most in 2015, A Blue Harbor. Geographic complications have essentially forced us into a hiatus by the middle of the year but we were still able to play a few shows in support of the full-length we’d recorded in Minneapolis in 2015, including a local show for a pop-up art gallery for an arts collective that made me feel a surge of hope for our small town. As unlikely as it seems at this point, something tells me the things this band has to offer have been far from exhausted (and our guitarist/vocalist, Matty, has been releasing a continuous string of excellent material on her own).

I accepted an invitation to join a new band called Doorstopper and have taken up residency behind  the kit. Jarad Olson, the bassist for both Good Grief and Heavy Looks as well as an incredible songwriter in his own right, had teamed up with our friend Melissa Haack to allow her poetry a musical platform in an odd experiment that’s been paying the type of dividends that I’m legitimately not sure any of us had expected. It’s become a band whose mantra has remained — and with good reason — “let’s get weird.” It’s a band that has been given the tag “premenstrual post-punk” and it’s the type of band that takes a suggestion for a “doom-wop” song seriously. And it’s a band that hasn’t stopped getting better and more interesting with each successive practice.

While Doorstopper has been occupying itself in the shadows, building something interesting, I also found myself being re-integrated into a resurgent Holly & the Nice Lions, who played all over the state of Wisconsin in 2016, with a host of fascinating bands. Some of those bands (Bad Wig, Midnight Reruns) were made up of the people we’ve been close friends with for years. Some of those bands (Young Jesus, POPE, Mo Troper) constitute the best emerging bands America has to offer.

One of those bands (Bully) has earned international acclaim. One of those bands (The Muffs) continues to be rightfully revered as not only icons but living legends. Through all of those shows, the weird parties surrounding them, and everything else that the minutiae of being in band carries, we’ve grown closer as a unit and I’m proud to consider both of the other members as family. Whether we were being towed to a house show after blowing a tire or playing hard enough to generate our own blood, we’ve found ways to continuously elevate each other, keep each other in check, and look out for each other. Show after show, song after song, the band kept getting better and we — impossibly — kept enjoying each other’s company more. It’s hard to imagine a better situation.

MY PARTNER

For all of the memorable things I was able to do in both film and music throughout 2016, by the year’s end none of it felt as meaningful as it would have if I didn’t get to share it with my partner, Simone. Throughout the last quarter of the year, we went from being good friends to being inseparable, willfully colliding at nearly every turn. I learned to rediscover the depths of my love for discovering new music by viewing it through her eyes. I rediscovered the importance of engaging in active good. I made up my mind to constantly strive to better myself in productive ways.

A series of shared trips to the various corners of the state of Wisconsin led to some genuinely unforgettable moments, whether it was carving out new, unbeaten paths in gorgeous parks on beautiful days or getting swept up in the (typically far too humid) intensity of shows in basements, dive bars, or anywhere else we might find people playing instruments (or picking up instruments of our own to play each other Bishop Allen songs). I’ll steal her glasses, she’ll steal my camera. We’ll laugh, we’ll listen, we’ll watch, and we’ll keep moving forward.

The survival of Heartbreaking Bravery can, in many ways, be directly attributed to her involvement in my life. All of the frustrating, terrifying events that have happened over the course of the year’s last stretch seemed easier to weather with her at my side and she’s constantly given me at least one major reason to celebrate the future. I’m thankful, grateful, and unbelievably lucky.

A STEP FORWARD

By the end of 2016, Heartbreaking Bravery had gained additional purpose. In the face of one of the most anti-arts (and anti-press) administrations in America’s history, the need to fight back by any means necessary increased. Even before the election, the fact that the current president’s campaign had carried him so far was troublesome. With a milestone rapidly approaching for the site, that happening at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape (and, more directly, America’s landscape), and an unending desire to be productive and actively contribute to good causes, I chose to resolve all of my feelings into one massive project: A Step Forward.

At first, I only expected a handful of people to be interested in contributing to the project. More than half of the artists I reached out to responded immediately and gifted the compilation, designed to serve as Heartbreaking Bravery’s 1000th post, incredible material. In a matter of weeks, I had more than 50 songs kicking around in my inbox. A few months later, my finger was lingering above the publish button, set to release 100 songs from 100 artists that had, in some way or another, been involved with this site’s history. By that point, I’d enlisted the help of Jes Skolnik to locate worthy causes and had struck up a correspondence with the Chicag0-based Rape Victim Advocates. All of the money made from the pay-your-own pricetag of A Step Forward would be going towards that organization.

Looking through all of the songs, whether they were demos, early mixes, new songs, remixes, or old favorites, and all of the artists who had chosen to give me a part of their lives because they believed in the things I was doing and the causes I was supporting was an overwhelming feeling. A lot of people that have had near-death experiences have described the sensation of seeing their life flash before their eyes and, in that moment with my finger hovering over the button to release this compilation, it was hard not to take stock of everything that had happened in my life over the course of this site’s existence. It was a jarring feeling but one that filled me with hope and with love for the people who have supported this place, stuck by my side, and lent their voice to any of the various projects to have run on Heartbreaking Bravery.

I was on the verge of tears when I woke up to the flood of responses the compilation had elicited and how much it had generated for people who put the funds to good use. I’d stayed up for nearly 50 straight hours getting the preparations for the project in place. Cody Dyb, one of my closest friends, was kind enough to let me use his internet to upload the materials (the internet at my house is obscenely slow) and I’d collapsed into a deep sleep shortly after returning home. Phil McAndrew, one of my favorite artists working today (and a regular contributor to this series), contributed an original piece to the project that has become one of my most-treasured renderings.

In the weeks leading up to A Step Forward‘s released, I’d done an ink sketch of what would become Heartbreaking Bravery’s logo. Petite League’s Lorenzo Cook — another Syracuse-based artist whose band contributed an incredible song to the compilation — meticulously tightened and superimposed the logo onto the image for the album art and the banner that can be seen at the top of this segment. I’m unbelievably grateful for both of their contributions and am lucky to count them both as friends. I also have to give special mention, once more, to Fred Thomas.

For more than a few years, I’ve considered Thomas to be one of the best lyricists in music (2017’s Changer finds him attaining stratospheric highs). When I reached out to him about the project and he suggested a song tackling the weird inter-scene dynamics that occur around someone being outed as a sexual predator, I wasn’t just flattered, I was flattened. That the ensuing work would be one of his strangest — partially inspired by S U R V I V E’s outstanding Stranger Things score work and a nice (if unintentional) nod to that particular act’s name — felt appropriate. “What Happens When the Costumes Come Off” is a song that perfectly embodied the tumultuous events that led to the formation of A Step Forward in my mind and has resonated with me ever since my first, oddly disorienting listen. There’s fear present in that song, there’s an incessant questioning, there’s a feeling of damage, but — most importantly — there is a feeling of resilience.

It’s that final feeling, resilience, that I’ve chosen to carry into 2017. With what America’s currently facing, resilience will be necessary. I’ve already been inspired by my friends’ resilience and generosity and I’ve vowed to carry on that spirit as best as possible. I’ve vowed to both make more room for and to elevate the voices of the groups who have been unfairly othered due to location, socioeconomic standing, or — infuriatingly — appearance, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Historically, the people that have followed this site have shared a similar mindset and I’m constantly humbled by their company. We’re all in this fight together and it’s important to listen to the fears, concerns, and desires of the people that have been denied a platform for the worst reasons all too frequently.

The shows and festivals made 2016, in turns, fascinating, frustrating, and genuinely exciting. The people I was fortunate enough to be playing some of those shows provided 2016 a level of comfort. My partner not only served as a constant source of inspiration but continuously reminded me of the good in the world and all of the reasons that hope should never be abandoned. A Step Forward taught me that I’ll never be alone in my belief that empathy, camaraderie, and compassion will always find a way to thrive and that now, more than ever, it’s important to carry on the work, the ideology, and the spirit of Heartbreaking Bravery. I will do my best to personally embody whatever legacy it may have at every single turn and I will always be honored by the company it’s allowed me to share. 2017 may seem bleak from the outset but I have every reason to find heart in the fight to ensure it’s better than what we expect.

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Of course, this series wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank everyone who’s contributed through the years. As I said earlier, all of your contributions — and the fact that you care at all — mean more than I could ever convey with just words. So thank you, again, to both all of those names listed at the top of this post and all of the following names for their past contributions: Loren DiBlasiSabyn Mayfield, Tica Douglas, Fred ThomasIsabel ReidySami Martasian, Ben GriggBella Mazzetti, David Anthony, Jamie Coletta, Chris SutterCole Kinsler, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Stephen TringaliToby Reif, Elaiza Santos, Amelia Pitcherella, Katie Bennett, Miranda Fisher, Christine Varriale, Sam Clark, Julia Leiby, Kelly Johnson, Jessi Frick, Nicholas Cummins, Athylia Paremski,  David GlickmanSasha Geffen, Jeanette Wall, Eva Grace Hendricks, Caroline Rayner, Joseph Barchi, Edgar GonzalezShari Heck, Michael Caridi, Dave Benton, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Tess Duncan, Michelle Zauner, Jeff Bolt, Katie Capri, Quinn Moreland, Oliver Kalb, Ali Donohue, Ray McAndrew, Christopher Good, David Sackllah, Rick Maguire, Stephen Pierce, Johanna Warren, and Patrick Garcia.

As always, I love you all.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Loren DiBlasi)

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.

There are not enough kind words to adequately describe how much Loren DiBlasi has meant to this site and its development. One of the people that’s been supportive since the very beginning. she’s been a vital part of every edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories and has been kind enough to deliver another one of this series’ essential pieces. Life-altering experiences, panic attacks, family, self-assessment, and music abound in another burst of admirable sincerity from the Patio bassist/vocalist and MTV News editor. As always, it’s more than worth the read.

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Not Getting to the Gig

I remember my first show. It was a “concert,” really, but the concept was the same — I was seeing live music, of my own choosing, for the very first time. October 17, 2005. I was sixteen. Franz Ferdinand headlined the Theater at Madison Square Garden with TV On The Radio and Cut Copy (again, 2005). My birthday was months earlier, but I hadn’t asked for a party. Instead, I waited until my favorite band came to my city, then bullied my mom into driving me and three friends to see them. I wasn’t allowed to take the train into the city alone. And yet, I had never felt more free.

This is it, I remember thinking. I’m going to be part of this. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever play music. I’m not sure I thought I’d write about it, either. I was sixteen. I just knew that it was mine, and now that I’d found it, no one was ever going to take it away from me. Though tiny from my distant seat, the people onstage were gods, not men. The room was huge but the experience was intimate, because it was all happening to me for the first time.

I remember my first panic attack at a show. July 3, 2015. Pile played the Bell House, and I had postponed my Fourth of July weekend trip in order to see them. I was too wrapped up in self-denial to realize that this show, in particular, was one I shouldn’t have planned to attend. Not because of the band (whom I love and haven’t seen since) but because of other, more personal reasons. My deeply broken, damaged heart — and even more damaged mind — simply wasn’t ready. I made it to the bathroom before realizing I could no longer breathe. It was the single worst night of my life.

So much happened in the ten years between those two nights. I developed my passion for writing and left high school. I moved to the city to attend college, mostly in search of more music. I graduated and didn’t get a job. I moved back home. I took the train back and forth for job interviews and intermittent writing gigs. I wrote art reviews, band profiles, even TV recaps. I got paid for none of it. I kept writing whatever I could until people started noticing. It took a long time, but they finally did.

Eventually I said “fuck it” and moved into the house my family owns in Ridgewood, Queens, which they’d kept and rented after moving out of the city. Growing up, the house in Ridgewood wasn’t where I’d thought I’d end up. To my family, Italian and tenacious, that was the place they’d left in favor of better schools and more square footage, and there was no going back. They wanted me to live in the city, but not in Ridgewood. At 24 and broke, I had no choice.

Little did I realize that Ridgewood was exactly where I wanted to be. In Ridgewood I was a short train ride from Williamsburg, home of Death by Audio, Glasslands, and 285 Kent. I was a seven minute drive from Silent Barn, Palisades, and cult house venue David Blaine’s The Steakhouse. Shea Stadium was nearby, too; I even found an internship at a startup music site on the same block as Shea. I always tell people that my career started at Shea, when Dan Goldin introduced me to Derek Evers of Impose at a Big Ups show. I can trace every word I’ve written since back to that single moment. It was March 21, 2014, three days before I turned 25.

Throughout the next year and beyond, I don’t think I missed one show. Going to the show was my life, and the only life I’d ever wanted. Making actual money — to eat, pay my bills, go to the doctor — would come later, but at the time, I didn’t care. I couldn’t buy anything. I walked most places and I was really skinny. But I was there.

I made so many friends there. Label people, band people, fan people like myself. People started sending me their stuff so I could write about it for whatever small publication or local blog I’d be connected to at the time. If two people read it, I’d done my job. I was so happy. I wanted to be a voice within the community that I was starting to make my own. The fact that I now work for an huge corporation is funny to me, still, which isn’t to say I’m not grateful for MTV News and the people (many of them idols) I work with every day. I take nothing for granted.

I consider these sweaty nights at places like Shea and Death By Audio to be the happiest of my life. I didn’t have much — at least not in comparison to what I have now — but it was the beginning of something magical for me. It was the beginning of the life I’d always wanted.

But this isn’t a happy tale — at least, not entirely. When the show is your life, and then you lose it, you have no life. This is what I thought. This is what I believed. I felt it was my fault. I made myself a victim for a long time, and as a result, I stopped going places entirely. Especially to shows.

To say that this dark period was the result of the dissolution of my relationship with another person is extremely diminishing — that’s where it might have began, but there was so much more in the middle. So much emptiness that I had to claw through, so much aloneness that I had to grapple with and make peace with and explore to find the origin of. Not for a second of last year did I feel “normal,” and yet I was finally experiencing human emotions in a very normal way for the first time. Coming to terms with pain is terrifying and yet entirely necessary if you plan to live a “normal” life. Which I’d always wanted to. I never wanted to give up.

I’ve missed so many shows in the last two years. I still miss so many shows. I can blame my schedule or the demands of Patio or money or whatever else I want, but deep down, I know that I am still very afraid. When your emotions are so deeply tied into everything you do and the places you go, it’s hard to walk into a room where you know you are vulnerable (the anticipation is the worst). SXSW was particularly difficult for me this year, despite the fact that my band hadn’t even released any music and was still invited onto a bill alongside Mitski, Washer, Palm, Kal Marks and Guerilla Toss. I got drunk and shed a lot of tears. I also reconnected with old friends and had one of the best days of my life. I shared a moment of clarity with someone that I’d really needed, despite being afraid of it for so long. Thinking about it still makes me cry but I also think it was so beautiful. That’s how I look at the world now; there is no light or darkness. Everything is grey.

Show anxiety often feels extremely specific, and it wasn’t until I started becoming more vocal about it that I realized others around me had been experiencing it, too. Getting to the gig is supposed to be fun and fulfilling — it was my entire social life — but when it’s not, it sucks worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. But what I’ve learned in the past two years is that sometimes it’s okay to stay home, and that’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Sometimes you need a night in to relax in a robe watching The Golden Girls and eating delivery nachos (this very scenario is what first inspired the concept of “Luxury” that drove Patio’s first EP). Writing music, reading books, and having dinner with old friends are some other things you can do instead of going to the gig. There are other places than the gig. The gig will always be there.

I’ve accepted that it’s at the gig, surrounded by friends, where I often feel most alone. Even this very moment, as I finish work and get ready to go see Washer, my stomach feels queasy and I can’t help but wish I could just go to sleep early tonight. It’s definitely okay to do that, but this time, I won’t. I know that when I climb the stairs to Shea I’ll be climbing my way to a million friends, and it doesn’t matter who else might be there or what anxieties I might face. Sometimes I go to the show; sometimes I play the show; sometimes I stay home from the show. I’m not sure if that ending is happy or sad. But I think next time Pile plays New York, I’ll be there. 

Patio – Luxury (EP Review)

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Editor’s Note: There’s been a month-long gap in coverage, thanks to near-incessant travel and other extenuating circumstances. The following run of posts that contain this note will be posts that should have appeared sometime within the past several weeks. Use these posts as an opportunity to catch up to the present release cycle or to simply discover some new music. Either way, enjoy.

One of the people that this site brought into my life was Loren DiBlasi, Patio‘s bassist and one of the regular contributors to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. Over those few years, DiBlasi brought up Patio on more than one occasion. I was ecstatic to be there for the band’s public unveiling and even more elated (although fairly unsurprised) to find that I adored the music the band was making, to the point that their demo was even included in one of this site’s year-end lists.

Now, the band’s finally offered up their first official release: the compelling Luxury EP. Big Ups‘ Amar Lal sat in the producer’s chair for this one and he brings out several of the important subtleties of the trio’s mix of razor-sharp post-punk and their more pop-oriented sensibilities, the latter being more fully embraced by drummer Alice Suh and guitarist/vocalist Lindsey-Paige McCloy‘s contributions to their excellent project with Phyllis Ophelia, Catbus

Each of the five songs on display throughout Luxury register as individual standouts while still managing to coalesce into a coherent whole (the lyrics and composition, especially, complement each other to a near-perfection). Whether they’re showing remarkable restraint or bringing out every knife in their arsenal, there’s an undercurrent of unflagging conviction that keeps Luxury surging forward towards some unknown destination. With songs as strong as these, ultimately, that destination won’t matter; it’s the thrill of the ride that we’ll remember.

Listen to Luxury below and pick it up from the band here.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Loren DiBlasi)

Patio

Now that (an excessively busy) January is a piece of our past and we’ve had ample time to reflect on the events of 2015, it’s time to return to a series that began last year: A Year’s Worth of Memories. Every year, a handful of this site’s favorite people in the worlds of music and film are asked to reflect on the smaller moments that stood out as personal highlights of the preceding year as a more personalized companion piece to the more static run of year-end lists. A long list of potential contributors were asked if they’d be interested in writing a piece and a handful responded in kind, writing beautiful pieces that scratched very personal roots. This year’s first piece comes courtesy of MTVNews editor — and a writer that’s earned bylines at Impose and DIY — Loren DiBlasi (pictured above, playing bass and singing for site favorites Patio), who is one of a handful of contributors returning to A Year’s Worth of Memories. Loren’s remained a constant friend through some harder times and it’s an honor to have her be an ongoing part of the series. Read about what had the most impact on her in 2015 below.

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MY BAND SAVED MY LIFE

I read Our Band Could Be Your Life ten years ago, when I was sixteen, the year I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up: a music writer. It was the same year I read other books like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me, and Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up And Start Again, and realized, hey, this is a thing that people actually do for a living. As my obsession deepened, I amassed an extensive CD collection that started with post-punk revival bands of the time (Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads) and worked its way backwards, all the way from Pixies and Sonic Youth to Joy Division, Buzzcocks, and The Fall.

From sixteen on, I didn’t care about anything. I only cared about music. But I didn’t just want to write about it; I wanted to eat it, sleep it, breathe it, and live it until the day I died.

But I never wanted to play it. I didn’t think I could.

There’s this thing with young girls who love music. Except for a few bands I liked — maybe Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The White Stripes — there weren’t many contemporary female musicians I looked up to. If there was a “girl in a band” — the title of Kim Gordon’s memoir, which I would devour a decade later — she was either “not as good” as her male counterparts (the incessant critiquing of Meg White) or she was the dazzling, charismatic lead singer, a figure far more glamorous than I’d ever imagined myself to be (like Gwen Stefani or Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes).

I fancied myself a nerd, an outsider, a weirdo; at the time, I didn’t know many female musicians who reflected those qualities. An exception might be Eleanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces, but again, she wrote lyrics and sang. I was young, timid, and still developing as a writer, let alone a songwriter (and the idea of singing in front of people was scary). I just didn’t think I had it in me.

When I became obsessed with Talking Heads, I worshiped Tina Weymouth; she was cool, and smart, and different in a way I could relate. She had a boy’s haircut, but she was undeniably feminine: her look was chic and classic, and she wore lots of black. She resembled a miniature version of the supermodel Twiggy. I admired her style and her fearless attitude first; her musicianship later. Stop Making Sense was the first time I really noticed the bass on its own, and the idea of playing it — of being like Tina — intrigued me.

But like I said, there’s this thing with girls who love music. I felt that because I was already sixteen, and had never touched an instrument, that it was too late for me. If I hadn’t shown musical promise by that point, I never would. Plus, what if I was bad? Of course, what’s hilarious is that I had never even tried, and I was already writing myself off as incapable or unworthy; this is a classic teenage girl move. Where boys are encouraged, girls are outsiders in music communities, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and courage to break free of that restrictive, deep-rooted thinking.

(Years later, I learned that Tina Weymouth hadn’t picked up the bass until her 20s, to join the already-formed Talking Heads.)

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Maybe I wasn’t ready to try my hand at music as a teenager. But once I had reached my 20s, and had gained endless insight working as a journalist, it was time. Still, the circumstances had to be just right. First, there was the concept: Patio. My band. Grass is Green, Vulture Shit, and Flagland played a show at David Blaine’s, spring 2014. Friends and I joked about how we had wasted our Saturday, which was drinking at bars, on various outside patios. Even Randy of Vulture Shit said he’d done the same.

“Wouldn’t ‘Patio’ be a fucking perfect band name?” I proposed. “Like a group of distraught millennials sitting outside, drinking away their troubles, when in reality their lives are actually fine.”

It was a joke at first, but eventually the name took on greater meaning for me; it represented a deep sense of boredom with my surroundings and an overall dissatisfaction with life, whether that was a spoiled mentality or not.

The first time I actually held a bass, I was in bed with a boy, a bass player. I liked him. He had resolved to give me a lesson, but somehow the idea of him teaching me how to play made me more uncomfortable than whatever we had done together the night before. When I didn’t know how to place my hands, he laughed at me, and that was it. I was done. I didn’t want to try something new in front of him, or anyone that I didn’t trust.

I didn’t like him for very much longer. When I finally found the person I did trust, things moved a lot more quickly (and that person wasn’t a boy).

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I met Lindsey-Paige (LP) McCloy through mutual friends later that year, and quickly realized that not only did we talk, act, and dress similarly — something that’s still pointed out to us by friends and strangers alike — but we shared an affinity for everything music- related. The major difference between us was that LP had been playing in bands for years, and I had so much to learn.

Through a combination of weird, serendipitous events — like a sudden breakup that afforded me an abundance of free time, and finding our heroic drummer, Alice Suh — Patio soon evolved from a joke, to a joke band, to an actual band. Immediately, LP and I learned that we worked exceptionally well together; her calm and patience, combined with her talent, is an ideal balance for my rash, dramatic nature. The first song I ever played on bass, per LP’s instruction, was Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” (ironic because I don’t even like Pavement, but it’s the perfect starter bass line). LP wrote fantastic bass parts to Patio’s first ever song, “Air Japan,” and soon — after lots of practice — I discovered I could write my own parts.

I’ve found that the way I make music is similar to the way I write about it: spontaneous, emotional, and unpredictable. Riffs and melodies seep into my brain while I sleep, or completely unsolicited, a lyric will pop into my head while I’m showering, cooking, or riding the subway. By no means is it an orthodox process, and by no means is it easily replicated. Sometimes I’m happy with the end result — I wrote all the words and parts to my first song, “Baby’s Alright,” while my phone was dying on the M train — and sometimes it’s utter shit. Even when it’s shit, it’s still good. It’s all part of it, even the bad stuff.

There’s nothing I look forward to more than band practice: being trapped in a small, sweaty room with my bandmates. LP has the uncanny ability to translate even my boldest, most bizarre suggestions into actual, cohesive sound, and we’ve collaborated on songs I’m insanely proud of. When my penchant for bleak, dark noise becomes too overwhelming, she cuts me off (or we meet somewhere in the middle, like on the track we’ve semi-jokingly dubbed our “goth country song”). Sometimes I’ll arrive at practice equipped with nothing but a sentence, or I’ll start plucking in a random pattern, and with her guidance, it transforms into something tangible and inspiring. Ours is the healthiest, most meaningful (and longest) relationship I’ve ever had, by far, and for that, I love her to no end.

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All this year, I’ve worked tirelessly at not just making Patio better, but making myself better. Often, these efforts have been one in the same. After a rough end to 2014 (one which I so openly, or rather drunkenly, detailed right here), and disappointment after disappointment, my positive outlook began to fade, until I hardly recognized myself anymore.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to do the things I’d always loved to do: write, go to shows, interview bands, see friends. After something traumatic happened at a show involving a person I loved more than anything, I could barely leave my bed, let alone leave my house. For months, I couldn’t sleep. I stopped eating almost entirely. I stopped listening to music. I couldn’t go to a show without having a panic attack, or feel completely crippled with anxiety. And if I couldn’t do the things I had always done — the things I was good at, the things that had helped me make a name for myself within our little Brooklyn community — then who was I?

In 2015 I was split open, and Patio helped me feel whole again. My band has given me something new, something fun, something to look forward to. It’s helped me forge a new identity, but it’s also taught me how to embrace my own life again: the friends who love me, the things that give me purpose. Depression and anxiety are both very real, but it’s important to have an outlet that lessens the burden, whatever it may be. I’m lucky to have found a new one, despite the turmoil of this year.

In many ways, Patio is still a joke, but for me, it’s the realest thing I’ve ever had. We write silly, nonsensical songs about diminutive genitalia (“Microballs” is all Alice’s genius) and call fried chicken sandwiches our boyfriends. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever cared about anything more in my life. Back in my teens, when I read all those books, I knew that I’d one day be a writer, too — and I’ll never stop working at that — but I never, ever imagined that one day, maybe my own band could exist. Now it does. Whatever we accomplish going forward, that feels real, and it feels fucking good.

 

-Loren DiBlasi

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 3

Idle Bloom

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

 

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

Patio – Patio Songs (Demo Review, Stream, Live Video)

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As 2015’s progressed, a handful of people I’ve been fortunate enough to know have come out swinging with intriguing musical projects. Two projects that immediately jump to mind are the no-holds-barred Kodakrome and the seductively noir-ish Patio. I was fortunate enough to host some of Loren DiBlasi’s writing in the first A Year’s Worth of Memories and have been consistently struck by the prevalent thoughtfulness of her many other pieces at places like Impose and MTVNews.

A similar thoughtfulness courses through Patio’s music, which finally found an official release via a two-song demo that was released at the end of October, right around the time this site’s regular coverage went on an extended hiatus. There’s a very palpable sense of history on display in both “luxury” and “air j” which echo shades of everything from post-punk pioneers like The Gun Club and The Birthday Party to contemporaries like Big Ups.

Lindsey-Paige McCloy takes on the bulk of the band’s vocal duties, effortlessly conjuring up an air of subtle mystique while the band’s rhythm section (made up of DiBlasi on bass and Alice Suh on drums, both  of whom also tackle an occasional vocal part) keep everything grounded. Everything’s played for maximum effect and is exceedingly impressive in terms of atmosphere, thanks in large part to the band’s understanding that post-punk generally functions best when it scales itself back.

Part of the success of the band’s minimalist approach lies in their gift with understatement; when McCloy and DiBlasi trade vocal leads on “luxury”, it never feels anything less than casually supportive (the polar opposite of the traded vocals dynamic on The Libertines). After Patio Songs immediately announces its voice in the shrugging, half-detached, tragicomical “luxury”, Patio flashes some formidable pop sensibility in “air j”, which evokes the very best of ’90s alternative radio and caps a very worthy introduction to one of 2015’s most promising new acts. Don’t be surprised if they wind up making the slacker punk soundtrack of next summer.

Listen to Patio Songs below, watch a pair of videos of the band playing their first show, and pick the demo up here. Underneath the embeds, explore a list of other great full streams to have appeared in the past few months.

Le Rug – Game Over
Goth Babe – Fuzz Ghost

Dick Stusso – Nashville Dreams/Sings the Blues
Globelamp – The Orange Glow
Palm – Trading Basics
Sheer – Uneasy
Soggy Creep – Drag the Well
Noun – Throw Your Body On The Gears And Stop The Machine With Your Blood
The Dictaphone – Hazmat
Three Man Cannon – Will I Know You Then
Zanders – Buried Men
Swings – Sugarwater
Big Hush – Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?
Slight – Hate the Summer
Eugene Quell – I Will Work The Land
Marriage + Cancer – Killjoy b/w Nothing’s Wrong When Nothing’s Real
Addie Pray – Screentime
Failed Mutation – See You Tomorrow
Kindling – Galaxies
Wrekmeister Harmonies – Night of Your Ascension
Miya Folick – Strange Darling

Bad Cello – Live at Palisades – 10/4/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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It’s strange for most of the buzz surrounding a show to be granted to the opening act but that seemed to be the case with last Sunday’s Bad Cello show at Palisades. The reason for that intrigue was due in part to the fact that this was to be the first time anyone would hear Patio, a band that’s been steadily practicing for months. As the trio took the stage there was a palpable level of both excitement and curiosity, with many people on hand to witness Patio’s public unveiling  (they’d draw the biggest crowd of the day).

Only a few songs in, the band had staked out an identity; minimalist post-punks with a flair for wry humor, dissonance, and a strong pop sensibility (Sonic Youth’s more contained side and the early ’90s slacker punk movement stand out as very clear influences). As is always the case with new bands performing for the first time, there were a few hiccups here and there but that only seemed to lend to the project’s considerable charm. Vocal leads were traded off with a relative ease and the band committed to a gambit that came in the form of “Micro-balls”, a song rife with absurd sexual humor that paid massive dividends. The band was in complete control by the time their set closer rolled around, all but guaranteeing a promising future as a DIY staple.

Jeanette Wall, who set the show up (and who, like Patio’s Loren DiBlasi, has contributed to this site’s A Year’s Worth of Memories series), took the stage next to perform a handful of songs from her Band Practice project. Never taking herself too seriously, Wall infused her set with some genuinely entertaining (and mostly self-deprecating) banter that never came at the expense of the actual worth of her songs. All of the songs remained engaging even when stripped of their full-band trappings, allowing Wall an excess of space that was ably filled with charisma. The set was effectively split between comedy and music, with each half of the equation complementing the other to a surprising degree.

Following Wall’s entertaining theatrics were Glueboy, a young band that’s carved out a nice spot for themselves in Brooklyn’s DIY circle. Two releases into a young career, the band’s got heavy connections to DBTS and Double Double Whammy and those influences are very evident. Glueboy slipped into my listening rotation when I was looking for apartments in Brooklyn and wound up securing a spot where their bassist, Coby Chafets, was already residing (incidentally, I would move to that spot after a brief stint at DBTS).

Their brand of shambolic, punk-tinged basement pop appealed to me and allowed for some early ease of mind in the transition. However, despite that (and listening in on numerous acoustic jam sessions), I’d never seen the band play their songs live. On stage, their presence is relatively fearless, with each member making the most out of their granted space. Chafets and guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Marty trade off vocals at a rapid succession and occasionally sing in harmony, proving themselves to be a livewire act who manage to come across as both endearing and endlessly entertaining without ever sacrificing any substance.

By the time Glueboy’s explosive set had wound to an end, only a scattered handful of people remained for the electro-pop of Miscreant act Bad Cello, who still committed to the performance despite the glaring lack of numbers (I can’t think of a greater attendance disparity from opening band to headlining act that’s happened in recent memory). Showcasing material new and old, Bad Cello provided a dance-minded epilogue to the decidedly hodgepodge bill that somehow found a way to bridge a few contextual gaps. It’s difficult to imagine that each of the bills four acts won’t find their way to bigger things in their respective circuits as they move ahead. Genuine talent and a depth of promise wound up being the recurring themes of the matinee shows and it’ll be worth keeping eyes on each act as they move towards capitalization.

Watch a collection of videos from the show below and scan through a gallery of photos here.

 

 

2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories, Pt. 3

A million and half thank you’s are due to everyone who’s contributed pieces to this ongoing series so far: Michelle Zauner, Sam Clark, Tess Duncan, Caroline Rayner, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Eva Grace Hendricks, Dave Benton, Michael Caridi, Shari Heck, David Anthony, Quinn Moreland, Gabriela June Tully Claymore, Jesse Amesmith, Katie Capri, Jeff Bolt, and everyone who contributed a piece to this round. Hats off to Jesse Frick, Stephen Tringali, Oliver Kalb, David Glickman, and Loren Diblasi for all of the wonderful pieces included below. As always, it’s the most surreal, sincere honor to be able to be providing all of this wonderful writing a home. Enough from me, on to what’s really important: part 3 of 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories.

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Partying (Unofficially)

Hands down my favorite musical moments of the year happened in Austin and Brooklyn, the locations of our unofficial SXSW and CMJ parties, respectively. When you run or work at a label, most interactions with bands, fans, media, and peers are all done virtually. But all bets are off once we’re on the same turf. There is no better feeling after spending 6+ months on a record release or planning a showcase than to see people ENJOYING what you helped to create.

Presenting a show at a festival like SXSW or CMJ is a massive undertaking, a huge pain in the ass of an undertaking. Finding sponsors to help cover venue rentals and bar tabs, scheduling 12+ bands’ time slots around their 15+ other shows, politely screaming in sync with everyone else’s promoting of their own shows, not to mention doing all of this in your spare time outside of your day job- it’s exhausting.

But then I think back to the evening of March 13, 2014- Monster Rally’s Ted Feighan is doing his fucking awesome thing on the second of two stages at our Liberation SXSW party with Gold Robot, Small Plates, and Inflated Records. For a few moments, everyone in the crowd throws their grievances and inhibitions out the window and starts dancing. It no longer matters what website you write for or who you manage or “ugh, I can’t believe that guy who refuses to reply to my emails is here!” For once, everyone remembers why we hustle, why we sacrifice, why we believe and soak it in.

Fast forward to October 24, 2014. I’m standing in the back of The Silent Barn, a community space that I have the utmost respect and undying love for. The Silent Barn is what arts communities around the world should be. It also currently houses some of my favorite Muppet people as well as Gravesend Studios, a recording space that every band in NYC needs to check out. But I digress. Through various ebbs and flows, Jeanette of Miscreant Zine & Records and I team up and with the help of Nina at Silent Barn decide to shoot for a 12-hour party because 6-hour parties are for chumps.

The line-up came together like buttah. We managed to squeeze in 19 of our favorite musical people and everyone played a full set! Jeanette and Liz put together a phenomenal issue of The Miscreant special for the party with submissions from all of the performers. My dad and stepmom flew in from Miami to come to the party. Friends from all over swung by throughout the day to say hi, drink wine, get haircuts, and just enjoy being with one another. We underestimated the schedule so the 12-hour party turned into a 14-hour party but that didn’t faze us- we were still dancing like mad at almost 4am with Moon Bounce closing out the night. It was a beautiful thing.

Now, looking forward to 2015, a new year filled with new records and new parties to organize and I think to myself, I am one lucky son of a gun. Thanks to everyone who made this year so special- much love to you all.

xx Jessi

-Jessi Frick (Father/Daughter Records)

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Setting Sail

This past year, I was fortunate enough to work on several music videos for artists that I truly respect as either the cinematographer (Roomrunner, Chastity Belt, Speedy Ortiz) or the director (Connections, Big Ups).

Many may already know the struggles of making independent music videos- they don’t pay much (or anything at all); the budgets are incredibly small but the expectations are high; and they would mostly be impossible to produce if it were not for the devoted and passionate filmmakers who make them.

The second music video I worked on this year- Chastity Belt’s “Black Sail”- stands out as the most intense, most gratifying memory of 2014. My friend Maegan Houang had pitched the band a sprawling western/horror concept and asked me to be the cinematographer on the video. The treatment was spectacular and Maegan is one of the most talented directors I know. Of course I wanted to be involved.

We prepared for the video over the coming months but the sheer scale of it did not really hit me until I arrived in Yucca Valley the day before the shoot. There, sitting on the side of the road, was an enormous tractor-trailer towing a full-size Conestoga wagon. Beside it were period-correct barrels, broken chairs, rifles- everything a production designer might have on a production with a real budget. I had no idea how Maegan had pulled this together but I assumed she had done it through pure tenacity.

Getting the wagon to the location was an entirely different issue. Between it and the filming location was a long and winding sand path, some small hills, and even more sand and bushes. The tractor-trailer obviously couldn’t take the wagon any farther, so we hitched it to a 4×4 that slowly towed the wagon through the terrain. All the while, we had to turn the wagon’s wheels by hand and guide it along.

I fell asleep that night curled up in a sleeping bag in the back of my car (remember, this was a low budget music video). My ears were ringing. I knew this meant that my stress level was at an all-time high. I felt an enormous pressure to make this video look better than anything I had ever shot before. The potential for everything to fall perfectly into place on the first day of the shoot could not have been greater. And that’s exactly why I had nightmares of the entire production going up in flames.

Thankfully, this did not happen. We had all prepared well. I had an excellent crew (1st assistant camera Vito Huizar, key grip Nate Thomson, and many others). And the weather was kind to us.

After the video premiered online in late August of 2014, Stereogum featured it on their 5 Best Videos Of The Week list. It was accepted into the Los Angeles Music Video Festival and won the Audience Award. Reflecting back on the project, I could not be more proud of my contribution.

-Stephen Tringali (Director/Cinematographer)

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Some Thoughts About The Epoch and My Year

When I think back on my year, I first think of my friends and how proud I am of them for everything they’ve accomplished in just a few months. Though 2014 is the first year that our collective The Epoch has really come into the fore in New York City, the truth is that each of us in the collective has been working on our separate projects for almost four years now. Instead of writing about my favorite moment or album of this year, I want to share some thoughts about our collective’s history and the significance this year played in re-forming my ideas about being a part of a music scene.

Henry Crawford, who now plays under the moniker Small Wonder, used to play in a loud rock band called The Mighty Handful. Their shows were spectacles, in a variety of ways. Jack Greenleaf, often instead of playing an instrument, would throw confetti at the audience and run back and forth around the stage like those two extra members of Arcade Fire. Henry and Jack Ferencz, the co-frontman, would flail and convulse violently. An inaudible violin and the occasional appearance of brass players were sort of a ploy to assure the audience of the intelligence and ambitiousness of the band. There were tons of things that were over the top and nearly lame about The Mighty Handful but they were also a beautiful band to see. All of them were around sixteen years old and were so earnestly excited about their band that, even when they sounded terrible, their energy infected everyone in the room. They were willing to fall on their face and seem ridiculous and it made them able to achieve higher heights than the more “mature” pre-chill-wave bands that they were playing shows with in 2008.

Eventually the members of the Mighty Handful broke up and went to college in different cities. Those of us who remained friends formed separate solo projects, most of us adopting a lighter touch and quieter sound. In 2011, we began calling our group of musician friends “The Epoch,” and started to use the word ‘collective’ to describe the group dynamic we’d already had for a number of years. Though all of the old members of the Mighty Handful are now embarrassed by their high school super-group, the Mighty Handful’s lofty ambition and high-stakes rocking-out hasn’t really left us– I think that in some ways our collective’s slogan “The Epoch is Now” is basically a reflection of the same bravado that guided the Mighty Handful to rock out so hard. We’ve just re-contextualized their boyish energy into a somber stoicism that appears more humble but is basically just a less teenage way of demonstrating that we’re super serious about the music we’re making.

In January of this year, Henry released an album called Wendy, a downtrodden and elegant record that’s hugely dynamic and sonically intricate. It’s a really demanding album that took Henry about three years to write and a year to record, the product of long periods of hunkering down with Jack Greenleaf, who produced and arranged the record. Wendy got the attention of a number of blogs and was basically the first Epoch project that got some notice in the “blogosphere.” It was the first of a slew of Epoch projects that came out in the first part of this year. In April, I released my second album as Bellows, Blue Breath, which I began writing working on in late 2011 and continued to write, record and revise for almost three years. In May, Jack Greenleaf released his second album as Sharpless, a painstaking record called The One I Wanted To Be. All three of these albums made minor blips in the NYC indie blog circuit. They circulated moderately well around mid-level blogs and ended up getting tape and vinyl releases on small indie labels. The attention was hugely important to us and we talked about it almost obsessively in the spring and summer. Then, as is the way of the Internet, people stopped talking about the albums and moved onto other things.

It was then that we started to freak out. Had Wendy gotten enough attention? Had people understood Blue Breath? Was some information about J-Pop necessary to see what Jack was going for with Sharpless? Reading these questions back to myself, they look totally ridiculous. It’s tough to admit the amount of emotional stress each of us went through over the inevitable decay of our blog cycle, but it’s totally true and worth discussing.

At sixteen, the allure of rockstardom can be deeply entangled in the way you develop as a young artist. Most teenage bands emulate the songwriters that speak to them the most. I know in my high school music scene, we had sound-a-likes of Joy Division, Modest Mouse, and The Replacements, to name a few. It’s not that we were plagiarizing— it was more like practicing a foreign language: translating other peoples’ words can be the easiest way to figure out how to speak by yourself.

I’ve found that songwriting is a performance, not just in the obvious sense, but also because it involves constantly and aggressively reimagining your personality. Obviously no one is as dark and brooding as their songs suggest (or as bubbly and outgoing, as the case may be), but the songs they sing depict a darker aspect of their everyday self that isn’t readily available to anyone other than close friends. Performing a “character” when you sing a song you wrote isn’t as glam or gaudy an act as it might sound- I think a lot of artists and singers like to show a more serious side of themselves, possibly because they think it’ll be more easily believed or swallowed by their audience, or maybe because it feels good to exorcise hidden parts of yourself that you don’t get to express in everyday life. The character can be so close to the real person that it’s very hard to distinguish them- sometimes it might not even be a noticeable difference, but I’ve found that there’s always a distance between the person a song tells you about and the person who you meet after a show.

I’ve only recently been able to notice a difference between the voice I use when I write Bellows songs and the person I am in public. The union of these two distinct personalities is interesting to me and is something I’ve been trying to explore in my music lately (the song “Cease to Be”, the last track on my album Blue Breath is about this idea. I describe a close friend of mine looking at herself in the mirror and seeing a complete person, a sort of net-zero of self-image and reflected self: “You look at her once and you know completely/she is the way that you thought she’d be/something like clarity that I seek out/to look in the mirror and cease to be”).

It’s increasingly clear to me, however, that the character a songwriter presents to the public very quickly becomes a product. Songwriters who become popular very quickly lose access to the private, personal characters they invent once they begin the process of signing off time and effort to companies with the ability to turn their art into money. I’m not really a kook or conspiracy theorist about the music industry, but I do think that it can be a problem when music is sold as a seemingly “authentic” experience of confessional, hyper-real access to a singer’s private life. We have a culture in our indie rock world that puts these “characters” songwriters invent on a very high pedestal. I’ve heard that Elliott Smith, the prototype of the depressed, drug-addicted songwriter on whom so many songwriters base their unstable and reckless behavior, was nothing like the person his songs made him out to be. By the end of his career, it’s obvious that he was deeply disturbed by how commodified his depression and addiction were- he was becoming rich off of his own pain- and was expected to stay in pain forever in order to keep the checks coming.

Obviously I’m not famous by any means, so my doubts about the industry around DIY and indie music communities are mostly speculative. But as I see more of my friends move into low and mid-levels of popularity, I see them stricken with the same questions. Do you want a company to require you to tour six months out of the year? Was that the reason you made your first record? Do you want your time off touring to be sequestered to the task of writing something that matches (or hopefully exceeds) your last record? Even when that last record took you three years to write? And by whose standards can you even judge the worth of your music if not your own? The further distanced you are from the process of actually making your art, the more difficult it is answer these questions. When I was most distressed about whether my album was doing well in the blog world, I was least connected to the actual music I had made. I would walk my dog around my neighborhood listening to the album on repeat, but may as well have been listening to nothing. My anxiety made it impossible to hear what I had done, because I was so intent on hearing it from everybody’s ears but my own.

It seems to me that the only way to survive as a person trying to take things seriously in this unforgiving music world is to create your own fulfillment. If the act of writing songs itself is no longer satisfying to you, you’ve already failed yourself. There’s no possibility of failing or succeeding in the wider world of indie music because you’ve categorically denied yourself the ability to experience real joy or satisfaction. Everything is hollow because you’ve projected an image yourself that’s so far removed from the person you are in private that you don’t even have access to that person anymore.

At the risk of sounding corny, I’m going to end this with three sort of self-important/self-flagellating reminders I’ve been trying to drill into my own brain:

  1. Access yourself. Write songs because you want to. Not for an album. Not for a blog or record label. Because, again, you want to and because you have to believe that something pure guided you to be so psyched about making music when you were sixteen and there wasn’t anybody coming to your shows.
  2. The private act of making music is the only thing that matters- the stuff that’s created behind closed doors when nobody’s commenting and there’s nobody else to hear and appreciate it but you.

    3.  There’s no Album of the Year.

-Oliver Kalb (Bellows)

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Upon Seeing Majical Cloudz at Fun Fun Fun Fest

I saw Majical Cloudz for the first time five days after my aunt had died. We were close, and devastating doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt when I received the phone call from my mom that she had passed away. I spent that whole day stumbling around Austin feeling hollow, bursting into tears when I started to talk or think about her. I didn’t want to do anything at all in the days that followed but I made it out for the show, in large part to help celebrate a friend’s birthday. “Childhood’s End” had already made its way onto my iPod, but Impersonator hadn’t come out yet, and for the most part I was entering the show knowing little of what to expect; just a few overheard stories about their sets being powerful. The duo took the stage nonchalantly and, over the course of the show, latched onto something inside of me. The songs were simple, sparse, but carried a weight to them, a sense of importance that could not be shaken. I left their show thinking how desperately I wanted- no- needed to experience their music again.

I grabbed a copy of Impersonator as soon as I possibly could; I listened to that album practically every day of 2013, internalizing every song, every lyric. “Childhood’s End” became about my emotional state, the romanticism of “Silver Rings” became a source of small comfort. I couldn’t listen to “Bugs Don’t Buzz” for long stretches of time; the way it way it talked so point-blank about death was something I couldn’t always handle. My favorite track, though, was the last one, “Notebook”, a song about comforting a loved one in a hospital while confronting one’s own mortality. I lost count of the nights where I would stay up to three in the morning, listening to that song, wanting to scream the line “I don’t want to turn to the Bible yet”. This is the album- and the band- that got me through a terrible time in my life.

And so after more than a year, I finally got to see them perform again. I skipped out on seeing Dinosaur Jr to get the best spot possible and waited patiently. Matt Otto and Devon Walsh soon took the stage, just as casually as they did last time, and began to play. A complete hush quickly fell over the audience (something I’ve only witnessed at Majical Cloudz shows) and the opening lines of “This is Magic” came out of the speakers. The next song was “Notebook”, which Welsh dedicated to me after I yelped for joy. I was wanted to tell him everything that song meant to me, but all I could do was sing along. I would have been content with this show, re-experiencing the quiet intensity that I witnessed before, now being a little more aware of what I was experiencing. Instead though, for the fourth song Welsh stepped into the crowd and started performing from there. The dynamic changed instantly, as the audience began to move to the music, singing and even shouting along to the lyrics.

Suddenly, this wasn’t about me experiencing music that meant something to me; it was about the audience collectively experiencing these songs together. We swayed when Welshed asked us to, crouched down for another song. People swarmed around Welsh, wanting to be as close to him as possible, to sing every word along with him. Everyone hung on every moment; even the new songs were mesmerizing (one with the line “I’ll be your friend ‘till I’m buried in the ground” in particular left a dull pain in my chest). In between every song I would turn and look at the people around me. Everyone wore the same small smile, one crafted from the sense of knowing that the people next to you were experiencing, in their own way, the same brilliant catharsis as you. The band ended the show with “Bugs Don’t Buzz”, with the song’s ominous piano lines sounding even more foreboding at such a high volume. And yet as the lyrics came in, as Welsh and the crowd sang about love crumbling in the face of death, there was no dread in the air. Because these songs weren’t about the end, they were about living a life, despite knowing the end was there. Experiencing that feeling, surrounded by strangers all experiencing similar feelings, was amazing. Welsh and Otto managed to make the tent they were performing in, at a massive music festival, seem like the most intimate spot in the world.

They were performing again later that night, but I didn’t go; I couldn’t experience something like that twice.

-David Glickman (The Daily Texan)

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Navigating Adulthood in 2014 (via Lyric)

Being a grown up is hard. You don’t realize how hard until adulthood slaps you in the face. I suffered several of these brutal attacks in 2014, my 25th year of existence. Quarter-life crisis? That’s a thing, I guess. This year, I was bruised and battered like never before, sometimes at my own hand. But while many of life’s punches left their mark- and in some cases, the pain still stings- I survived, and that’s probably worth something. Isn’t it?

“How easily we forget in order to live.” – Priests, “Design Within Reach

For the purposes of this essay, let’s go with a resounding, “Yes!” But when you’re 25, every day feels like a question. Am I doing the right thing? Am I going to be happy? Is this person I’m spending time with going to make me happy? Should I even bother letting him try?

Of course, 2014 wasn’t all doom and gloom, although it’s always easier to harp on the darker moments. This year brought several triumphs, both personal and professional, and an abundance of good times with good people. As usual, music functioned at the epicenter: going to shows, hearing new records, meeting musicians I admire, and even making my own music (however poorly) for the first time.

All in all, nothing new. And yet, in the overall scheme of things, 2014 has been noticeably different. I’ve always allowed music to soundtrack the important, and also not-so important, moments of my life: every change, every milestone, and every achievement. Still, this year, it was uncanny how my favorite songs and albums seemed to align with whatever was happening, as it was happening, in my life. Suddenly, lyrics rang true like never before; melodies haunted my brain for hours on end; I worried that musicians I had never even met might be invading my dreams, engineering them without my knowledge or consent.

“Do I bother to define myself beyond what they allow? Have I already forgotten how?” – Parquet Courts, “Black & White

If nothing else, 2014 was eventful. My first trip to SXSW was an endless blaze of bands, booze, and (literal) body surfing. Death By Audio closed, taking a tiny piece of my soul along with it. I (probably) saw Guy Picciotto on the subway. I was hired, I was fired. I started a band. I fell in love. Now I’ve reached the end, and to be quite frank, I’m fucking exhausted. So where do we go from here?

“I often get the feeling I don’t have any sensation/ It isn’t much of a feeling.” – Viet Cong, “Unconscious Melody

I guess we rewind, right back to the beginning. Some people are just inherently good at life. I’ve never considered myself one of them. Raised by a badass single mom from Brooklyn, I’ve always believed that my strong will is mainly what’s gotten me this far; that, plus my affinity for foul language (you can’t trust anyone whose parents never taught them to curse). I’ve never shied away from anything, really, but I’ve still never been jazzed by the idea of taking on the “Real World.” In 2014, I was thrust straight into its clutches, mostly against my will.

We all know that writing– like any creative endeavor– simply isn’t lucrative. There’s no set career path to follow, and especially with music writing, there aren’t any rules. After graduating college with a butt-load of student debt and not much else, I quickly realized that the occupation of “writer” was mostly reserved for the fictional realm of movies and television. In order to survive, I would need a job to support my ambitions.

Just before turning 25, I was hired at my first real job, and before the year was through, I was let go. At the time, the thought of returning to a life of freelancing- mainly, a life of financial uncertainty- was utterly terrifying. Then, I had a breakthrough: hadn’t writing been really, really good to me this year? Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything at all, because being a writer means second-guessing your every move, whether it be the placement of a comma or a meaningful life decision. Most of the time, that isn’t the case at all. Usually, you’re far better off than you think.

“As it breaks, the summer will wake/ But the winter will wash what’s left of the taste.” – Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)

This past spring, I was lucky to find a home at Impose and I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had because of it. Last year, when I was working mostly for no pay at small, local blogs, becoming a staff writer at my favorite site was nothing short of a Les Mis-style impossible dream. Now, as the year comes to a close, I’m taking on new assignments from new outlets and collaborating with like-minded people like never before (and have the free time to do so). By no means is it easy, but for the first time in my life, I feel like a real-life music writer. I’m not so numb with terror anymore. In fact, it feels pretty good.

“Finally I know what love is/ It’s the feeling that you’re being pulled apart by horses.” – Flagland, “Superlove

Alas, we’ve finally reached the fun stuff. At 25, after years of fancying myself an emotionless humanoid shell, I discovered that I, too, am susceptible to feelings. If you prick me, I do bleed, and unfortunately that blood is the same color as every other broken-hearted girl in Brooklyn. It was a hard realization, but once the damage had been done, there was no turning back. Fuck!

It’s okay, though. I mean, it’s not okay- getting dicked around by someone is never okay, and allowing it to happen more than once is even less okay- but still, there’s something to be gained in losing at love. Knowing that the struggle is, indeed, all too real. Knowing that you gave it your all. Knowing that you’ve said all there is to say, even when saying it hurts more than you ever thought possible. Knowing that time really does make everything better, and that good friends (and alcohol) definitely help speed up the process.

“I wish someone would swallow me.” – Krill, “Turd

Are you not supposed to write so candidly about these things? I don’t know, because like I said, in writing there are no rules. This year, I’ve interviewed some of my favorite bands on the planet and struggled with this very concept. Objectivity in music journalism is something I’ve never been able to fully wrap my head around. How can music writing be objective when music itself is anything but? If a song or a record or a band is able to move you, and in turn you’re able to share with others how you’ve been moved, isn’t that the whole point? Isn’t that why you do it?

I’ve always imagined myself an outsider. That’s why working so closely with music has always appealed to me. Music makes it okay to feel whatever you want, because as long as someone else feels the same, you’re not alone. This is how bonds are formed; they’re most definitely the truest bonds I’ve ever experienced. Obviously, it’s best that some lines don’t become blurred- I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, a couple times over now- but isn’t the messier stuff always the best stuff? At least sometimes?

“We’re all the fucking same.” – Ought, “Today More Than Any Other Day

Early this year, I sat down for an interview with my friend Joe, whose band Big Ups released one of my favorite records of 2014. Something he said during our talk really stuck with me, and has stuck with me ever since. Regarding his band’s debut, Eighteen Hours of Static, he said, “the record asks a lot of questions, because I don’t know what the answers are.” We were discussing what it’s like to be our age, and to see the things we see every day, and to feel the things we feel all the time. I don’t believe I’ve ever had the answers, and even at 25, I still don’t. I also don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Maybe don’t listen to anything I say. Maybe I’m drinking white wine straight from the bottle right now, and maybe my judgment is a bit clouded (hint: it is). Regardless, I can’t shake the feeling that everything will be okay in 2015, or maybe even better than okay. This year presented itself with a lot of problems, but starting now, I plan to live each day with the blind faith that they’ll soon be solved. Is that what being grown up means? 2014 wasn’t the year I grew up, exactly, but it was the year I started to get there.

-Loren DiBlasi (Impose, DIY)