New Artist Spotlight - Junia

junia+banner.jpg

My favorite type of news to give on the blog is NEW CHROMA ARTIST ANNOUNCEMENTS!  Our friends Caleb and Justin have started a new 2 pc heavy emo band called Junia that we are welcoming to Chroma Artist Collective.  Along with this super hot announcement I have for you a video premier with a debut song called Age Parade from their upcoming album and a little interview I did with them to help you get to know them. 

Onto the interview:

CAC: Hello Junia, Justin and Caleb, I’m happy to welcome you officially to Chroma Artist Collective, but I understand Junia isn’t a brand new band. Tell us how and when the project came together. 

Junia: We put this project together about 2 years ago, but it is hard to find time for it with all of the other bands that we are in. Caleb is in about 10 bands (no exaggeration) but he wasn’t in any emo bands and I (Justin) am an emo kid at heart and missed playing drums. We had talked about getting “heavier” project together for a while and so we finally did. 

CAC: You definitely bring the heavy.  I love the power duo format, what motivated the setup/instrumentation choice and how does it impact the music you’re writing? 

Junia: We knew we wanted to play emo-pop with breakdowns, so a drum set was necessary. Caleb is the king of the bass. He plays bass in a bunch of different projects with a bunch of different styles. We had thought about adding other members and guitars, but we decided to stick with the two-piece mostly out of convenience (because we practice after work and we work on the same block). 

CAC: Going back to the heaviness of it, Junia seems like a departure from your other projects.  Can you comment on how 2 piece pop emocore connects and departs from your other bands? 

Junia: It is definitely a departure from the lyric-based indie-folk that I (Justin) am accustomed to. It is also much different for Caleb, even though his projects span from jazz to indie to folk. We were looking to do something emotive, which connects with our other projects, but also something kind of heavy and vaguely political. For me it is a return to my roots of late 90’s and early 2000’s emo and for Caleb it has been a deep dive into the gems of the past. 

CAC: Tell us about what you’ve got coming out, a new video? A debut song? 

Junia: Earlier this year we recorded an album called “Everything’s a Canyon” with Chroma’s own Dave Mantel. The album is not quite ready to be released, but we have a video for the song “Age Parade”. We recorded the video while “in studio” recording the album. This song is a quick jaunt through the difficulties of communicating with other generations and understanding your own shortcomings as a generation. 

CAC: Justin, how’s the drumming while singing thing going? 

Junia: It’s so hard! Our songs are only 3 minutes long out of necessity and 15 minute sets are ideal. 

CAC: Tell us what’s going on in Chicago area DIY these days? 

Junia: SO MUCH!! There are some new house venues popping up and more people are collaborating and encouraging each other. The Dead Birds album is going to rip! Every Day is now a local band! Qajaq is working on new stuff! Families has an album brewing. Jazz Robots plays every show ever. Circles with Lines rips! There has been so many good shows and amazing songs and fantastic community and great art! Come to Chicago everyone! 

CAC: You each have so many public-facing artistic outlets, what gap or role does Junia fill that those other projects don’t? 

Junia: Screaming. 

CAC: This one is just for fun; How do you find time for so many projects? 

Junia: Justin – just do everything mediocre. Caleb – be beast. 

CAC: What else do you have coming up that we should know about? 

Junia: Circle with Lines album coming. Junia album soon. Bloodline, baby!!!!!!

For the record, Bloodline Fest is coming up on October 25th and 26th at The Well in South Bend, IN. Lots of Chroma artists will be represented, even an art gallery of exclusively Chroma visual artists is up in the coffeeshop now and will remain through the festival.  

On the Love of Fear

This is a creative essay I wrote on September 12th, 2018 and have since revised a few times. I hope you enjoy a change of pace for the blog this week. All the art is thoroughly credited and linked, please follow and support the creators. Happy Halloween Month, everyone. -Fallon

I often think back in fondness to the days I feared the dark. Though it is not too far removed from the glory of anxiety we laud and proclaim from our public platforms, there was a certain magic to it, not unlike any other childhood fondness we carry.

Gazing into the patterns of the bedroom carpet, I was shocked at the sight of grotesque eyes that would materialize above slavering maws. Their glares, brimming with unknown malice, were always directed straight at me. I’d swipe away at the fibers to shoo the apparition and then, whether empowered by my triumph or compelled by nervous skepticism, I’d call it back by another inverse passing of my palm. With its return, I would reciprocate the gaze, wide-eyed and contemplative.

The dark.

My wandering mind finds a foothold could give this demonic rug rise to a tangible power. If the lights burnt out at that moment: my own room, which I had navigated many times with my eyes shut, would betray its own familiarity and give this malevolence permission to consume me. This realization would be what triggered the adrenaline in my growing brain to stir me off the floor in a panic, fleeing toward the safety of distraction. Later that evening, when it would be time to sleep, my synapses would alarm once again the memory of my apparition and I’d ask my mom if I could watch the TV to fall asleep.

I would then grow older with a case of Stockholm Syndrome toward spooky media of all sorts. Casper the Friendly Ghost acted as a liaison on behalf of Scooby Doo, the Addams Family, the ghost house levels in Super Mario World, and, the flagship of all things haunted and frightening, Halloween. Growing older I’d still find a wretched pit in my stomach coming across dimly lit halls or hearing unexplainable groans in the house, but overall it would seem I had made a treatise with the lowest levels of the unsettling forces at work in life. 

Image  by Chroma’s own Violeta Brodie ( @violetabrodie_art  on Instagram) for Inktober 2018.

Image by Chroma’s own Violeta Brodie (@violetabrodie_art on Instagram) for Inktober 2018.

Entering into my teenage years I would delve deeper into my alliance, now under pressure to impress horror-movie obsessed girls. With that, new affinities for disturbed things arose: the likes of Xenomorphs, zombies, Poe’s House of Usher, and how to combat the ever-present oppression of Hell in light of my newly discovered Christianity. I was constantly finding new contexts in which to bend these forces of fear into a posture of impotence.

Now as an adult, scars of a familiar panic might puff up in moments of 3AM paranoia, but they are quickly deflated by my understanding. The details of a semester-long psychology class have all fleeted, but the one remaining was by far the most practical. Tied to the study of evolutionary psychology, we can infer that fear is an instinctual response to stir up our longstanding natural defense mechanism known as “fight-or-flight.” My human ancestors can still be called that because they would search for eyes gleaming in the black of night, knowing that leaves shuffled nearby could mean certain death by a violent predator, or worse, fellow man. The mere possibility that something murderous could be out there would stimulate survivalist sensibilities and aide my ancient predecessors in making a stealthy escape or arming themselves for defense.

The further the existential camera pans back, it seems the threat of spiritual and primal fear shrinks exponentially with the passing of time and the gathering of knowledge. There is an awareness of a privileged life that sits with me; I have been faced with nightmarish violence, but have far less trauma than many who might say violence defines their reality. They need those elder brain instincts to push forth, often their only reprieve to tend to their bleeding or pay respects to a grave they never wanted to dig.

Image  by Chroma’s own Bradyn Sidwell ( @beedrawscomics  on Instagram) for Inktober 2019.

Image by Chroma’s own Bradyn Sidwell (@beedrawscomics on Instagram) for Inktober 2019.

A tower of anxiety looms at the crest of the long hill much of humanity has climbed in order to overcome “mere survival.” It is maddening to the unbraced mind, reinstating that previously harmless Stockholm Syndrome, making us compliant to the oppression of our limited perception. Now we find comfort and safety in the “tension-into-jump scare” routine during slasher films, as we ritually summon anxiety daily life as if surrounded by its hypnotic triggers. Anxiety is widely celebrated through Internet sarcasm, Friday night binge-drinking, all-day Saturday video streaming stasis. It is taught by frustrated, vindictive parents; cunning, gluttonous industries; the guillotine of success standards decreed by modern society. Survivalism is found once again but at another octave of quickening frequency.

Not unlike the steadfast striving for peace by gurus and saints, fear pervades and adapts throughout time. That is why I long for those hands. The ones that were surely reaching for my heels as I evaded the shadows from the curb, feverishly attempting to take out the kitchen garbage. When fear was theoretical its boundaries were somewhat arbitrary. I hardly ever considered how driving any highway, night or day, was much more dangerous than being alone in the house. There were colorful spirits that told corny jokes, rather than inner voices that devalue self-worth, convincing us that it’s fine to leave the house some other day. At the crux of mystical dread, exorcism was a tried and true defense; now faith is all we have against doubt. 

We may cling to hope, tendons tired, nails dug in deep. But we are still clinging.

Personal Reflection on Show Economy

dylan-mullins-Ubhjpv7q0Pk-unsplash.jpg

A few months back, one of my favorite touring musicians (who we’ve had through South Bend in the past) put an open call on their FB page looking for venues to book their upcoming tour (The Homeless Gospel Choir, Jon Snodgrass, and Mikey Erg).  I quickly asked if they were looking for clubs or DIY spaces and got a prompt ‘message me’ response.


We worked through the basic questions and it came down to the detail that we would need to make the show a ticketed event.  This is opposed to the fact that all of our events are donation based for the sake of keeping the music scene accessible to anyone regardless of their ability to pay a cover for the show.  We’ve struggled for years with the balance of keeping shows accessible, but also keeping people responsible for taking care of bands financially through donations. Two things came to mind when faced with a show that I really wanted to host that would require a charged entrance: 1. Who WILL come?  2. Who CAN’T come?

After some thought, we committed to the date and tried to address the internal tension by creating space for people who can’t afford a ticket to still attend by asking other folks who were planning on purchasing tickets to donate a bit extra to offset the deficit.  We poked some messages out there letting people know they should contact us if they couldn’t pay. Stir, cover with plastic wrap, and wait 20-30 days. Response was pretty positive but at the end of the day the big surprise was that no one used the available ‘free passes’.  Only one person lacked enough cash and I let them in for a few bucks less than the ticket price. This broke my assumptions and comprehension about show economics and belief that people can’t afford $15 shows. Or at least that’s what this one example would suggest.

There’s some alternate scenarios to consider: Maybe there’s a sense of pride that keeps people from claiming an available free ticket, to the point that they’d rather not go than to ask to get in for free. My interactions with people who refuse to donate ANYTHING for our usual shows tells me this probably isn’t the case.  Perhaps the demographic of people interested in this tour specifically just have more disposable income than our usual audience. Had the touring lineup looked different, perhaps there would have been more demand for free or discount tickets. These are only hypotheticals and the root questions can only be answered through further efforts and continuous reflection.  So I turn inward: Do we serve our bands better if we ask people to adhere to a specific dollar value of the show? Do we serve our community better by leaving the admission a choice and a sliding scale to adapt to people’s ability?

Until we grow closer to answers, we will always maintain accessibility that has no financial requirement.  We will continue to evolve our model and aim to be better than we have been in the past. I hope to continue to have conversations about this, come talk to us about such things at Bloodline Fest, Oct 25th-26th, South Bend, IN.


Inktober and the Creative Challenge

Look. I know it’s still September. But if Wal-Mart gets to put up the spiderwebs and skeletons, then so do I. 

IT’S HALLOWEEN TIME EVERYONE.

Today’s visuals brought to you by Chroma’s own,  Bee !

Today’s visuals brought to you by Chroma’s own, Bee!

Over the last few years, I’ve come to celebrate October more and more. The leading source of inspiration for me isn’t as much the holiday as it is a creative event that has sprung up thanks to the internet called Inktober. For the uninitiated, Inktober is a month-long creative challenge for visual artists who are given a one-word prompt daily, from which they are to conceptualize and draw in physical ink. It’s a huge hit on Twitter and Instagram, with a near-endless stream of archived work you can find via #inktober on the web. 

As the challenge has gained greater participation each year, many visual artists have come to adapt it to their own styles by removing the ink-based restrictions and changing the name to “Drawtober,” even going as far as to create an entirely different set of prompts (I like how this pays a sort of unspoken homage to Inktober’s legacy). Thus, Inktober’s explosion has set off a chain reaction of art challenges that I think will only grow greater in the near future.

bee double.jpg

Last year as I anticipated voraciously scrolling, gawking, and bookmarking throughout the upcoming ARTtober season, I wanted to be a part of the fun despite my inability to make any sort of visual art (I don’t count editing and arranging my own album art). The idea to work within one of my own mediums occurred to me, then a name came to me like a bolt from the blue: Scrawltober. That month I did my best to follow the Inktober prompts with my abilities as a creative writer. I wrote short stories, haikus, letters, I re-told dreams, all totaling to around 22 pieces, where I fell off at the end. It was a thrill and a confidence booster to see that I was capable of writing even without a mystical encounter with inspiration. It planted the seed in me for what would become a drive toward understanding the perfection of craft, now a common theme for my blog writing. 

The dog toy lay, slain

I heat up some leftovers

He gets a treat, too


“Exhausted” Scrawltober 2018, Day 6

Creative challenges are fantastic. They encourage you to do the most effective thing possible when striving to become a more prolific artist: get your hands dirty and make something. Sometimes the works born of these challenges become full-fledged works that people sell (see Chroma’s own Bee and her fantastic 2018 Inktober journal zine), other times the pieces are left incomplete or as a flawed, essential stepping stone in your creative journey. Whatever the case may be, if this sort of creative movement inspires you, if it challenges you, go for it. No matter what your creative medium might be, ARTober is for everyone. If you need a cool name, use Scrawltober, Dronetober (music), Sculptober, Knitober, Photober… whatever inspires/terrifies you the most.

Finding the Artistry in Everything

“The Artist,” Shinsuke Nakamura. Photo copyright WWE

“The Artist,” Shinsuke Nakamura. Photo copyright WWE

In case you weren’t aware, there is a small but dedicated bastion of pro wrestling fans among the ranks of Chroma Collective. And I don’t mean the “liked Hulk Hogan and Sting in the 90s and still remember it fondly” kind of fans. No, I mean “has a subscription to the WWE Network and watches Raw every week” kind of fan.

I say this so that provide context to the following statement: last night was WWE’s Clash of Champions, the night when every championship in the company is challenged (it was delightful, thanks for asking).

One of these champions is the Japanese “King of Strong Style,” Shinsuke Nakamura. Recently, he’s paired up with another wrestler who has taken on the role of his manager/spokesman, who constantly acclaims Shinsuke as “a great artist, a delicate genius.”

And while it might not seem like a bunch of muscle-bound tough guys (and girls—the women’s division is on fire these days) slamming eachother through tables might not seem like the most artistic thing in the world, as a fan, I gotta tell ya—I get it.

Let me get the obvious objections out of the way: yes, pro wrestling is scripted. Yes, all of the moves are performed in cooperation with one another. No, there’s no way to fake falling through a table from fifteen feet or getting superplexed off of the top rope.

That said, there is an absolute art to what they are doing.

Beyond the obvious skill it takes to pull off some of those stunts in a way that looks devastating but avoids paralysis, every match tells a story—or at least every good match does. Pro wrestling is a melodrama, and like all melodrama, it is driven by character work. Watching two individuals put on a match with excellent technical skill is entertaining, but if there are no emotional stakes, it doesn’t keep the crowd’s interest for long. On the other hand, if they can manipulate the crowd’s emotions to cheer one gladiator and boo another, it leads to a much more entertaining experience.

This sort of crowd working is old hat in wrestling. There’s a whole playbook of Babyface (good guy) and Heel (bad guy) tropes that are still being used today. Some of which are a little boring. Others are tried, true, and still rewarding (like when a long-time babyface takes a chair to another face out of nowhere).

Then, you have brilliant permutations of those tropes that are shocking and titillating. I think of Bray Wyatt, a wrestler who once ran a terrifying hillbilly cult who is now the squeaky clean host of a demented kids show (think a horror movie version of Steve from Blues Clues) with a schizoid personality. As Bray Wyatt, he is cheerful, friendly, and funny. When he dons a clown mask and becomes The Fiend, he is a terrifying villain. He regularly interrupts matches by cutting the power to the stadium, then appearing in the ring with another wrestler in his clutches. But for all of the Fiend’s horror movie cliches, Bray plays the darker side of his personality as a tortured soul, constantly tormented by the conscience of his friendlier counterpart. He’ll destroy another fighter, then clutch his head in metaphysical pain.

For all of the mindless entertainment, the artistry is obvious there once you find it. And it’s made me realize that art isn’t just in “the arts.” Pro wrestling could be considered a sport for all of the athleticism required, but these are performers. This is theater.

But once you know where to look for it, art is everywhere. I think of skateboarding, my other juvenile passion behind pro wrestling and punk rock. There are skateboarders who extend the boundaries of what is possible with a skateboard with an imagination that can only be described as genius. I think of the Z-Boys who looked at an empty swimming pool and saw a halfpipe. I think of skaters like Ray Barbee and Rodney Mullen who used four wheels and a piece of wood as a canvas for great Michelangelan masterpieces.

And if you look deeper, you can find this artistry everywhere: artists designed our homes, our clothes, and our skylines. An artist sought the right combination of ingredients to make your lunch (even if that artist was you!). An artist created the car you drive, another artist designed an engine that operates as efficiently as possible, and yet another artist poured the concrete of the street you drive it down. Artists wrote the code that built the operating system you’re accessing this blog through.

Whatever task there is to be done, whether that’s construction, sermonizing, songwriting, or even pro wrestling, you can be sure that there are individuals who use that medium as their art of choice; great masters who look upon an empty lot or a blank computer screen or an empty pool or a wrestling ring as a blank canvas upon which to paint their masterpiece.

So go. Make your art, wherever you are, with whatever you do.

Your Scene: The Pupa

Photo by  Bankim Desai  on  Unsplash

I'm currently writing this on an airplane flying over the vast expanse between Chicago and San Francisco that is dotted with so many small, medium, and large communities and local cultures. Each of these communities is situated in a specific geography, with a specific local history, and is home to a specific group of people. These aspects help define what life is like in these places and what sort of cultural events, movements, and interests swell and succeed or fade and are forgotten.

I've spent quite a bit of time in the past two weeks thinking and talking about what makes my hometown (South Bend, IN) special and what differentiates it from other similarly sized Midwest cities. One conversation was in the company of two friends who run local non-profits in preparation for the Indiana Arts Commission's Homecoming 2019 event in October. We spent a fair amount of time talking about a collaborative presentation but we mostly talked about these South Bend characteristics, some big and some small, that make our experience with the South Bend arts community so distinct and interesting and compelling. The same pros and cons, resources and shortcomings came up in a conversation I had with a local professor who is making a documentary in light of our Mayor running for president and how his history and his campaign affect people around the city. We noted how it's difficult to gain perspective on what's going on in our community when you've got your head down trudging through the ups and downs of community work. Each of us has had the opportunity to work with people traveling to South Bend to attend or take part in events and to hear their comments which gives sight into that outside perspective. It's often this outside view that helps us be encouraged by the ways that we stand out to artists, and to think about the things that we've become quite good at.

For the things that we've been specifically successful with, some people might see a perfect storm of resources, motivated people, and specific guiding limitations. I've been thinking about this idea of the 'perfect storm' of resources that come together to support and sustain DIY venues that have longevity or staying power in the historical context of show spaces that have an average lifespan of less than two years. My mind is constantly occupied by putting into place plans, policies, and programs to ensure the local DIY spots last longer than me, but it's hard to ignore the fact that large aspects of venue longevity are out of our control depending on neighbors, police attention, violence, etc. Spaces that are well-known and legendary and historic (like 924 Gilman, which I'll be close to this week) have achieved that sort of status by letting their local resources guide their visions or goals. Rather than forcing a certain vision by bending the resources you have, imagine letting the resources show you how your local scene can be most effective and allowing that to guide the vision rather than trying to recreate something that you've experienced elsewhere.

I've heard these beautiful stories of localized resources serving touring and local artists in really creative ways. Maybe you've got a special pool of generous cooks or chefs, maybe it's auto service help, laundry, merch resources, video/audio production, photography, a sweet hotel hookup, an especially attentive crowd, or whatever it is. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what little things might make your area special, even if it may seem silly. Consider the foundation that others have built in your area and how you can continue to innovate and contribute to that growth. Listen to the feedback from those who visit your area and try to pick up on that perspective.

Savoring Secrecy

pexels-photo-2768961.jpeg

Consider today’s topic, embracing the personal nature of art, as an extension of my last post, Immersion in the Micro.

What happens to the secondhand exercise equipment that's never sold off at thrift stores? There's a tragic narrative in there: an optimistic person who's financially well-off enough to decide they need to focus on their health; they buy exercise equipment, maybe give it a few tries, but distractions come by or their initial enthusiasm waned. Thus, the equipment is placed in storage for years before being relinquished to a donation center where our once-lauded tool to fight lethargy and poor health sits defeated and unwanted until it is deemed a nuisance even at an extreme discount. It is eventually turned over to humanity's mass grave of good intentions: a landfill.

Take this as analogous to artistic ideas and I think we have a dead-on fit for those ambitions which are devoid of any spine for the creative process itself. We might get an incessant itch for a concept album, an experimental piece, or the fated "something no one's ever done before," and in a flash, we are dreaming up crowds of onlookers and reviews of high-esteem. It's only natural to get excited about these sorts of things, since as independent artists we often feel stuck on the side of the onlooker and not the awe-inspiring creators we admire. Ideas are a dime-a-dozen, and equally prone to being abandoned, forgotten, or short-lived.

How do we salvage our aspirations? Many ideas and desires arise within us without any attempt to foster them, sometimes to the point that we can feel burdened with having our dreams unfulfilled, or perhaps we feel guilty for being too lazy to bottle those lightning strikes. But like I said before, I think reaching for accomplishment in and of itself is where the trouble lies.

Look to the life of Emily Dickinson, who has forever shaped modern poetry not through a business-savvy spirit, but through dedication to her craft. Her work almost entirely composed in private, being shared only to a select few whom she trusted. Dickinson only ever published a couple poems and openly resented the process of piece submissions. She rejected conventional wisdom to seek mass approval and committed herself to writing the words she believed in.

Let us also take a look at Vincent Van Gogh's artistic journey in brief. A failed art dealer turned failed missionary who was afflicted heavily with mental and physical illness, Van Gogh was also an immensely prolific artist, producing over 2,000 pieces of art, only a few of which were received by the artistic community during his life. Like Dickinson, his work was posthumously discovered, and only then was it properly understood for the value it brought to humanity and the world of art.

Van Gogh died in sickness and poverty, and suffered a great deal more consequence for not selling his art when compared to Dickinson (who lived a quiet, secluded life through her family's wealth). For our purposes though, we can look to these artists and see that their great works and influence came not from chasing praise from the world or even from their somewhat extreme life circumstances, but from sincerity and dedication to their work.

I talk a lot about the creative process because I want people to focus on the actual act of creating; publicity, patron engagement, even performance comes later (with some exceptions regarding improvised art or performance art). Sometimes jokes do become successful artistic expression and sometimes entrepreneurial genius is a matter of capitalizing on a bolt from the blue, but we can't make that our foundation if we want our art to yield any depth of expression or substantial creative contribution to the lives of others.

You don't have to throw away your unsubstantiated ideas (I even suggest making a list to keep track of them), but be mindful of your attitude regarding them. When you actually try seeing one of your ideas through once in a while, relieve yourself the pressure of success/failure; see where it goes and enjoy it!

When DIY Gets Dirty

In the years that I have been a part of the so-called DIY scene, I’ve seen incredible moments of selflessness and hospitality. Stranded strangers have been housed by kind-hearted hosts in the middle of the night. Vans have been repaired and stolen gear has been replaced by members of a generous community.

But sometimes, the scene is a little less benevolent.

Values misalign. Heads butt. Egos collide and bruise.

Things get ugly, and there are no winners.

This weekend, I had the misfortune of witnessing one of these instances firsthand.

Friday night, SPACESHIPS played with an out-of-town friend who was on tour with band from Germany and another local band. A few days before, the other local band contacted me to put together a backline—our bass rig and their drum set. An easy solution. Later, the touring band asked for the same. We happily invited them to use the same equipment.

It’s a common arrangement in the DIY world. Thousands of bands share drum sets every single weekend with no issue.

But this was not one of those times.

Two songs into the touring band’s set, the drummer stopped.

“Something is wrong.” The kit’s owner rushed to the stage to help, hanging his head in dismay. The kick pedal had punched right through the batter head.

The rest of the band played a ballad while the drummer fetched another kick drum from their truck. At the bar, the local band stewed in the situation. The drummer was disappointed, but tried to brush it off.

His singer, on the other hand, would not let that stand. She encouraged him to ask the other drummer for help replacing the head. A reasonable enough request, I thought—if I were to blow another guitarist’s tube, for instance, I’d do everything I could to replace it.

But after the show, the request was not as warmly received. The offending drummer said matter of factly, “well, it was a really old head. It was probably going to break soon anyway.”

After some back and forth, he pulled out his wallet and handed him some money to help it…

$5.

Defeated, he returned back to his band. and announced his “prize.”

His singer, far fiercer an individual than he, exploded. She stormed toward the touring band, swearing and screaming, demanding that he give enough to cover a replacement head. He spat back that the responsibility laid on the defective equipment, and he already gave him some money, so what’s the big deal?

Back and forth it went, her voice rising with every cycle. He continued to resist, acting like the very thought of replacing the drum head was wholly unreasonable in the first place.

After around ten minutes, he finally relented, throwing a twenty dollar bill at her and storming off.

As I continued loading in the aftermath, each member of the ordeal looked to me to justify their side. The touring drummer again affirmed the poor shape of the drum head. The local band ranted about what a dick he was.

But the most relatable reaction was the wide-eyed stare from my friend who originally invited us on the bill—a moment of commiseration from another bystander in a situation where there were no winners.

A couple days removed from the heat of the situation, I’m not sure if either side had the moral advantage. The drummer probably should have offered to pay for a new head, but refusing that isn’t a license to abuse anyone.

What I do know is that no community will go far with this sort of forceful self-serving.

Conflicts will certainly arise in our scene—that’s unavoidable. But we must be careful to navigate these situations while maintaining honor and respect for the people we’re butting heads with.

Easier said than done? Sure. But no one ever said building a healthy community would be easy.

Surgically Inspired Perspective

piron-guillaume-U4FyCp3-KzY-unsplash.jpg

After months of on-and-off bouts of abdominal pain, I found sweet relief Friday morning by getting my gallbladder surgically removed.  My wife and I traded nerves leading up to the surgery even though it was obvious that the staff at the outpatient center and my surgeon considered this standard, everyday,  no-big-deal sort of stuff. Not only their words, but also their actions put us to ease as they quickly walked through the steps getting me ready to go under the knife.

In the small amount of time I had to myself before the operation, I reflected how amazing it was that they glided through the process with such grace and ease.  This surgery that was a big deal to me, a seemingly dangerous and risky procedure, opening up my insides to the outside world to remove a small part of me all while keeping me knocked out but alive was just a normal Friday appointment to these professionals.  As promised I came out on the other side just fine, as expected, minus one gallbladder.

This disconnect in perspectives and relative gap in understanding of difficulty/feasibility of the task is really interesting to me as an artist.  Years of education and training, hundreds of similar surgeries, the experience of navigating all sorts of what-ifs and SNAFUs is what brought the team to perform seemingly so effortlessly.  As artists with varying degrees of experience, I think we often have a hard time gaining perspective on our own abilities and accomplishments. Though I understand the vast differences between surgery and creating art, I can’t help but draw a connection and be inspired by the result of hard work and repetition.

I would go out on a limb and say that some of your abilities and accomplishments as an artist appear as difficult as surgery to some of your admirers.  Achieving a finished piece, performing on stage, publishing online, hanging a gallery, etc are incredible accomplishments and in the eyes of so many people are already tasks they would never know how to achieve.  Recognizing positive perspective on your own progress is an important step in continuing growth. If you struggle to see growth in your art, visit what you were creating a year or two ago and be prepared to feel both encouraged and potentially embarrassed.  

With the encouragement of marked progress, future improvement seems within reach.  Imagine finding yourself at a point in the future where the creative steps that you struggle with today become like an every-day achievable task.I have known artists to take on challenges in order to work on bridging the gap between what is a difficult challenge and what is 'old hat' through repetitive practice. I have many friends who take part in Inktober, creating one piece of visual art during each day in October. I've seen similar practices with literature and music.  Look forward at what you want to do. Recognize that you'll probably never reach where you want to be because your goals will continue to grow as your talents do. But never deny yourself celebration of growth.

Immersion in the Micro

We have a short video to start off today’s class.

This goofy scene from the dark comedy Frank had me laughing to the point of tears the first time I saw it, but, oddly enough, I was also moved by it. There’s something genuine about the creative process tucked away in this parody of the clichéd “band makes an album at an isolated cabin in the woods” scenario. Throughout the film, you see the titular Frank character write narratives for the most minute, overlooked objects and instances within our world. That one liner about the door? There’s a music video for what came out of it (a deleted scene from the film, so minimal spoilers). If you listen intently, I think you’ll see how that inspiration comes through.

Creatives and patrons of art have a lot to gain from focusing on the intricate details of an art piece. I’ve written about being an intentional listener quite a bit here on the blog, but this type of observation is less focused on the intellectual close-reading of art (seeking depth and meaning) and more so on the intuitive, sensual, contemplative appreciation of minutiae in the world. We are often driven to the macro (completing a long hike, striking the big deal, harvesting food from the garden) and as a result, we gloss over the micro (the glimmering water droplets on a spider’s web, learning something new about a co-worker’s childhood, the delicate resilience of freshly sprouted shoots).


I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!

They ’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

-Emily Dickinson, 260

The legendary poet Emily Dickinson embodies this dedication to micro over macro. If she sang songs, we would never know; of her paradigm-shifting catalog, only a handful of poems were ever explicitly intended to be shared with anyone other than one or two other people. She observed and explored the birds, bugs, flowers, death, and intimacy that she encountered. Poetry was the wondrous byproduct, not the intention.

In this age where so many humans are thrown into the digital public platforms of social media, the pressure to produce an enthralling image, profound idea, or captivating experience has never been greater. As we seek more and more to proselytize the mundane, we often overlook the truly profound nature of its being. Don’t rush into beauty; meet it with patience and curiosity. Instead of rushing to learn a song you can play at an open mic tomorrow, take your time over the week to feel out the heart of the song, its accents and tonal nuances, and come back the following week with a piece you’re deeply connected to and a journey of creative exploration worth sharing. 

I think Sun Baron says it best:

A meadow 

What are you talking about? 

I’ve got solace tonight 

And it was so hard to find 

All you do is talk and talk and talk all the time 

No it doesn’t seem right 

What are you doing here? 

Get it all off your chest 

Give your soul some rest 

Just learn to sit still 

And just root like the trees 

With the moss and the leaves 

You are golden now

-Fallon

August Artist Playlist: Dave Mantel (Antiestablishmentarianism in the age of Trump) (with bonus tracks)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Dave Mantel, founder of Chroma and the guy behind NAAL.


We update this playlist every month, so make sure to follow to stay up on the latest version!

———————

 I’ve been thinking about using music and art as a way to subvert establishment when that establishment is unjust and evil. So I’ve compiled a few songs I listen to that I think can exemplify that idea, specifically and broadly.

 

This is America- Childish Gambino

A relatively straightforward sounding single tied with a basically inseparable music video. The video is stuffed to the brim with imagery that, when paired with the track, paints an incredible, apocalyptic vision of Black America’s current state of exploitation and violence. I don’t want to overstate it- there have been many more intelligent people who have written more in depth think-pieces on this song and video than I will ever be able to- but this might be one of the most important pieces of art of the last decade. But don’t take my word for it. Read what everyone else has already said about it.

 

Hell You Talmbout- Janelle Monae ft Wonderland

This track isn’t on Spotify. So you have to listen and watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fumaCsQ9wKw

There aren’t nearly as many think-pieces on this song as there are on This is America or Alright, but if you ask me, this mutation of one of the tracks on Monae’s breakout album Electric Lady that she adapted for the Women’s March in 2017 is one of the most important protest songs ever written.

 

16 Shots- Vic Mensa

This one hits close to home. This track, about the murder of Laquon Mcdonald by a Chicago police officer whose name I won’t speak, happened in my city. That officer, who shot Mcdonald on camera 16 times, was recently convicted of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm- one count for every bullet. It was quite a shock to see this conviction, because even with video footage, police officers are almost never indicted for killings they commit while on the job. That is what Janelle Monae’s song above is all about. I hear people often say that there are just a few bad apples when it comes to these police murders, and that most cops are good. But the reality is this: we have a barrel- all of law enforcement- that is designed to rot apples when they are placed inside of it. It’s time to rethink the entire system.

 

Prison Song- System of A Down

Alright. Here’s the first of two throwbacks on this list. Speaking of corrupt systems… People like to dig on System of A Down. And yeah, they’re goofy. A politically charged, early 00’s metal band mashed up with kind of eclectic Romanian folk scales and riffs? And what’s with that guy’s voice? I know. But listen. System of A Down is amazing. Rick Rubin thought so the first time he heard them, and I still think so. In fact, I have a petition going to get the band back together with Rubin to make the politically charged metal album of the Trump era we all deserve! So far it hasn’t gotten much traction. But I’m still praying.

Anyway, unfortunately, this absolutely insane opening track on the album that brought System of A Down bursting in to the mainstream in 2001 is still relevant today. Lyrically, this is essentially a list of statistics and facts about how corrupt the private prison system in America is. And that’s it. That’s how this band chose to introduce themselves to the world. But apparently no one was really listening because our prison system has only become more corrupt since 2001.

 

Real Nega- JPEG Mafia

This whole album should be included in this list. This is one of the most lasting albums, for me, from last year. I still listen to it at least once a week. Peggy talks in interviews about being able to make political music that still slaps. He hasn’t changed his tune as he’s been propelled further in to the mainstream from the niche noise/punk rap scene. This song (and album) is angry. There is a lot of aggression pointed at alt-right, nazi, keyboard warriors. And frankly, I’m here for it.

 

Kill Your Masters- Run the Jewels

Speaking of angry songs, here’s another one. No list, for me, would be complete without including Mike and El’s lyricism, and it doesn’t get a lot better than this album closer with an amazing feature from Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Roca. Sometimes you get tired of playing nice and you just need to rage. And speaking of Zach…

 

Killing In The Name Of- Rage Against the Machine

The second throwback. List wouldn’t be complete without it. What may have seemed like hyperbole or simply youthful angst and aggression to a lot of people after it came out and became an alt radio staple has renewed relevance in Trump’s America. I think it speaks for itself. But for real, “those who work forces are the same that burn crosses” is a galaxy brain revelation to people, still. So I’m gonna keep blasting this one.


Nazi Punks Fuck Off- The Dead Kennedys

 I would love to tell you that this song wasn’t relevant anymore. But is. So I’m putting it on the list.

Trump’s Private Pilot- Tim Hidecker (Father John Misty version)

I’m not a fan of FJM, typically. But there is some kind of magical synergy that happened when this piano/vocal cover of one of Hidecker’s dad rock protest songs emerged on Soundcloud one day. It was later slightly modified and included in the full release of Too Dumb for Suicide (which I own on vinyl, not to brag), and also covered by me every night by me on my Midwest/East Coast tour in 2017 with Qajaq and Every Day. Full disclosure: I’m a non-violent pacifist… But sometimes it’s hard out there, fam.

 

Alright- Kendrick Lamar

I do want to end this list on a positive, hopeful note. Although I could just as easily not do that. But Kendrick’s “Alright” quickly became a chant at protests and rallies around the Black Lives Matter movement, and I think the fact that it was this song- this chant- that people gravitated toward that gives me hope. It could have been anything. But “We gonna be alright” was what the black community began to chant. In the face of a government, a justice system, and a law enforcement system that is all against them- and has been since the beginning- they chose to sing and prophecy “We gonna be alright.”

 

Bonus tracks: Taxes- Dead Birds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8gXm_LqEBQ

 

This one isn’t on Spotify yet, either. But we just had the one year anniversary of this cool elevator shoot that was hot as H*CK last summer. I wanted to share this with you. I’m glad Erica is writing protest songs. I’m thankful for her voice and perspective. And I think this song is super special. I hope you think so, too.

 

Good Man- Sam Arias

A haunting story song about a man who got shot dead in the street. Am I biased because I played on, recorded, and produced this record? Maybe. But I think this song rips. “We’re all equal in the lives of God” Sammy sings in the refrain. I think more people need to hear that.

 

———————

Remember, you can follow THE PLAYLIST to get treated to more expertly curated playlists like this one every month from one of our artists!

 

Erasing the Line between the Sacred and Secular

In 2005, I went down a road forged by many an American youth group kid before me…

I threw out all of my secular music.

And, unfortunately for you ecologists, I do mean that quite literally. Overcome by conviction while driving home from church, I flipped through my giant CD wallet and threw every non-Christian CD out of the window of my 1997 Chrysler Town & Country.

My winnowing fork was sharp and relentless: bands on Christian labels that did not explicitly mention God were not spared (apologies to The Juliana Theory and He Is Legend). The purge went on the next few days. Even bands with Christian lyricists like Thrice and Sunny Day Real Estate found themselves in the bottom of the trash bag (Thrice for a non-geographical use of Hell, Sunny Day Real Estate for the song “The Shark’s Own Private Fuck,” a song that ironically did not include any profanity outside of the title).

For the next few months, I sought to fill the empty slots in my CD wallet with music that would edify my faith. There were a few good steps there—As Cities Burn’s debut Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest and Mae’s The Everglow became very dear to me, as did Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical by Showbread.. A few choices were a little less wise: I immediately returned Control by Pedro the Lion over the line “most everything turns to shit.” I convinced myself that Spoken was a satisfying replacement for Coheed and Cambria.

But then, my sacrificial eye started to wander again. I started eyeing the Christian music I had left. Was I making this too an idol? An As Cities Burn lyric struck me the moment it passed out of my boombox: “At my word, would you bring your Isaacs?” I was unsure. Music was, after Christ of course, my greatest love, my most reliable source of solace. But was it too dear to me? Did my reverence for music surpass my reverence for the Creator?

I don’t remember if my conviction was soothed in prayer or if I simply didn’t want to dig any more deeply into the question, but I didn’t throw out anything else.

Then, I went to college ( a Christian college, of course). Moving into the dorm, I was put into close proximity with many young men who did not have the same strictness of listening habits. For the most part, I allowed myself to coexist alongside them, allowing myself to listen passively. After all, I wasn’t seeking this out, right> I was merely existing next to them while they happened to listen to secular music. My own hands were clean.

But every so often, something would catch my interest. I allowed myself to indulge in the newly discovered Sigur Rós. They didn’t sing in English—or any real language for that matter—so I could assign my own meaning to it, like a sort of like a spiritual Rorschach test (looking back, I realize I should have extrapolated that lesson a lot earlier).

Then, something happened.

Coheed and Cambria announced a new record.

They had been one of my favorites before the purge, and I was eager to hear their newest offering. But I was not as eager to run headlong into disobedience, so I sought the Lord. I fasted from all music for an entire week to clear my mind, and I asked if I might be permitted to sully my ears with non-christian music again. After a few days of silence, I felt like the Spirit told me I had the freedom to make the decision for myself.

So newly freed to listen to whatever I wanted, I picked up my roommates CD wallet and started flipping through. Mars Volta’s De-Loused in the Comatorium caught my eye. I had been a fan of At the Drive-In, but had never listened to Cedric and Omar’s follow-up project. I put in the disc and sat on my bunk.

When the introductory track exploded into the first real song (you can hear it for yourself here) something happened that I absolutely did not expect.

The Spirit of the Lord fell on my dorm room more fully than I had almost ever feel it.

In the intertwined wailing of Cedric’s voice and Omar’s electric guitar, I witnessed the presence of the Almighty more plainly than almost any of the Christian bands I had isolated myself to in the previous months. In that moment, I realized something.

As God created music (or at least the conditions in which music developed and evolved), His presence is intrinsic to music itself. When a master musician creates, the Creator is plainly seen there. The Mars Volta is not a Christian band. In fact, at times they seem almost intentionally the opposite. And yet, they are masters of their craft, and even their spiritual worldview (or lack thereof) cannot prevent the Creator from appearing in their work.

It’s been fourteen years since that fateful day, and its mark is just as fresh on my mind as if it just happened. Few moments have been as formative to my current worldview as that. And as that moment has permeated my mind, I have come to the conclusion that the boundary between Christian and non-Christian music doesn’t exist. After all, can one tree produce Christian apples and another non-Christian apples? No. They can only create what they were made to create.

And since the Divine is the source of all Creation, then the very act of creating is itself divine—even if the creator does not intend it to be.

Even if there was a line between the Sacred and Secular, where would it be? Is a Christian band only Christian when they are singing about Christ? Certainly not. Jars of Clay doesn’t cease to be a Christian band because they sang a song about a zoo.

By the same token, even “non-Christian” music points to the Creator simply by being created. I’m unsure if Sigur Rós has any divine intentions, but I am absolutely sure that the created work is positively dripping with divinity. I’ve experienced God far more clearly listening to Takk than I ever did listening to Michael W. Smith.

Today, the large majority of my listening time is spent on bands that are not intentionally (or at least obviously) part of any sort of faith agenda. And yet, the times I spend enjoying music are some of the most spiritual of my day, even if I’m listening to Deafheaven or Fugazi or Bon Iver.

Often, when I tell people I’m in a band, I’m asked, “is it a Christian band?” My usual response goes something like, “well, I myself am a Christian and so any art I create exists within that lens.” But I often wish I could say, “any attempt to make a demarcation between the secular and sacred is, in a word, bullshit.”

3 Ways to Spend Your Weekend

val-vesa-P0F_zH39qhs-unsplash.jpg

I have worked with a guy named Tom for years and years and though we have vast differences in age, interests, social views, etc. we can go on and on if you get us talking about traveling and doing the things we love: racing funny cars for him, playing music for me.  A few weeks back I got word that Tom had been involved in an accident while racing and was in the hospital but was going to be okay. When he returned to work he was bruised, obviously sore, and walked with a cane. When talking with him about the crash, his biggest regret was that no one got it on video. That seems to be the differentiating factor between this one and his LAST crash from several years ago; he shows that video to anyone that will watch.  There’s no money in amateur car racing, but these drivers and crews take time off on Friday afternoons to drive across several states to post up at a track for the weekend and engage in their passion. Sleeping in the truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot helps avoid hotel costs and increases the chance of making it home early Monday morning and breaking even on the whole trip.

Two weekends ago Mandi and I had the chance to go to an event hosted by our local wrestling promotion, EHF (think local-level WWE).  We were in a different world, the small crowd there was obviously comprised of dedicated fans and family members that were truly in their element.  $10 was such a bargain for the 3+ hour show with dozens of performers, announcers, chills, spills, and thrills. Performers and their families had traveled from all over the region (some claimed to be from California, but frankly I didn’t believe them) and from the size of the crowd, consideration of venue rental, and the ticket price… there wasn’t a lot of money left to distribute at the end of the day.  After selling a few home-made t-shirts, these folks head back home and try to heal up before work on Monday morning, wearing their hopes and dreams in the form of bruises and sore muscles. 

My dad has a long, affectionate relationship with the game of chess, one of his proudest moments being the founding of the Western Michigan University Chess Club back in the 70’s.  The younger version of my father spent much time traveling the region playing rated chess tournaments with a similar financial story to those above. Splitting hotel rooms with his friends to assuage costs and hoping to win a high enough spot to break even at the end of the day.  My parents’ most recent vacation plans (now in their late 60’s) orbit around St. Louis and it’s burgeoning international chess scene as my dad is drawn to the community, the sport, and heated analysis with strangers while my mom comes along for the ride.

There’s a beauty I’ve observed in looking at folks outside of my circle and being able to identify the thing that drives their interest, the thing that they are willing to sacrifice for, the thing they find community in that is so different and so similar to the music community that I call home.  It’s something small and sweet that makes the stranger seem less strange.


Sun Baron and "How to Be"; an Interview with Justin Rose

We have a lot of hard-working creators on board the Chroma train (#noflex). To be prolific in your craft is not only to do something well, but to do it repeatedly, earnestly, whether it’s effortless or exhausting. As a huge fan of Justin Rose’s band Families for around 4 years, How to Be caught me by surprise (I mean, I didn’t even know who Sun Baron was supposed to be as I saw the name crop up on the Broken Light production list.) I was surprised not only for the album being an impressive new sound for Justin, but in showing me that even after hearing dozens of songs that he had some central part in writing that I can still be enlightened and inspired by my friend. Today’s interview dives deeper into the wonderful substance of this wonderful album.

Fallon: Without the posterity of dicing up genres here, I want to say I'm really in love How to Be's melodic emo song structure being partnered with minimal folk arrangements, making nods to artists like Julien Baker or Now, Now Every Children (once the bells come in on songs like "Honest.") I'm curious to hear about your process for crafting the sound of this record: how much of a role did musical references and influences play to form this gentle-yet-emotive record?

Justin: Honestly, I didn’t have any musical references in mind when creating the album, but one of my biggest influences has always been Red House Painters. I think they are a perfect example of what I am trying to do. With this album, though, I was more interested in figuring out how my writing style would translate to a “full band” sound. The writing process was very similar to the folk songs that I write, but I just recorded them on electric [guitar] and added drums. I listen to mostly indie rock and emo, but I write folk songs. I haven’t really listened to folk in many years.

F: How to Be makes arguments for a slower, more appreciative approach to life in spite of busyness and the passing of our short lives. What moves me most is in the message's taking root in humble environmental observations alongside vulnerable and personal life stories. The delivery is confident and these devices are often intertwined. Do you feel there to be an importance in associating the narrative of your life with your environment? How deliberate was your inclusion of these inspirations?

J: The connection between nature and my personal narrative was very intentional. First off, we are all products of our environments. This is in both positive and negative ways. Acknowledging and accepting that can lead to greater understanding and personal growth. Secondly, I was thinking a lot about when Jesus told the people that birds have everything they need and yet they don’t sow or reap and that flowers do not work yet they are clothed in splendor. Nature can teach us a lot about God’s faithfulness and how he is the Sustainer. Third, I wanted to learn to be still like an oak tree, learning how to exist well where I am, sending down deep roots. 

F: Those who are familiar with Sun Baron but not with who you are (being Justin Rose) might see the tag "writes too many songs" and be slightly underwhelmed at the 7 song tracklist; those familiar with you know you have more than 3 full-length albums and 3 splits recorded with your band Families, as well as another album coming up with Junia. What motivated you to begin writing songs under the Sun Baron moniker, as opposed to with Families or Junia? How has your creative process differed when it comes to Sun Baron?

J: Families songs are more stripped down, have folky arrangements, and are usually based on Bible stories. Junia is a pop-emocore band that is vaguely political. I found myself writing some songs that did not really fit the feel or content of my other bands, and so I decided to record a “solo” album. The writing process is a little different because no one else was involved in the orchestration or lyrics or feel. The process was also very different because I started writing songs with personal stories in them. Even though I’ve been writing songs for about 18 years, this is one of the first times that I am telling autobiographical stories (or at least partially autobiographical). It’s much harder for me to write songs about my own feelings or thoughts or memories than it is to tell someone else’s story. Also, there were a lot of songs that I decided not to record and put on the album. I thought that these seven songs summed up what I was feeling and thinking at the time.

F: Now that How to Be has had over a year to ruminate as a released project (and even longer as a project in your head), have your feelings on what you've shared developed or changed through the finality of release, or perhaps through feedback from listeners?

J: Some of these songs have been around for 6 or so years. I almost view this as a compilation of songs about learning to slow down and be in the moment. I like the album a lot more now than I did when I put it out, and I think that it really captures well what I was feeling and thinking. I was really against having “A Meadow” as the opening track, but I took the advice of a friend of mine and, of course, they were right; I think that song was the right one to start the album. I have been really encouraged and blessed with all of the positive feedback. Many people have told me that they have been learning similar things and are trying to slow down in order to see the people, blessings, and world around them.

F: Though everyone reading this BETTER have listened to How to Be prior to its one year celebration, if you had to recommend one song off the album to a new listener, which song would it be and how does it represent the album as a whole?

J: I think the song that best sums up the album is “Yellow House.” It’s about this house that I used to see all the time when I lived in Detroit. The roof was almost completely gone and there was a humongous tree growing through the middle. The tree must have been at least 40 years old. This song blends my story, what I’ve been learning, and nature imagery to stress the point of learning how to just… BE.

F: And not to contradict savoring the present moment, but as our last question here: what Sun Baron goodness do we have to look forward to, as well as any other projects you want to share both within and outside of Chroma?

J: Families hopes to record a new album sometime soon. We have about 16 songs to sift through to create an album called Mother, which consists of stories from the Bible about women. Junia has an album coming out soon called Everything’s a Canyon and is about the importance of understanding each other and collaboration. As for Sun Baron, I have been writing an album called Tender Shoot which is a bunch of stories from my life that all deal with different wants to understand the metaphor of a garden. Right now there are no plans to record, but I have played a few of the songs live.

justin rose.jpg

You can listen to Sun Baron’s How to Be on Spotify and the usual streaming places. Download the album for pay-what-you-want over on Bandcamp. And if you want to catch Sun Baron live, catch upcoming dates over on Facebook.

NEW MUSIC TUESDAY: Healing Pool, For Lost Children

When we are faced with the most difficult challenges of our lives, how do we respond?

May you begin to see new perspectives.

What do we do when we begin to feel that the arc of the universe does not, in fact, bend toward justice?

May you learn to know what it is to truly fight.

Healing Pool: For Lost Children is a small collection of meditations based around a simple but common thought: what do I do when I can no longer pray; due to frustration and anger at a God who has seemingly turned Their back on Their children, fatigue and despair over not being able to make the meaningful change we long for, a lack of understanding or empathy, or perhaps simply having prayed all that you can to no avail?

We hope that these meditations will help guide and refuel you. They were crafted with a specific instance of injustice in mind: migrant children being held in overcrowded, sickeningly unsanitary concentration camps in the United States after fleeing their home countries to seek asylum. Our minds were fixed on this specific issue when creating these meditations, and we seek to see the holding cells broken and these child prisoners liberated. We hope and pray that these meditations help drive you to action in your own community and circle to advocate for the child prisoners, the orphans, and the many other people who are being treated as subhuman by the United States government. We hope that these meditations help to reignite a fire that may have gone dim in your own heart- the fire of the passion for Justice and Equity for all people, and the fire to raise low and abolish systems and regimes that exist in our own government for the sole purpose of oppression.

We are simple artists with aching hearts. We hope that the outpouring might inspire change.

You can download these meditations for free HERE

Fleeting / Eternal

According to a commonly cited biological factoid, in the space of seven years, all of the cells in your body die and are replaced by other cells.

By this logic, we transform into completely different people every seven years, in a ship-of-Theseus-esque question of transitive identity.

Biologically speaking, it’s not actually true.

But sometimes, it feels like it might be. Especially as artists. Tomorrow, SPACESHIPS plays a whopping two-hour set that pulls from every part of our catalog. We’ll be playing songs we have not yet debuted, and we’ll be playing some songs that we haven’t played since Joel joined four years ago.

And as we practiced over those songs—a few of them written around ten years ago—it almost felt as if I was playing covers.

SPACESHIPS is not the same project as it was when those songs were written— it doesn’t even have the same name. These songs were written on an acoustic guitar and layered in Garage Band through years of multitracking. Now, we don’t even multitrack when we record in the studio.

Even the band that I put together to play that first SPACESHIPS record has changed significantly. Bret hasn’t played these songs. Ben hasn’t played them on guitar. I’m not sure Joel’s even heard them (lineup of Theseus?). My voice has changed drastically. I wrote these songs nearly whispering as to not bother my roommates. Now, I spend most of my microphone time yelling over instruments, and my diaphragm has grown with the practice. And I’m certainly no longer in the life situations I found myself in when I put those words to paper.

Fleeting.

But as cumbersome and ill-fitting as these songs feel played by a different set of musicians, at different volumes, in a different life, and with a different voice, there’s something transcendent about them.

As artists, we engage in an eternal work. When we put words to page or paint to canvas or sound to tape, we wrap that moment into a time-proof ball and throw it to the cosmos.

Last week at Audiofeed, Patrick and I joined the Gaffer Project to perform a set of songs by talkcore legends mewithoutYou. And as I shouted these songs—most of them around fifteen years old—I was joined by the voices of the throng, shouting along with every word. Regardless of how Aaron Weiss’s life may have changed in the last decade and a half, his words remain etched to the deepest parts of our souls, and they’ll likely stay there.

Eternal.

Even as I write this blog, Power, Corruption, and Lies by New Order spins on my turntable, and 36 years after its release, it harnesses all the moody cool that it did in 1983.

Every person alive exists in this limbo between the fleeting impermanence of our whims and the eternal echoes that ripple out into the universe, bouncing against the edge of the cosmos and rippling back against eachother. But artists are especially torn between the two extremes.

We create out of the overflow of our contemporary experience, speaking to our specific time-bound context. And yet, long after that context has been destroyed, long after our lives have shifted into something wholly different, long after every cell in our body has died and been replaced by inexact replicas, the things we create endure, crying out through the turning of calendar pages and revolutions of the earth like a beacon outside of time, announcing to the world for all eternity, “I was here, I felt, I lived.”

. . . . .

In college, I wrote a song for a friend after she came to me, crushed by one thing or another (I have long since forgotten the exact details). I think I spent a couple hours writing it. But for years, it became a mainstay of my hushed, coffeeshop live shows. In fact, I played it so often that a few years later when I finally recorded my first record, I nearly left it off of the album (the thought of disappointing my friends bade me think better of it).

Fleeting.

It’s been years since I’ve even thought about adding that song to a live set. But every once in a while, one of my college friends will bring it up to me.

Eternal.

To be an artist is to exist outside of time, to dirty our hands in clay that will far outlast those hands. I think of people like Prince or Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Miles Davis. Artists who have passed into the by-and-by, but their voices carry far louder than their mortal coils. I think of Van Gogh or Da Vinci or John Milton or Homer, who out of their small, fleeting lives created eternal works that have endured for hundreds and even thousands of years.

And I wonder if someday, centuries from now, if the songs we sing, the images we paint, and the words we write based on our own fleeting, temporal moments might be counted among them.

To Be Excellent

DSC_4079.jpg

Sunday evening my wife and I returned home from our annual pilgrimage to Audiofeed Music Festival in central Illinois.  If you’ve found your way to this blog, I’m going to assume that you’re somewhat familiar with the fest. Audiofeed is great for music and spending time outdoors (lol high-90s heat index and violent rainstorms) but the conversations I have with friends and strangers are so valuable to me.  Each year we have the pleasure of hosting a DIY Facilitator round-table discussion where folks involved with hosting bands, feeding artists, setting up shows, etc get together and talk about all sorts of associated topics like recipes, soundproofing materials, show curation, cops, and neighbors.  One main goal is to connect the islands of individuals doing similar work in places around the country, and also to expose people who would like to get involved to a wealth of knowledge and experience. 

The question that steered the conversation this year was ‘how can we do the thing better?’  Many of us have solutions to the basic needs of the artists and community; we can throw shows, we have places bands can sleep, we can cook a meal for them.  It takes special care and attention to take a step back and think critically about what we’re doing and ask how we can do it better. How can we act with more integrity? How can we improve the experience of the community? How can we better serve the artists?  Rather than take a copy-and-paste approach to our contributions, we discussed how we can push forward and address these questions.


The difficult step to take is turning attention from celebration after working so hard to accomplish something, and turn to being critical on what didn’t go well and what could be better, engaging imagination on how it might improve. There are people willing to re-imagine from scratch, to unknow everything they know about a show and rebuild it from the ground up addressing every difficult opportunity to improve. 

I’ve been so encouraged by the dedication of people around me to take this sort of critical look-back, I can’t help but share with you. At the 2019 installation of the Riverlights Music Festival in South Bend, IN we successfully implemented a recycling program for the first time, only by the combined efforts of volunteers willing to dedicate resources to making it happen. It seems Audiofeed did something similar this year as I noticed recycling containers around the grounds for the first time this year.  I learned about a band member who offers oil-changes for touring bands passing through his home-town. The folks surrounding The Radon Lounge in Springfield, Il have stepped up their food game providing garden-grown vegetables from their backyard to passing artists. Nat from House Fitzgerald in South Bend taught us a lesson about engaging the neighbors of our venues in conversation and consideration. That just begins the list of ways that people are investing in the long-term viability and sustainability of the DIY art scene.


I get excited when I see how many people are not simply happy with repeating the successful thing over and over in the same way and relying on the good results of the past, but taking time to celebrate a job well done but then dig in to work on doing better in the future.  After the album is released, or the show is over, or the festival is wrapped up, we have to dig deep and be nit-picky. Get uncomfortable and consider the points of view of folks who do not think like us or experience things like us. Engage with people who disagree with us on how things should or could be done. Challenge yourself to re-imagine the format and the content.


July Artist Playlist: Calvin Maloney (PRIDE: Continued)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Calvin Maloney who plays with analecta! Let’s jump right in and hear from Calvin about their playlist.


By the way, we update this playlist every month, so make sure to follow to stay up on the latest version!

———————

Just a warning, some of these songs are heavy. Some are lyrically abrasive. This is not going to be the usual Chroma playlist. We're getting out there this month.

This may be a cliche, but having a LGBTQ+ related playlist just following pride month seemed appropriate to me. For the most part, I'm just going to post some pertinent lyrics from each song as a demonstration of why I find them to be important. Some will have a little bit about them. Some are sad, some are angry, some are joyous and some are defiant. And they're musically all over the place.

To paraphrase something I wrote earlier in the week: June may be over, but pride is an ongoing struggle for thousands of people. It continues tomorrow. And until all are considered and treated as equal, then the fight continues.

———————

1. Against Me - Paralytic States

Going to start this list off strong. Lyrically, it's pretty straight forward. It meant enough to me that I covered it a few years ago at a solo acoustic show. The whole album hit me like a ton of bricks when it released, and this song stood head and shoulders above the others.


2. Ballista - Marionette

Fronted by a dynamic TWOC, this band is probably not for everybody. But as the resident heavy music lover of the group, I find her to be a breath of fresh air. Also this line is key:

"And when I found her she was stolen from me."


3. Codex Obscura - The Fetishist

A one woman slam/grind band from North Carolina. As with much of the genre, the lyrics have a dark note to them. But it's also coming from a place of real fear. The words to this song also encompass a feeling that many in the LGBTQ+ community feel.

This world doesn't want me, I won't be accepted

I can't shake this feeling everybody hates me.


4. SeeYouSpaceCowboy - You Can't Get Goose Justice In A Fox Court, Just Spit On The Judge

Keeping with the more metal theme, SYSC.

"I’m trying to kill the son
When I should kill the God"

I'm not sure what Connie meant with the lyric, but it probably means something very different to me than it does to her. I see the line and think of god in an american mainstream church sense. A judgmental hateful god who doesn't represent the same entity that I see in the Bible.


5. Keith (Mina) Caputo - Got Monsters (I No Longer Exist)

This song was hard to find on spotify, as I had only seen the video by Mina Caputo, only to discover that she'd recorded it back in the early 2000's prior to transitioning.

"I've got monsters

How 'bout you?

I was born a monster

Do you hide your monsters too?"


6. HIRS+ Collective - It's Ok To Be Sick

Just going to include the complete lyrics to this song.

"They say that when we're sick, we're weak.

That's furthest from the truth.

We're surviving.

It's ok to be sad.

It's ok to be sick.

They say that when we're sick, we're weak.

They know nothing.

Please - if you have the ability - take it day by day, take care of yourself, and ask us if you need anything."


7. Tegan&Sara - That Girl

Pretty much everybody is familiar with Tegan & Sara by now. They've been around for years. One line in this record really stood out to me when this album came out. Out of context it hits like a brick.

"When did I become that girl, that girl I see"


8. G.L.O.S.S. - Masculine Artifice

This one I'm putting in without comment. I think it rather speaks for itself.


9. Hayley Kiyoko - He'll Never Love You

If you think of your psyche as two potential partners warring over you, the chorus of this song is the real clincher.


10. Sufjan Stevens - Love Yourself

Sufjan released this song this year specifically for pride month. If anything, it's a reminder that we all need sometimes.


11. HIRS+ Collective - Hard TO Get

Coming back to the obnoxious music for a minute. Just to make sure you're awake. This song is as defiant as it gets.

"We'll outlive you just to spite your idea of a world without us."


12. City & Colour - We Found Each Other In The Dark

Sometimes community is like fumbling around blindly in the dark trying to find anyone else to hold on to so you don't lose it. But once you do, there's a safety in it. You're not the only one dealing with this (whatever it may be.)


13. Left at London - Revolution Lover

Left At London is more known for being a vine star than a musician, but she's quite a good musician and this song is catchy as anything and gets stuck in my head.


14. Troye Sivan - Dance To This

Every playlist needs a feel good song. That's what this one is.


15. Kim Petras - Shinin'

"If you're lost, don't get down, don't give up now

You should know just what you are"


16. The Greatest Showman - This Is Me

I love this song. It covers so much ground in such simple terms. It's a triumphant self realisation. Finding yourself despite the noise and outside pressures and expectations. There is a freedom in, to borrow a rather overused phrasing, "living your truth."

———————

 Well, that's it there. I have a treasure trove of other music that I could have put in here. But had to pick the most relevant ones. Hopefully you enjoy it at least a little?

-S.E.M.

———————

Remember, you can follow THE PLAYLIST to get treated to more expertly curated playlists like this one every month from one of our artists! And don’t forget to listen to Calvin’s amazing guitar and bass work in their two piece post-rock outfit, analecta.

One Year of Chroma: What Happened, What Are We Doing?

The arbitrary marking of the passage of time. One rotation of the Earth around the Sun at a time. We ascribe meaning to such things. In this case, we would like to take a moment and point out that it was 365 days ago that we announced to the world the idea behind the Chroma Artist Collective: a group of friends dedicated to making great art and fostering great community, both within ourselves and through the relationships we have with those around us. That single year brought with it a lot of things.

Collectively, we released more than 12 albums or EP's, with even more lined up for this next year. We grew our roster of artists to include not just musicians, but visual artists as well. Our artists individually played shows, hosted festivals, curated playlists, held art shows, had their art published, started new bands, and recorded new music. We even released our first compilation album featuring members from both inside and adjacent to our community!

All of those things represent the first half of our mission: make great art. The second half is harder to define: foster great community. Sometimes that happens naturally in the course of playing music or putting out our art. Sometimes it's a little more intentional, like with our compilation The Sacraments Project. Sometimes it looks like what happens here, in this very space! Our blogging team has written a lot over the past year about community and what that idea means in the DIY art scene today. So we've decided to take that idea even further and produce a little resource for you focused solely on community: the first pressing of Chroma Artist Collective Zine!

zine.jpg

The first issue of our zine is titled The Community Issue. It features visual art, poetry, and prose from several of our members, and was created to help encourage and inspire you where you are. We know that sometimes it can be very overwhelming being an independent artist- especially when you feel distant or disconnected from community. We want to send out an encouragement for you. That's what this is about. It's an experiment. A test. But we hope you like it. You can pick it up by just covering the postage HERE.

We have so many more things in store for the next year. We feel like we've just gotten our feet wet. Thank you all for joining with us on our journey over the past year, and for the encouraging words you've sent us. Thank you for sharing our art with your friends. We couldn't exist without that. We hope that we continue to bring you value with what we do. Keep an eye out. Like I said before, the marking of the passage of time is arbitrary, and so we have no plans to slow down any time soon.

See you on the next one,

-Dave

Why Do We Sing? Reasons for Art, Revisited.

I wanted to live, so I pretended to die.

I had to shut down cash out and get buried alive.

Out of the black and into the daylight

You had to dig me out, dust me off and pull me off the cross and

Break me back open, break me back open, look inside

Break me back open, break me back open, shine a light,

It's gonna be bright

Veruca Salt, “The Gospel According to Saint Me



I just got back from a trip to Sacramento, CA with my family to catch the reunion of one of our favorite bands, Anberlin. The Tooth & Nail alt/emo rock alumni had just wrapped up their “final tour” in 2014… T-shirts were $25 and PBRs were $6, marking a strong odor of “cashgrab,” but their performance was truly alive. The lead singer, Stephen Christian, was climbing into the crowd to sing with the sold out venue, pulling fans onstage and giving them a microphone, turning trivial banter from the crowd into heartfelt, irreplaceable moments. They played for two hours spanning their discography, rocking deep cuts and old songs alongside fan favorites and radio singles. 

At the one-hour point, Stephen spoke about how the break from Anberlin had given them a chance to rediscover their love for performing, for their families, and for their understanding of what it means to have a positive, impacting platform in a cruel, dying world. Personally refreshed and motivated to make a difference in the world however possible, Anberlin is here to stay.

This speech caused me to think deeply about the struggles musicians have against the “non-music” sides of being an artist, particularly as it pertains to developing and satisfying a projected ego. Take, for instance, Anberlin’s alumnus status as a Tooth & Nail band, which often garners assumptions from listeners that Anberlin is a “Christian” band; juxtapose that with the PBR statement I made and I can feel teenage, youth group Fallon judging the heck out of present day Fallon, not only for abandoning all those years of spouting Minor Threat lyrics incessantly at his friends, but for supporting a Christian band that would facilitate an environment of “drunkenness” or whatever. When playing music in social or spiritual climates of any sort, we both artist and listener, have been conditioned to take rigid sides on all sorts of issues. The ironic thing is that we’re all coming together for the same reason: the music.

Once the expression, contemplation, and enjoyment of art is given the backseat, both community and the art itself begin to destabilize, turning into something different entirely. I know from my own life as a touring musician that once I started cutting songs and rushing records to make a tour schedule, I compromised the core of my craft to maintain relevance in the eyes of other people. If my devolved (albeit, subconscious) motive were written on my sleeve, no one would have had a reason to continue supporting me, except maybe a pitied solidarity. None of us want any of that!

Everyone wishes to be seen a certain way, but being attentive to this desire over the creative process ultimately starts looking like something else entirely. What won me over with Anberlin wasn’t even the spoken intention from Stephen Christian’s monologue, it was the life in their art being overwhelmingly connected to the music itself (makes a better argument for their charity promotion than the $6 PBRs). In the same way, what makes my art better is that I put care and effort into each step of the creative process, not that I put CD cases on a merch table and then forget to put discs inside (yes, this actually happened and it was horribly embarrassing). There is nothing inherently wrong with being an artist and making money or working toward activism through it, but there is something wrong when that being a primary motive is snuck into your efforts to share your art. Popularity through manipulation seldom breeds a humanitarian result.

Being an artist in the age of tabloids, social media, fandoms, and analytics can often be nebulous; we are so easily distracted from the heart of our cause. It’s not a bad thing to be inspired by Green Day’s loving audience interviews in Bullet in a Bible, but chasing that isn’t how they got there. It’s healthy to periodically reevaluate your reasons for taking the actions you do in the name of art. Again, this applies to both artist and patron. Creators of art, consider what influences you to share your art. If you aren’t content keeping it to yourself, figure out why that is and ask yourself, “Is this really what I want to do? Is this what it can be?” (can>should) And appreciators of art, be deliberate in how your support manifests itself; how we do this determines the health and livelihood of how art is shared. If we’re sincere and intentional, we can build better art culture for all.


-Fallon