Surgically Inspired Perspective


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


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:

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


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


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.


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.


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).


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.


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


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?



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!


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,


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.


Why I Can't Just Pick One Band

A few weeks ago, Dad Jokes played a show in the parking lot of a local grocery co-op.

After the show, a friend of mine from my acoustic open-mic days greeted me. “Hey, nice job! I like the new sound!”

“New sound.” It seemed to insinuate that this was what I was doing now. I chuckled at the idea that my jokey ska punk band could function as my sole creative outlet; that everything I had to say could be said using upstrokes, horns, and power chords.

That feeling is not unusual among the members of Dad Jokes. Of the eight of us on the roster, six of us play in other bands. In total, those six members have over a dozen other projects—many of them overlap. Bret plays in SPACESHIPS with me and in the cowboy punk outfit Lune with Patrick. The Scotts both play in the folk/funk supergroup Tumbleweed Jumpers together.

And I can’t speak for everybody, but I don’t think any of us could be satisfied only playing in a single band.

Because here’s the thing. The human experience is vast. Our moods change from day to day. Our tastes are diverse and contradictory. Just yesterday, my turntable saw discs from the Melvins, Bon Iver, and Solange.

But that vastness doesn’t just count with the media I consume. It’s even more applicable for what I create.

Sometimes, I want to write long, heavy space rock about the Book of Revelation and just crush myself in sound. Other times, I want to goof around with my pals whilst recounting the joys of late-90s professional wrestling. And sometimes, I just want to layer hypnotic loops over eachother while I sing about that time I almost died.

Those experiences can easily coexist within the inward expanse of my mind. But side by side on the same setlist? It makes a little less sense.

Not only that, but one of my favorite parts of making music is collaborating with the other players. No two musicians play the same way. Everyone has their own unique tendencies when composing. And when you bring the same riff to two different sets of musicians, you’ll and up with two different songs. Heck, Dad Jokes horn lines often feel entirely different depending on which horn players are at practice when we write the song.

I know way too many great musicians that I want to collaborate with to fit them in a single band. And as ADD a I am, I crave the variety that I get with playing different groups of people.

So thanks, friend. I’m glad you enjoyed Dad Jokes. Stick around for everything else that I’m writing these days.

Music Paralysis

I was 12 years old when the first Songs From the Penalty Box compilation was released by Tooth and Nail Records. One year later SolidState Records released This is Solid State (not called ‘volume 1’ yet) which was the heaviest collection of music to have blasted by little ears at the time. It would be several years before I really appreciated that one.  I was 14 years old when Screaming Giant Records put out their Pizza Compilation. None of those received nearly as much time under the Compact Disc laser as Cheapskates: The Harder Side, released in 2000 which filled my ears every day in my high school typing class, on my bike on the way to my summer job, in the back of the church van as we traveled to and fro for conferences and bowling parties.  These were the years of rapid music discovery for me, and when I dug these old discs out of a box from my parents house last weekend I was surprised at the flood of nostalgia that hit me. I hope that something in that list brought a smile to your face as well.

I’ve been so frustrated with myself recently at my overwhelming desire to listen exclusively to early 2000’s Norma Jean records, despite the massive accessibility to wonderful music being created and distributed currently.  The new Full of Hell record is great… but what about MXPX - Let it Happen; I know ALL the words. New Pelican rips I hear… but La Dispute’s Somewhere at the Bottom just fits the mood right now. I feel like my dad when one of my friends tries to sell a new band to me. Have you ever tried to get your parents to listen to a new band?

So much has changed since the roll-over of the millennium and it’s difficult to parse if my approach to new music has changed primarily because of changes within myself or changes to the world of music.  The way that music is produced, distributed, and consumed has changed entirely in the past 2 decades, dare I say at a faster pace than ever before. But as music has changed, we humans have stayed relatively static.  A study conducted by French streaming service Deezer caused a flurry of articles in 2018 reporting that we stop listening to new music at the age of 30 and a half. The study showed a variety of reasons for this such as people getting busy with their jobs and kids as well as being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that we have access to. What stands out to me is that people don’t identify a lack of interest as a reason they stop discovering new music.  Through our formative years we become hardwired to feel good when we hear the music that we absorbed during that time. We built chemical pathways in our bodies that make us want to listen to those good old songs that helped us navigate our wildly emotional developmental years.

There are studies that also suggest it is good for our brains to continue to explore new music, it just takes some intentionality to overcome our programming. In addition to health benefits, working to bridge walls between generations by eliminating the trope of ‘music these days is just noise’ is also good for our communities.  I feel like the old guy in the room when I ask some of the younger folks in our local scene what they’re listening to and who they want to see come through our area, but they appreciate the questions and effort to keep the whole DIY machine moving forward with the times rather than becoming stagnant with the bands that me and my friends have been booking and listening to for the past 10 years.  Working to stay culturally aware and relevant isn’t as lame as it may initially feel.

Compilation CDs and burned mix CDs have been largely replaced by non-physical format playlists.  Finding new music was more difficult ‘back in the day’, access is no longer a barrier. The burden of effort has shifted from finding music to sifting through the deluge of music we have access to in order to find what we really enjoy and identify with. There are good folks out there who are passionate about curating playlists.  These are great people to get your eyes on and allow to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Sometimes it’s easier to engage with an artist that you have some personal relationship with. Another effective method is to use those personal connection artists as seeds and explore their influences and artists they share the stage with.  In fact, let us help you:

Chroma monthly artist-curated playlist.

Chroma artists and friends playlist.

Chroma artist roster.

Go forth and explore!

June Artist Playlist: Patrick Quigley (Outlaw Country Companion)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Patrick Quigley who plays with analecta and is a regular contributor to our blog.

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


Several weeks ago I wrote a blog for the Chroma page all about the crossover and similarities between DIY punk culture and (outlaw) country music and identifying outlaw country influences in some of my favorite bands.  As a companion to that blog post, I’ve put together this playlist that includes some artists that I mention in that blog, but also quite a bit of expansion. I’m guessing that the country-end of this playlist is outside of the usual listening zone for a lot of you.  I hope you join me for a temporary detour and enjoy the grit and passion that mirrors and influences what we love in so many of our favorite DIY punk/indie/etc artists.

Abe Partridge - I Wish I was a Punk Rocker

This song provides a fun perspective that looks into our punk world from the country side of the window. Abe came through our small coffeeshop venue in South Bend bringing undeniable charm, incredible talent, and DIY ethic.  He also paints on old vinyl records and it’s great.

Wood Chickens - Hex on Me

The most country punk band I’ve ever seen. Or maybe the most punk country band I’ve ever seen. They carry an on-stage persona that flexes the perception of reality bringing big boots, big hats, belt buckles, and thrash punk. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Hop Along - Tibetan Pop Stars

I have always heard a little bit of twang in the distinct vocal lines in the Hop Along records. This song is probably the first one that really hooked me and showcases all the things I love about the band.  I love this band that sits really nicely in modern punk-influenced indie but pulls sounds from so many different inspirations.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Fuck Up

I came across this band while sifting through upcoming shows at the local venues.  I was very surprised to discover a touring country band coming through; they don’t visit our parts often.  I listened to a few tracks and became very excited about the show, which is actually this evening! Undeniably brash and raw.

Nikki Lane - Highway Queen

Sarah Shook got her start on a tour with Nikki Lane, an artist that I discovered in the Noisey documentary noted in the blog post.  Nikki reflects on the outlaw artists of the past and identifies herself as NOT pop country, but left-of-center outlaw country. I’m always a sucker for songs about travel. The chorus just begs me to get in the van and drive somewhere.

Margo  Price - Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)

Another artists from the Noisey doc who reflects on time with the old outlaw classics on the more commercially successful end of the spectrum. This is the sound that makes me think about the county fair in my growing up years.  There’s a certain sense of holding close to tradition of the genre that daws Margo separate from pop country.

Nathan Evans Fox - Great Sky

Nathan Evans Fox is a smaller touring artist from NC singing smooth songs about travel, recommended to me by Abe Partridge.  The musicality of this track hits me so hard. Listen for the organ to break heavy lines about religious past and it’s implications. There’s a subtlety to the layers that mix in such a beautiful way that I don’t often attribute to the genre.

Adam Faucett - King Snake

Taking one more step in the mellow direction. I find Adam Faucett to be haunting and timeless in it’s feel.  The track breaks open with big vocals, fuzzed out guitars, and a straight forward drum line that carries me all the way through.  Another smaller touring artist carrying the torch with incredible songwriting talent.

Early James and the Latest - Blow for Blow

Classic sound with slapback vocals and all from Alabama. The duo cites Hank Williams as an influence and sticks by it. This showcases a significant blues influence that we haven’t mentioned up until this point and that bassline just carries me along so nice.

John R. Miller - Red Eyes

Spitting the truth from the mountains of WV:

"I’m drinkin’ motor oil, cursin’ at the settin’ sun,

Hopin’ I find better soil before my day of work is done."

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazaraus, Dig

The grit in the voice of John R. Miller makes me think of Nick Cave.  Nick Cave is one of those classic artists that tickles a lot of people’s fancies but in the strangest way. I originally discovered them through the Murder Ballads album, mostly attracted by the novelty of it.  I fell in love with the title track of Dig, Lazaraus, Dig upon ‘digging’ further into the catalog.

Ryan Kerr - I Got a Son

From right here in Indiana, Ryan has his feet sunk deep in the mud of the local music scene. I met Ryan several years ago when he was running a local venue of his own and have fallen in love with his music through the years.  He’s one of those artists I appreciate unplugged more than plugged in because of his incredible ability to hold the attention of the room at a whisper and a roar.

Encore tracks:

Country Lips - Black Water

Brent Cobb - Diggin’ Holes

Lydia Loveless - Really Wanna See You

Shooter Jennings - Outlaw You


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 remember to catch Patrick playing with analecta or in his solo project, sailbear.

Friends of Chroma: Chris Bernstorf and "It's All Joy"

For this special episode of Chroma and Friends I had the opportunity to do an email interview with spoken word poet and my pal, Chris Bernstorf. Chris has been touring and performing poetry since 2010; since 2015 I’ve gotten to know him through various tours and festivals and conversations that lasted until sunrise. Today, Chris gives us a detailed look at his new album It’s All Joy and reflects on his experiences as a traveling artist, an advocate for meaningful spirituality, and a plain ‘ol human. Give it a listen, then come back here and read what he has to say.


Fallon: Before we dive into your latest release, It’s All Joy, I wanted to highlight the “prologue” of sorts to your tour that you sent to your email list, an open letter called The Gazebo Matters. It brings the sort of attention to the value of creativity we here at Chroma really resonate with. In the letter, you lay out an argument for why people, regardless of their beliefs or circumstances, have a need for creativity, the conclusion being that it is a vessel for hope. Could you give an example of how art, either in its creation or appreciation, has impacted you and/or your community in such a way that it inspired this kind of hope?

Chris: Art has given me hope in so many ways.  I think two examples that come to mind right now are from Levi the Poet and Kevin Schlereth. Levi has so many lines that stick with me and inspire me. “I’d rather have You than all of my answers,” from his album Correspondence gave words to so many different feelings and longings I had churning in my spirit, feelings I couldn’t express but I could sense burning inside. It came as a relief to me, allowing me to finally understand and handle everything I could feel inside of me and also allowing me to express those feelings to others.  I have so often felt that, no matter what pain or confusion has come my way, no matter what difficult experience, somehow God is still there and still worth the suffering, and hearing that line from Levi allowed me to put that into words in a coherent, concise, clear way. That line has blessed me so much. Other lines from Levi, like “Three-in-One be the breathe in my lungs,” have worked their way into my prayer life and become the actual words that I speak to God because they seem to best express what my heart longs for. The first time I heard “Tables” from the band Kevin Schlereth, I was sitting on the floor in my friends’ kitchen. As Kevin and Jay were singing, I was nodding along, enjoying the new song as just a new piece of art my friends had made. When the chorus hit though, a simple refrain of “Jesus, it’s hard,” I wept. I was at a point in my life of working through a deep conflict with one of my best friends, a conflict that also seemed to threaten the beginning of my relationship with my now wife, and a massive implosion within my friend group in which many of the most important people in my life were tearing each other apart over a massively difficult issue. All of this combined with the normal growth and struggles with life and faith that I, like everyone, experience and work through. It created this huge, heavy weight in my heart, and hearing “Tables” acknowledge the hardship and give me words to express it (and also words to cry out to God from it) was such a relief and a catharsis. It felt like God saw me in my pain and reached out to acknowledge me, to commiserate, to hold me in it, and to give me and remind me of His hope and promises. I was so powerfully moved, and that song has continued to mean so much to me and I think so much to all of my friends who struggled in the situations we shared and also in their own ways. To be seen in the pain, to have someone agree with you that it’s hard down here (something the Church doesn’t always do a good job of), to have someone offer you a cry for and promise of hope that is visceral and real and knows this world’s pain in a real way, to have someone do all of that in a non-bullshit way that points to God’s very words, that isn’t just making up some nice platitude, means so, so much. I am so thankful for that song (and the whole Catechism record it comes from).

F: Let's start off talking about It's All Joy with a doozy of a question, one I’ve been wrestling with since first listening to your album. The most popular generalizations that surround poets often include characterizing them as elusive, codifying their every intention, brooding in quiet rage, pining for resolution they might never attain— but take a cursory glance at the music video for “Swing” and those generalizations are quickly challenged. Deeper still, the way that you operate as an artist places you in close proximity with fellow creatives and fans; it’s hard not to get to know you a little bit if someone follows your work. With the extremely personal nature of It’s All Joy in mind, how do you approach the communication of your identity through your poetry? Are there certain characteristics or ideas you try to project over others? Do you find yourself struggling with any sort of pressures to present yourself a certain way?

C: I don’t think poetry always gives me an issue with how I present myself but rather just living as a person. I’ve struggled a ton with insecurity over the course of my life, with wanting to be accepted and found to be “good enough” in whatever relationship or circumstance I find myself. Those struggles obviously work very directly against any sort of vulnerability, and vulnerability is one of the most crucial aspects of making art and of just living the way we were created (i.e. in healthy, joyful, growing relationship with God, ourselves, and each other). Learning to be vulnerable, learning to express everything I feel in Godly, healthy ways, has been a huge struggle and growth process over the course of my life. We joke often of the death of “posi-Chris” back in 2015. In the fall of that year, I did a giant tour with my friends in Kept On Hold (and a few others who hopped on at different points). Andrew from Kept On Hold and I were together for 120 days straight. He is one of my best friends, and that experience brought us even closer. Through it, he started to really work with me on expressing my emotions. Before then, I thought that feeling angry or bothered or upset or sad or hurt were “bad” and therefore sins. Andrew helped me learned to express everything I thought, even the hard stuff, and it really changed my whole entire life. Learning to be honest with God brought me so much closer to Him, brought me so much closer to friends and family, and I think just made me all around a better person, artist, and performer. I’ve also really learned a lot from my friend Kevin Schlereth about how faith works and that we as Christians shouldn’t be trying to “sell” anything. Faith isn’t a matter of convincing someone, of proving to God that you really believe or of proving that to others. The Bible says that God’s strength is made complete in our weakness and that we should rejoice in weakness and suffering and trial. I’ve learned so much the last few years about learning to just be exactly who I am, warts and all, as the phrase goes, and letting God be Himself in that. Radical honesty has led me to radical freedom and healing and love. I heard a Matt Chandler sermon back in 2015 where he said something akin to, “Hey, if you don’t believe God is good, that’s fine, but you need to tell Him, so He can heal you.” I remember sitting on my bed at 25 years old, long into this whole sharing Jesus through art thing, and telling God that I just didn’t believe He was good or had my best interests in mind. I told Him I knew that I should, but I just didn’t. As soon as I admitted that, I felt something inside my heart break and the Spirit just rush in, and I’ve known since (albeit, with your expected moments of doubt and uncertainty) in a very real way that God is good and does have my best interest in mind. But I didn’t find any healing until I told the truth about where I was at. I keep thinking about how the crippled guy on the mat doesn’t say to Jesus “What mat? I’m not paralyzed” when Jesus says pick up your mat and walk. He knows he’s crippled, and he knows he needs healing. This has transferred over a ton into my art because I’m just trying to tell the truth as best as I can and let God have the pieces fall where they may. The band Eight Days from December described themselves as an act of vulnerability in the hopes that others could be vulnerable with them. Reading that really changed me, and I think it puts into words what I’m working for in my art—the belief that the best art comes from vulnerability and honesty and, through offering that, the immense power of art as commiseration and vision-giver with can be extended to everyone who interacts with my art.

So, yes, I guess all of that to say, it’s hard and scary, but I’m trying more and more to just be vulnerable in my art and my life and to let the pieces fall where they may. I grew up in neon-Warped Tour music culture, so I considered giving my project a name when it began. However, under the influence of stuff like The Chariot and what I was learning about punk and hardcore, I realized the best thing I could be is raw and honest. No matter what I called this all, people would know it’s just some guy up there named Chris. They could know it and see it, and I knew it and could see it (obviously), so I decided to just admit it, call it out, and be myself. Sometimes, my poems have real separations between the speaker and myself as the poet, and often I do the V-for-Vendetta bit of “artists use lies to tell the truth”—like in “Move,” my parents didn’t have a basement for me to live in, but the sentiment of that is true for where I was in my life—but, ultimately, I just want to offer where I am and what I know as best and honestly as I can. The decision to incorporate really extra specific stuff in this album (stuff like my friends’ names and things like that) came from my friend Janelle Maree. She writes these intensely, intensely personal poems and, through doing so, achieves these universal experiences and truths. It’s really beautiful and incredible to experience and really inspired me to give it a try and push in even deeper to it than usual.

F: With 4 studio albums, a collection of b-sides, and a bunch of other ventures including a short film and an anthology of your poetry, you’ve had a lot of time and projects over which to develop your writing process. On the craft side of things, how did you approach creating the poems for It’s All Joy, from conception, putting them on paper, and bringing them into spoken word?

C: It’s All Joy has been coming together for over four years.  My general writing process essentially looks like “write whenever you can and just let it build up until it seems right to put something out.” Because Yellow is its own ep, I found that a lot of people saw my discography sort of in this dichotomy of love poems and not-love poems. I saw myself doing that a lot, too—honestly, I might have been the worst culprit at times. In my mind, all of them are the same—like, all of my poems always are doing the same thing—no matter what the topic, I hope they all are illuminating the truth of the human experience and pointing to God. For Christians, too, we seem to have this tendency to see life as doing stuff for God and then, “oh, also you fall in love,” but, in reality, Song of Songs is in the Bible—it’s not the separate sex book they hand you to figure that part of life out. It’s all there. It’s all one. So, I’ve dreamt of the love poems and not love poems all being together on one album, working very visibly together towards this one goal of illuminating the character of God and human experience. As I’ve grown in relationship with my wife, from expressing feelings to dating to engagement to marriage, the Bible’s promise that marriage is a metaphor for Christ’s love for His Church has proven so true and real, so being able to delve into that and put to words so much of what I’ve been experience and discovering in our relationship meant so much and was so cool for me. The idea of oneness, of the oneness of everything, all of experience pointing us to God and everything being a metaphor for something else and always pointing us to God, has been churning and cooking around in my heart for two or three years at least. “Swing” was almost on The Sidewalk Hymns, but I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, so I had just been sitting on it. The last song from the Spider Mansion ep finally helped me figure out what to do with it—I just didn’t get the poem. It just felt like this really fast “yell piece”, but I didn’t know how to contextualize it in my mind. That last song on the Spider Mansion ep is less than two minutes long I think, and most of the meat of the song is even shorter—it’s just this badass riff and then it’s kind of over. And that made me realize you can just put out art in whatever shape it takes (I probably should’ve known that sooner, but hey). So, I started viewing “Swing” as just this really sick, badass roar of a riff, and that let me keep it as a poem. When I went to put the album together and get it going this year, about half of it was written already over the last few years (“Doing This” dates back to college for me, so it’s like 6 or 8 years old) and then I had a ton of little drafts and pieces of stuff that I’d been working on and this idea of oneness and the physical circle metaphor churning in me for a couple years. It had just been baking and baking, and I’d been thinking and thinking and praying and talking to people about it. So the other half of the album came out of a ton of freewriting and piecing through all the different drafts and pieces of stuff and ideas I had. I’ve gotten a bit more lazy with page arrangement in the writing process because I do spoken word primarily, but I try to make every poem work on the page first and then learn it as a spoken word piece and figure out how to say it. The figuring out how to say it happens in practice and then also sometimes as we are recording them (I learned how I wanted “Geography” to go kind of as I was recording it).

F: The videos for “Swing” and “Facts” both have a surrealness to them that feels connected (to me, at least) despite the contrast of how silly “Swing” is and the focused, endearing nature of “Facts.” How did you go about choosing these two poems for videos? And what drew you toward the togetherness of these two themes as they continue a sort of partnership throughout It’s All Joy?

C: That’s really cool that you felt that way about the videos—I’m not sure we made a conscious tonal connection between the two—that’s God just doing something cool. We just tried to be as true to the tones and spirits of both poems as we could. I think the surrealness that you’re identifying though is a major theme on the album though, and one that’s come to mean a lot to me in the last few years. It started with “152.42” from The Sidewalk Hymns and has carried over for me. It’s just fucking incredible that we are here at all. What does it even mean to have consciousness? We are all just a bunch of tiny dots on some plane of existence (we don’t even really know what we are on—paint goes on canvas, cars go on roads, what is our essence as people on? What are we even standing on) that have some electricity zapping around in us and then we build and create and love and experience joy and emotion. What on earth? We are living in a constant, unfathomable, weird, fantastic miracle at every moment. No matter one’s world view, we absolutely must agree that it’s really fucking weird and insane and incredible and wonderful that we are here at all—whether there was some explosion or a sentient God speaking us into existence, whatever you believe, it’s insane that we are here. The awe and marvel at that miracle have really informed so much of my art and faith and life since I realized it was a miracle in the first place. I keep repeating to people at shows and to my wife the line from “Sci-fi”: “How could a miracle touch this place in the timeline and for me and not leave?” I really just can’t even fathom it—when I look at my wife, when I look at the life I get to lead, touring and living in close community and relationship with so many incredible people, when I think about even being here at all, when I think about God, it’s all too wonderful and amazing for me and I think the acknowledgement of the surrealness of life runs through the whole album and right out through my whole life and outlook.

Oh, and we chose those two poems because we loved them, have had them done and recorded for a while, and had very specific visions for both videos of what we wanted to do with them. We had the ideas and had the poems done, so it just seemed right. We actually shot “The Facts” video last summer, so we’ve been sitting on that one for a long while.

F: Any chance we can get the lore behind the mac n’ cheese bath?

C: The year is 2017, and Amanda (not my wife then, just my friend with whom I had a mutual set of feelings), myself, and our friends Hannah (of Formerly Bodies) and Ashley (of Amessa, rip) are on a trip to the northern part of Michigan to pick flowers for my upcoming poem “Unfold” (we pressed the flowers inside lathe cuts of the poem).  “Cherry Garcia” by Dingus is playing loud in the speakers, and we are driving in joy through the sunshine and warmth. I explained the idea of the poem “Swing,” and we all start to riff on the zaniest, most ridiculous, celebrate-life, head-first-in-joy, crazy shit that we could possibly do for the video (originally, the idea was to throw a 24-hour “do crazy stuff adventure” party and try to film and edit while it was happening and have it done in 24 hours). We brainstormed a ton of stuff, and the mac-n-cheese bath and hot sauce drink just sort of materialized from that, and we kept it.

F: The range of circumstances and themes on It's All Joy is quite broad, from your relationship with your wife Amanda to your parents to the rejection of hopelessness through faith. If you had to share with someone just one track from the album that captures the core of these topical intersections, which would it be?

C: I think “One” is the track. This is the most conceptually I’ve ever worked for an album I think. Yellow was love poems. All the other releases have been gathering together what I have and feel like I should put out, and seeing how they work together and finding a title that best encapsulates them. For this album, I really wanted to try to have the poems work together, to reference each other, and to be headed towards and end goal, and I think they all sort of wrap up together and reach their pinnacle in “One.” It pulls from all the themes and works them all together into the sort of final statement/culmination of all the ideas.

F: And finally, if you have anything in the works you want to share, now’s the chance! We know you’re on tour, but what else is in store for Chris Bernstorf?

C: Um, honestly, we aren’t really sure. Amanda and I just had a brainstorm session yesterday. We have a lot of ideas of stuff we want to do, and so we are just praying about what we should do next and when. We have a lot of tour plans—this release tour runs into a few more dates that aren’t currently on the flier. We have a small break and then we head to Germany and Austria for a short run of shows. We are then hoping to tour most of/a lot of the rest of the year and are just praying about what form that should take. We really, really love It’s All Joy, so I think we really want to push it and share it as much as we can. We loved the videos we did, so I think we are hoping to do some more videos, hopefully both performance-based ones and more “art-piece” kinds of ones. We are excited to experiment and explore with those—Amanda does all of the video work and has a real natural knack for it, so we are stoked to see what else we can figure out doing. We have a couple book ideas and a few other future release thoughts and dreams. For now, it’s a lot of praying and dreaming. I’m excited to see where God takes us next. We can’t believe all we’ve already gotten to do and how beautiful it all is. We feel like we are just sort of along for the ride and watching it all, too.

It’s All Joy, as well as all of my other releases, are available for free via Bandcamp and can also be streamed everywhere music is had.  My book So Far, and the smaller 152.42 book that is included within So Far, can be downloaded for free via my website ( We don’t think art belongs to us and are really thankful we get to share what we’ve been given.


Be sure to follow those links to get more of Chris! Also, hear Chris and a ton of other awesome artists over on the Chroma and Friends Spotify playlist.

- Fallon

Don't Tell Me What I Don't Like!

I work at a church. This puts me in contact with a number of people who might be a little…outside of the underground music music scene.

One of these non-punks is a sweet lady named Connie. Connie is in her sixties, and always greets me with a smile and asks me about what I’ve been up to. One morning, I told her that SPACESHIPS had played a show the night before.

Her jaw dropped. “You’re in a band? What’s it like?”

“Oh Connie, I’m not sure you’d be into it.”

“Is it like…a rock band?” She rigidly mimed playing a heavy electric guitar.

“I suppose you could call it that.”

She asked where she could hear it and demanded that I write down our website. The next week, she excitedly walked up to me to tell me that she listened, and enjoyed it enough to pass it along to her sons.

I was a little surprised. But I have to admit, it’s not the first surprise like that I’ve had. Over the years, I’ve carefully combed my friends list while inviting people to a show. I’d scroll right past someone thinking, “oh, they probably wouldn’t enjoy this at all.” My neighbor Bryan is one of those—and yet when we released our album, I walked into my backyard to hear our album playing from his garage.

I’ve tried to remember not to say no to people, but sometimes I still make a judgment call on what they’d be into.

This past week at Flood City Fest, I met a Black young woman named Charity. When I first saw her walking into the church, I thought she was just a curious neighbor—until I learned that she drove from New Jersey.

At one point (after an impromptu jam on “Stand By Me” while Dad Jokes was waiting for our set), she remarked to me, “I love soul music. I’m not sure I get rock music. That’s not my deal at all.”

Yet during almost every set, she was right there, having the time of her life. Even during Irae’s set, she was right up front, headbanging along with a giant smile on her face.

She might not have understood it, but she enjoyed it.

And is there a purer reaction to art than that?

People don’t need to have a working knowledge of a genre’s history, or be able to dissect the taxonomy of genre cross pollination at work in a song in order to enjoy it. They don’t need to have an accurate point of reference to know that they dig something. They just need to hear it and be moved by it.

That might mean taking more Kings of Leon comparisons with a smile, but so be it. As long as they enjoy it, I don’t need to play the music snob card and explain why they’re wrong. I just need to take their enthusiasm in kind and invite them to another show.

But seriously, we don’t sound like Kings of Leon at all. Why do people keep saying that?

Community Transformation: Digital to Local

I have recently seen and heard many conversations focusing on how technology has impaired us from being able to communicate and interact with each other in the analog world.  Kids have their noses buried in phones and laptops, neighbors don’t know each other within a community block. We have certainly leaned away from relying on our geographic neighbors, but there are some very heartwarming and positive aspects of our current telecommunication state of the art that I’d like to reflect on.

In the past decade and a half that I’ve been involved with the DIY music community, social media platforms have served as a very important bedrock of activity.  Great community has been built on connections made through web platforms that allow people to find new artists and connect with people drawn to similar art. The reason this stands so significant to me, is that has revolutionized our ability to find this non-local group of people with similar tastes in music, interests, experiences, and values.  It’s these commonalities that can provide the rich basis for meaningful relationships. In the small geographical communities that we all exist in, we don’t necessarily come into contact with many people that we share these characteristics with.

From a network of bands and fans taking part in local shows, to the festivals that have been happening for a long time there is a new flavor of community.  That flavor is in meeting, in person, people that you have shared time with digitally. Festivals have always been a place for meeting new people with similar interests, but the ‘Where’s Waldo’ style of searching for people you see on the forums and in the groups brings a certain excitement (read anxiety for some) and opportunity for a first meeting to feel more like a reunion between people and groups flung across the world, contient, country, state.

Flood City Fest in Johnstown, PA is one of these festivals that I have had the pleasure of writing about in the past. I spent the past few days attending and performing my 2nd annual FCF alongside several great Chroma artists.  I knew I was going to write this blog post and tried to be very intentional about seeking out those folks that I know from the internet and at the VERY LEAST introduce myself to them. I met face-to-face with some of the folks from the conference call I had about intentional music community back a couple months ago. I spoke to artists that I saw perform last year but neglected to engage with at the time.  I met people that I’ve seen at several fests around the midwest and in various online forums but had held at a ‘looks familiar’ distance.

Did I form any incredible bonds this weekend? Not with anyone new. But in brief introductions to digital-turned-real-life friends there’s a refreshing reminder that this community is made up of discrete individuals spread across the world.  Each engaging and contributing in their own way, with their own strengths, weaknesses, fears, and frustrations. For someone that gets discouraged about attendance at local shows, frustrated with reception of art I’ve released, tired from being just one person fighting an impossible battle, this sort of engagement is very important.  There are people who care about art and community. There are people who care about using this platform as a place to advocate for those without voices and those without perceived value. These beautiful people are sprinkled into various areas to seed creativity and beauty on a broad scale.

I was introduced to this community through online discovery.  As we engage with this community and become more and more encouraged by it, we can continue to play it out in our local community.  The local community begins to discover the online extension of what they’re already doing. The cross-pollination of local and digital community is encouraging to watch.

nother annual event that I’m excited for is our DIY Facilitator Roundtable at Audiofeed Fest in Champaign-Urbana, IL July 4-6.  For the past several years we’ve invited folks who are active in their local DIY scenes to come and meet with each other to share experiences and ideas.  It’s an open forum to discuss YOUR involvement with making the DIY scene happen. Some people play in bands, house bands, cook for bands, host shows, etc. We talk about what’s encouraging and what’s frustrating, what issues people are running into, and what solutions you have recently worked through.  We’re always seeking clever ways to make a positive impact that we can share with each other.

Friends of Chroma: Careful Gaze's Newest, You Too Will Rest


“This is an album about extinguishing hatred.

This is an album about eliminating bigotry and unnecessary judgments / labels.

This is an album about including and loving those different than you.”

These declarations headline the foreword for Careful Gaze’s newest full-length album You Too Will Rest, a body of work extended as an invitation toward the challenge, solidarity, and encouragement found within. You Too Will Rest is a fast-moving, highly polished record that seamlessly blends poppy-rock hooks that fully embody their highly emotional content with intense, technical post-hardcore riffs and progressions. Songs often begin with a straightforward, honest lyric or catchy melody, then continually introduce layers of musical depth; whether you’re exploring that technical breakdown or hooked on a chorus, you’re coming back to these songs.

Careful Gaze thrives on this juxtaposition of ideas, whether contrasting complexity against simplicity, combining dark lyrical themes with an energy of excitement in the music, or pushing forth ideas of life’s ambiguity through an austere boldness that is equal parts personal and authoritative. Gabe Reasoner, the lead vocalist, bassist, and synth player for the band, puts his heart on his sleeve (for real, check out the commentary on You Too Will Rest), providing a sympathetic voice to those who struggle with personal and existential rejection, both internal and external. Several members of us here at Chroma are thankful to him and the band for being so enthusiastic in sharing this sincerity through shows and deliberate conversations (I remember when it was just Gabe screaming over a keyboard as Hunter Dumped Us Here; now here we are!).

You can listen to You Too Will Rest in its entirety over at If nothing else, give the first track “Highways, Sideways” a chance over on the Chroma and Friends Spotify Playlist. Once it’s stuck in your head (like it always is in mine), you’ll need to hear it live at one of these shows as Careful Gaze heads out their album release tour.


Love Thy Neighbor: The Trouble With Running a House Venue

For the past few years, I’ve been running a house show out of my living room.

It happened quite on accident. One day, Pat Quigley came to me and asked if I could host some acoustic artists because his venue was booked up. I agreed. It went well. A few months later, the same situation came up with some punk bands.

I was a bit hesitant. One of my neighbors had complained about band practice, so I felt like he would probably have some reservations about loud punk bands playing right next door to him. So I knocked on his door and asked. He explained that he just had to wake up early for work on weekdays, but said, and I quote, “on weekends, you guys can do whatever you want. Have a blast.”

I cleared it with my neighbor on the other side. She shrugged, happy to stay out of our way if we stayed out of hers. When I asked if she cared about people parking in front of her house, she shrugged again. “It’s a free street.”

I booked the show. It went well. I booked more. And through the years, I’ve had some pretty wild shows through. I’ve hosted punk bands, metal bands, synthnoise bands, and one free jazz duo…all with no complaints.

A couple years ago, the neighbor who had given the weekend all-clear moved. I was nervous about who might move in. It ended up being a guy just a few years older than me. I asked him if he’d care if I threw the occasional house show. He said absolutely not.

And so House FitzGerald continued.

Show after show, band after band, and no complaints from the neighbors. At a point, I just figured that I had lucked out. I hit the neighbor jackpot. The new neighbor’s girlfriend moved in. I asked again. They assured me it was fine. They had a baby. I asked again. They said the baby caused enough noise, so it was only fair that we got to make some noise of our own.

Comrades and Servants and analecta and even my own quite loud band have played through my living room, all without a single complaint.

Until this weekend.

Gaffer Project was passing through town, and had asked Pat for a show. Pat’s venue was already booked, so as usually happens, they came to me. I put a show together.

A local emotional hardcore band opened. I stepped outside to check how loud the sound was to the neighbors and remarked that I was impressed at how well the sound was insulated. While I was out there, my neighbor who had previously shrugged off my question of street parking drove up to her house, shook her head and peeled out down the street. She pulled a U-turn and parked in front of Frank’s house (for the record, Frank has expressed issue with people parking in front of his street).

I half expected her to say something to me as she walked into her house, visibly upset, but she didn’t. I brushed it off. If she wasn’t going to tell me that she had an issue with people parking in front of her house, I wasn’t going to worry about it.

The show continued on. The Krelboynes went next, playing some chill, jangly indie rock. I didn’t expect any issues at all.

Then Gaffer Project set up. And for those of you that don’t know Gaffer, they’re a drum and bass power-duo. Jordan double amps his bass and screams over it. I had to tear myself away a few times to go outside to do neighbor duty. If any band would get the cops called on us, it would be this one. Luckily, there were no complaints. The house next door was completely dark—I assumed that we lucked out, and they were gone for the night.

SPACESHIPS got started around ten, and I told the guys I wanted to be done by 10:30 so we didn’t have to worry about the noise ordinance. Ten minutes into the set, between songs, someone interrupted us to let me know that the neighbor next door came over to ask us to turn down—and he was not happy about it.

My heart sank. I decided to end the set there and apologized to everybody. Bands loaded out, people bought merch, and everyone went home.

But I was uneasy.

After all these years without issue, I had assumed that it would keep not being an issue. But there was a nag at the back of my mind saying that the day would come where I would have to shut it down.

Because at the end of the day, a house venue rises and falls on the goodwill of the neighbors.

And in the early days, I pressed into that hard. I gave them ample warning before every show. I would clear louder shows with them before I confirmed with the bands. I would leave notes on their door to remind them. They were always chill, always supportive, and always kind.

But recently, I’ve been taking that goodwill for granted. Since they always seemed to be fine with shows happening, I began to assume that goodwill was unconditional. I stopped going out of my way to give them a heads up. I might mention something to them a day before if we passed eachother, but maybe not even that. I figured that I was only doing loud shows on the weekend, and even then I was trying to get done by 10:30, so why would they have a problem with it?

And I realize now what a bad spot I’ve put myself in. My neighbors might not seem to care about house shows when I let them know, but I’m pretty sure they appreciate the warning. They might not tell me that they care about people parking in front of my house, but I can certainly put two and two together and make sure that they always have a space in front of their house.

After all, they shouldn’t have to bend their lives to accommodate my house venue. I should be bending to accommodate them.

So yesterday, I sent my neighbor a message apologizing. I said I could stop booking loud shows in the future. He said it’s fine, but to just be mindful of how long they go on.

House FitzGerald lives to see another day. I just probably won’t be booking many more hardcore bands.