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!

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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

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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.

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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 (www.chrisbernstorf.com). We don’t think art belongs to us and are really thankful we get to share what we’ve been given.


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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

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“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 carefulgaze.com. 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.

-Fallon

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.

May Artist Playlist: Nat FitzGerald (ALL YOUR BASS ARE BELONG TO US- A Celebration of The Bass Guitar)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by SPACESHIPS frontman and newest member of the Chroma blogging team, Nat! He has some sweet picks, so I think we should just dive right in.

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

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Since I play guitar in all of my projects, it might come as a surprise that my first real love was the bass. My mom gave me a ripoff jazz bass for my 13th birthday, and it consumed me. While I haven’t played bass in a band since my 8th grade pop punk project (someone recruit me, please!) the bass has a special place in my heart. And in this (very incomplete) playlist, I’m recounting some of my favorite bass tracks of all time.

The Beatles - Come Together

I’m not sure if anyone would care about the bass guitar if it weren’t for Sir Paul McCartney. He took the bass guitar from back row obscurity and made it rock. While the Beatles canon is filled with great bass lines, this one is the most iconic.


Flaming Lips - One More Robot/Sympathy

Want to see what a bass guitar can do if you don’t just thumb around on the root notes? Listen to this track and let it blow your mind.

Radiohead - Bloom

Radiohead’s catalog is filled with some of the grooviest bass lines put to tape, so choosing just one was no easy task. But Bloom’s asymmetrical, loping groove is absolutely hypnotic.

Palms - Future Warrior

Number one, if you don’t know this Deftones/ISIS supergroup, you absolutely should. Number two, just listen to that bass groove! Jesus, take the wheel!


Sunny Day Real Estate - Theo B

LP2 was the first Sunny Day Real Estate CD I bought in high school (an odd choice, I know), and as soon as this song came through my headphones, my brain leaped out of my skull. Nate Mendel’s bass lines are always great, but this song puts him right in the forefront. It’s worth noting that shortly after this, he was poached by the Foo Fighters.


Blink-182 - Carousel

This was the first song I learned on bass that actually made me feel like I knew what I was doing. Eighteen years later, my fingers almost instinctually play this intro riff whenever I grab a bass.

Further Seems Forever - The Bradley

If your list of the best emo bassists doesn’t include Chad Neptune, it is incomplete. Just listen to the way his lines weave between the intertwining guitar lines and bounce off the drums. Dang, Chad.

Thrice - Blood On Blood

Eddie Breckenridge has been one of my favorite bassists since The Artist in the Ambulance came out in 2003. But on this cut from Palms, his frantic thumping completely changes the heart of the track in the best way.

Fugazi - The Kill

I could have chosen just about any Fugazi track and called it a day. Joe Lally is one of the best bassists of all time, regardless of genre. I chose this track because the rest of the band hangs back and lets Joe lead.

mewithoutYou - The Sun and the Moon

Aaron Weiss gets most of the press when it comes to mewithoutYou, but you could give the rest of the band just as much attention and still be blown away. Greg Jehanian’s bass work always deserves to be turned up, but the end of this track in particular features some of my favorite interplay between him and drummer Ricki Mazzotta.

Analecta - Tied So Firmly To the Ground

There’s a moment at every Analecta show that I look forward to every time. Calvin sets down their guitar and plays a melody on their bass, but they mute the loop so it doesn’t come in quite yet. But then when it finally hits underneath a gorgeous tapped guitar line (at 4:01), it takes the whole thing up a notch.

Spotlights - Hollow Bones

Not every bass line has to be busy and groovy. Sometimes, the best thing for the bass to do is to just hang back and keep the rest of the band tethered. The bass line in this track doesn’t move to a different note for like two minutes, but once it does...

Comrades - Farewell

Laura McElroy’s mostly celebrated for the way her airy vocals float above the heaviness of the rest of the band, but let’s not forget that much of that crunch is coming from her bass. The explosion at the end of this song is absolutely sublime.

SPACESHIPS - Bright

Yes, I know this is my band. But the repeating, voodoo bass riff that carries the first half of the song is one of my favorite bass lines of anything I’ve ever been a part of.

My Bloody Valentine - Soon

If you read anything about My Bloody Valentine, you’ll see plenty about Kevin Shields’ guitar manipulation. But seeing them live, I walked away just as impressed with Debbie Googe. Under Shields’ massive walls of guitar, Debbie grooves hard, rocking harder than anyone else on stage. Soon is one of the few songs where her bass is up in the mix, displayed in its full glory.

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Remember, you can follow THE PLAYLIST to get treated to more expertly curated playlists like this one every month from one of our artists! You can keep up with Nat by reading our blog, and also by following his band SPACESHIPS on social medias everywhere!

Can Country Music be Cool Again?

I’m no expert, but I did grow up just down the street from the county fair in Michigan’s highest hog producing county.  Country music permeated parts of my childhood to much chagrin of my parents. I grew up with pop country radio in the 90’s that told me stories about tractors, boots, and empowered women in a space that is traditionally masculine.  By the time I hit high school, it was not culturally useful for me to casually quote Garth Brooks or Shania Twain anymore and I started to develop a socially induced gag-reflex to country music. The 200X’s came and went and in the mid 201X’s we’ve all been invited to rally around a common hatred of bro-country on our social media feeds.


I became absolutely charmed by a DIY country musician from Alabama that toured through our area named Abraham Partridge earlier this year.  Abe is the full package with charm, grit, and beautiful musical talent. The light clicked on in my mind that there’s probably more like him out there.  What is this country music that exists on a DIY level? Who are these artists that differ from the modern radio country that we all hate but hold onto the roots of the genre?  Maybe it’s time for country to be cool again.


This is in no sense a comprehensive state of union of country music in 2019 but just some light-hearted thoughts and arguments I have about the intersection between DIY culture and country music.  

As I mentioned above, the empowerment of female artists was at the forefront of the social conversation in country music arguably many years ahead of the conversation in the DIY scene.  Female empowerment is a historic theme in country music and we need to continue to give platform to that message. I didn’t realize it at the time but the few pre-teen years where I was really into radio country was dominated by female artists paving the way for women to progress as important artists on the radio in all genres.  There have been some ups and downs in gender equality in the country music industry and certainly no lack of problems, but there exists a great history of bringing that issue to the forefront of conversation.

When it comes to the things that most of us ‘hate’ about country music, we quickly point to modern bro-country style. No one actually likes that. This is not a good reason to avoid country music.  It’s so easy to react to the awful modern country that we see pass across our social media pages with electronic drums and soaked in cringy values. But the reality is that you’re seeing that video because it’s been shared for it’s ridiculousness, not for its popularity. I’m sure there’s some folks out there that are into it, but trust me, that’s not what you should be thinking of when you hear ‘country’. Not a good reason to stay away from it.

Vice’s music channel Noisey has produced a series of short music genre documentaries called Under the Influence narrated by the one and only Tim Armstrong.  Back in 2017 they released an episode on Outlaw Country. The show makes a great case for the ties between early outlaw country music and punk rock. The Godfather of outlaw country, Johnny Cash, sits as a heavy influence in so many punk bands because of the anti-establishment, lawless nature that he held. Three chords, rough around the edges, and a glance at raw emotion; what’s not to like?  That spirit lives on in some country artists today who reject pop country stylings and hold strong to the roots. Check out that Noisey episode, it’s got a lot of great things to say.


There are some great artists who have been slowly acting as influence to bring me to this place where I feel okay about having a country playlist on my Spotify profile.  Once I started looking for it, the influence was all around me. Think about where you can find country influences in artists like Nick Cave, Hop Along, and our own Dead Birds.  Punk bands continue to cover Johnny Cash. Hardcore scene influencers post country covers of Four Year Strong songs. Southern DIY artists are expanding their touring circles to the whole country.  Jump on the train before it passes you, outlaws are already on board.


Letting Your Work Speak for Itself

“Here’s a new song. I haven’t practiced it much and I don’t think it’s that great, but whatever. And I’m not even sure it’s finished; I still have to put in another verse. Also, I’m sick and bad at whistling, and I’ve never whistled in front of anyone before but this song has a whistle solo. Jeez, it’s hot in here. Sorry for talking so much. Okay, here we go.”

If you have been to any open mic or shows with first time performers, chances are you’ve heard some version of this infamous speech. This can also be seen in creative workshops for art or writing, where an artist or author wants to explain their intention and the point of their work before a single eye has been laid upon it. It’s understandable. I think we’ve all been there with something in life. I’ve been sharing music and writings with people for 10+ years and I still find myself in this state of mind from time to time.

We understand, dear artist, that you are nervous. We understand that you are comparing yourself to your peers and heroes and find yourself coming up woefully short. As artists, we want to share our work with others, but we can’t neglect our own relationship with our art and the steps we’ve taken to get to where we are as students of the craft. Today, we will look at the collective creative journey we take as artists in hopes to understand that our progress is our own (even when we share it with others). This way, we might find ways to be content with letting our art speak for itself.

There are experiences as a creative person that most everyone shares or relates to. We all have to start somewhere. Some people start earlier in life than others, some later. Some people have natural talent, others have to grind to keep up their chops. There are so many methods and processes for encountering, developing, and mastering craft, and each one of us will have a unique progression and context for these encounters.

The frustration that often comes from beginner or intermediate artists (or any artist striving to find some sort of commercial or colloquial success) is when we begin to compare ourselves with people on a level of skill or notoriety we’re not, expecting to meet or surpass that level and despairing when we haven’t crossed the threshold. The real problem is, if you are dedicated to your craft but are still so absorbed into this comparative/competitive mindset, you will find that threshold will never be crossed, but rather always one step ahead of your current position. It’s like when you realize CHVRCHES has only been a band for a little over 5 years and they’re a global sensation, while you’ve been playing just as long or longer and still can’t get your mixes to sound just right (*psst, Fallon, you’re projecting*). Or perhaps when those teenage Instagram/Twitter artists show off their sketches and you feel your 4th revision on a piece doesn’t exhibit half the technical skill or isn’t capable of getting a tenth of the credit.

Well, we’ve recognized how toxic we can be toward ourselves by seeing our inspirations run circles around us. This is the first step! If we can’t recognize these thought processes for what they are, we’ll be chained to them indefinitely, the elusive threshold of success forever just out of reach.

Remember all that stuff about unique personal progress? Well here’s where we analyze our own creative journey and realize that if we don’t own each triumph and each mistake, we can’t benefit from how they can help us move forward. If you think you need more practice, then practice! If you need instruction, there’s infinite resources on the Internet for cheap or free (I recommend searching around on YouTube or checking out a paid program like Udemy). If you need feedback, get a hold of a trusted peer (and if you don’t have one of those, shoot me an email or something; everyone should have someone).

And remember: it’s a wonderful and necessary thing to take influence from others. We can learn from their mistakes and analyze their triumphs to fill in some of the gaps we find in our own ability. If you find it is still too challenging to be critical of these things, perhaps it’s best to cut off the avenues for jealousy until you can establish that self-confidence. Social media is the first to go in a lot of instances!

For everything else, be glad for the success of others and thankful for your own journey, whose destinations and methods are not bound by the ones others have taken. Being confident in your work means letting your work exist for what it is, not what it could/should be. The nervous person at the writing workshop doesn’t want anyone to misunderstand what they’re trying to express in their stories, but the hard truth is that a well-written story can speak for itself (make sure the right audience is listening). Even poorly written stories have something to say, though it may not be a clear line of communication from author to reader. Even still, seize those misunderstandings, dig deep into what doesn’t work as much as what does, then take those elements and write another draft. When you compare the two you’ll see firsthand how far you’ve come.

It’s hard, often thankless work, I know. With so much incredible art that’s so easily accessible thanks to the Internet, artists are often fixated on things like hype posts and web analytics to secure personal affirmation in their work. Then when it comes time to put nose to grindstone, we become overwhelmed when the work we have to put in is harder and takes longer than we expected, that the outcome may not meet our ideal, and that the finished product it must sit in the company of so many who’ve established themselves. Don’t forget: they ALL have pushed through their own journey to get where they are. Find your focus and own your process.

There’s no formula to success in the arts, just ask Hans Zimmer. You are just as capable as anyone, and support for growing artists is plentiful. If you don’t feel that way, remember that if nothing else, your friends at Chroma have your back. Take a chance, drop your fear of failure, and write those drafts, record those demos, draw those sketches. This is how it all begins.

When A Good Scene Has a Bad Day

This past weekend, I played two shows, each with a different band.

First, SPACESHIPS made our first appearance at Cheers—a bar in town that has been a mainstay in the South Bend musical community even when there wasn’t much of a South Bend musical community to speak of. Then, Dad Jokes played our first local show in months at The Well, the coffee house/venue run by Chroma’s/Dad Jokes’ own Pat Quigley.

And neither was well attended.

It’s not necessarily a new experience—just about every band ever has played shows for six or seven people. It’s part of the gig.

But as the local scene has grown over the last few years, it’s become a much rarer occurrence. And in my hubris, I’ve started to think that we were past that as a community. We’ve seen over fifty people come out on a Monday or Thursday night. We’ve had weekends with several competing shows, each with a great turnout. We’re throwing multiple music festivals per year, got dang it. This is a scene where people show up—isn’t it?

But even a good scene can have bad days. And sometimes, those bad days are a result of the scene’s success.

Nine years ago, when I moved back to South Bend from Chicago, there wasn’t much of a scene at all. There were some regular open mics, a couple cafes that would let acoustic artists play, and a string of church gymnasiums that would host shows until the pastor decided it was bringing in the wrong kind of kids. A couple bars would host cover bands, and occasionally an original band could squeak through. If we were lucky, there might be one local show every couple weeks—and getting people there was a chore.

Fast-forward to today—I don’t need to rehash that entire earlier paragraph, but things have grown. Things are vibrant. There are several places in town hosting all kinds of music and art. It’s not unusual to have five or six shows across town in the same night. And sometimes, that competition does wind up sapping some of the crowd for your show. Like on Friday when SPACESHIPS’ show with two unknown out-of-town bands was up against the return of an absolutely insane Japanese surf punk band. Or on Sunday when Dad Jokes was competing against the season finale of Game of Thrones (that one is a little less relevant, but no less understandable).

As human beings, we are still confined by a finite amount of time to engage with all of the art being produced in the world—just ask all of the unplayed records and unwatched movies and unread books sitting on my shelves. And while it might be disheartening to look out from stage and see a small handful of people watching you, it’s a little comforting to remember that your potential crowd is still supporting underground art—even if it is at another show.

Flood City Fest - May 17&18 - Johnstown, PA

In 2018 I started watching WWE wrestling as a way to spend some quality time with our temporary roommate. In 2019 I returned to playing chess so I had something I could  talk to my dad about that he legitimately cared about. Experiences like these have helped me grasp the idea that the relationships facilitated through hobbies, games, shows, and other leisure activities can be so valuable and more important than primary entertainment value.

I has the opportunity to attend and play Flood City Fest for the first time in 2018, and as the fourth year of the fest approaches in 2019 I reflect back on my experience and talks with the organizers.  From the outset, focus is placed on creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere to folks from diverse backgrounds and life situations. This atmosphere is so important because of the value placed on community within the fest experience by both the organizers, artists, and attendees. The artists that play stay all weekend instead of just the day they perform and are encouraged to be open about ideas of inclusivity and addressing social issues that are common in the music community like depression and anxiety.  There are lots of festivals to attend this spring and summer where the focus is on entertainment. It’s a rare treat to find a gathering where the music is so well curated and the overall feel of the fest so thoughtfully orchestrated. I want to give a big shout-out to all our Chroma friends who are involved and spend so much time organizing this event and others like it.

Come play a game of chess with me there, here’s the deets:

May 17&18 - Crucified Church in Johnstown, PA

40+ bands from all over the country

Music.Community.Comfort.Friendship

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April Artist Playlist: Caleb Allan (Spring Thaw)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Caleb Allan! Caleb is one of the newest official members of Chroma, although he has been playing in bands with all of us old-timers since the beginning. You can check out ALL OF HIS PROJECTS over here.

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

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There’s something magic about the day winter ends and spring begins. Even a cold weather apologist like myself has to admit it’s exciting to be able to shed your winter-induced shell and watch the world come back to life. The songs on this playlist are meant to be a perfect soundtrack for that time. Think of it like the first day you can drive with your windows down after winter: it’s barely 50 degrees, but the sun is out and you can hear the birds chirping and you’re being brave and leaving your coat at home for the first time in months.

An Introduction to the Album -- The Hotelier

Controversial take: this is the best emo album of all time. I love the patience in this opening track, just making you wait 3 and a half minutes for the payoff of hearing the full band. And hoo boy is it worth it.

Is it cheesy and cheating to start your playlist off with an opening track from an album that also says “introduction” in its name? Absolutely, but I make the rules around here, so you’re gonna have to deal with it.

Sun in an Empty Room -- The Weakerthans

I think this song is like a podcast theme or something? I honestly don’t remember how it came into my life, but it kinda feels like I’ve known this song forever. It’s about that moment when you’re clearing out a house, and you look back at the shell of the rooms you lived in and letting the memories and nostalgia wash over you. It’s sweet and melancholy.

Sonsick -- San Fermin

The horn parts in this song move me to tears. It feels nostalgic and hopeful and melancholic at the same time. Also, the vocalists from Lucious are on this track and WOWIE ZOWIE their emotional performance elevates it to new heights.

Familiar -- Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment

This song will make you smile and bob your head for its entire length. There are a few moments when some 808s drop in over the light guitar and horns that make up the backbone of the beat, and it turns this quirky, breezy head-bobber into a full on head-banger.

Keys to the City -- The Go! Team

Most music by The Go! Team has more of a summer vibe than a spring vibe, but some of their tunes just transcend the time of year and weather. They sound like somebody threw a motown bass and a punk band and sample-based hip-hop and a marching band and a 70’s tv show theme into a blender, and by some miracle it sounds amazing.

I Belong in Your Arms -- Chairlift

The bass lines in Chairlift songs effortlessly syncopate and move in directions that I would never imagine, which is simultaneously frustrating and awe-inspiring for me. The one in this song pairs magnificently with the washy, shimmery synths and a wild vocal performance that make for a song that makes me want to dance and cry at the same time, as all great dance tunes should.

Come On! Feel the Illinoise! -- Sufjan Stevens

If you’re listening to this playlist and you have never listened to Illinois before, I need you to stop what you’re doing and immediately listen to that masterpiece of an album. It’s amazing and emotional and beautifully arranged. 22 songs, no slouchers. I’ve probably listened to this song a hundred times, and the other day I noticed for the first time that it does one of my favorite rhythmic tricks (VERY quietly) where you have an odd-metered pattern and then you throw a pulse in 2 over it, so the emphasis alternates every other measure, like this:

1 2 3 4 5 | 1 2 3 4 5 | 1 2 3 4 5 | 1 2 3 4 5 |

I’m getting lost in the weeds a bit, but the point is that this song and the rest of Illinois are lush with lots of great hidden secrets to enjoy.

Katachi -- Shugo Tokumaru

I don’t know anything about this artist! I found this song years ago thanks to its gorgeous music video featuring a bunch of cut out pieces of colorful paper moving in stop-motion, and that video perfectly encapsulates what makes this song wonderful. It’s bright, cute, fun, and colorful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpLBR38kVvY (Forreal check this out, it’s awesome.)

Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart -- Mitski

Yes I know that Mitski has been on like three of these playlists, but she should be on every subsequent one. I’m frankly disappointed that she’s not batting 1.000 on appearances. This song is beautiful and twisty and builds tension and then BAM those descending voices and trumpet come in and then DOUBLE BAM a KEY CHANGE?! Are you kidding me? This song rips.

The Rabbit, The Bat, and the Reindeer -- Dr. Dog

Fate is my favorite Dr. Dog album by a country mile. The songs are just so great and optimistic (for the most part, there are some good downers too) and this song is the most cheery joint on the album. It’s bouncy and just keeps building and swelling into a hopeful climax that makes me want to just get up and run, like everything is gonna be fine.

Cut to the Feeling -- Carly Rae Jepsen

CRJ is the queen. She writes perfect pop songs that have the intensity of being in love for the first time. This one makes me want to dance and then punch the sky and then smooch somebody I love. If you have only heard Call Me Maybe before and you’re thinking to yourself, “why is Caleb making me listen to some one-hit-wonder garbage?” I would highly suggest giving her album Emotion a shot, because it’s a perfect pop album.

Nobody Cares -- Superorganism

The sampling on this song is so cute, and I love it. The sneezes that are used to drop into the choruses slap so hard and the little “eww” breaks are so tidy it’s delightful. This band belongs in the late 2000s with other quirky, cutesy groups like Matt and Kim and Grouplove, but they’re actually from the now times! What a treat.


We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed -- Los Campesinos!

Los Camp are masters of the ol’ happy sounding song with brutal breakup lyrics trick, and this song is no exception. While you’ve got your windows rolled down and are enjoying the almost-warm air, really meditate on what it means to be doomed. I like to think about how the Earth is getting hotter and hotter and how some day only the rich will be able to survive while the rest of us die in the pollution-onset wasteland. The best Los Camp albums are Romance is Boring and Hold On Now, Youngster, but every album has at least a few killer tracks so give them all a listen.

—This marks the beginning of the rowdy section of this playlist, so buckle up bbs.—

Tokyo Vampire Hotel -- Tricot

Look, Tricot are very good, and we’re gonna keep putting them on playlists until everybody listens to them. There’s an interview with Kendrick Lamar where he talks about how he’s a jazz musician by default. That the music he naturally wants to create and gravitates towards is jazz. I think about that a lot and I think I’ve finally figured out that my natural inclination as a musician is to make and listen to whatever it is that Tricot is doing. The wild energy and soul-lifting melodies and the killer mixed-meter riffs are just everything I love in music. They’re great.

Felt Just Like Vacation -- Bomb the Music Industry!

Vacation by BtMI is an album about how the winter and being cold and seasonal affective disorder suck. And while I disagree with two of those three points, it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time. Jeff Rosenstock has an amazing ear for melodies and enough energy to power a small village and this album is wall to wall bangers about trying to fight off the sadness.


—The rowdy section is over now, so I guess jump back in here if you’re afraid of loud music or something.—


Yesterday -- Noname

Noname is amazing. Like, jeeze. This mixtape (Telefone) rips and you should check it out if you haven’t yet. The beats all feel light and simple and natural in a way that a lot of hip hop beats aren’t. And she can RAP. She always brings an interesting perspective to her songs that I want to hear more of. I dunno what else to tell y’all, she’s just the real deal, check her out.

It is You -- Natalie Prass

I understand that this sounds like a Disney princess staring-into-water song, but there’s just something so sweet and beautiful about Natalie’s voice and the chords and strings that make it rise above what it appears to be on the surface. Or maybe it’s exactly the same as one of those songs and I’m just trying to manufacture an excuse for liking something that I’m not supposed to like as a music snob. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that when I listen to this song, everything is kinda perfect and beautiful for a few minutes.

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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 Caleb playing with one of any of the dozen bands he supports at dives in Chicago or at festivals this summer!

An Interview with sailbear (Patrick Quigley); Holding Space Soundtrack's 1-Year Anniversary!

Patrick Quigley is perhaps one of the most prolific creative people I know. Not only do you know him as one of our resident Chroma bloggers, but he books and runs shows at The Well in South Bend, IN and is in at least half as many bands as Caleb Allan. Today, we have Patrick here for an interview to celebrate the (belated) 1-year anniversary of the Holding Space Soundtrack release. Holding Space is a multimedia project made in collaboration with Fischer Dance, Hannah Fischer, Corlanthum / Alyssa Neece, and Patrick’s solo project sailbear. The project features evocative, emotional choreography, cinematography, and music that need to be experienced to be truly appreciated alongside the creative insights we’ve received from Patrick here.

And hey, you’re in luck! You can watch Holding Space here and listen to the soundtrack by sailbear here.

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Fallon: The Holding Space Soundtrack is a fantastic experimental work that features equal parts experimental electronic and post-rock inspired ambient. It’s also the only collaboration you’ve done with Fischer Dance where the music was not performed live with the choreography, but rather it was produced as a series of short films. How did the collaboration of dance and electronic and (often arrhythmic) ambient music come together?

Patrick: Hannah and I have been working together for many years; she valued working with live musicians as a rare opportunity and I valued working with dancers as a rare opportunity. She introduced me to a neighboring world also within the realm of abstract art but whose medium was dance. Many of the same motivations, challenges, and techniques map in rough parallel between abstract dance and abstract music. The ambiance of it has just been a developed artistic decision by both of us to focus on creating an atmosphere or a space for the dance to exist in.

F: That leads perfectly into my next question: What kind of unique benefits or challenges do you find in writing music in conjunction with dance? Or perhaps more simply, how is it different from writing music for its own sake?

P: The overarching idea through our growth in collaboration with each other has been figuring out how to support and amplify the dance through music without getting in the way or being distracting. It's about creating atmosphere for the audience to experience the dance in, but also to build a platform on which the dancers, choreographer, and director can build from. Writing music alone takes on a more selfish angle; the goal is to be the thing that is paid attention to, the most interesting thing in the room. When writing music to support dance, the goal is to focus attention on the dance and to create a framework in which people can engage with the dance. What's so great about working in collaboration with dancers has been that there is a vast supply of motivation and concept to draw from and work to translate or convey. I love the process of learning and exploring another artist's vision and figuring out what that sounds like.

F: This is surely a model for collaboration people ought to take notes on. To my understanding, the collaborative shows with Fischer Dance, such as the ones for the debut sailbear soundtrack Take Me With You, are performed exclusively in South Bend, IN; could you describe what a typical live performance is like for those of us who haven't experienced one yet?

P: Fischer Dance has gone on the road a few times to perform in other places, but primary locations were always in South Bend. The previous director, Hannah Fischer, has moved out west to attend graduate school and I'm now working with the company in its re-branded form of New Industry under the direction of Chloe Ilene. Our performances are still largely exclusive to South Bend though we've talked about fostering a regional community of similar dance companies that can host performances for each other and start sharing the work geographically. To paint the picture, imagine an unused warehouse, old brick factory buildings that have sat boarded up since the past economic decline of our city. This is where most of our shows have taken place. The address is iffy, parking situation is bad, but the small crowd of people sipping La Croix and wine tells you that you're in the right place. Rows of folding chairs are set up to flank a stage that is just a scrubbed portion of the dirty cement floor. The lighting is simple but intentional, a combination of traditional theater lighting and home-made fixtures. The music comes from all corners of the room and the dancers are close enough that you can hear their heavy breathing, you can see the muscles in their feet tense and relax as they balance. Often these shows don't have a distinct narrative or storyline that you can follow, though it's easy to find identity in characters and relationships. Both dance and music flow freely from being traditionally recognizable to being abstract enough to ask “how is THIS music/dance?”. Shows run about an hour long and the audience is welcomed to stick around after the show for a talk-back where we can dialogue as a group about content of the show, reactions, concepts, and creative process.

F: That description is… stunning, to say the least. I no longer merely hope but eagerly desire to catch one of these performances someday.

It's pretty commonplace for soundtracks to release independently of film and video games, but many argue that it can be hard to understand a soundtrack without the work it was produced for. Do you feel the soundtrack does something different for the listener when it's released independently of its original context?

P: I always have reservations about releasing soundtracks separate from the shows they were developed with and for. The goal in the creative process is never for them to stand-alone, though I've found it's important for people who have come to see the shows to be able to listen later and use it as a tool to remember or recreate the experience in their minds. I think listening to the soundtrack completely separate from any experience of the show is a more abstract experience, it's like hearing half the story. Because the Holding Space project was specifically created in the studio, I'm very proud of the quality of the final pieces. I think if any of the soundtracks I've produced stand well on their own, it's Holding Space.

F: With that in mind, please, tell us about some of your creative inspirations for sailbear and the Holding Space Soundtrack in particular.

P: Finding and exploring inspiration with the dance company has been a large and important part of our process. Sometimes it looks like capturing a feeling and talking through associated thoughts, experiences, sounds, and movements. Sometimes the process is less idea-oriented and more location or physical experience driven. We've spent time considering what it's like to have lost something and not been able to find it despite all effort, like the word on the tip of your tongue that never is revealed. We've examined our bodies as machines. Physical and emotional ideas of support. We've been to the beach. We've searched for the spirit and life and new purpose of old abandoned buildings. Each piece in Holding Space stands on it's own and within the collection, the common theme throughout was consideration of our physical location and the space that we occupy.

F: The sounds you craft that reflect these themes have a such varied selection of textures, from lush pads and shimmering delay-drenched guitars to triumphant trumpets and otherworldly synthesizers; what's your process for crafting a sound library for any given piece?

P: On the outset of Holding Space I had this grand plan of working in collaboration with other musicians for each piece. I realized quickly how much work that was going to be and scaled back the collaborative effort a bit. It takes a lot of time and energy for a musician to get into the rhythm of collaborating with an artists outside the music world. I ended up collaborating with 4 other musicians on 4 pieces. The sound palette for those pieces are highly influenced by the instruments brought by those other artists. I'm sure you won't have a difficult time identifying guitar, vibraphone, and trumpet. As for the library that I worked to build for Holding Space, I try to work almost essentially with hardware instruments as opposed to computer-based software sound sources. This means that budget becomes a player as I'm constantly searching for instruments that help express what I'm trying to get out and are inspiring to play, but within a reasonable hobby budget. I spend a lot of time rotating active instruments in and out of my current setup, re-learning old friends and digging into older instruments deeper than I did the last time. Just before I started recording Holding Space I had purchased a Waldorf Blofeld synth which becomes one of the two primary voices in the collection. The other primary voice is my Korg SV-1 which is the most inspiriting instrument that I own. It just begs to be played. Moving forward into new projects, I'm playing around with the idea found instruments, objects not meant to be instruments but have some interesting voice to be coaxed out and amplified like kitchen sinks and panes of glass.

F: Budget instruments and working within constraints reminds me a lot of my days dabbling in chiptune. Guess its never too late to jump back in * runs off to the nearest garage sale. *

Ahem, uh— to round things off, I want to check with you about any projects in the works we should know about, sailbear or otherwise.

P: The newest sailbear project that's right in front of me is another evening length live show called Sensimotor. We're exploring instinctual or learned physical responses to different actions or impulses. We're spending time exploring silly questions about randomness and chaos. It's difficult for a computer to create something truly random. Similarly is there anything that a person can create that is truly random? It seems every reaction is a choice that follows some specific reason. That's the project where a lot of the found sound research is going to show up as well. I'll also be scoring a silent film this summer for a series that's popped up in South Bend and there's rumors that I'll be working with South Bend Civic Theater to score a production of theirs this coming fall/winter. Outside of sailbear, Lune is working on a new record. It's a slow burn gritty rock and roll project that I'm really excited to be working on. Dad Jokes is playing a bunch of fests this summer and hopefully writing new music as well.

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In case you haven’t yet, you can experience the Holding Space films right now for free on the Fischer Dance website. You listen to the Holding Space Soundtrack and explore Patrick’s other sailbear works on Bandcamp.

One DIY Record Please, Hold the DIY Aesthetic

On the spine of their 1994 album Further, Flying Saucer Attack emblazoned this sentence:

Home taping is reinventing music.

It’s a simple enough message, but it carries a huge implication. In the olden days, musicians were at the mercy of the suits—the record labels, the studio owners, the distributors…if you actually wanted anyone to hear your music, you had to convince the suits that you were worth spending the money to record, press, and promote.

Home taping was a revolution of Lenin-like proportions (Lennon-like too?). It imbued sonic creators with an autonomy heretofore unimaginable.

But even as DIY recording grew in popularity, there was an undeniable scrappiness to it. Even the most sophisticated DIY records (think In The Aeroplane Over the Sea) still fell a few pegs short of (finger quotes) professional records in terms of production qualities. And believe you me: most DIY records didn’t come anywhere close to ITAOTS.

Through the years, a lot of my friends have DIY’d their ways to MySpace uploads, burned EPs, and—very occasionally—a full-length CD with a full-color stick-on cover. I still have a sizable collection of CD-Rs, Sharpie-labeled cassette tapes, and low-res MP3s that I’ve accrued over the last two decades. Most of them are rendered unlistenable by poor production values. Granted, some of that was due to inexperience (what’s EQ? What’s panning?), but perhaps the majority was sloppy due to the lack of access. Not just the lack of access to professional grade studio space or equipment, but lack of access to expertise (or people with expertise).

But a funny thing has happened over the last few years…

Access has exploded.

My band SPACESHIPS just spent the last two weekends with our friend Dave Mantel recording our upcoming EP. And no, we didn’t do it in a studio—we did it in my house, with a drum set in the living room and guitar amps isolated in different bedrooms, all recorded with an interface we borrowed from analecta’s Patrick Quigley. It was about as DIY as it gets. But when we listened to the unmixed raws, they already sounded worlds better than all of the old CD-Rs sitting on my shelf. With a bit of mixing, I anticipate that most people won’t be able to tell that it wasn’t recorded in a “professional” studio.

There are several things that made turning my house into a makeshift studio a viable option. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to access.

First, there’s access to equipment. Over the last several years, professional-grade (or at least near-perfect soundalikes) have plummeted in price. Companies like Slate have released plugins that model old studio stand-bys for a small percentage of the price of the real thing. Even the cost of the DAW and the interface—while a little on the pricey side—is still less than we might have spent renting a “real” studio.

I feel like I hardly need to mention how access to expertise has exploded: if you’re reading this, you probably already know that a thing called The Internet exists. And on The Internet, there is a place called YouTube. And while many of us use YouTube to watch Vine compilations or interviews with celebrities eating hot wings, there’s also a wealth of information educating viewers on the finer details of just about everything—including audio engineering. A quick YouTube search for “basics of mixing” results in hundreds of videos, each with tens of thousands of views. I took an entire year of a recording class in high school (benefits of a big school), and I’ve learned more in a few fifteen-minute tutorials than I did that entire class—and I’ve barely just scratched the surface.

Not to mention platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud that put artists in direct control of their distribution. Heck, there are even free distro sites that will push your music to iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.

The playing field has been leveled. The suits no longer have a monopoly on whose voice is worth broadcasting to the world.

While the state of home recording has changed a lot since Flying Saucer Attack made their revolutionary declaration, it’s never been more accurate.

A Scene Like Clockwork

I’ve been navigating complex thoughts and emotions about our DIY music community in light of much needed social shifts as we rout out long-standing injustices regarding status, power, and abuse on a national scale.  Vast concepts like safety, forgiveness, retribution, and sustainability have swirled through conversations and personal reflections.

A concept from my professional career has offered thought-provoking insight in the form of an unintentional analogy.  As an engineer that works in and around manufacturing facilities, I see a lot of machines day in and day out. The bare-bones idea of a machine is to transmit a force or direct its application. Usually this takes place through a careful gathering and placing of different components like in a clock, or reel-to-reel tape machine, or 6-axis custom built German CNC machining center.  Some machines operate with high-efficiency and beautifully smooth repetitive motion while others drag along creating unnecessary noise and heat. In either case, each component of the machine is placed intentionally for a specific purpose, which it surely could not achieve if it were not for the existence and placement of those other parts that work in conjunction with each other.  Each part supports and amplifies the effort of the other parts of the assembly.

From time to time these machines cause injury. Parts that cause harm are removed,  evaluated, sometimes repaired, sometimes discarded, sometimes redesigned and re-implemented.  Long-term health of a machine requires a dedication to constant improvement through proactive and reactive changes.  Consider design changes that have taken place with car machines over the years. Some parts look like and function the way they have for many years, like a steering wheel, while other parts have changed over the years and look nothing like they did in previous iterations.  All for the sake of safety and efficiency while directing the effort of its individual parts into an incredible unified accomplishment.

I won’t attempt to force any specific conclusions from this analogy, but I hope it provides a tool of thought for those also navigating these issues.

New Playlist Announcement: CHROMA SLEEP TAPES!

Hello everyone! Today I’m happy to share with you something I (Dave) have been working on for a few weeks: the Chroma Sleep Tapes playlist! Now, some of you may not know this, but I play some very slow, boring, guitar music in my free time. And I really love it! Now, I’ve hand picked some of my favorite ambient and drone tunes from my friends and contemporaries to share with you to help you study, focus, meditate, relax, and yes, sleep.

I’m very particular about the kinds of music I listen to when I need to zone out, and even more selective when it comes to the stuff I have on repeat while I slumber. So never fear! This list, which I will be curating every few weeks, just like all our other playlists, is fundamentally designed for maximum ambience.

I hope you like it, and I hope you check out the artists I’ve featured on the playlist. They are friends and heroes of mine, and I think they’re all offering some really amazing contributions to a genre that not many people take time to explore.

Make sure to follow the playlist so you never miss an update, or a chance to tune out the world and head to your happy place.

Notes on the Families/KS split and The Sacraments Project

This is a post by Justin Rose of Families and Sun Baron. He posted it to Facebook and I (Dave) yoinked it to put on our blog.

In the past month, I have been a part of two wonderful musical releases. If you have not taken the time to listen to them, please take some time and let me know what you think..

The first release was a split with the illustrious Kevin Schlereth. We first played with Kevin at a DIY punk venue above a laundromat in Milwaukee back in 2011. It was love at first sight and we have been sister bands ever since. Kevin and Jay create beautifully deep and honest tunes about faith and community. But the best part about them is that they put their money where their mouth is and live out their ideals in their daily life. There are two songs by Kevin Schlereth on this album: TRY HARD, which is an incredibly catchy song about making sure your life means something (with guest vocals by my favorite Evan Kunze); and AUTUMN NIGHTS, which is a jam about being mindful of the things you say and how they can affect others. The two Families songs on this split are both Bible stories: CLOUDS weaves three biblical stories about clouds together to talk about God's presence among his people; FRIENDS is about the story in 2 Kings 6 when the angelic army surrounds Elisha and his servant to remind them that God is with them and fights battles on their behalf. This little split is a wonderful album about God and his people and we are SOOOOOOOO stoked and honored to put it out with some of our best friends.


The second release is a compilation album about the seven Catholic Sacraments: Holy Orders, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, Baptism, Marriage and Communion. There is one track for each of the sacraments and, needless to say, this is a powerful album full of certified, theological bangers! I could not have imagined that this album would turn out so good, but everyone really brought their A game!

My band, Sun Baron, along with the help of Samuel Arias, Nate Irvine, Scott Daniel, Caleb Allan, and Dave Mantel, recorded a song about Holy Orders and focuses on how God uses His broken people to do amazing things in this world and the privilege it is to serve him.

Evan Kunze recorded a beautiful and honest song about confirmation ending with the lyrics: "but if you say that faith without works is dead then I’m dying, but you say that resurrection comes and I believe"

Kevin Schlereth wrote a song about Anointing of the Sick and really got to the heart of the sacrament with the line: "May this oil be a conductor for your grace. May these hands fulfill the reason they were made"

Wind Words, with maybe my favorite track, sings a song about Reconciliation. Maybe the hardest one to sing about and yet the one we need the most in our world and country. Michael rightly points to Jesus as the heart of true reconciliation: "Behold, faith made sight. Brought from death to life in the arms of Christ"

Healing Pool, a band created just for this release under the leadership of Dave Mantel, wrote a praise and worship song about Baptism. I want to worship to this song every week. Dave beautifully crafts lyrics around the physical and spiritual aspects (the physical and metaphorical) of baptism. I find myself praying the line: "Lord, break down the religion I've constructed in my mind."

When I first saw that Ian Morley was going to be on this album I was surprised. Ian is amazing, but I would never have thought to include him. But how dumb I am! Ian wrote an amazing, theologically-strong love song about marriage. The lyrics are great, the music rules, the melody is catchy. I love this song. I can't think of many better things than listening to a good love song that makes me remember some of the reasons why I love my wife and Jesus at the same time! Summed up with these lyrics: I give you my heart, my future, I lay myself down. To lift up your head, to carry and be carried still."

The last track on the album is a beautifully simple and sweet acoustic track about communion written by the hella talented Laura McElroy. It is the perfect end to this album, causing us to slow down and reflect. Reflecting on this song, and album, I think that the last line beautifully sums up the friendship of this album, the purpose of sacraments, and life within the Church: "This communion bringing us in, closer to union with him. The shadow and mirror speak loudly of His great heartbeat. We celebrate as family."


Enjoy these albums and explore all the other music that these artists have released. (This could keep you busy for weeks!)

March Artist Playlist: Jay Costlow (A Look to the Bright Side)

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Jay Costlow! Jay is the Chroma social media manager (see if you can tell by her picks and hype), founder and sometimes-namesake of Flood City Fest, and vocalist for Kevin Schlereth! We love her.

We update the playlist every month, so make sure to follow to stay up on the latest version! Here we go:

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Loving Kindness- Sun Baron

This warm song reminds me that there is a gentle comfort to be had in the small things.
The ending chorus of the song offers acknowledgement of sorrow and hope to keep your chin up.

This whole album is wonderful so take a listen through!

Justin Rose has a few other projects which are all great. Families being one of them!  

Lessons Learned- Sam Arias

“I’ve learned through these storms”

There is an immense feeling of joy when we are given love and patience through our mistakes. And then, of course, we can gain wisdom rather than condemn ourselves because of the grace being offered.

Let Your Love Be Strong- Switchfoot

I listened to this as a teenager in times when everything felt unbearably weighty. I would sing it as loud as I could in my basement hoping to remind myself that I’m going to make it through whatever chaos I may come in contact with. And I still find myself singing this to capture a sense of strength.

deathbed- My Epic

My Epic has been a favorite band of mine for years now. I highly recommend listening to everything they’ve created.

This song has lead me to rejoicing over the mental hurdles I’ve battled in life.

“The darkness has no substance” For me, it’s inspiring hope and belief that smiling, laughing and light is real, no matter how gloomy things seem.  

The River- Manchester Orchestra

First of all, this whole album is incredible.
This song presses into the need for grace, acknowledgement of our arrogance and asking to be made clean over and over. It’s easy to drift off into places that hurt our hearts, yet I’ve never drifted far enough that I couldn’t be brought back to solid ground.

Gather- Khamsin

“‘Gather’ details an outsider’s perspective on your shortcomings. Instead of meeting failure with understanding or grace, a lot of times we see incorrect behavior as a sign of self-righteousness or ignorance. Then, headway cannot be made when one side claims absolution to be correct and the self-righteousness is then internalized. As a result, a friendship or relationship falters due to that lack of communication and patience.” Jacob Curry of Khamsin

A good reminder to pay closer attention to how we interact with people in our lives. Hopefully by seeing where we fall short, we can strive for reconciliation.

As The Light Bends and Shifts- Analecta

The words to this tho. Yeesh. It takes you through a whimsical experience with words said soothingly alongside beautiful instrumental work.

A favorite line for me: “Dance with the abandon of childhood and freedom.”

Rejoice- Qajaq

One of my favorites off of their latest.
Rejoice displays the contrast and sympathy between our hardships and majesty of the Creator.

We can experience being understood in trials while also only scraping the surface of relating to the loss and sacrifice only God has known.  

Qajaq released their album A Canopy Above Our Endless Sky in 2018 and plans to unleash more to the music world this year so keep an ear out!

Somewhere in Kentucky- Park

An encouraging jam which extends a hand of grace and truth that it’s not too late to change your mind. It has reminded me in difficult situations that I’m not stuck. There’s time to change and room to grow.

Holding Onto You- WInd Words

I’ve had the privilege of touring with Mikey and getting to see how much his art reflects the care he spreads to the people he meets. Experiencing the same feeling whether listening to him play to a room full of people or talking to him one on one, I’ve felt loved.

This song sheds compassion in the midst of apathy and defeat.
You don’t have to hold it together, you are being held.

Empty House- Idle Threat

A post hardcore band that I became familiar with when attending a festival which they put together called Threat Fest (you should go next time!).

The boys in this band are kind and caring about their community and the connections they make through music.
This single, Empty House, has prompted me to have peace with the tension and longing for a Home that can’t be be shaken or destroyed. As they have quoted C.S. Lewis before, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Holy- Kevin Schlereth

I am a bit biased since this is the band I’ve devoted my time to the past few years so I do think this album is a real banger.

Besides Tongues, Holy has been my favorite to sing.
When I pay full attention to the lyrics written for this, it pushes me to get outside of my head and reflect upon the strength and hand God has over my life rather than my shortcomings.

Keepers- The Anchor Collective

Do yourself a favor (after listening to this playlist), go listen to everything by this band.

Keepers starts out with strong female vocals followed by the rest of the band singing “We’re each other’s keepers’.

A great ode to friendship and looking out for one another.

Song of the Sun- Timbre

My band mate, Kevin Schlereth and Fallon Braddy from Everyday introduced me to Timbre’s music towards the beginning of my delving into the music community.

She is a harpist who manages to compose music that even punk and hardcore kids find themselves melting to.

I got to see Timbre and her band perform this song at the Wilson Abbey and couldn’t help but be filled with joy. It helped me see some of the fears I had for the future and replaced them with excitement.

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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 hype Jay when you see her with Kevin on tour later this year, as well as checking out her DIY festival Jay Fest- I mean Flood City Fest! Lots of us from Chroma will be there to play and for the hangs, and a ton of other artist from this playlist will be there as well. So don’t miss out!