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!

Light-Hearted Note From a Repentant Tape Enthusiast

A few months ago I had so many bad things to say about cassette tapes. My eyes hurt from rolling them back into my skull every time I saw a new release announced on limited edition cassette.  I saw no redeeming factors to counter-balance it’s poor sound quality and structural fragility which were appropriately phased out years ago. The lowly cassette found no credit or grace within me.

I’m here to come clean. I’m here to admit that I bought a lot of 5 cassette players off craigslist last weekend.   I pulled out a stack of cassettes that my friends have released (and I bought out of support), and I’m now eating the proverbial crow.  Let’s take a few steps back and let me try to explain myself.

As a purveyor of fine slow music I’ve been engrossed in the techniques of our forefathers and mothers. Research into using reel-to-reel tape players to create long and slow echos and loops led me to the youtube channel of an artist Hainbach.  I jumped down the rabbit hole of his channel into a wonderland of ambient mixtapes, technique videos, and gear reviews. I’ve been enchanted in the way that Hainbach can record a simple piano line onto tape, loop it, and play it back and ½ or ¼ speed and it seems to have magical life.  Hainbach also spends time exploring other more financially accessible methods of music experimentation, I’m particularly fond of his exploration of mini-disc dubbing/glitching. There it was, at the bottom of the rabbit’s den amongst all of the ambient treasures, live looping using a 4-track cassette recorder.

The connections started clicking in my head.  A cassette is just a tiny set of tape reels. A cassette deck is just a tiny reel-to-reel machine.  The science is the same, the technological line of progression makes so much sense. You can modulate speed, you can create loops, you can lean on the warmth and natural compression of tape media, dubbing, glitching, oh my!  The creative possibilities have been there right in front of me the whole time without having to seek out expensive and finicky reel-to-reel machines.

The charm of the cassette has set in.  I dusted off the small stack of cassettes that I own and have started to really enjoy the special sound that a tape album has to offer.  It took an artistic approach as a creative tool to draw me into seeing it as a viable release media.

Finding old high-quality cassette gear on the second-hand market can be so satisfying.  I’ve always loved the ritual of physical media; going to the shelf, picking up the album you want to hear, feeling the packaging, looking at the cover, powering up the playback system, and filling a room with sound.  Tapes are an incredibly economical way to do that, which is part of the reason bands have returned to cassettes.

There’s some great Chroma releases on cassette that you should check out. Buy the latest Naal album, and Every Day as well. Give yourself the pleasure of receiving a package in the mail, take part in the ritual of playing music on a physical medium. Go to the shelf, pick up the album you want to hear, feel the packaging, look at the cover art, hit the button and send electrons flying through the playback system, and fill a room with sound for you and your friends.


New Album Release: The Sacraments Project!

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“There are two occasions when the sacred beauty of Creation becomes dazzlingly apparent, and they occur together. One is when we feel our mortal insufficiency to the world, and the other is when we feel the world's mortal insufficiency to us.”

-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead


I don’t really like church music. I don’t really think that’s a hot take, except that I was in a band for several years, traveling around the country playing church music at youth and young adult conferences. And before that I was a church music leader at several churches, plus some pseudo-churches in college. I went to church and played music with people who dominate that industry now. And when it was all said and done… there was a lingering, unpleasant taste in my mouth. If I were to create my ideal church, music wouldn’t be a part of the service. So that’s my starting point.

All of that being said, I happened to one day write a “church song” and did not for the life of me know what to do with it. It wasn’t something that would fit in to any of my own projects by any stretch, and when I presented it to my denomination at the time, they not only rejected it, but forbid my friends from playing it in their church music bands. So I was stuck. I had this thing that I had made that seemed to have no way of getting out in to the world in any meaningful way. But, for some reason, I didn’t want to just let it go. So, after some conversations with my friends, I decided to try an experiment and invite some friends from all different musical backgrounds and spiritual experiences to write on the sacraments (since my original song was about baptism, the theme seemed apropos). I didn’t really know what I would end up with in the end, or if the project would even ever get off the ground. But several months later, it’s here. And it’s better than I could have ever imagined.

I’m so extremely lucky to know so many amazing musicians who are each going through their own journey to find spiritual meaning in life, and although that’s not something I talk about much in my other personal projects, being able to share something I believe is truly authentic. One of the things that turns me off from regular church music is the constant feeling of hiding true emotion and experience. In church- the very place we should be willing to bare our weaknesses, doubt, and shortcomings- we instead sing songs that play in to a fake version of ourselves. Maybe that’s just a personal hangup of mine. But I’ve found that within these songs is represented a large portion of the true spiritual experience: faith and doubt and hope and longing and fear and the prophetic. Out of many traditions and experiences, many hopes and fears, this one experiment is something we offer to ourselves as much as to you.

I don’t mean to hype this too much. But I think you might really like it. And I hope this is the first of many projects where we here at Chroma can partner with our friends and make something bigger than ourselves.

-Dave

You can STREAM or DOWNLOAD the album right now. Thanks for your support! We couldn’t do this kind of stuff without you.

THE SACRAMENTS PROJECT IS:

Evan Kunze (Foxholloweverett)
Healing Pool
Ian Morley
Kevin Schlereth
Laura McElroy (Comrades)
Sun Baron
Wind Words
with beautiful original cover art by Charity Taylor 

Building Better Bridges

Today I want to try something different for the blog, format-wise. Topically speaking, I think it’s great for our ongoing discussions on the creative process. The weird thing is that told in a sort of “story-essay”, which surfaced as the result of a stream-of-consciousness writing session that grew too long, too verbose, and too close to my deadline before I could try to rework it. It is also pretty long compared to our other posts. Like I said, no time to chop it down and no self-control when it came to how I started writing. Thanks for trying something somewhat dense and new. I hope it’s worth your time all the same!

I keep trying to use this phrase, “brain bridges”, though no one knows what it means. It’s something I suddenly started saying recently, though perhaps a professor slipped it into my vocabulary at some point. I often tell my artistic peers how, through my foray into becoming an English major, I’ve been introduced to the art of specificity in communication, but when I start dropping “brain bridges” into the conversation they are confused every single time.

In creative writing, particularly in fiction, fledgling writers are often guilty of creating descriptions or utilizing imagery that make an impassioned statement and is interpreted easily to them when they read it back, but when given over to the intended audience the imagery is confusing or falls flat. The issue at hand here is typically due to the portion of writing either being too vague in its use of language or tied too heavily to a speaker or perspective (which henceforth will be referred to as an “identity”) that has not been well established.

This is my biggest problem as a writer. It’s the same problem with throwing “brain bridges” into a conversation and expecting people to understand my meaning. Sure, you might get what I would mean if you picked it up from the context of a conversation, but that’s provided I have constructed a lingual path for you to gather that context up from. Anything less cohesive leaves you guessing, which is likely where you are still at with the phrase. I promise this is intentional!

I grew up madly in love with lyric booklets and songmeanings.com (now in obsolescence thanks to Genius), and because of this I started my creative writing journey aiming to convey my music and poetry in the honest, hard-hitting, heartfelt ways inspired by my favorite lyricists (anecdote: I was particularly obsessed with the lyrics written by Tim McIlrath from Rise Against, who, coincidentally, was an English major). I wrote lyrics, “abstract” poetry, and creative journal-essays all the way through high school, gaining a greater intuitive sense of my creative process and voice over the years. Because I became so comfortable and prolific in my ability to write in my own style, I always figured I was really good at writing and I just didn’t have the opportunity to share my work with the right people who’d care enough to see my abilities.

Now that I am regularly sharing my creative work in an academic, craft-oriented environment with studied experts and incredible minds all their own, I’ve come to realize just how limited my communication really is. I began to regularly receive “red ink” feedback all over the imagery I was so proud of. I was purely shocked to find there was something wrong with the voice I had spent years crafting in deliberation, without receiving almost any negative response (though I never cared to scrutinize the positive stuff either; there is definitely something to be said about knowing your audience).

“Brain bridges” is a phrase I use to describe a phenomenon that occurs when you see, hear, read, taste, or smell something and make a connection or association with it that is entirely unique to your understanding of that perception. This manifests in the form of triggering of a memory or emotion, or constructing a personal codex for an idea (like an allegory or symbol, but of your own personal association beyond that of what is explicit in the “text” of the stimulus, be it art, a quote, the 2AM drive home from a friend’s house). An example: a person at a bar starts crying out of nowhere hearing the song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan because it reminds them of those genuinely sad pet abuse commercials; the person doesn’t know the lyrics, but once the melody is recognized and their focus recalls the helpless empathy they feel for neglected animals, the tears flow. The keyword here is “projection”; the person is projecting their experience onto the source of their emotional stimulus. This is different from a person crying at a bar while listening to the same song, only this time they cry because they heard the lyrics clearly and were moved by the song’s textual theme of longing for rescue out of a despairing situation. They are having an emotional response to something as the result of a text that is understood at face value, which is an important aspect of “close reading,” or textual analysis.

I believe it is natural and inevitable to form brain bridges. We live in a world rife with nuance, much of which we carry within ourselves; we often build attachments and relationships with those. Brain bridges give us snapshots of the world that inform what we find important. As a purely baseless speculation, I’d go as far as to say they inform us of our own identity, to some extent.

Brain bridges, however, become problematic when we are attempting to communicate with one another and we use them as a means of establishing a point of tangible or universal truth. The issue is that brain bridges are inherently subjective interpretations of something, almost totally removed from their purpose or origin of their source. We’ve talked about how review scores can be controversial due to how subjective material is often conveyed in an objective manner. Even simpler, some people never use emojis unless they’re flirting because that is how they were first introduced to emojis and therefore created a singular association they project onto the entirety of how they communicate (via text message or whatever). This is, more or less, why interpretation or communication from the basis of projection can be confusing or problematic.

As artists, we never shut up. It is of equal importance that we both say what we mean and say it well. In doing this, we give people space to have a personal connection with what is being said, which coexists with a personal relationship that is formed with that same information.

As patrons, in addition to also never shutting up, we never cease to listen. Not only do we share the same responsibility as artists in terms of how we talk about the things we love, but we also greatly benefit from refining our close reading skills to grow our appreciation for the numerous and powerful messages conveyed through art.

The power of what we say and how we interpret what is being said is only increased when our understanding grows alongside our capacity for personal connection, not only for ourselves but for those around us.

"Real revolution starts with learning. If you're not angry, then you're not paying attention." -Tim McIlrath.

-Fallon

Redefining the Dream

All my life, I wanted to be a rockstar.

And this was far before I started playing music, or even before I started listening to music seriously. Something about making music appealed to me, and I wanted to be famous for it.

So when I graduated from college, I took the natural next step: I moved to Chicago to work on my music career.

My days were spent playing in subway stations, emailing label representatives, calling venues, and recording my debut album in my apartment.

But after a few months, I hated it.

I started to resent the very thing I had always wanted. I had to force myself to open up GarageBand each day, or else I’d just waste all day scrolling through ICanHazCheeseburger (oh, 2009).

Meanwhile, some artistic friends (including Patrick, hi Patrick!) back in my hometown of South Bend, IN started talking. They saw the potential for a thriving arts and music scene—if people just dug deep and planted the roots for it.

With all the growing disillusionment and disappointment in the industry, the prospect of helping build a musical community was immediately enticing. I packed my things and headed back.

That was nine years ago, and while it’s taken a few years for that vision to be realized, today, South Bend has a vibrant creative community. While there were two or three places for even acoustic music nine years ago, today there are nearly a dozen venues that host full band performances on the regular, with more popping up all the time.

And in the midst of this musical community, I’ve found satisfaction. I may never have fans clamoring over each other to buy my beanie, but I’m following my muses as far as they will take me. My main band even released a vinyl record a couple years ago.

I’m also hosting shows in my home, MCing an Open Mic at a local café, and helping to facilitate local and regional music festivals.

While this might not look a whole lot like what I meant when I said I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up. But if I’m totally honest, I think I’d much rather be where I am, investing in the local scene and supporting (and being supported by) my fellow artists.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s living the dream.

–nathaniel.

New Playlist Announcement: CHROMA AND FRIENDS PLAYLIST!

Hey everyone! Today we’re excited to announce something we’ve been talking about with each other quite a bit: a brand new, curated PLAYLIST highlighting both Chroma artists as well as the people we play alongside in our everyday lives with whom we want to share some of the love!

So, what is this new playlist? Easy! It will serve two purposes:
1) A place to highlight our new releases, and introduce you to artists on our roster with whom you may not be familiar.

2) We also want to shine a light on the people we spend time with at shows, festivals, and in our every day life who make great music and who might also not be on your radar! In all, this should be a place for you to come, browse, and find new things you like. See? Easy.

We also want to share one more thing to accompany this playlist, and that is a way for you to submit your songs to be featured on the playlist! There are so many people in our scene, and it is POSSIBLE that we could miss some amazing things! So now you can just send them to us directly via THIS PAGE on our website! It seriously could not be easier.

So tune in, follow the PLAYLIST, tell your friends, submit your tunes, and keep it locked to hear some really great, new (or new to you) tracks we think you will love!

Being Intentional About Community

In a previous post I alluded to a conversation happening between lots of different folks including those of us in Chroma Collective.  We’ve been talking about the fact that within this DIY music world there is value for bands beyond payment and value for show-goers beyond entertainment.  One of the values that is the topic of abundant conversation boils down to this somewhat vague term ‘community’. I set out to explore what it means to be intentional in fulfilling community at shows and had a nice Saturday afternoon chat with Kevin who is my good friend that has spent uncountable time touring the national DIY scene with his wife and kids, Tina who has been hosting shows in her home in Virginia, and Ethan who is known for going to tons of shows around that region and has hosted some house shows of his own.  I’ll never be able to capture all the thoughtful conversation we had, but here are some thoughts that give a glimpse and hopefully inspire similar conversations to be had in other spaces.

Our conversation revolved around missed communications between show hosts and traveling artists and the conversation that happens or does not happen about needs and expectations regarding the payout, the size of the crowd, and maybe basic topics like the purpose of the show.  An aspect of this community is a trust that people’s needs will be understood and taken care of to a feasible extent. It seems that there is often a communication breakdown when it comes to those needs and expectations.

Artists are relying on hosts to be engaged in many ways and it truly takes a special type of person to be able to fill that role.  An artist with no particular history or draw in a certain area is relying on the host to be plugged in with the music community to the extent that they can put a lineup together that is cohesive and creates a good atmosphere for the show. In a healthy community, the host has become a trusted curator of bands and can bring attendees in based on a history of enjoyable shows.  This often comes from hosts and curators having invested much time and effort to develop meaningful relationships with local people interested in this sort of show.

The ability to build relationships with artists also becomes very important.  An existing relationship with artists makes the booking/promoting/hosting process much easier for a host, but that comes with hard work and potentially awkward conversations. Communicating honest capability of the space, attendance, and pay will pave the way for a trust-based relationship and gives something concrete that expectations can be set on in the future.

Through relationships between hosts and bands, information and experience flows smoothly and starts to connect geographically isolated areas into a cohesive regional scene.  As bands touch many of these community spaces along the way, their engagement and commitment is just as important as that of the host. It’s hard for a band to hide their stance on how important community is to them.  A band that shows up as early as they are asked to, a band that engages with local artists, a band that takes initiative to create conversations with those that have come to watch them has spoken loudly about the value they place in the music scene community.  

Both bands and hosts have created or been given a platform and have a certain responsibility, in the name of community, to the great majority of bodies in the room; the generous, patient, open-minded folks that show up to our haphazardly curated spaces to listen to heartfelt songs written by strangers.  We talk a big game on inclusive community but the follow through is tenuous at times. Even if we’ve done a great job at curating the show, providing access to great artists in a comfortable space, and people have bought in enough to show up, we still need to follow through and make intentional efforts to put our money where our mouth is with community.  Specifically new folks checking out these shows for the first time are sadly ignored and feel like it’s because they're not part of the cool kids club. Many of us feel awkward, shy, and bad at meeting new people. But it takes that extra effort to break out of our comfort zone to invite someone else in to become part of this thing. As a show host, I often feel too busy, drained, pressured, etc, to be the person that makes conversation with the obviously new person in the room. My actions in this situation expose my value system when it comes to community the same way it does for bands.  Intentionality is essential, because community doesn’t always come naturally.

Kevin shared with us that his primary goal of touring is to facilitate people becoming a part of each others' lives. Maybe the show is the right platform or tool to use to remind people that it's great to hang out and spend time with each other.  To many artists in the DIY scene, money and notoriety aren’t the primary goal. We’re talking about the intangible reason that a show that doesn’t ‘pay well’ but is attended by folks that listen carefully and engage with the artists is easily chosen over one that ‘pays well’ but the music is simply background.

There’s a sacred balance between attendance numbers, payout, and community engagement that we’ve been trying to find, without actually talking about it out loud.  I love to see seasoned artists taking the time to explain to new hosts what a ‘good night’ looks like and helping to set the expectation. I also love to see experienced show hosts or attendees help younger bands see and feel the value of community that rises above popularity.  This conversation is happening in living rooms, basements, coffeeshops, and record shops across our world. The current generations are reinventing an old tradition and dreaming up new visions of collaboration, organization, network, and community.

February Artist Playlist: Justin Rose serves up some Tender Punk!

Every month we update a Spotify playlist that is curated by one of our members here at Chroma. This month is curated by Justin Rose of Families, and Sun Baron, among others. Make sure to follow the play list to stay up on the latest version! Let’s get in to it:


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I had a lot of different ideas for a February playlist:  love songs, break up songs, love songs about something that’s not a human being, or winter songs.  I also thought about just making a top ten Daughters songs playlist (spoiler:  there would be no songs from Hell Songs on there).  But, alas, I could not pull myself away from the poppy, female led, indie punk affectionately known as “tender punk” which has been most of what I have been listening to for the last couple months.  If you haven’t heard of tender punk, that’s ok because it’s not really a thing.  But the name encapsulates the playlist I’ve put together for February; which is simply female led punk-adjacent tunes.

Illuminati Hotties – Shape of my Hands [Explicit]

                Poppy, punky, and catchy.  Their album “Kiss Yr Frenemies” is worth your time.

 

Girl in Red – girls

                A coming of age story about a lesbian teenager.  So honest and lo-fi.

 

Ohmme – icon

                This duo should be better known.  Phenomenal harmonies and hella catchy.  This is where the term “punk-adjacent” comes in.  Punk is a mindset, not a style of music.  Fight me.

 

Snail Mail – Heat Wave

                “Lush” is one of my favorite albums of 2018.  We need more honest, angsty, talented ladies in the scene.  Snail Mail came full-force and killed it with this super catchy album.

 

Soccer Mommy – Your Dog [Explicit]

                Don’t watch the music video.  But this song rules. 

 

Now, Now – SGL

                I absolutely LOVED the 2012 Now, Now album “Threads”.  After a six year wait we finally got “Saved”.  It’s quite different, but when the harmonies kick in it makes me remember slow, summer nights.

Hop Along – The Fox in Motion

                “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” is a phenomenal album which should have been on more top ten lists.  Although it lacks some of the punchiness in the vocals, the songs are masterful and the vocals are incredible (no surprise).  This song reminds me of older albums.

 

Mitski – two slow dancers

                The best Mitski song.  Don’t challenge me.

 

Palm – shadow expert

                We have reached the “math rock” section of our playlist.  I am a Chicagoan and so I have to show love to math rock.  Once again, punk is a mindset and this band rules.  (This band also is a bit of a stretch because a majority of the album is sung by a guy – but you should all just go listen to all of their albums).

 

Tricot – on the boom

                I know, Tricot two months in a row?  YES!  Chicago is known for math-emo hybrid stuff and so I can’t help but love the math-JPop hybrid of Tricot. 

 

Benny the Jet Rodriguez - Run

                We have all seen this band a hundred times in a basement somewhere in a small town.  Maybe punk isn’t a mindset, but is a type of music?  Nah.  It’s nice that people are still doing lo-fi stuff in this digital age.

 

Phoebe Bridgers – The Gold

                Totally not punk-adjacent at all, but that’s why it’s at the end.  I did not love the Phoebe Bridgers album or the Boy Genius album as much as most, but I absolutely cannot get enough of this Manchester Orchestra cover.  This song has been listened to a lot in the Rose household this winter. 

New Release: Families/Kevin Schlereth Split

A narrative of a friendship 9 years in the making, born from a mutual love for music and people, has manifested itself with this 4-song split EP. Both dearly valued groups on the Chroma artist roster, Families leads off the split with two heartfelt, spaciously-arranged folk songs inspired by tales from the Bible. Tracks three and four have Kevin Schlereth implementing his signature post-folk songwiting to convey spiritual yearnings and interpersonal frustrations. The Kevin side of the split also features the collaborative efforts of Evan Kunze (Everett, Foxhollow, the upcoming Sacraments Project) providing the recording engineer work for both songs, as well as guest vocals for “Try Hard”.

You can listen to the Families/Kevin Schlereth Split right now on Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music, and Google Play.

New Release: /in·habit/ Soundtrack by sailbear

Today is a really exciting day for me as a blogger and an artist. I have just released my latest soundtrack for the world to hear, it’s titled /in·habit/.  

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/in·habit/ is a modern dance concert series that was performed in South Bend, IN in December of 2018 that featured New Industry Dance Company in collaboration with sailbear (audio) and Givens (light/sculpture).  The series traveled through different South Bend spaces in 4 nights of performances, each space offering a different experience for the artists and audience. /in·habit/ explores the tangible and intangible pieces that arise from the experience of being a body in time and space. Developed from the initial question "what do we have", /in·habit/ has become an interwoven series of vignettes questioning the innate aspects of humanness. As we investigate physical and non-physical burdens and search for the things that make us human, we inhabit our bodies as a testimony to living

New Industry is an independent dance company based in South Bend, IN which exists un-tethered from the academic world; one embodiment of the DIY portion of this art form in the midwest.  The members of New Industry hustle hard to make the art happen in the midst of chaotic normal life; long rehearsals after work, on the weekends, and often not in ‘proper’ dance spaces. They prefer to utilize warehouses and dormant factories.  Focus on human relationship, social issues, and pulling back the curtain on a pristine art form.

The live-recorded soundtrack is available on the sailbear bandcamp page.  Feel free to listen in whatever way you’d like to, there’s no wrong way to approach this collection of recordings.  Perhaps you’d like to listen to one track at a time or digest the whole piece in one sitting. You can listen while playing your favorite relaxing video game, or scrolling visual art galleries, or even while intentionally drifting in and out of sleep.  You’ll find the tracks are spacey, simple, repetitive, and emotional.

sailbear has several collaborative projects in process and coming soon.  In February Fischer Dance will be performing a pair of pieces known as Water/Skin 1 and 2 at the World Dance Alliance assembly in El Paso, TX.  I’m currently producing studio tracks for that performance. I am also exploring the wild world of ‘found sound’ and creating instruments from junk as part of the research for a new show coming up this spring with New Industry.



Friends of Chroma: OK O'Clock Releases a New Album

Today we want to do a little something new for the blog and bring attention to some new music not featured on the Chroma roster. Our friends in OK O'Clock released a new album just yesterday, titled Parental Guidance.

Parental Guidance is an electric display of punk-injected emo-rock, ruminating over the existential dilemmas at the intersection of growing up, moving on, letting go, and seeking hope. The full-length features a raw-yet-refined production filled with loud guitars and crooning vocals full of endearment by OK O’Clock’s frontman and main songwriter Lance Rutledge (it’s worth mentioning he engineered the whole thing in his basement, too). We appreciate Lance for his passion for creative expression that is meant to be shared with others; his encouraging presence in the Kansas City DIY scene backs that up.

You can listen to Parental Guidance here, and if you’re going to listen to any one song to get you hooked, my recommendation is particularly emotive and hook-laden “Lights”.

FFO: Pedro the Lion, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse