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.


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:


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/.  

_in habit_ (1).png

/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

Sleep - Oh I Never Get Enough

For anyone that has run a venue and hosted DIY shows, you know how exhausting the work can be.  For anyone who has traveled and played DIY shows on the road, you know how exhausting the work can be.  What do we all need more of? Sleep!

Smelly traveling musicians need a place to crash while on tour, certainly most of the touring DIY musicians aren’t springing for hotels each night nor would dream of breaking the code or tradition of sleeping on floors, couches, and unknown beds along the way.  Sometimes musicians have friends along the route that are happy to house their far-flung friends but often the responsibility of housing falls on the person booking or hosting the show. Whether that expectation comes spoken or unspoken, it can be a burden to add “one more thing” to the task list of the person who is already most likely taking care of the lineup, the door, the soundboard, the food, etc.  I have found that even if I have floor space or extra beds, at the end of the night I just don’t have the emotional energy that goes into inviting strangers into my home. I’m sure others have felt similarly.

One thing that has been a focus for my wife and I as we enter our 5th year hosting DIY shows in the current space is that sharing the task list with others is imperative to keeping the effort going on a long-term basis.  It may not be obvious that there are other folks around you willing to buy into the community to the extent of letting bands stay in their homes. But I find people to be much more hospitable than I expect and I only find that out by asking the question.  Building a list of folks that are willing to host musicians and leaning on those folks to help out not only helps spread the workload, but also gives those folks a sense of duty or involvement with the community that they might not have otherwise. Keeping track of important details like whether or not certain people are willing to host last-minute, or if they have pets that touring folks might be allergic too will help hone in on potential hosts.  Ask around, keep a list, rotate through your list and give people the opportunity to contribute.

I like to extend this concept to other aspects of hosting shows.  Did you know there are people that would be happy to come help you vacuum the venue?  What about folks interested in helping by creating a flier a couple times a year? Traveling folks are often seeking food and there are empty-nester moms and dads in your community that would love to cook for people.  A local handyman recently came early to a show and hung new stage lights for me. These are all things that I COULD do and I’m likely to just take care of them because I have the ability, but I spread myself thin in doing so and deny others the ability to gain ownership in the bigger ‘thing’.

Now that I’ve spent all this time suggesting that we take burden off of the folks who put together shows, let’s zoom back into the question of ‘Where is the band staying?’ and consider this from the artist’s standpoint.  Unless the artist is fortunate enough to have personal friends to stay with in a given area, they are really poorly equipped to find their own place to stay. The best tool they have is a microphone to blast a plea for help to whoever will listen.  Perhaps some show hosts don’t feel quite as responsible for the band housing as I do, but we are often the best-equipped people to make that connection for them. As we each play our role on the DIY community, we put a lot of trust into each other and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and rely on others to take care of us.  Sometimes this isn’t natural and takes a lot of effort to accomplish. There’s a beautiful conversation happening in the background here about how to incubate community so this sort of cooperation is natural and takes less effort. Stay tuned for some exploration on that in future blogs!

Your Top Albums of 2018: The Reflection Challenge

We live in an era where, thanks to platforms like Spotify and, we can track stats on most of the music we listen to throughout an entire year. It might seem like an entertaining piece of personal trivia to receive this kind of insight, or perhaps it is useful as a bridge back to the memories made with the music you sought out; I’d like to push the envelope a bit further into something you can take action on. What if you took those stats and turned them into direct appreciation for the artists that impacted your year?

Let me give you the backdrop for this thought. Streaming services have made music extremely accessible for artists to share and listeners to enjoy, and in doing so, some artists have been able to recover revenue lost to the massive Internet piracy trend that was born out of the 2000s. With listeners only needing to pay $5-10 a month for all the music they can listen to, it seems like we could ask for nothing more. This has, however, come at the cost of the artist, as streaming services distribute payouts based on the number of songs streamed. This payout is dismally low, with the most popular streaming services paying less than a cent per song played. This means only the artists who can amass and sustain massive popularity can turn a profit, while less popular artists and artists with long songs essentially give their music away for the not only for benefit of listeners, but to the executives and upper threshold of artists. In 2017, the average artist on Spotify generated $6.09 per album. Total. Here’s the research.

The biggest streaming services pay less than $0.01 per track play.

The biggest streaming services pay less than $0.01 per track play.

Let me give a personal account of how disparaging this system can be. At the beginning of 2018, I took account of all the listening stats recorded on my account since 2011, which came out to 29,526 songs played across 2,160 artists and 2,253 albums. According to the 2017 payout data across all music streaming platforms, if I had exclusively streamed all that music I would have contributed $117-806 to those artists (not counting YouTube’s payout rate, which is $21.84, just so you know). And that’s split among each artist based on the individual frequency of my listening to them. Compare that to how much those albums might have cost if I bought them at $5-12 a piece, which comes out to about $11,265-27,036. Best case scenario, if I streamed all that music, artists didn’t even make 10% of that money, and when you consider that Spotify Premium only costs ~$10 monthly, if I had held that membership over the course of 84 months (7 years) that’s a lifetime contribution of $840, of which only $117 is distributed unevenly across 2,160 artists. Yes, this system is deeply problematic.

So listening to artists this way is, in general, hurting them financially. We’ve gotten a bit carried away with convenience and frugality, losing sight of the meaningful exchange and intentionality of a direct purchase. Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point in which artists must either resolve to surrender this financial avenue and come up with other ways to make a return on their albums, or forsake the idea altogether. It is true that the cost of recording and widespread distribution, as well as other barriers-to-entry for these things, has lessened significantly. However, as the market for music becomes more deeply saturated with time, there’s less time and money to go around.

I’m not going to suggest or ask that people totally abandon music streaming. It’s better to listen to music for cheap/free than to not listen at all because things are crummy! I don’t think the average person who utilizes these services should feel guilty that the system is so messed up. There are so many economic and cultural reasons that gave a rise to this state of the music industry, and it wasn’t all sunshine and roses back when corporate record companies were in the top seat of influence either.

I want to bring us back to how cool it is that we have this incredible accessibility to music. We have the tools to be more connected to what we listen to now more than ever. In past posts we’ve talked a lot about how to be intentional listeners and supporters of artists, and in light of the New Year I want to put forth an idea inspired by something our pal Dave Mantel suggested on social media a couple years back. Take those artists in your top ten/five/three that you listened to in 2018 and ask yourself, “How did I support them?” Did you purchase any of those mind blowing new releases? Did you go to a show? Gush your feelings out in an embarrassing tweet you had half a mind to delete until they replied?

The specific challenge is this (but only if you can reasonably afford it and only if your conviction is not one of guilt, but a desire to engage. There are cheaper/free alternatives to this you can read about here, here, or here!): budget out your ability to purchase those top albums of 2018 you loved but never got around to buying. No, this won’t necessarily dismantle the capitalist machine or push your favorite albums onto the front page of Bandcamp. Not yet, anyhow. Artists and listeners exist for one another. We don’t owe or deserve a certain outcome from this relationship, but it flourishes when we make efforts to be an active part of it.

Chroma Artist Picks: January (by Fallon Braddy)

This month’s playlist is brought to you by Fallon, resident Chroma blogger and creativity nerd. You can start listening to the Spotify playlist right now, right HERE! Happy 2019!


I’m sure someone with a particular intersection of knowledge between human psychology, culture, and music theory could explain why and how music is compelling. I have always been captivated by the mystical quality of how something as simple as a chord progression can make my heart race or my eyes well up. This playlist is aims to serve as a celebration of those moments in music that could change the mood of a room with a melody, dynamic, or texture. As a special challenge, I chose artists that either don’t sing or don’t use English in their lyrics. This is to convey the old idea of “absolute music”, or music to be experienced/interpreted by itself, without the context of a program, text, or explained meaning. I realize it might be contradictory to give my reasoning for each song on the list, but I’m merely describing my own experience and interpretation. If you find the idea of absolute music new or interesting, I encourage your first listen to be without reading along to my commentary!

Nothing Changes by Saxon Shore

Non-incidental instrumental music is what some might consider the purest form of absolute music (especially if its title lacks any sort of non-technical meaning). This song is a powerful early example of how melody and dynamics can evolve, leading the listener through the song in a deliberate way. All but the outro serves as a crescendo that is equal parts euphoric and melancholy. It’s also unique in that the actual volume of the song rises with the dynamics. I remember the first time I heard it I thought something was wrong with my headphones. Turns out I was just in for a surprise.

中途 (Midway) by Elephant Gym

I don’t mean to disregard the value of lyrics in this playlist, but rather shift the focus onto the power of musical elements alone. Even if you don’t speak Mandarin, this song commands a energetic lightness and swaying sensibility within seconds. Instant pick-me-up.

Untitled #1 - Vaka by Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós is well-known for their use of the “invented language” Hopelandic, which is deliberately used to convey sounds meant to be interpreted by the listener (the physical album booklet even gives blank pages where you are encouraged to write your interpretation within). It conveys to me the sense of a difficult truth delivered softly and with empathy. What about you?

City of Tears by Christopher Larkin

Hollow Knight is an independent game made largely by two lead developers and a composer. When they crafted the game’s world, including gameplay, design, art, and music, they did so without any particular story or message in mind. So despite this track coming from the soundtrack of a game which now has an adopted context, know that the foundation of its construction stems from a nameless inspiration. The result we hear now is one we can interchangeably experience.

Nautilus by Covet

Syncopated layers of pleasant melodies that sing their own tune, only to repeatedly unite under a single musical phrase. The ‘oooo’s, like a choir of ghosts that appear peacefully to elevate the extravagance through the contradiction of a simple melody. This song not only celebrates the glory of an elaborately constructed idea, but gives reverence to minimalism as well.

Goodnight, Boogaloo by Good Weather for an Airstrike

I cheated a bit here, introducing a song with a sample of people having a conversation in English. If you are able to gleam some sort of narrative influence from the nearly indiscernible dialogue behind the hypnotic, peaceful sounds, consider to what degree is that inspired by the words you make out and what might be harder to explain than it is to feel.

Heavy Rain by Boris

The power of contrast. Boris creates an rapid liftoff between a dark, whisper-level dirge and a crushing, expansive sonic lament. Meanwhile, the vocals hardly steer away from their somber debut, maintaining their sorrowful conjecture throughout. This song is oozing with bleakness that one cannot help but be enveloped by.

sekaiwotorikaeshiteokure by Haru Nemuri

Instant chills. Don’t think moodiness belongs to slow, atmospheric music alone! With the catchy, energetic nature of electronic pop music and the emotive, rapid-fire syllabary of Haru Nemuri’s vocal style, this song explodes with an intensity that whisks you away with it.

after school by tricot

Pausing from their math-rock sensibilities, tricot delivers a ballad that brings me to the edge of tears every time I hear. Without knowing the subject matter, the vocals create an easily accessible expression of troublesome difficulty that the listener can sympathize or empathize with effortlessly. Hearing the vulnerability and desperation at 2:24 I think to myself, “This is what music is about.”

Rain In C Minor by Disasterpeace

With a catalogue as stylistically diverse and dense as Disasterpeace I was hard-pressed to choose a single song. Rain In C Minor, however, is categorically fascinating in regards to our exploration of absolute music. It is the only song on this playlist that was built modularly, or in small pieces that were deliberately composed to be interchangeable at any point. When playing the game from which the pieces of the song was derived, The Floor is Jelly, you will hear something similar to Rain In C Minor, but the key, the motifs, and the fluttering, arrhythmic melodic percussion are all dispersed dynamically depending on how you play the game. As such, this is but one arrangement possible for such a moody and pleasant piece.

Fragile Forest by Timbre

Of all the artists on this list, Timbre is, by genre, perhaps the most well-acquainted with the traditional notion of absolute music. As the swirling, circular melodic ideas are introduced, develop, and vary, the tempo gradually ebbs and flows. Emotion seeps into each aspect of the song, from harmony to polyphony to rhythm to everything else. The kinetic nature of the piece is so captivating on so many levels I genuinely get a little woozy (in the best way possible) when I intently listen to this song.

Context by Balmorhea

Is this a song? Most of what you hear might technically be considered field recordings of some sort of building full of people and a chiming bell, but eventually an amalgam of different musical pieces and exercises being played and layered over one another is introduced, only to quickly vanish. It’s a bizarre piece full of noise and silence that could never be recreated, and the fact it challenges my understanding and relationship with music is why it has a spot on this playlist.

Process by Balmorhea

On the album Rivers Arms, this track is preceded by the one you just heard, Context. Despite lacking any explicit narrative or thematic context, here are two pieces that were made to flow from one into the other. A echo-y bass guitar littered with gorgeous drone and static. Whatever universe this piece was created in, I want to live there.

Serpent Mound by This Will Destroy You

The finale to this particular journey through absolute music, though it is but another step toward a deeper love for the mystery of why we make such meaningful connections and associations with sound devoid of a given meaning. I wanted to leave you with another piece that exemplifies contrast, this time from meditative to explosive. In both cases, the song is all-encompassing; it instills calm and comfort, then compels eyes to be wide open, with tears running and arms outstretched. Another key moment to breathe deep and think, “This is what music is about.”

Bonus Tracks

Waking Expectations by Rafael Anton Irisarri

A masterwork of moody, ethereal piano music interwoven with shimmering, yet gloomy soundscapes.
Guaranteed to evoke a pensive or bummer mood.

Food Is Still Hot by Karen O & the Kids

I’m pretty sure this is the first song I ever cried my eyes out to. I mean, just listen to it.


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 if you want to hear more examples of that emotional, instrumental goodness that kept coming up here, be sure to check out Fallon’s post-rock band A Quiet Place, as well as Chroma’s own Analecta, NAAL, and Sailbear.

Tabletop Gaming - An Adjacent World

In this season packed with holidays, many of us feel like our emotions and energy are depleted and we’re left seeking recovery.  In light of the heaviness of this season, I thought it might be nice to take ourselves a little less seriously this week and talk about a lighthearted topic.  Today we take one big sidestep to a world adjacent to the DIY music universe and talk a little bit about the tabletop game renaissance. For the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to board games, dice games, card games, paper and pencil games, etc all under the title of tabletop games.

Many of us grew up with Monopoly, Sorry, and The Game of Life but as of late we’ve witnessed the rise of a new generation of games that I expect will be the new classics.  These new games have swept through my friend groups and have pulled us away from the MMORPGs of my high-school era that kept us all safely locked in our bedrooms and revitalized the idea of the ‘game night’.  One place I see tabletop games becoming prevalent is in the DIY music scene. Since community is very important in the music scene it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the tie between DIY music and tabletop gaming.  I find that tabletop games offer a good way for folks to extend the hang-out and spend time together before and after shows. Tabletop games embrace the in-person-ness and the being-together-ness of the live show experience in a different format.  

A new development that has affected the tabletop gaming world is the establishment of crowdfunding websites which allow folks across the world to support DIY game development.  Game start-ups have always existed but now we have greater opportunity to discover and support new creations from afar. This network of support has allowed game designers to afford large-scale, professional printing much earlier in the game’s lifetime. We supporters of crowdfunded tabletop games get to play a part in this Cinderella story time and time again.

For those of you who are not familiar with this tabletop renaissance, hopefully this post has sparked some new interest.  You may find a few different types of games that are currently popular: party games that take little to no strategic skill but may rely heavily on comedy, quick wits, or knowledge of random facts; casual games that include a fair amount of chance but rely heavily on players to make good decisions with the ‘cards’ they are ‘dealt’; and then deep strategic games which rely heavily on the players knowledge, strategy, and problem solving skills to put forth a heavily calculated plan of execution. You also will find cooperative games that allow the collective to work on a common goal.

Here are some recent favorites from my shelf that I would recommend.

Carcassonne - Build your cities, roads, farms, and more with tile picking and careful meeple placement. Quick to pick up, great for younger crowds, can be thick with strategy if you want it to be.

Dominion - Maybe the strategically heaviest game on the list. Dominion is a deck building game with lots of expansions and variants.  This game holds a special place in my heart as it’s one of the first modern tabletop games that my touring friends introduced me to. And promptly kicked my butt at it.

Bang - Good for a bigger group as you take random pot-shots at your neighbors while trying to figure out everyone’s secret roles.  This style of game can spur people to be aggressive and it may not be fun for people that take games too seriously and personally.

Nevermore - Great for a large group without being a party game. Nevermore includes a very cool set of rules that allows people to continue to play even when they ‘die’.

Munchkin - Very silly with arguably loose rules. Many variants are available and the card art/flavor text is half the fun of the game. Content may not be appropriate for all ages.

Sushi Go - Moves quick and uses patterns that are easy for younger people to pick up and be competitive.  Drafting style game that may be familiar and comfortable for people that are used to playing deck-based games.

Ticket to Ride - My wife and I brought this along on our honeymoon road trip and played almost every single night.  Great gateway game into the new generation. Quick to learn though you won’t recognize your strategic shortcomings until the end of your first game, which means you’ll be eager to play a second time.

DC Deck Builder - Not one that I own personally but many of my touring friends travel with this game. Lot’s of variants and expansions and the rules get more complicated with the additions but the base game is easy to grasp for new players.

Happy new year and be a good sport!

Taking Back Your Craft

“How did I come to dread the thing I once loved?”

No matter your motive for creative activity, it is a valuable aspect to your life. And yet, there are times when creating can be difficult or stressful. For many this can look like writer’s block, coming up short for a deadline, getting sick of a project, being dissatisfied with a final product, etc. My soapbox for today isn’t aiming to serve as cure-all advice for complex and situational dilemma, but to instead shift focus toward creating a healthy long-term attitudes toward creating, which may, in turn, free you up a bit from those times of frustration.

As children (before the era of tablets and Fortnite), we are often encouraged to draw or color when we get bored. The implication here is not necessarily to build a skill, but to have fun. When we get older and more practiced, we often trade enjoyment for other goals, citing this as the matured or more fulfilling progression of creative activity. Here’s my question:


It may be argued that the point of creating with productive intentions in mind makes our innate need for productivity also fun, but I think it’s an entirely separate goal that requires our attention and practice to accomplish.

The most effective way of injecting fun back into creativity is by making it a habit of enjoyment. If the only time you pick up a guitar or a paintbrush is to “do work” you’ll only be reinforcing the idea that your efforts are just work. This kind of mentality makes routine practice grueling and result-oriented, and more often than not, results fluctuate throughout long-term practice and mastery. Try incorporating subject matter you’re excited about into your practice (e.g. a cover song, fan art, a short story about your favorite mythology). It may even help to replace your time reserved for entertainment (don’t worry, social media will be there for you before you go to bed) and treat your practice time as if it were the thing to relax your mind. If you find it takes too much effort in your practice to replace that passive sort of entertainment, remember that as you change your habits it may take time to let your practice be something natural to you.

It’s also important that you specifically try, at first, to keep your relaxing/fun practice time separate from any practice which you’d typically consider “work.” Work will still be there for you when you come back to it (“We’re eating dinner, can we not talk about work?”). You’ve cleared out this time to not work, serving the end goal of having refreshing “play” interactions as opposed to that which is prone to burnout.

Let’s address the subject of productivity, which up to this point we’ve somewhat tried to forsake. Perhaps you’re not satisfied, particularly if you, like myself, are still seeking the union of work and play (or, more specifically, integrating as much productivity as you can into your every free moment). The benefits of dedicated time toward play is not only going to improve your relationship with creativity, but because it is something you intentionally engage with, you can be certain its contents will stick with you. Our very own Chroma blogger Patrick Quigley suggested the idea of a band who records their jam sessions returning to those sessions and picking out the moments that really shine amid the carefree experimentation. You can also look to most any inspiration found in a given work, like how Pendleton Ward integrated his experience with Dungeons & Dragons into the writing process of Adventure Time. Visual artists use their experience of drawing particular references repeatedly so that they can replicate that similar shape or subject in a new context. In this way, you hopefully might justify play to yourself as a vital part of your productivity spectrum.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build habits, and even longer to establish comfortability within your medium. If you’re already in a strong place regarding this subject, remember a balanced creative life is not a given to everyone. We all have our own reasons for creating, and with that comes a unique journey and creative process. If these ideas relieve or challenge you in some way, take them and start in on your new routine of play. Now, if you can!

Throw a Fiver in the Hat

Today here at DIY High School we’re going to be talking about show economics, specifically the ‘tip jar’ model of show entry/admission.  Placing a jar or bucket or hat or other voluminous object at the door along with a sign that prompts donations is common in the DIY show community. This allows people to decide for themselves if and how much they are going to pay to enter the show.  Dissociating this entry fee from their right or prerogative to attend is the basis and emphasis of the tip jar model. Despite a person’s ability or inability to pay a cover, they are welcomed into a space. Along with that comes the assumption that the lack of financial ability of some will be balanced by the surplus in willingness of others.

This admission method puts a lot of power into the hands of the show attendees and to some extent democratizes the cost of attending a show, to the extent that the bands and other show facilitators have very little control over the total amount of funds collected at the end of the day.  It’s useful to note a few ways that a facilitator can affect the way that people approach the tip jar. For years we operated our DIY space in South Bend, IN with completely open-ended donation jar. We simply placed a sign next to the jar that said something like “donate to the bands here”.  Donations were fine, but never what I would call ‘abundant’. What I’ve noticed about house shows in other communities in our area is that a posted ‘suggested donation’ helped to communicate an expectation to the person entering the show and an implied value of the experience. High suggested donations brought a specific crowd that was willing to pay a premium for an intimate show, but made others feel unwelcome.  We’ve found a particular sweet spot by posting a suggested donation range next to our tip jar to let folks know what reasonable low end and high end donations would be while minimizing financially induced discomfort. Another decision to make that influences the effectiveness of a tip jar is whether or not to station a person next to the tip jar as a presence of accountability. Another method is to actually walk around with the tip jar and solicit donations directly, I find this to also be very effective and positive reinforcement is of paramount importance.

I’ve been writing from an assumption that the primary goal of a tip jar is to collect as much money as possible. Let’s talk about where that comes from.  A lot of shows that run under this financial structure are focused on very low overhead cost and a commitment to give most or all of the money collected at events directly to artists.  Usually these artists come and play without an agreed upon understanding of how much money they’ll make, or be guaranteed. There is a trust within the community that the people hosting or facilitating the shows will do their best to take care of the artists and get them as much money as possible. Some facilitators go as far as adding funding from other sources like grants, donations through outside channels, or straight from their own wallets and purses.  As long as facilitators and bands are operating within a trusting relationship and have given each other the benefit of the doubt that everyone is doing the best they can, things usually operate fairly smoothly. There does exist a largely unspoken tension when a venue’s ability or willingness doesn’t align with an artist’s needs or expectations.

Sometimes the understanding of what a touring artist needs financially to survive on the road differs between the points of view of the show-goer, the show facilitator, and the artist. Even with a true understanding of the utilitarian costs, the value of the art, time, and commitment of the artist can be very subjective.  In addition, some artists have a high goal of making music as their primary means of survival, some artists tour as vacation and expect to spend their own money doing so, and some largely find the involvement and building of a community to be rewarding but still need to make sure things are financially sustainable in the long run. In my experience of traveling and booking over the years, I find that this expectation is a bit of a taboo subject and that the quiet assumption is that people are going to do their best.  As soon as someone starts talking guarantees, it seems a line has been crossed and that music is no longer about art and community but it’s now about business. I’ll be the first to admit that I have rolled my eyes and been offended by bands asking for a specific amount of money, but in reality we all have to figure out a way to make this sustainable so that we don’t burn out funding where it exists and we don’t ask our favorite touring bands to run themselves into the ground.

So let’s start having these discussions. It’s almost 2019, what are the new and innovative ways that we can fund artists and still foster community and focus on inclusivity and making sure people feel welcome despite their inability to pay a door cover?  From whatever your point of view, do you have a good understanding of what it costs to travel and play music? Do you think critically about the value of a show? We’ll be exploring in the future some non-monetary ways that you can contribute to artists. Until then, see you at the show.

Chroma Artist Picks: December (By Dave Mantel)


This month’s playlist is brought to you by Dave, who just released a brand new NAAL album a few weeks ago. This playlist isn’t about slow music, though (that was his backup playlist). I’ll let him explain what this month’s theme is all about. But you can get listening right over HERE on Spotify!


I used to be the guy who said, “I just don’t really like bands with female leads.” I don’t think I was trying to be sexist. I think I was just an idiot. Today I wanted to make a playlist for that past version of myself. And for you too: a list of some of my favorite recently released or (recently discovered by me, in a few cases, maybe) tracks by amazing female artists.


Mitski- Nobody

I saw Mitski live for the first time as she opened up for Lorde and Run The Jewels earlier this year. That is not a joke. She and her band played a blistering 20 minute set of mostly songs off of Be the Cowboy, her as of then unreleased smash album. It was weird seeing a pop/shoegaze band play this giant arena for people who, for the most part, didn’t know who she was. Most of them were young teens and twenty-somethings there for Lorde, while a few bros in Rick and Morty shirts were obviously there for Run the Jewels. But that didn’t deter her or her band. Mitski blasted through those 20 minutes, hardly stopping between songs, only saying a quick hello, and then she was gone. But the energy and passion that she left on the stage with which she intended to capture the attention of as many of those several thousand people as she could in that short time blew me away. When Be the Cowboy came out later this year, full of powerful bops about relationship failure, lopsided affection, and unrequited love, I was hooked. Oh, and Nobody has two key changes in the same chorus. Also not a typo.


Angel Olsen- Shut Up Kiss Me

I’ll admit it: MY WOMAN takes a little bit to get going. When I first heard all the hype surrounding the album I got pretty excited- I’ll give anything from Jagjaguar a shot- but when I started the album the first few tracks had me feeling like I had been duped. Then Shut Up Kiss Me hit and I understood what it was that everyone was fascinated by. A pop sensibility with the passion and fire of her more indie oriented contemporaries, Olsen grabs on and doesn’t let go at this point. Sappy, happy, raucous and just fun! This song slams.


Paramore- Idle Worship

If you had told me one of my favorite albums of last year would be a Paramore album I would have laughed in your face! But here we are. It’s 2018 and I’m still rocking After Laughter. Idle Worship is easily my favorite song on the album, but the whole group of surrounding tracks are so good, too! There are so many things that shouldn’t work on this album (you can start with literally the first like Donkey Kong sounds you hear when you start it up) but when you let it go it absolutely rips!


Lucius- Gone Insane

Lucius is an incredible duo of Robyn look-alikes who are queens of power ballads and pop bops alike. They pack so much energy into their studio recordings it’s insane. You can feel the dynamics of every belted harmony and hook. Speaking as someone who records a lot of bands, let me tell you: that is a rare thing to be able to capture. Gone Insane is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Listen to the tension between them as they sing together. It’s incredible.


Lorde- Perfect Places

My friend Caleb and I went to, as I said earlier, see Lorde earlier this year. I’m not usually one for big pop shows but I couldn’t miss the lineup, especially since I loved Melodrama, Lorde’s sophomore album, so much! Caleb told me once that listening to that album made him nostalgic for relationships he had never had. It’s hard to explain how a young popstar like that can communicate so clearly about teenage angst and, literally, melodrama in a way that makes a 29 year old drone musician say “YES!” but, again, here we are. Perfect Places is like all of my immaturities being captured and put on display, as if there was some younger version of myself pulled out from my existing self and was like, “Here I am and here are my thoughts on everything!” which is kind of how Melodrama is in general, but in the best way.


Sia- Alive

Chances are very low that you have not heard of Sia. But let me tell you about this project anyway. Before Sia was the international big haired pop sensation that she is now, she was a ghostwriter for a label. Her album This Is Acting is a collection of songs that were turned down that she decided to record herself and put out as a collection of works, which I think is a fascinating showcase of a part of her life not often thought about until now. When I hear Alive, I have to ask myself what INSANE IDIOT turned that song down. It is absolutely killer. The performance from Sia brings it way over the top to MEGA BANGER territory. I’m serious. This is like the most extreme song ever. There is a two hit drum fill that I think is up there with like Phil Collins In the Air Tonight as far as best drum fills in music. You’ll hear it when you listen.


Robyn- Missing U

Robyn returned after a long absence with a brand new album this year and did NOT disappoint. While I think Honey is definitely more of a grower than, say, Body Talk, there are still some amazing tracks to grab ahold of right away. Missing U, one of the pre-release singles from the album, is definitely one of those instantly-latch-on-to tracks. It’s everything I want from Robyn, it’s danceable, it’s melancholy, it has a great hook, the synth sounds are amazing. Total package. Forget dancing your problems away, let’s dance TO our problems. That’s been Robyn’s theme since day one, and it’s still here on this new one.

Gordi- Aeon

Gordi’s debut, Reservoir, is definitely a first album. But dang it if there aren’t some amazing moments. I think Aeon is the strongest song on the album, and is pretty much the perfect representation of her project, to me. Beginning very delicate but ramping up in to a powerful expression of her organic flavored indie pop, I will scream along with this song whenever it comes on my radio. For real. Gordi and I sing in the same range. It’s great.


Half Waif- Lavender

I think Half Waif was a Spotify recommendation for me. I hadn’t heard of her and then all of a sudden WHAMO Lavender Burning came on and I was like, “What is this?? This is great!” All ultra dramatic, a mix of pop but mostly slow indie, key based tunes, the album really speaks to me. Back in Brooklyn has, in my opinion, the best moment on the record: when Nandi sings “The farther away I walk the more I’m a whisper/Listen for me now/You’ve gotta listen for me now” is so intense, and the irony of the lyrics being about her as a whisper being the most powerful moment on the album… Just so cool.

Ex:Re- Romance

I had already finished this list- written everything I had to say, and then I listened to Ex:Re’s debut self titled album. The solo project from Elena Tonra, frontwoman for the folk inspired shoegaze band Daughter, this album plays like an amazing mix of ambient electronic backing and minimal guitar or keyboard shape, with amazingly intricate vocal melody that remind me of the best Jose Gonzalez tracks. Sometimes relaxed, sometimes surprisingly driving, each track is not only musically rich in its minimalism, but lyrically dense and poignant. Romance covers the feelings of being in an abusive relationship. The imagery is powerful and the performance captivating. Highly recommend listening to this whole project.


Lucy Dacus- Night Shift

I found Dacus’s album because of her involvement in boygenius. Sure enough, her album does not disappoint. Her frank, sometimes shocking lyrics (see opening line of the album) are only half of the charm here. Her guitar work- fuzzy, powerful rhythm with really thick lead lines- and sense of melody make this album shine. Night Shift is a funny yet tragic idea of having to avoid an ex forever by working the opposite part of the day from them (“You’ve got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the nightshift/And I’ll never see you again if I can help it”). But dig that guitar solo, too! So good.


Phoebe Bridgers- Smoke Signals

Like some of the other artists I’ve mentioned on this list, Phoebe Bridgers is definitely an emerging artist. Her album Stranger in the Alps has some shining moments, and I think Smoke Signals, the opening of the album is one of those. She describes very frankly a lot of the same thoughts many of her peers have been having- dealing with death and relationships and celebrity and what it all means. I think it’s really great.


Julien Baker- Hurt Less

I couldn’t have the other two members of boygenius without including Julien. One of the most enthusiastic musicians I’ve ever seen, and someone who is almost singlehandedly forging a way for young solo female singer/songwriter artists in a space that has been very often dominated by men, her anxiously awaited second full length has some amazing moments on it. Hurt Less is quintessential Julien Baker- chimey guitar, reverb, her very exposed vocal performance, and themes of the struggle of sobriety in many forms. You’ll have a hard time not yelling along.


The Staves- Make It Holy

The Staves, a trio of sisters from Watford, England, are some of my favorite musicians. I originally found them through their work with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) for the recording of their latest full length, If I Was at his studio in Eau Claire. I have a little bit of an obsession with that place and those people. But as soon as I heard the early teases of the music The Staves were cooking up, I knew it would be something spectacular. I think Make It Holy is the perfect picture of what that whole aesthetic became. The simple guitar work, the rich harmonies (including Justin and some of the other guys who helped on the album at April Base), the song ramps up and really gives me an image of what my favorite aspect of making music with other people is: the community. The song is beautiful by itself, but there’s an X factor for me that makes it more than just the sum of its parts. It’s something really special.


Boygenius- Salt In The Wound

Alright, I’ve mentioned them several times, so here it is: my favorite track on the boygenius album. I think this track is really the highlight of what happens when each of the respective members (Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus) bring their individual strengths to the table and really collaborate. Each song on the album (even this one) leans pretty obviously in the direction of the primary songwriter for that song, but I think Salt In The Wound, more than any of the other tracks, really gets to the feeling of this being a cohesive project. I dig it a lot.


Anais Mitchell- Ships

I really struggled with which song from Anais’s mindblowing album Young Man In America to include in this playlist. Ultimately, though, I thought I would end this playlist the same way she ends her album. Ships is a slow burning ballad. But man. What a closer to an incredible record. When I showed this album to my friend Caleb (who I mentioned earlier), he said, “Man. This music really sounds like it’s from SOMEWHERE.” And I really like that. Young Man In America is really the most Americana sounding album I could think of. Each song is not only lyrically very grounded in a physical place, but the sounds are so… I don’t know. America. In the best way. The way I want America to be.


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 check out Dave’s new album over on HIS WEBSITE, or stream that on SPOTIFY, too!

Community, Based in Music, Bleeds Activism

November was a busy month for me with various annual benefit concerts and it got my head spinning on why exactly our local music scene has become such a hotbed of fundraisers for various causes. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

It’s sometimes useful for the sake of thinking through things to create a dichotomy based on two ways of approaching music; as entertainment and as art. In communities where there is focus on the artistic identity of music, a certain sense of community is easy to find.  The meaning and motivation of the art and intent of the artist rises the surface and unlike an entertainment focused view of the musician, this art-focused viewpoint invites the listener to become emotionally invested in the message of the art. When many people become emotionally invested or feel represented, it is this mutual feeling that starts to draw connections and form a community of fans around an artist.  This community is comprised of folks who have this thing in common and can find some sense of empathy for each other.

As the motivation or message of the artist becomes social or political in nature, it shifts the community from introspective to outward-facing.  Combine an emotional investment in the artist with a social statement to get behind and be energized about. Here you’ve got the primordial soup of music-centered social activism.

For example: One punk is pissed off about abuse of power in their gov’t. That punk starts a band and writes some songs about being pissed off. Others enjoy the music, and come to realize that they also care quite a bit about the imbalance of power.  They just happen to be in the midst of a convenient group of people who all feel strongly about this thing and they find power in numbers and validation of their feelings which drives the whole group to be motivated about taking action.

Now the dichotomy of art vs entertainment is not fair and never pure, in fact the entertainment quality of music helps to create an emotional experience from a performance which aids in the process of drawing personal investment to an artist’s message.  Community driven by artistic vision coupled with positive experiences given by high quality entertainment is an ideal combination that can be used to very effectively leverage social and political action.

I’m hoping to explore in the future what the active expression of the community to affect these issues looks like.  I’ll be spending a lot of time considering the pitfalls of creating an echo chamber and choosing actions that make real change to the causes that we care about. Thanks for visiting my mind.

NAAL's Latest Full-Length Album "0-0-0" Out Now!

Today marks the release of 0-0-0 (or “Aughts”), David Mantel’s latest solo ambient effort. You can listen to it right now on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Bandcamp. You can even pick up the digital deluxe edition or a physical copy of the album over on Bandcamp or

If you haven’t already, read more about the album’s inception here on our blog!

Chroma Artist Picks: A New Monthly, Curated Playlist and Blog Series


Hello, everyone! As 2018 comes to a close and we found ourselves on the cusp of a new year, we here at Chroma are still plucking along, slowly exploring new ways to meaningfully connect with you all. One of our goals here at Chroma has been to try and help showcase great art in spaces where, for whatever reason, it might be otherwise overlooked. In that spirit, we are going to start using the idea of music playlists to help introduce you to some things that you may otherwise have overlooked, as well as to help you get to know our individual members a little bit better!

All of that being said, we are launching our first playlist series today, called Chroma Artist Picks! Once a month we will have a different member of Chroma curate some songs for you to dive in to. In addition, you’ll find a sort of read-along companion right here on the blog with thoughts from the curator on why they included each song on the playlist.

We hope this will be a fun thing for us to share in together. Also, I’m happy to share with you the first playlist right now, curated by Erica of Dead Birds! You can find her writeup below, and start listening to the playlist by clicking HERE. And make sure to follow the playlist to make sure never to miss when we update it next!


One of my favorite things is catching the warm sunlight on a Saturday morning, making coffee and a good breakfast, and spinning a record as the world and my house wake up. These are the songs I often choose to fill that space:

1. Everything Is Free by Gillian Welch

If you listen to the music I write you’ll know it’s undeniably influenced by this incredible songwriter. She’s one of my all time faves, and this song that came out in 2001 is somehow more relevant to my life now than ever. This song talks about art as a commodity and what it means to be an artist creating things because you love them, not necessarily because you’ll get paid for them. It’s beautiful.

2. Cracked Windshield by Hiss Golden Messenger

Hiss just seems to be the soundtrack to most of my drives these days. This song in particular speaks to me as a touring musician and life on the road.

3. Another Mother’s Son by Phil Cook

This is the most beautiful and poignant commentary on guns, violence, pain, and death. I love this song because it starts out so unassumingly simple, then breaks out into a gospel choir singing, “no more silence!” and “no more bodies!” at the end.

4. Pale November Dew by The Dead Tongues

We’ll just keep the Hiss train rolling (Ryan Gustafson who plays music under the name The Dead Tongues, also plays in Hiss Golden Messenger at times). This song takes me away to a long drive through some wide expanse out west. My favorite parts are the flute interludes; they’re absolutely gorgeous.

5. Rivers by The Tallest Man On Earth

This song describes lost love in a way I could never have dreamt of on my own. All of the elements combine perfectly to create 4 minutes of everything it means to have lost someone you loved. Hang on til the end.

6. Rang Tang Ring Toon by Mountain Man

I love music that is sparse yet so full at the same time. This song is a guitar plucking two notes a fifth apart and the voices filling in to take us on chord progressions you would have never guessed by listening to just two notes. An ode to summertime if I’ve ever heard one.

7. Knockin’ on Your Screen Door by John Prine

Speaking of summertime, this tune brings me a lot of sunshine and always makes me smile. One of my favorite songwriters, John Prine killed it again with his latest album.

8. Jaybird by Charlie Parr

This song is the sunrise: slow and steady, captivating and haunting, bright and warm.

9. Your Lone Journey by Sam Amidon

Written by Rosa Lee and Doc Watson back in the early sixties, this tune is a tender ballad about love and death. I think a lot about the way my grandma must have felt when my grandpa passed, and I wish I would have shared this song with her. Sam Amidon’s is my favorite version of this song (and Bill Frisell’s guitar playing takes it over the top).

10. Sunflower River Blues by John Fahey

No lyrics, just a sweet simple guitar tune to accompany a morning walk or meditation.

11. Going Down The Road Feeling Bad by Elizabeth Cotten

No one knows who wrote this song, but I’m fairly certain Libba did by the way she sings it. There’s a sweet simplicity to this song, her singing, and her guitar playing that make me feel good.

12. I’ve Endured by Ola Belle Reed

North Carolina clawhammer banjo player Ola Belle Reed captures life in Appalachia in a way no one else can. Her voice and banjo playing are mesmerizing. “I’ve endured, I’ve endured, how long can one endure?”

13. Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There by Washington Phillips

I first heard Phil Cook cover this song during a solo set in Austin. It was composed by minister Charles A. Tindley in 1916, and was recorded by Washington Phillips in 1927. There are several versions of this song, but this one is my favorite.

14. Your Cheatin’ Heart by Hank Williams

A classic. This is a good one to sing along to while you’re flipping french toast and dancing with your dog.

15. I Fall To Pieces by Patsy Cline

Patsy sings like no other, she’s the queen, and this song is so perfect.

16. Red River Valley by Amber Rubarth & Joe Purdy

I grew up in Chile learning American folk songs from a songbook and accompanying tape I found in our house. They captivated me with their simplicity and nostalgia. This song and this recording of it capture that so well.

17. Color Song by Maggie Rogers

My husband, our dog and I recently went camping in a northern national forest on the shore of a small lake where we cooked over a fire and listened to the loons. This song reminds me of that time we spent together and of the sun setting over our small campsite, alone yet together in a great wilderness.

Listen to the whole playlist on Spotify right HERE, and make sure to follow it for future updates from more Chroma artists!

You can hear some music by Dead Birds by listening HERE or watching THIS VIDEO of Erica playing guitar in an elevator.

NAAL 0-0-0 Album Announcement

I’m excited to share news about a new album release from founding Chroma Collective member, Dave Mantel.  Mantel will be releasing a new NAAL record titled 0-0-0 on November 9th, 2018.  NAAL is known for his work taking the form of slow, ambient soundscapes in stand-alone full length albums like A703 (released in 2017) and in collaboration with other artists like filmmaker William Prince III for the film Claire McKenna.

In the time that has passed between the release of A703 and the beginning of creation of 0-0-0, Mantel has struggled with depression like so many people that we all know.  In the midst of mind-numbing depression, he thought he would never again pick up a guitar to create another NAAL album. He notes:

I had never been suicidal. Until all of a sudden I was. I’m one of the lucky ones who has stepped to the ledge and been helped back on to solid ground. Not everyone can say that. Not everyone makes it back to the ground.

Replacing unhealthy coping methods with intentionally non-destructive ones led Mantel to sit down and write music once again.  In a writing binge that lasted 3 days, a majority of 0-0-0 had been written, though this time not on guitar like much of his previous work, but at a keyboard.

0-0-0 is a record that was born out of facing the reality of depression and the overwhelming mounting hardship that causes us to feel alone and hopeless.  Through the process of creating the record, a quote from author John Green offered a steady mantra: “Your now is not your forever.” This refreshing thought is met with the subtle changes in writing style and instrumentation that are fleshed out in 0-0-0.  This new record is recognizably a departure and growth from A703 but yet familiar and certainly a cohesive piece to the greater body of work.  

You can preorder the new record now and please don’t miss out on the cassette and limited edition shirt. Hop over to the NAAL page here on the Collective for further info about NAAL and his other releases and projects.