ARTISTS, RESIST NOW

I grew up listening to my parents’ music from the 1960s: Motown, The Beach Boys, The Beatles. Fast cars and young love. Dancing in the street and holding hands. Also Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, Jefferson Airplane, Sly & the Family Stone -- all full of so-called “protest songs.”

Many musicians in the 60s and early 70s not only wrote songs condemning the Vietnam War and segregation, but they marched and organized, they took action.

Well if Ferguson wasn’t enough, if Standing Rock wasn’t enough, if Congress’s refusal to fill a Supreme Court seat wasn’t enough for us to take action, by golly, the election of Donald Trump better be enough!

Artists, producers, label execs, venue-owners, bloggers, studio engineers:  THIS IS THE TIME TO STAND UP AND SAY SOMETHING. THIS IS THE TIME TO TAKE ACTION.

Some will say, “it’s not the place of an artist,” to get political. FUCK THAT. What is the point of having a microphone if you don’t have anything to say? It is our duty to speak truth to power. It is our duty to give voice (and AMPLIFICATION) to those without.

So people of the music industry: what are you doing to #Resist ?  

Are you playing benefit shows for Planned Parenthood and ACLU? Are you marching? Are you writing protest songs? Are you calling your representatives?

I want action, I want it now, and I want it PUBLIC. This is not the time to worry about keeping your career and your political beliefs separate. That is no longer a luxury we have (if we ever did at all). The risk is too great, the consequences are too wide-reaching.

Artists, if you are not speaking out, if you are not taking action, I will not buy your records. I will not listen to your music. I will not treat you like an artist, because if you do not have the courage to speak out, then you have no business claiming that title.

Whether it’s in your music, or your social media presence, or your direct political action, I want your #RESISTANCE, and I want it NOW.

 

End of the Year Updates and Stuff!

Wow it's been quite a while since I've posted here. I better tell you why-- explain what I've been up to that's kept me away.

In September, my partner and often-collaborator Katie and I moved from Omaha back to Grinnell, IA. We spent the fall living at the artist residency Grin City Collective. While there, I worked on Grinnell's community theater production of The Fantasticks as the lead boy, Matt, and Katie put together some videos for the retirement community St. Francis, for which I composed the music. 

We moved into town this past month and have yet to set up internet. This has led to sometimes increased productivity, and sometimes decreased productivity. So many tasks for freelance artists require the net!! We've certainly been listening to more vinyl and reading more books. 

Right before I came back to Iowa I tracked one last EP at Yorick Studio in Omaha. The 4 songs are now being mixed in Nashville by Derek Porter of Pageant. I met Derek when he and his sister Erica came through Omaha on a mini-Pageant tour. He'll also be laying down some horns and I am pretty pumped to hear it. Stay tuned for info on that release . . . 

Last month I had a crazy weekend in Omaha. With Justin Carter, I arranged and produced the debut album for Collin Smith. Collin's songs and guitar playing are both exceptional. In the span of 2 days, we tracked 7 songs and played a show at the beloved Barley St. Tavern. It was a helluva rock  n roll weekend. We wrapped overdubs just before the holidays and Justin is currently mixing that project. 

Katie and I have been playing more regularly, and already have a few shows lined up in January, including one on the 15th at State Street Bar in Grinnell. We'll continue to play around Grinnell and hope to start booking elsewhere in Iowa.

I guess that's about it! Much of the Midwest got hammered with snow the past couple days, so I'll end this post with a list of songwriting / creative activities to try while you're holed up inside.  Here's to a happy and healthy 2016! Keep supporting independent creatives, keep on lovin your neighbors!

Songwriting and other Creative Exercises
* Talking Heads and Bob Dylan both have songs about a Mr. Jones character. Write your own.
* Write a song on an instrument you don't usually play.
* Write a song based on an image. OR, draw / paint something based on a song.
* Write a campaign song for a candidate from the past, present, or future. 
* Produce a Ryan Adams song in the style of Taylor Swift. 
* Write a protest song.
* Pick three objects within reach, write about them.
* Make a poster for your ideal concert (you may be on the bill if you so choose)
* Play your instrument in an unconventional way (upside down, w/ your non-dominant hand, etc.) 
* Write a song in the voice of yourself 5, 10, or 15 years ago. Bonus if you use voice as a verse
* Write a theme song for your favorite film from 2015 (even the film already has one)
* Make up a dance move. Give it a name. 
* Make a snow sculpture. Bonus points for a snow / ice instrument. 

I'm Not Raising My Voice

I am not raising my voice. I am calm. As calm as a self-identifying activist and musician can be when some nonsense disturbs both those parts of my identity.

Despite rocknroll’s absurdly racist and sexist culture, stemming long before Elvis and long beyond John Mayer, music, particularly popular music (you can interpret this loosely, rock, rap jazz, etc. “not classical” or “concert music”), has also been a refuge for minority voices and social outcasts.

Folk music is about bringing people together through tradition. As is blues music, with the addition of overcoming the blues, whether they came from a shitty boss or a lover. Rocknroll is about fucking The Man, the System of oppression and outdated, colonialist power structures and values. Rap music does all that, and is currently the most cutting edge sonically and socially, which is probably why it scares bigots the most. If you find yourself saying / living the “I listen to everything except rap,” lifestyle, you may need to ask yourself some questions.

Music can be, has been, and will continue to be, one of the most powerful platforms for social change. Not just music, but art in general. If you are an artist and you publicly say “Fuck the po-lice!” or “Mississippi, God damn!” you can keep your job. If you do it as well as N.W.A. and Nina Simone, you’ll have created an anthem that helps to unite people. John Lennon can ask us to imagine no Heaven or Hell. Other humanitarian professions, such as public officials or priests, do not have the same liberty with their message.

But music’s relationship to our social and political world goes far beyond lyrical content. I don’t even want to be writing blogs to articulate this because by doing so I am becoming Chief Hypocrite, however:

We need to be elevating a more diverse set of voices in this culture--- in Omaha, and the music culture beyond.

Celebrating “women in music,” with an all-male bill is absurd. I am aware that most shows in Omaha already have all-male bills, and don’t play ANY music by females. However, if the goal of such an event is sincerely to celebrate “women in music” (which is somehow still a relevant set of words, that’s another issue altogether, Neko Case covers it far better than I could in this essay), the organizers of this event would have booked an entirely female bill.

It would be easy. It would be right.

Instead, this event looks like it comes from the Onion. The flier uses an image of Lady from Almost Famous, who is not a musician, but a fan (no disrespect to fans, and she’s the greatest fan of all). So is the message that women’s place in music is to simply adore the men on stage? (Almost Famous is one of my favorite movies, but it does not have a single scene of a female playing music). Maybe it was just hard to find a good picture of a female performer... 

If it’s truly an extension of the Johnny Cash night, it sends the message that it takes ALL WOMEN IN MUSIC to equal the greatness of Johnny Cash. Furthermore, having females play Cash’s songs is unique and subversive. Having men take the spotlight once again is entitled and mainstream. There is not a single female’s name on that poster.

I am not raising my voice, because it is not the time for my voice to be raised.

Seriously though I think the bill needs a big makeover.

Many of the ideas expressed in here come from other lady musicians. I can give personal credit if they'd like. I am aware that being a white male gives me advantages in terms of voicing these ideas.

THIS MESSAGE IS AS NON-PERSONAL AS CAN BE. I AM AS CULPABLE AS THE NEXT PERSON AND I AM WORKING ON CALLING MYSELF OUT AND SPARKING DISCUSSIONS WHEN I SEE IT ELSEWHERE

Easy thing we can do to make progress on this issue: listen to only female songwriters / producers for a month. If you’re daring, do it for a year (if you did it for the next five years you still wouldn’t have gender balance in your listening lifetime listening consumption, I guarantee it). Check out the playlist below for a start! 

 

1. Strange Fruit by India.Arie-- Haunting Civil Rights song with a modern update. Billie Holliday's version was the first I heard, but this is an incredible interpretation. 

2. Man by Neko Case-- Neko Case is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. Her lyrics and production work are always top notch. This is a good one about gender and such. 

3. The Vigilante by Judee Sill-- She's an incredible singer, songwriter, and produced and arranged her second album Heart Food.

4. Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone-- Nina is one of those untouchable artists like Beethoven and Duke Ellington. This live version is her at her best, and shows her belief that politics and art are one. 

5. It's a Mighty World by Odetta-- I don't know if any other singer alive could do this song. Maybe Aretha Franklin. Odetta is the Monarch of American Popular Music. She was also an actress and activist. 

6. Doobie Down by Georgia Ann Muldrow-- I just found out about her and am stunned. I can't find track credits for this song, but she's produced and / or composed and / or arranged an astonishing collection of music this decade. 

7. Supermodel by Jill Sobule-- She's got great lyrics, this one is pretty charged but super fun. Kind of an early No Doubt sound. 

8. Rocksteady by Aretha Franklin-- Aretha is of course a fantastic singer but was also in fucking charge as a bandleader. This is one of the grooviest grooves that will ever be. 

9. Do You Want to Play by Jewel-- My partner and one my best friends from Oklahoma both love Jewel, so I've always made sure to give her an occasional spin. Definitely need to do that more frequently.  Love the lyrics / images in this one. 

10. I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues by Billie Holliday-- She needs no intro. 

 

Spend Money (on music) to Make Money (in the rest of your life)

Last week I read an article titled, "Where Young College Graduates are Choosing to Live." The article mentions that cities like Denver, Portland, and Nashville have become hubs for the young and educated. Read the article if you want, but it never mentions music, which will naturally be the subject of this muse. More specifically, I'll offer a little about how a vibrant music scene impacts a community. 

The cities mentioned above, plus Austin, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Des Moines, are among cities that transformed or grew during the recession. They have become popular hubs for tech-start ups, microbreweries, and not-so-coincidentally also have renowned music cultures, or are making a concerted effort to generate one.

Oklahoma City and Des Moines do not have the music reputation of Austin or Portland, but through projects like Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM, Oklahoma City) and the Des Moines Music Coalition these cities are investing in the infrastructure to create and support music culture. ACM develops the crafts of local players, and draws more music students to the city and state. The sister-school to the original Guilford, UK location, ACM opened in OKC the same year the now-thriving Thunder brought the NBA to the city for good. Since 2000, OKC's population has grown about 20%. 

Recession or not, when you give bands a place to play, and when you give patrons music to see and hear, they'll all go out and spend money. They'll spend it on gas to get there. Tickets or a cover to get in, beer at the show. They'll buy records, and the artist will use that money to pay photographers, web designers, independent t-shirt shops, and to buy more gas to go do it all again. Music enlivens its surroundings. 

me performing at one of Benson's new pubs/microbreweries, the Benson Brewery. 

me performing at one of Benson's new pubs/microbreweries, the Benson Brewery. 

Consider the layers of economic stimulation that comes with a good music nightlife: cab drivers, restaurants, bar owners,  alcohol manufacturers, farmers who grow the grain for the booze. We could dissect this further-- engineers who built the tractors for the farmers... 

My neighborhood in Omaha, Benson, also demonstrates how music can grow a neighborhood. Over the past five to ten years, several new venues have opened, along with other independent businesses such as microbreweries, cafes, and an arts collective (which also has a venue...and a cafe...). On any given night of the week, Benson offers live entertainment. The five-block strip on Maple St. has become one of the hoppin-est neighborhoods in the city. 

When you go out to a show, or buy an album, or support a crowd-sourcing project, you are not just supporting an artist. You are supporting your entire community. Not only do you get the invaluable pleasure of experiencing the music, you are also investing in healthy growth for your city. Go support some music, you will literally make your home more valuable. 

 

photo by Katie In 

photo by Katie In 



Artist Residency Recap: ISLAND's Hill House

Last August-September I attended the Institute for Sustainable Living and Design (ISLAND)'s Hill House artist residency.  Located in a fairly remote area of northeastern Michigan, Hill House is a solo residency for all types of artists and designers, from musicians to photographers to architects. 

I intended to write and arrange a psychedelic baseball album. As soon as I arrived (to a bottle of red wine and homemade cookies) I knew I needed to mostly disregard any preconceived plans. The energy was wild and demanding, yet tranquil and inviting. 

The experience continues to resonate with me. I know that much of what I gained from those eleven days can't be put into words, but here are some highlights from that journey. 
 

________________________________________________________

Started all 9 songs for a psychedelic baseball album

Listened to many great records: Isaac Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Wonder, Beethoven, Leon Russell, to name a few

Watched most of Archer (had started before I arrived, but damn if I didn’t finish here)

Watched A League of Their Own and Bad News Bears (1976)

Drank beer from Short’s Brewery (Pontius Rd.)

Played songs at Short’s Brewery, got two more growlers and an e-mail requesting I mail a CD to Traverse City

Used a tube pre-amp for the first time

Used the tube pre-amp to record a Kickstarter reward song

And a song for my nephew’s 2nd birthday

Washed my feet in the Jordan River, and wrote a song about it

Took many walks/hikes/runs , and even a couple bike rides (I love that Schwinn)

Got chased by big dog Maddie almost every time

Made bread for the first time

Got very lost on the way Hill House, went to Brad & Amanda’s house

Interactions with Wal Mart: pisses taken in- 2, parkings lots slept in- 1, dollars spent in- 0.

It was my first time to sleep in one of their lots and I loved it--my mini van, Ludwig, is cozy

Read much of Make Art Make Money, a book that uses Jim Henson’s career as a business and life model of sorts for artists

Watched The Muppet Movie (1979) for the first time ever

Ate, prayed, loved



Yorick's First-Year Accomplishments

Wow, I started this blog back in October. We had just finished the Rather Unsightly Gentlemen album and I was eager to find an outlet for a release of pride and relief. It's been a little over a year since we released our debut from Michael Everson. Since then we've played many shows, with Mike's band Young Soul Revival, intimate house shows, and mine and Justin's sort of Yorick super-group. We even managed to do a basement performance of Eavesdrop and Elevate with the strings and horns. Anyway, it's been a great year, so I just wanted to share some highlights, as well as a playlist I just put together. Happy 2015! 

peace, love, and music-

Erik  

 

* Art, Pie, Music, October First Friday-- Mike and Erik played music, and turned the living room into a small gallery space, featuring art by Jo Murray. Established Yorick as public art and music dwelling. Established Yorick as pie-lovers.

* The Performer EP (Y01) by Mike Everson-- This 5-song set was the first release from Yorick. Produced by Mike & Erik, equipment was minimal and craft was everything. Available for free download here

* Get on Board! Kickstarter-- Organized by Kelly Marie Musselman and Erik. Raised money for digital interface, monitors, a microphone, headphones, and cables. Also funds for Eavesdrop & Elevate session players. Gave a big boost in confidence for our vision, and the necessary foundation to make more albums.

* Eavesdrop & Elevate (Y02) by Erik Jarvis-- A ten-song album featuring Kelly's poetry, and Erik's arrangements. Proved Yorick can make an album with a minimal budget in a basement studio. More importantly, helped create a community of different kinds of musicians and artists. Available for download here

* The Rather Unsightly Gentlemen, or RUGs (Y03)-- Because of the success of the Kickstarter, we were able to help our friends record and mix their debut album free of charge. Features Erik's horn arrangements, Justin's mix mastery. Due out soon... 

 

Thanks so much for supporting us. We'll be tracking strings for Justin's album this week. Look for that later this spring/summer. 

 

3 Things We Do When We Should Be Getting Better

3 THINGS WE DO WHEN WE SHOULD BE GETTING BETTER

These are some things that often hold me back as a musician. Really if we zoom out enough, we can probably apply similar ideas to other professions. I just happen to be a working musician right now, and hope that by working to overcome some of these things, I can get closer to making a living with my songs. 

1. Blame it on the Venue 

After a great or not-so-great show, we wake up the next day, and instead of focusing on what went well, and taking note of things we could fix for next time, we dwell on the sound guy's inadequacy. There will always be some weird relationship between "musicians" and "engineers," to some extent, but this dynamic does not exist in the great studios and great venues (Fillmore East and West, Abbey Road Studios, etc). So far I'd say my musician hat is way sexier than my engineer hat, but I do have experience with both, and I feel comfortable stating it is not that difficult to eliminate that tension. 

We are all part of a team. The bar owner wants to bring drinkers in, the sound person wants the band to sound good so the drinkers are happy, and the band wants to kick ass so the drinkers like them and the bar owner asks them back. Everyone has an idea about how to make that happen, but in the end, the owner is boss. Shouldn't be too hard to meet their demands, since musicians and audio engineers are great listeners.

So make a plan for "dealing" with venues. Obviously there will be moments you cannot anticipate, that's the glory of rock and roll, but many issues can be mitigated before they even happen. Always introduce yourself to the venue's staff. We know, as lowly musicians, that the workers are the most powerful. We want that bartender who appears to be "in charge" to like what we're up to. She's the person at the business who has the most contact with the patrons, and has the owner's ear. The more drinks she sells, the more money we make. 

Next Saturday, after that show, wake up: think of how awesome it was that the cute bartender remembered your name and sake the owner to invite your band back, let go of the resentment toward the sound person, maybe even e-mail the venue-owner thanking them for having you in, and dammit get back to work. Pick up your guitar, sit down at the keyboard, run your rudiments and crank out more hits. 

 

2. Bitterness toward the Successful 

I often catch myself talking shit on successful bands that are "not that good." Hint: they are always "that good." It doesn't matter what our scale is-- financial, crowd size, whatever. If a band's success is apparent enough to piss us off, they are "that good." Maybe their songwriting is derivative, maybe their shows are the same every time, maybe their album is full of production gimmicks. Guess what? Most people listening to and buying music are not trained musicians. They don't usually notice many of the things that irritate us, and if they do, it doesn't bother them. Plus, don't we all know how hard this game is? To write a song at all, let alone a song that people want to listen to? And then rehearse that song, plus 9-10 others, with other musicians who also have opinions and ideas? Then you have to play that song after a full day's work, after setting up all your gear, without time for dinner? Damn, this band really is that good. 

Rather than spending time and energy undercutting these bands, and their dumb fans for listening to that crap, we could open our ears to the secret in their sound. Why is it working for so many listeners? How come when I try things like that doesn't work? If listening to some bands really does make us bitter, we must stop listening to them! We have buckets of great music available, and we must not waste our time and efforts by gardening resentment. 

 

3. Do it all from Facebook

I am the most guilty of this. Social media sites are enormously powerful tools for artists. When I was living in small-town Iowa last year, I was essentially a digital artist-- not to the extent of Gorillaz, but my main presence was online. With these tools we rarely have to make posters, or send out CDs/tapes to labels and licensing companies, and we can get "press" by sitting in our underwear in bed and snapping off a quick blog. 

However, do not let them suck your time, and do not think they are a substitute for hard work and talking to people about your art. Sometimes I post things on the web, and I assume all the people who listen to/like my music will see it. Even if this were true (which it is not), I'm still only reaching people who already have an interest in my music. It's important to tell your story always. This doesn't mean we should all be "that guy" everywhere we go, boasting and loud-mouthing about how awesome our music is. But it does mean we are confident and comfortable telling people our story, face-to-face. Next time you have a spare $2, get off the couch, pack up your laptop, and go to the coffee shop. If you work on that new banner at the coffee shop, someone might see it and like it and ask about your art. Oh yes, this is a banner for my new website. I'm a musician… 

If you rely on social media to do all your networking because you're agoraphobic, this might not be the business for you. 

If you rely on social media to do all your networking because it's easier, stop being lazy.

 

* * * 

Thank you for reading. My name is Erik Jarvis and I'm a musician living in Omaha, Nebraska. I believe in fostering great communities everywhere, I believe the group is stronger than the individual. Collaboration over competition. 

 

Music that Influenced Eavesdrop & Elevate

 Both my work and Kelly’s work is very model-driven. In this project especially we talked openly about which influences we wanted to synthesize for each piece. I put together this playlist to give a glimpse into part of our world. This is the part that influenced many of my arrangement and mixing decisions.

Click HERE to open this playlist in Spotify 

1) ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE- THE BAND
   This is the first song on the Band’s second album, self-titled. They were the first country-sounding band I ever heard use horns. Their blend of American idioms reigns supreme. The trombone lines here really bring it home.

2) WILD CREATURES- NEKO CASE
   With her most recent album, Neko has brought us a sonic masterpiece. This track is so full of surprises and soon-to-be-discoveries. The lyrics and musical landscape are in perfect matrimony. 

3) WILL YOU LOVE ME- MATTHEW E. WHITE
   This song, this album, this artist, this label, have been the biggest influence on my music and artistic mindset for the past year. I can’t say enough about MEW and his Spacebomb cohorts in this little space. Their arrangements are stunning. Their knowledge of music history stuns me. Most importantly, they project a beautiful sense of care and team-mindedness into their work.

4) GIVE LIFE BACK TO MUSIC- DAFT PUNK
   Using “real” instruments makes a pretty big difference in the sound of this album compared to both other Daft Punk albums and to the average pop album from 2013. Niles Rogers brings legendary funk to the guitar sound. The turn-back-the-clock vibe of the claps provides perfect counter to the vocoder. The mixes on this album are sheen, tight, crisp, and clear.

5) I JUST WASN’T MADE FOR THESE TIMES- THE BEACH BOYS
   A masterful song from a masterful album. I am a huge fan of the way Brian Wilson paired sorrowful lyrics with bright-sounding timbres and textures. Take note, too, of the spunky washed out percussion.

6) KEEP ON CHURNING (‘TIL THE BUTTER COMES) WYNONIE HARRIS
   One of the greatest acts to come from Omaha, Wynonie Harris occupied a magical segment of R&B and rock ‘n roll history. In this cherished time, the bass was upright and unplugged. The saxophone brought the sultry swing just as often as the guitar, and the lyrics were always as dirty as you thought they were. This song is no exception.

7) WHITE CEDAR- MOUNTAIN GOATS
   I appreciate that John Darnielle strives to make folksy music fresh. This record juxtaposes Darnielle’s edgy and sometimes angsty lyrics with glorious horn arrangements from Matthew E. White.

8) RED FACED BOY- HOWARD IVANS
   His real name is Ivan Howard. He usually sings and plays guitar with an indie band called the Rosebuds. Here, he brings us a spiced-up, let’s-hit-the-dancefloor groove backed by disco strings, sassy horns, and a relentless Spacebomb rhythm section. It’s lush. It’s longing. It’s lovely.

9) EVERY LITTLE BIT HURTS- BRENDA HOLLOWAY
   Brenda is my current favorite-diva-you’ve-probably-never-heard-of. She was one of the first to join Motown’s West coast Tamla division. Her voice is sweet, yet powerful. Raspy, yet smooth. The piano part is pleasant and unobtrusive, and the strings are dramatic but not sappy. By the way, Holloway also co-wrote “You’ve Made Me so Very Happy.”

10) KNOW TILL NOW- JIM JAMES
   James is kind of a sage in my mind. He’s had his hand in so many marvelous and unique projects, but I never find his genre-bending heavy handed or gimmicky. This is the single from his first solo record. Everything about this record knocked my socks into psychedelic-Americana-outer-space. The first time I listened to it all the way through I was devastated by its ingenuity. Now I just enjoy the hell of it.

11) UNCHAINED MELODY- THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS
   This song really needs no comments or introduction. The vocal performances transport us to a time of class rings and letter jackets. Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound arouses physical vibrations deep in the soul.

12) THE LONELY SURFER- JACK NITZSCHE
   Nitzsche composed wild and eccentric surf and film music in the 60s. I particularly admire the way he surrounded familiar surf tropes with bizarre arrangements. Sometimes his music reminds me of a Brian Wilson-composed soundtrack for a Tarrantino movie.

13) MOONLIGHT MILE- THE ROLLING STONES
   The Stones rarely got this sensitive, which is partly why this song is so powerful for me. The drifting, solitary piano, the distant cymbal rolls, and lyrics like, “I am just living to be by your side,” all contribute to this vibe. And then, at the second chorus, strings. The composition and lyrical content become one as the strings drive us home through the moonlight.

 

 

Get on Board! pt 1: Eavesdrop

For the past year or so, Kelly Marie Musselman and I have been collaborating on a set of 10 pieces. Kelly and I went to Grinnell College together. She's a dear friend and a fantastic poet. We have each written 5 texts, and they are my lyrics for a composition/recording project. The material is finally complete, and we have just launched a Kickstarter to fund the recording of this music! 

Kelly and I have been living in separate places throughout the process. When we began collaborating, she had just moved back to Colorado after finishing her education program. I had just graduated with a music degree and ended up staying in Grinnell another year. We decided to work together on a choral piece for SATB choir and electronics. She'd write the text, and I'd write the music. Her text was spot-on, and I finished a draft, but the piece sort of stalled as I got distracted with Victorian Gaslight and then my work with Wes Phillips

Then sometime last winter Kelly sent me a new poem. Well, the poem was new to me. She described it to me as sort of a "leftover" from one of her poetry classes at Grinnell. The text planted itself deeply into my head, spitting out pieces of melody and orchestration. I immediately wrote the demo, recorded it to soundcloud, and sent it to Kelly. So began the process for the two-part album we are now calling Eavesdrop & Elevate. 

Collaborating across two different states had a strange influence on the material. As we worked primarily through Google Drive, I became hyper aware of Man v Machine relationships. One piece (that did not make the final track list) explores this bluntly through a Man that falls in love with a Machine. (Stay tuned, folks, that piece will someday exist.) In terms of process, though, my steps for constructing a song were blurred. I would see a new document uploaded, find a stanza or chorus, and if it resonated with me I would set to writing before I even heard Kelly read it. Then I could send Kelly a demo, and that would inform the rest of the poem. Sometimes this method worked splendidly, other times it could be frustrating to be without the human element of creation. 

Eventually our Drive folder really was driving the project. Because we were removed from each other, we each had to maintain exceptional organization and motivation. I've had a tab of our project open on at least one laptop for about three months straight. Seeing a new document or folder in bold kept our work constantly at the forefront of my mind. We have been aware of the way current technology encourages the creative act. Whether on Drive, a blank canvas made up documents and forms and charts, Instagram, Facebook, or right now as I write this blog on my website, we are frequently called to create. 

As Kelly sent me new lyrics, and I continued to write my own, we began to see similarities in our work. Birds. Technological anxieties. Gender/identity angst. While this is not explicitly a "concept album," we did make a distinct effort to connect these themes and create a unified world, aesthetically. My musical arrangements should reflect the lyricism and eccentricity of Kelly's verse. Our world is full of tinkerers and transvestites, carnies and craftsmen. 

We want to free this universe from Google Drive, from our minds, from our hearts. We want to bring our creation to people. We plan to record the album in my basement studio, Yorick Studio, in January. As new artists get on board, the music will continue to evolve.

I am pleased to introduce our project, Eavesdrop & Elevate, and our wonderful cast of characters (so far). 

Ciao,

Erik

 

Cast of Characters 

Kelly Musselman-- poet, producer, linguistic guru 

Erik Jarvis-- composer, producer, keyboards, vocals 

Mike Everson-- guitar, vocals, bass, percussion, engineer

Caleb Neubauer-- artist, producer, vocals, tech guru

Matt Everson-- videographer, tech guru

Brandon Bakke-- drums, bass, winds

Phil Smith-- horn, drums 

Leah Meyer-- violin I, vocals

Axelle Verboon-- viola, string contractor

Katelyn Kukkoly-- violin II 

Mindy Dauner-- cello 

trumpet

trombone

flute

 

 

Yorick Studio

Other than sheer desire and necessity to create, perhaps the most important factor for being productive as an artist is having the proper space to do so. Some artists spend their whole life without the preferred accommodations. I argue that they suffer for it.

The studio issue creates both a physical and mental obstacle. The physical is obvious. Without a room in which one can spill paint, how can one dirty a canvas? Without room for a piano, how can one practice their scales and arpeggios? And so follows the mental block. For much of my life I've caught myself saying or thinking, "Well, when I have the proper space I'll work on x, y, or z more effectively." This attitude becomes overwhelming to the point of paralysis. It turns us into stuttering, whimpering Hamlets with who've lost the will to succeed. To most effectively channel my artistic energy I have to diminish the opportunity for excuses.

As I began looking for a new city in which to make my home as a musician and community member, I had a pretty simple list of things I wanted: cheap rent, walkable neighborhood, space for a music studio. The other bigger picture idea I had in mind was a city that had both a desire for new, original music,  that had room for the community and culture to grow, and that had avenues for me to steer that growth.  People told me Austin. Athens. Ashville. Nashville. Louisville. [Insertsouthermusiccity]ville. I convinced myself Athens would be a jackpot, and I began to search Cragislist for jobs and housing. But then something happened. My sister and her boyfriend, who had been living in a two-bedroom apartment in a hip little neighborhood in North Omaha, bought a house. They would be moving out of their apartment around the time my lease in Grinnell ended. Rent was cheap. I could walk to any number of bars, a yoga studio, a diner, a head shop, a lingerie shop, a health food market, thrift stores, public library, and dozens of music venues and art galleries; there was a huge basement fit for a music studio, and (here is the cherry on top, my friends) the neighbors were deaf. In short, I would have been a dense little dunce if I had not snatched up that apartment. 

So here I am. In Benson, Omaha. Just half a block off the always-hopping Maple Street. With my basement studio (Yorick Studio), I finally have no excuse of lacking the proper space, and I've already begun a new set of demos for an upcoming project featuring lyrics and poetry from my dear friend Kelly Musselman. 

It's not New York City. It's not Los Angeles. It's not even Chicago, but I feel that my spirit is sort of in sync with Omaha. We are both primed and ready to show the world our as-of-yet untapped glory. So when people ask why I moved here, I shall respond, "Though this is madness, yet there be method in it."