How does one wake up from sleeping feeling melancholy? It’s just sleep. That’s all it is. It was even a dreamless sleep. Profoundly confounding.
I tried a bunch of stuff this morning. I even got out my accordion after a million years of not playing it. I recorded several different things, but The Melancholy didn’t want anything. So I did this in three tracks, largely improvisational. Reverb. Lots of reverb makes things better sometimes, too.
The Melancholy (Study in Three Voices)
PEARL AND THE BEARD “40K” VIDEO RELEASE TODAY
Pearl and the Beard released a zombie video today. It is premiering on WNYC’s Soundcheck. We’re very excited, and we hope you like it. You can watch it here. You know what eats away melancholy? A zombie.
And to top it all off – we are completing the last two days of our amazing tour with the stunning Ani DiFranco today and tomorrow. She’s leaving the road for a while, so if you’ve ever wanted to see her, now is your chance. If you’re in or have friends in the New York City area, there are still tickets available for tomorrow night’s (11/17) Town Hall show in Manhattan. Ticket link here. (Tickets for tonight’s show (11/16) at Music Hall of Williamsburgh are sold out!)
No. You aren’t dreaming. And neither am I. It’s true: this is a post after nearly a year. I’m going to finish the 365.
Part of the incentive behind finishing is that I’ve had so many people come up to me and ask if I’m going to finish that I can’t ignore it any more. It’s a painful thing, in a way, to know you have a creature of your own floating out there in the vastness of internet space that’s incomplete. And I’ve had enough insomnia recently that I can’t put it off any more. Plus, I want to finish it. I miss the exercise of it, and I have felt its loss because I haven’t created anything in a long, long time. I just needed some… time, I guess. Some really wonderful things have happened in the almost year and half since my last song post. Some sad and bad things, too, but even those things can be considered a welcome creative push (in retrospect most of the time).
Let us begin:
Yeah. It kinda feels like that.
The Good Death. This song was initiated by a Pearl and the Beard writing session. I brought to Jeremy and Jocelyn sections of a uke part I had come up with a few weeks earlier on my own. We put things together and configured exact chords, verse melody, a chorus, a bridge, but didn’t have lyrics or exact form of the song at all. We took the bare bones sketch home with us after our session, and it sat. Months and months later, we put it back on the table, and Jocelyn worked out some really beautiful lyrics with the original melody we had designed. In a rehearsal last week, as much as I loved her awesome lyrics, I wasn’t convinced it was in the sweet spot. It just wasn’t there for me. So, I took it home myself as an exercise, throwing out the melody for the verses and the bridge while keeping the chorus melody we had liked. I redesigned the job of the original uke riff, making it more of an intro or ornament rather than it being the verse itself and wrote a new verse section with a brand new melody. The bridge was a different story. Jeremy and Jocelyn and I came up with this t00-hard-for-me-to-play-on-the-uke bridge but didn’t really know how it was going to function in reality. But we liked it so we left it. In this re-imagining exercise, I almost threw it out. I’m still undecided about its effectiveness, but I like elements of it, so it stayed.
I am posting this as an exercise. I wanted to show the development of a song and how deep it actually can go. The original, original version of this is actually a completely different song. We may go back to it, we may take this, we may throw out all versions all together. One can never predict what will stick and what won’t.
I had 4 focuses for this song:
1. Find cathartic, sincere lyrics. Mean what I’m saying while trying to avoid cliché but make it relatable. Maybe use ideas I’ve discussed recently.
Discussing “The Good Death” – From the internets: “There is no single definition of what constitutes a good death. The definition of a good death will vary for each patient. In 1997 The Institute of Medicine defined a good death as: ‘A decent or good death is one that is: free from avoidable distress and suffering for patients.’”
Also, yes. There is a reference to The Neverending Story.
*Personal note begin*
Have depression? Tension? Anxiety? This might be cliché in and of itself, but it totally works: Find an art or a creative outlet you think you might enjoy (baking [and then have a huge party and let your friends who love you enjoy the fruits of your anxiety], rock painting, cat photography, kazoo playing, etc.). It really doesn’t matter if you’re “good” at it. Create something. Anything. Look at it or sing it. Again and again. Or don’t. Burn it or throw it away. Running. Running also works.
*Personal note end*
2. What do you want to hear? Re-imagine the song keeping as many original elements as possible, but you don’t have to keep what you don’t want to keep.
3. Expect nothing. Possibility of disappointment is high when you’re putting yourself out there, especially if you’re writing in a team situation like Pearl and the Beard. This is a [personally cathartic] songwriting exercise using elements of a previously group-developed skeletal song. That’s all. If it makes it in, it makes it in. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Like Tom Hanks says, “It’s not personal. It’s business.”
4. And as always: No Pre-Judgements. None. Hell, let’s just say No Judgements. Ever.
365 Project alumni know that even if this ends up being used in any way by either me or the band, it will be totally different as a finished product. I mean, I went running the other day and already came up with a totally new verse, new tempo, etc. But displaying it in such infancy is why the 365 was developed. And like we say in sessions, “There’s no judgement in brainstorming.”
Oh. And there is no chorus yet. I have no idea what to put there that doesn’t sound like I’m 5. (Not that being 5 isn’t way bitchin’, cause it totally is.)
RECORDING: As I mentioned above, I have total insomnia, so it is now 4: 43 am. I recorded it at my kitchen table three times at about 2 am, just taking the last one because I think my neighbors could only stand it that many times so early in the morning.
Thank you for listening, reading, sharing.
THE GOOD DEATH (draft – missing chorus)
Give me the Good Death
Because I’ve called it willingly
Just give me the Good Death
Don’t hold it against me
Conjure The Nothing
I’ll contemplate my final breath
Inside your chest The Nothing
Loss always is where you look last
Reach in and eat a broken heart
Starving mouths make ill returns
Quiet now this lump of heart
I can’t escape what I deserve
Could this maybe be fiction using all your calculations
With the giants I’ll kill your lofty, genius intuition
Using arms of a dozen like it, there will be no complications
We’ll be strangers then.
Be strangers then.
Give me the Good Death
Because I’ve called it willingly
Just give me the Good Death
Don’t hold it against me
The incredibly talented Sam McCormally of Ugly Purple Sweater and I toured together during early 2010. During that time, he and I sat for a few hours and wrote and recorded “A Thousand Thousands” in a few hours for the 365 Project. It sat here, on this site, for nearly two years, waiting to be re-imagined.
Well, we did it. It has been imagined. Again. Recorded by Ivan Basauri at Inner Ear Studios, Arlington, VA and mixed by James Frazee in New York City, we offer it to you proudly and whole-heartedly.
You can listen to it and own it yourself along with 3 other songs – 2 of those three being penned by non other than Pearl and the Beard‘s Jocelyn Mackenzie and Jeremy Styles, each having their own song debut on this EP single release.
Buy the fancy-schmancy, digital download only, version of
Pearl and the Beard is going to the UK! We couldn’t be more excited.
In honor of our first trip across the pond, we teamed up with Britain’s very own ukulele songstress Sophie Madeleine to record a cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. We did a video and everything – and we drank “real” British tea with Oreos and Pringles. Best. Combo. Ever.
And here are our tour dates… so if you’ve got somebody over there who can come, we’d love to see them!
11.03 Barfly w/Jukebox the Ghost (London, UK) [TIX]
We are getting ready to leave ASAP. So, I created the beat base in Garageband in less than 5 minutes and asked Jocelyn to rap because she’s a genius. Jeremy, as usual, is an awesome hype-man. We used the internal mic of Jeremy’s computer, though I underestimated how great it was and sat a little too close. Jeremy didn’t know Garageband had beats. He is now quitting the band to become a rap star. Good luck, man.
We leave for Lexington, VA today for a house show. I love house shows as they never seem to disappoint and people are always so kind.
I decided to shave off some stress and hold off posting for the 365 until a huge wake of gigs has subsided, and the Pearl and the Beard EP release is off and running. It was a necessary sacrifice, unfortunately, and one I absolutely didn’t foresee going into the 365 a few months ago. But it’s all culminating into one glorious moment surrounded by friends and loved ones at the EP release show which is TONIGHT!
We have been writing, practicing, arranging and filming over several weeks for tonight’s show at The Living Room in the Lower East Side in Manhattan. We even got a fancy-schmancy photo shoot by the one and only Shervin Lainez! You can view his extensive catalogue here: www.shervinfoto.com The guy is a genius.
To top it all off: our new EP has been released online and is ready for you to own it, too! You can listen, purchase and download it here:
It is a special recording for us because it contains 3 solo songs from each of us and one rearrangement of our song Vessel from God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richarson. For the EP, I chose to do a fancy recording of a 365 song, Manek and Ilona (hear the EP version here). I approached Franz Nicolay about producing and arranging string parts for this song, which he did so beautifully. I absolutely love what he’s done, and my dear friend Emily Jane Price (who has also done a 365 with me!) drove all the way up from Baltimore in hours and hours of traffic to lend her beautiful violin playing to the song as well. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful friends to help me create something so meaningful.
Lastly, I am sitting on an awesome surprise that I hope I can reveal to you soon (the suspense is killing me)…and, of course, the 365 will be up and running once again! (Thank you for your patience!)
I have been compiling a large list of songs that I would like a huge UN-sanctioned choir to cover some day. I really think it could potentially unite us all as one world and bring peace to the land. This list includes, but is not limited to:
Pearl and the Beard has been writing songs up in Connecticut, and sadly, we are leaving today. We’ve been working hard to create some songs we’re happy with but at a certain point in the process it makes you crazy, and you get a bit desperate. Yesterday, we were to this point and just started singing this song. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a better version, but there’s something special about this craziness, although we might be the only people who will think this. I ran to the computer to record it as we were starting but missed the first few seconds. I might try to get us to do this better and repost when we have some time. You just have to have a little…
Faith by George Michael (First Rough)
(I want you to know that I absolutely love the original of this song. I remember when it came out: I totally wore my record out!)
Well I guess it would be nice
If I could touch your body
I know not everybody
Has got a body like you
But I’ve got to think twice
Before I give my heart away
And I know all the games you play
Because I play them too
Oh but I
Need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
And when that love comes down
Well it takes a strong man baby
But I’m showing you the door
‘Cause I gotta have faith…
I know you’re asking me to stay
Say please, please, please, don’t go away
You say I’m giving you the blues
You mean every word you say
Can’t help but think of yesterday
And another who tied me down to loverboy rules
Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I’ll wait for something more
We played a very, very small show in Memphis, Tennessee. Though it was small and ill-attended, we met some really great people. Smokey bars really suck, however.
Today’s song is something Jeremy started singing as he was trying to get to sleep. Joc and I kept him up by attempting to record something else, so he just started singing this, and I went with it. I like the laziness of the sound of his voice because 1) he is trying to sleep and 2) he is laying down.
The other problem I’m having with recording is that I’ve lost my headphones at a house in DC and Jeremy’s headphones broke today, so all mixing and tracking has to be done with headphones that only have the left ear working.
Jeremy and Jocelyn both speak spanish (well, at least Jocelyn speaks pretty fluent spanish; I’m not sure about Jeremy actually). I did nothing but study french, so I’m useless, though I do want to do a song in a different language for sure.
Jeremy recorded first, then Joc, then me. It was an experiment in remembering and responding. We recorded everything once. As you’ll hear, Jeremy gets a little…. well.. Jeremy in the middle of it, so we had to work with that, too.
We have a show in Little Rock, Arkansas tonight. I’ve never been this far south, and I’ve never seen so many places to eat fried food in my life. Hoping you are well today!
Ven aquí, mi amor.
Ven aquí, por favor.
Porque yo quiero besarte.
We are in Nashville. Nashville is the home of two of the most lovely people I’ve met. Justin Tam of the band Quote and his beautiful fiancée Kacie have put us up for the evening. Justin sat down with us, despite having to get up at 7 in the morning for work, after our Basement show and stayed up until about 1:30 in the morning and goofed around with his really awesome, 10-string, uke-like, Peruvian instrument (of which I now forget the name). It got a bit out of control, so I had to create some order to the chaos and edit this song. His brother walked in on us recording and said, “Oh. There’s a lot of people here.” This became the main lyric, and we just went with it. Because this is a live recording, and we really didn’t have time to do this more than once, it clips, but you get the idea of the general energy.
I wish I had had more time to develop something really cool and more structured because Justin’s voice is so beautiful, and he has such a wonderful instinct for melody. But, because his voice is so awesome, I got some unaccompanied clips of him singing that I’ll use later on.
Observation: I generally find myself becoming shy in large groups, and it shows in this song. I held myself back and only really sang in the chorus. I like syncopation and glad I was able to slip it in here…I’ve felt quite disjointed with news of current events and not really having any alone time starts affecting my thinking processes. It’s a strange mix for me. I’d like to have a nice quiet hour to write, but being on tour can be hard. I’ve had such a nice time and Jocelyn and Jeremy have been so supportive of me and Jonathan. I love my band. I think I’m just not looking forward to a funeral. You know? Not at all.
Justin Tam: You are fantastic. I got him performing a song for us he wrote himself that I really wanted to post for you to hear. It’s a beautiful song about Kacie. They are getting married on April 24th. Many lovely congratulations to them!
We are in Memphis tonight… and I am going to try to make these guys go to a movie today (I’ve been deprived).
The House that Humble Built (Or “There’s Too Many People Here”)
It is now late (again) and Pearl and the Beard have offered their help for the song today… this is a little improv number for you…
I’m sorry these postings have been so brief and nondescript. Things have been pretty up and down and quite busy. We head off to Nashville tomorrow, which I’m quite excited for, actually. I leave for Utah Saturday morning to attend Jonathan’s father’s funeral then return a week later to play two shows on April 2 and 3 in Salt Lake City. There are some very hard things to do and other, much different things to do in the next little while… I suppose this is part of what life gives us, no? I don’t know how else to look at it except from far away like you look at a painting in the museum: seeing the whole thing as a spectator; close enough to kind of understand it, but far way enough from it until you’re ready to see how it’s actually put together in its detail and be affected by it wholly.
Writing: This is another example of how a song can be born from virtually nothing by improvising. I purposely made Jeremy’s guitar out of tune to achieve that old wonky guitar sound, and somewhere in the middle tried to create the sound of a musical saw with my voice as an experiment.
I hope your Monday morning feels less like Monday and more like a Wednesday or Thursday even.
Thank you for visiting and reading…though I have been a bit distracted lately, I’m so glad you’re here.