TFL Blog #3

Hey y’all, your friendly neighborhood percussionist at your service.

You know, like most other forms of art, music can evoke emotions, it can be interpreted by others in ways the artist might not have expected and it can inspire others to create new original art of their own or put a unique spin on something else, hopefully in a flattering manner. Usually there are specific pieces of art though, either of a similar theme or by one or more like artists, that draw a person back to them time and time again; sometimes unbeknownst to the individual. With regards to art, in this case music, I’ve found that there are three types of people: those that couldn’t care less about it, those who see it as nothing more than a fleeting moment of escape from their reality, and those who gravitate towards it and develop some level of personal connection.  Type number 3 are incredibly fascinating people because when they create music in response to other music they’ve heard, or they share music that resonates with them, you get this subtle and wonderful sense of what the person is like. Maybe it’s a glimpse into how they feel in private moments, maybe it’s a strong cultural influence they grew up with and have pride in, or maybe something that they want desperately to share and can’t find words to do so. When music is so important to a person, it could be for any number of reasons, but I feel that the music they take into themselves will eventually reciprocate outwards.

I am drawn to emotional music; sad, funky, empowering, bittersweet, etc; and it’s the music in which I find the emotional connection. If the lyrics are strong enough, then great, but 9 times out of 10, I’m thinking about how the carefully arranged collection of notes and chords makes me feel at my core. No, I’m not the stereotypical emo rock type, though that genre does have a place in my life. One of my favorite bands, Nightwish, has a song called “Song of Myself” and the last line says “And there forever remains that change from G to E minor”. This line has a two-fold meaning: the album is a concept album and that line references the story, but scientifically speaking, certain chord changes in music can effectively evoke emotional triggers in the brain and a major to minor chord change is one of them. This is so fucking fascinating to me and whenever I experience music that does such a thing, I dive deeper into it. Knowing this, it should come as little surprise that I try to incorporate this into my musical ideas. Nightwish was a huge influence in ideas I had for a song written almost a decade ago called My Dearly Departed, but in currently written music, my ideas still have a twinge of the emotional element that I find so intriguing and powerful.

TFL has this mantra of “unabashed creativity”. In a way, it’s a redundant phrase, because if you’re creating something that is not unique to yourself, then you are holding something back, and therefore being only partially creating and partially replicating. We could get into the whole discussion of “it’s all been done before; there are only so many notes” blah blah blah (trust me, I’ve had that conversation 40 bajillion times) but my point is that musicians who are truly vested in their work usually have some kind of goal in mind. Techno artists want to discover all the ways they can manipulate sound waves and frequencies and still get you to dance like the sexy, overworked socialite you think you are. Metal artists want to find different ways, in varying proportions, to simultaneously get out deep-seeded aggression and be curiously technical and mathematical, or, as I like to call it, brutally nerdy. Jazz artists want to explore ways to bare the soul as smoothly and colorfully as possible; so on and so forth. Having fun making music plays a big role, but if that’s all you’re looking to do, then not only will your career be stunted by the next band who just wants to have fun, but your skill level as a musician will also be limited. I am simply saying there needs to be an equilibrium between having fun and challenging yourself.  I firmly believe that if you want to be a successful pop rock, soul, djent, country, or whatever band, you must find that equilibrium because the bands that come and go in the blink of an eye are most certainly holding something back.

“Unabashed” also means honest. I do not believe that musicians should make music to the expectations of their fans. True fans like what the band chooses to do and a lot of times, they like it even more when they see the band grow and mature. Being honest in a band means the members are honest with each other. When I present an idea and we give it a solid effort, I’m looking for feedback. Very rarely are new ideas perfect on the first go, so I expect their thoughts on what they like about the idea, what might need to be tweaked, or what simply just doesn’t work in their mind. I expect this for three reasons: because all four of us have equal say in how the music forms and because I want to make sure we are all thinking critically about the music, because in my mind, that’s the only way we are going to grow and succeed individually and collectively. We have significant roles in the band, therefore we have significant perspectives.  Our music is certainly unabashed. It’s honest, it’s imperfect, it’s evolving.

I promise I will discuss the music in more musical and less philosophical terms soon. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m getting married to the funniest, most beautiful and unabashed person I’ve ever known in 1 month and 22 days, so needless to say, I have been preoccupied. Thanks for reading and thanks very much for listening.

Cheers!

TFL Blog #2

Hey y’all! Andrew again. Hopefully you’ll be able to identify me by my very white New Englander use of the word “y’all”. Anywho, I’m feeling bloggy and wanting to talk about music.

First let me say, in my last post, I mentioned that the last 7 years were, in my opinion, the most creative in my life. This is not, by any means, to detract from years prior that I was involved musically. During my teen years, I did play with other musicians, but not in a creative sense. We played songs that were already written. It was beneficial in that I got to play with other people, but I felt like I was putting a beat to the music and not necessarily being part of the music itself. 2007-2010 were the years for that. They were exploratory years; I learned a great deal about being an active part of a band and we wrote music, not to mention the recording sessions and many inside jokes about bagels, that I could never forget.

That being said, I’m chomping at the bit to talk about what we’re doing now. We are writing an EP that is essentially 7 years in the making. We wrote a number of things in the beginning, but only a few made the cut and I’ll probably go into more detail about those songs themselves in future posts.  We (Tom, James and myself) started jamming with no real direction or preconceptions. At the time, Tom was pop punk and some classic rock, James was classic rock and blues, and I was hard rock and metal, but the one thing we all had in common was progressive; that broad, mysterious, and largely undefined spectrum of music. Progressive music, as I understand it, can be defined as having a tendency, but not exclusivity, towards unconventional song structures, odd time signatures, and elements of story-telling. We attempted it with “How Darkly We Dream” and at best, it was a collection of significantly different sounding songs with a story very much subject to interpretation. Nonetheless, when James started playing with us, that prog element we shared became a little more tangible, recognizable and natural. We still have those influences, as well as other musical tastes we’ve developed over time, but in these 7 years, we have become more intuitive with each other and more certain of what our collective sound is becoming. It’s been a particularly curious thing for me to see how an idea takes shape, and while the notes and chords are a big part of it, having the right flow and cadence, and an arrangement that makes sense to us is foremost in our minds.

I like to think we have a learning curve, where what was done prior is used as a jumping off point. There are inherent flaws in every piece of art that the artist only notices while the next piece of art is being created and sometimes it takes weeks, months, or years for the artist to decide when to stop tweaking and call it finished. This was largely the case with a lot of our songs, but in many instances, Corinne’s input has helped us to do just that. We are currently in the process of writing vocal parts, and at a point where even just that final missing element can make you see a song in a different light. It’s like a room in your house that’s fully furnished and decorated and the walls are a nice neutral color, and years later you repaint the room a new color. It’s still the same room you were happy and comfortable in, but now it has a new feel, mood and attitude and a real sense of completion.

Well, that’s all I got for right now. As I said, I’d like to start talking about individual songs and my thought processes I had during them. Thanks so much for reading!

Cheers!

TFL Blog #1

Hey y’all! Andrew here. First off, thank you for listening, for supporting, for reading. This is officially the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, so I’m gonna type a bunch of stuff and then erase it before I’ve decided it’s good enough to post. The last 7 years have been the most creative  and rewarding of my life. The original intent of this was to talk about just that; the songwriting, the recording, the covers, the conversations – all of it up to this point. But I’m compelled to start at the beginning, for context.

I first picked up the drumsticks when I was in second grade in Roslindale, Massachusetts; not where I was born, mind you, but just where I happened to be. I went to the absolute SHITTIEST public school that I can remember, until I moved back to NH. The building was a hundred years old at best and so was my teacher. I have exactly one memory of music class and that was in the basement of the building where the class was taught, in a small room, maybe 20×20, with one smaller room segregated by a wall and a large window pane. There was a drumset in that room and on this particular day, we were invited to go and play around with it. At that age, all I knew was that it made noise, and I wanted my noise to be the loudest. The teacher had to physically take the drumsticks out of my hands so that the other kids could have a turn. Talk about a novel memory. Skip ahead a few years to seventh grade in the Newmarket, NH school system; Mr. Andrew Gallagher was our music teacher and he was the first person outside of family to recognize my affinity for drums. His encouragement meant something different from my family’s because that’s what family does, but he didn’t have to unless he really meant it. I didn’t get a whole lot of encouragement from my other teachers then, so his words really resonated.

My folks encouraged me a lot too. My step-dad introduced me to many of the bands I still love today; Kansas, Yes, Rush, ELP; and some I don’t listen to much anymore; The Cars, The B-52’s (Rock Lobster is the shit though), Gary Numan. When I was old enough, there was a youth group at our church that I would go to, with a drumset in the youth room I would fool around on. At the same time, started taking lessons. My first teacher was a guy by the name of Peter Moutis in Greenland, NH. He taught out of his basement in a small, sound-proofed room with two drumsets in it. His lessons were rudimentary and repetitive, as they probably should have been. He gave me a staff book and after each lesson he wrote a rhythm and assigned literally pages of different variations of that rhythm in notation for homework. I fucking hated it!!! That Christmas, I got my first kit, an Adams Percussion set, and I could’ve blown a hole through the roof with excitement. I wailed on that sum’bitch till my parents begged for mercy.

I had another teacher later on by the name of David “Leif” Gerdjouy, in Newmarket. He was very much a traditional jazz drummer and keyboardist. I like him a lot more because he incorporated a practical element as well as the theoretical. He encouraged me to bring in music I was listening to and adapted it into his lessons. We even jammed a number of times, which was just a beneficial to me as a student as working the books. This was probably the first instance that I remember recognizing the benefit of playing with another musician. As much as I liked his lessons, I chose to quit, because I selfishly didn’t want to put the time into practicing. During my freshman year of high school, I joined the youth worship band at my church. I took those practical lessons and fuckin’ sprinted with them, mostly to show off for all my friends. It became quite clear I needed to practice with a metronome, but I was still too immature to even consider it. High school was an interesting period for me musically, because I had the foundation of what my step-dad listened to with drummers like Carl Palmer, Neil Peart, Alan White, Bill Bruford, Nick D’Virgilio, and Phil Ehart, but I had found an interest in less technical, more raw drumming from the likes of Dave Grohl, Travis Barker, Noah Bernardo Jr., and Steve Augustine. I continued to play throughout high school in youth group, chorus and jazz classes and it was great, until I graduated and had to leave. In 2009, I was given a gorgeous, bright red Tama StarClassic kit that I still use to this day. As I fine-tuned my preferences for cymbals, drum heads, sticks and hardware, I began to develop what would be the sound and style I have now.

Life happened, blah blah blah, I worked in retail at a local supermarket, which is where I met James. He was cool to work with and we got along, but it wasn’t until years later that he and I developed what would become the friendship we have today. He left for college and then I met Tom at that same goddamn grocery store. Countless shifts stocking shelves later, we met up at my parents house and recorded, with my Adams drums, his acoustic guitar and Mac laptop, our first ever song, Juno. Tom had connections at a dance studio in East Kingston, so for a number of years we practiced there with another co-worker, Chris Taylor. The three of us spawned the Carson…Is Here EP, recorded in Derry, NH with a spry sonuvabitch Tyler Daniels and mixed/mastered in Newfields, NH with an old friend of my step-dad’s, the illustrious Duncan Watt. A couple years later came our first attempt at a concept album, “How Darkly We Dream”, also recorded with Daniels (13 tracks in 16 hours), and mixed/mastered by none other than Bob Beal III of The Screen and BB3 Studios. Chris left by that point, but Tom and I were fairly comfortable in knowing we weren’t done.

After jamming with a couple other blokes for fun, our good friend James came to jam with us. To this day, I give him major kudos, because he really stepped up to the plate, taught himself bass guitar from scratch and has been such an integral part in developing the sound we now have, which was so much different from Chris. I say that because, in my mind, it wasn’t just his playing, it was his attitude. With James, we now had the open-mindedness, the flexibility and the focus we lacked before. All three of us had such diverse musical interests, that we couldn’t help but learn from each other. For five solid years, all we did was jam, write, practice, become more comfortable with each other, almost ad nauseum, without giving much thought to our future as a band. We played a house show and a show in Manchester and for me, that was a small  glimpse of our potential and the point at which we started to get serious about what we were doing and what we were capable of.

Eventually, we started looking for additional talent, because we acknowledged there was something we lacked, some hole in our sound. None of us were vocalists and that’s exactly what we needed. We were fortunate that Corinne, who was someone Tom knew years ago, had experience in musical theater, and reached out to us. In a very real way, she completed the group, and has been so open and patient and committed. I think I can speak for Tom and James in saying we are grateful to her for sticking it out with us and offering her amazing voice and creative mind.

I suppose I should talk about writing and recording next, but that will have to wait till next time. Thanks for reading folks. Cheers!

~Andrew