I Can Explain
I got static in my head / the reflected sound of everything -- Elliott Smith
A couple of years ago, I started going insane.
I had started seeing a therapist, who helped me understand issues I'd been repressing for years. Inside that box were newfound anger issues, which morphed incompletely into depression. I saw therapists, tried meditation, explored medication options, and generally was a lot of fun to be around.
In the middle of this, I decided to make more music.
It was a crime of opportunity; I realized I had enough computer to resume recording. First Warning, the first song on Way Out, the record I released yesterday, was the first thing I recorded -- mostly as a proof of concept, to see what things would sound like at baseline. I learned a lot after that, and bought some cool plugins that made the music sound the way it does. But my point here is that the record originally wasn't intended to be some statement about going crazy in these times. It was just going to be music for the sake of being able to make music.
It was around this time -- the end of 2017, if I remember right -- that I started identifying heavily with the shoegaze genre, especially Slowdive's Morningrise EP. A lot of foggy-sounding reverb, used not supportively but rather creatively on the guitars. I decided I wanted to model my music after that sound for a while. From that decision, everything self-oscillated. The plugins and pedals and choices that chased that sound all fit in with my headspace, where I stopped trusting my observations and interpretations completely. In real life, I was often completely confused, and didn't know what was real. This music seemed to fit that perfectly; in a lot of cases, I found later that some decision or part could be retconned into the whole narrative, even when it hadn't been intended that way.
I don't remember whether I decided to write lyrics 'about' what was going on with me expressly because the music seemed already to fit that description. I don't remember much at all, lately. It's at least possible that these lyrics were the only ones I could have written. But I feel like I remember deciding to write openly and honestly, if a little obscurely, and like I remember the thrill of opening up so completely on the subject.
I should add that this all turned out to be extremely convenient. I started recording vocals hating the sound of my own voice (Lost was the first song for which I tracked vocals, if you need evidence), and while the true shoegaze thing to do would have been to just bury the vox -- something I initially did in earlier mixes -- I also drenched the vocals in reverb and other effects. I eventually started to like my singing, as I got a little better at it, and in some cases pulled these effects back a great deal. But shoegaze was the perfect genre to bury these shortcoming. The same is true of my bass playing, as any actual bassist will recognize, and the same is absolutely true of the production. I started out knowing almost literally nothing about recording, and if I got better as the project went along, I definitely never actually got good. 'We'll fix it in the mix' is a mocking cliche, but shoegaze offers some unique opportunities to actually do that. Hell, even times when a guitar wasn't in tune (or even properly set up) could be explained away. The whole record is an airtight alibi. 'No, it's *supposed* to sound like that.'
So what we have here is the cliche deeply personal album, and a concept album to boot. I wrote every stupid thing on it, then recorded myself -- poorly -- performing it (mediocrely). And yet it's hard to imagine anything else better representing where I've been. It's less authentically shoegaze than I planned, and it was hell to go through -- both the depression and huge swathes of making the record -- but I'm deeply gratified to have finally made some art that's this honest, and to actually like it as much as I do.
Oh, that gif? I found it on some web page once, saved it in case I could use it someday. Pretty, innit? If you find the creator, lemme know, I'd like to properly thank them.
Wait You Guys, Let's All Shut Up,