by Ben VanBuskirk of Blackout Orchestra
I can’t talk about music.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have the language. I can talk about what a particular song means to me, or I can talk about what that drummer is doing on the hi-hat that makes you know it’s them. Music history is an easy one – I’ve devoured all the rock bios, read all the critical analysis, seen all the interviews. I eat, sleep and breathe music. So why does it feel hard to talk about?
Not to sound all new-age about it, but music is elemental. Larger than life. When I was a kid, like most kids, I was into superheroes. The bright colors, the high stakes, the every moment of a story that meant something important to the larger narrative. As I grew up, music was the only “adult” thing that felt that exciting, that vital, that universal and yet intensely personal.
So of course I became a musician.
Listen to the album while reading the text.
I slammed around the punk rock scene for years, playing in one band or another, screaming myself hoarse and sleeping on strangers’ floors in even stranger towns. But this, Blackout Orchestra, was different.
In 2019, in the throes of alcoholism and an acutely nasty case of heartbreak, I came to a fork in the road – either die or get the hell on with life. I got sober and start taking better care of myself, and one of the first things was to start writing songs again.
That first album, I Will Want You When We Are Ghosts, was basically me working through the trauma of the last few years while simultaneously building and figuring out how to use a home studio. It’s rough around the edges, but so was I at the time, and I love it all the more for it.
In the interim, I met Lee from QuickFix recordings and I put out a single (It’s Fine) with them. It was nice to collaborate with someone to a degree after tinkering in my bedroom under headphones alone for so long.
So I started to work on the follow-up – I didn’t know what I was doing, where do I start? What’s the “story” of this album? The only thing that made sense was to not ask those questions. Just like with the previous record, just write and see what comes out.
The result is Beauty Sleep. It’s a record about being in-between big moments – between the break up and the new love, between “getting your shit together” and what you end up doing with that shit. And it was a document of a new relationship unfolding slowly.
But that’s the thing – I didn’t plan to make that album, that’s just what came out when I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to think about. I often don’t know what I’m writing about until a song is done, and I listen back – like, “Oh, I guess that’s something I needed to address.”
That’s why music is so hard for me to talk about – because talking means thinking and music, to me, is not about thinking at all. It’s about feeling, it’s a process of discovery – digging around in your subconscious with no intent, and about accepting what comes out of that.
So that’s the end of this piece, I guess. Because doing this, the talking, is the hard part. It’s time to get back to the doing.