I’ve spent my life as a late bloomer, perpetually running to catch up. I was late into my teens before I even knew that I could sing, into my twenties before starting to play guitar, in my late twenties before I was in a band writing my own songs, and only years later would release my first album. Chasing the clock, hoping to catch up before time runs out.
I was born and raised in the hills and valleys of West Virginia, a land of contradictions itself – a place of conservative values and union labor, of startling beauty and stifling poverty, of struggle and soul. It was here that I had my first musical experiences, from the traditional country gospel of my ancestors to sneaking into my older sisters’ bedroom to pilfer and explore their collection of 45s, pretending I was giving concerts, using the bed as a stage.
In May this year, I found myself becoming disillusioned with music, something I never thought would happen. No matter how many hours I’d put into creating pieces, they always felt hollow and meaningless – maybe a technique here or there was exciting, but for months, it all felt like nothing.
With roots firmly in ambient and noise music, this was an unsustainable position to be in, and I felt like giving up.
The most vivid artwork I’ve ever seen was a series of blank frames.
The first time I walked into the Dutch Room at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I was gobsmacked. This room was the site of the most notorious art heist in history, where thirty-three years ago, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and stole half a billion dollars worth of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. I’ve never witnessed such a visceral display of the absence of art.
Since I can remember, I’ve been performing. My earliest memories are dancing around my childhood home, singing along to my mom’s records, or doing what I can only describe as a cobra pose inside the giant planter boxes at our local shopping mall, pretending I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I used to feel like I could fly when I sang, like I had tiny wings sprouting from my back.
As I got older, my grandma taught me how to play piano, back when my hands were so tiny I couldn’t hit an octave. In school, I added choir, theater, and dance team to my repertoire, and I was sure I would be a big theater star one day. But of course, pragmatism won, and I went to college for something far less fun and ended up in a career even less fun, leaving a part of myself behind.
For years, my creative self was suffocated. I was dying to tap back into the freedom that came with being on stage, that rare out-of-body experience when you get to leave yourself behind and become something else entirely.
How can you convey a song about a disease? Especially a disease like epilepsy that most people have heard about but probably know very little about. And can I express the feelings and the hopelessness associated with having a child with this disease without it being simply too much for others to listen to?
Among other things, it was with these thoughts that I started writing the song Epilepsy. A song that has now become very central to my album The Admirer, which is my most personal album to date. The song was also the first single from the album, and was released on International Epilepsy Day. That all made sense.
On our sophomore full-length album, “No Easy Way Out,” we examine tragedy underneath a bed of pulsating drone-rock following the murder of our bass player Aron Christensen in 2022, inspired by artists like Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
We do a lot of things: heavy blues, psychedelic, and atmospheric rock. It’s not as psychedelic/jammy as our first record. It’s more dark and brooding. It has some jams in it, but it’s far more focused.
Tragically, the biggest story isn’t our sound but the death of Aron Christensen, who was murdered while hiking with his four-month-old puppy, Buzzo. Inept police work, a lazy district attorney, and many questions that will probably never be answered have led many news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, to write about Aron’s mysterious murder. However, before his passing, we were finishing what would become No Easy Way Out, an eight-track collection of songs that explore, examine, and contemplate life, death, and how nobody makes it out alive.
Many years can go by, and one would have just a faint idea at best of what was going on in the midst of those rote routines, cycles, ellipses that engulf the conscious mind on a daily basis. The constant whirring of the gears, the hum of the system casting a tint across one’s attention span to prevent any particular deviation from the expected routine of the machine as it rolls along in its tread.
An observation of Tennessee Williams’ characters that seems inescapable to me is that of the unconscious voice that breaks through that cacophony of time rolling along. It’s the precarious tendency of the soul to drive the outward behavior against the will of the conscious mind, and it’s inside this space, the point of contact where the winnowing drill of the conscience irks the daily systems in one’s life to force itself forward – that is the locus of creativity to me. A slow moving, but insistent, generative focal point.
I have just released my first solo album. It is called Mox Nox, a sundial motto that means ‘night, shortly’, and the theme running through the record is the passing of time, particularly the transition from day to night. Rather than writing songs specifically for the album, I looked through my songbook for things I had already written that fit this theme, and one of them (now called The Broken Song) jumped out at me as being a bit of a curiosity.
I’ve always been a night owl. I can be absolutely exhausted at 10pm, but by 11 my head will be racing with ideas. The Broken Song began its life during a nocturnal writing session, and its original lyrics made direct reference to being up all night. The song was clearly relevant – but it was also an underdog, half-written and still wearing its working title. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Looking over the lyrics, I remembered that I had always liked the verses but struggled to come up with a chorus. I’ve never been too worried about following a verse-chorus structure, but I knew this song needed more, and I knew that it was stuck. The breakthrough came when I deleted my crappy excuse for a chorus and looked at the lyrics that were left. Quite suddenly, I saw that the song I had thought was about a particular event in my life was about something else entirely.
It first began in 2019 with the release of ‘guilt.’ There have been three releases since.
The latest release, ‘too artsy for the footy kids, too footy for the art ones,’ was released in February 2023.
It was written and recorded in my bedroom as I moved across Melbourne, Bendigo, and Canberra over the last three years. Its title comes from a line in its second song, ‘michael cera, serotonin.’ It references how I fit in socially, growing up in a country town with an interest in sports and art.