Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Half Written Song

We've all left things half-finished. Usually it doesn't feel good to do so. And then usually you forget about it and move on to something else. Songs are like that sometimes. I have a tendancy to just write a song in less than a minute, because sometimes things, feelings, thoughts, just need to get the hell out of me. But on occasion, I will start a song and then leave it half finished. Either I get fed up with not knowing which direction to take, or frustrated at the fact that I don't even know what I'm writing about. Or even that I just plain don't like what I'm doing. When this happens, it's best to just walk away and come back to it later. This goes for any project, or work assignment, or school essay. You just need to give it and yourself distance and space, and most likely you will feel inspired later in the day. Or the next day. With my songs left undone, when I come back to them, they usually turn into something that I like. It may not be my best song, and I might not even share it, but it's done and it's out of me. I wish I could do that with alot of things, not just songs. I tend to leave a lot of things half done. And it sucks. It doesn't feel good to do. So starting now, how about we all just see things through. We'll probably feel better about things in the end.

-Morgan Erina

P.S. Episode 2 of our video series is posted

Friday, January 27, 2012

Music: the elephant in the room

Before I get into the post I just want to let everyone know that you should read the last one from Morgan.  I think she captured the frustration and self-doubt a lot of us feel on a day to day basis, so check it out, it's not long.

I just got a text from our engineer/coproducer Dave:

"I did a super rough mix of 'listen to my voice'... get excited dude."

Dave's not one to gush or overreact, so needless to say that left me feeling warm and fuzzy.  We're zeroing in on a date and venue for the record release in May, so this concept is becoming more and more a reality.  Just wanted to share my excitement about that really quickly.

Being a artist, especially an aspiring band, is a different experience than most people have.  Many people have passions and hobbies, and that can even include making art, but there is a fundamental obsession, or belief, or mantra--I'm not sure what you call it--missing from "normal" people (no way could you call me or Morgan normal, or almost any other artist we know for that matter).  I'm sure Morgan and any real artist would agree that no matter what we're doing, even if it's something we enjoy, there's a voice telling us that if it's not music it's not really what we're supposed to be doing.  I love baseball and fishing, but if I had a choice between a week of baseball and fishing but no guitar and a week of making lattes (thank the gods those days are over) with the guitar waiting for me at home, I'd have to opt for the lattes.

In tuning and repairing pianos I am lucky to have found a way of making some money for myself that I can put up with and even utilize some of my musical skills.  Morgan has had more trouble on that front, in that every day job she's had to endure has been just so incredibly--not music.  It looks like now she's finally found a job she can take some personal pride in.  But, while we might not mind, and even sometimes enjoy the practical jobs that are facts of our lives, music is always the elephant in the room.
(yes, I google imaged "elephant in the room")

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole

This is a reminder to myself and to everyone who has moments of feeling completely hopeless. Life doesn't stop immediatly just because you are down in luck, love, and money. As much as I wish I could be part of the priveleged, or that I could wake up and everything would be in it's place, free from worry, I know that this is not reality. The most important thing to remember when you are in this situation, is not to alienate the ones who care about you and who will care for you. This is something I have to keep reminding myself of, I might just get it tattooed on the inside of my hand. Being down doesn't last forever, even though it seems like that way. I'm reading this book on buddism that talks of happiness, real happiness, and that it comes from your state of mind. To be positive and free, and carefree in thinking, everyday, even when things go wrong, which things usually do, is hard to put into practice. But if someone on this earth did it, so can i. Yeah, I've got years and years of negative thinking to erase, but I dont want to give up hope just yet. What I want, that has nothing to do with stupid money: I want Broken Fences to go places, I want to tour and meet people I admire, I want to be someone people look to for help because I know excatly where the dark is. I've been down that rabbit hole a million times, and I've stayed down there for years. There's always a door open to me to go down there, I'm aware of this. It's fighting taking those easy steps down that are the hardest. I know I'll have to fight for my whole entire life not to get trapped down there again. I feel like right now, I'm sitting on the steps, just thinking. I can see the light, but it's not mine completely yet. and if it ever will be, who knows. But at least I know it's there. That's what I want to make other people realize. You can be in the dark, but not with the door closed. I still have the key to lock the door and not go outside, but even in this moment when I feel like I'm falling, I still want to walk outside. I hope my music can bring that message to a million others. That's all I want.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dinner of the Broken

I might be referring to my extreme lack of money, which I know I think about too much about and Guy has said that I need to stop. But I am also referring to the fact that this Broken Fence loves to cook. I know this is not talking about music, but at the moment, I am so hungry and being broke doesn't help that fact. For Christmas, Guy bought me a beautiful cook book for Vegetarians. I fell in love. It has the most amazing pictures and the instructions are easy to follow. So far though, I have only made one dish, Stuffed Peppers.  And then I lost my job and stopped making anything. But now with a new part time job and a need to start cooking again, I will pick out a new recipe to make. Maybe I should make the lovely lasagna, or the teriyaki noodle dish which looks amazing from the photo. Thing about cooking from a cook book though, is that it will not always look like the photo. I mean, come on, how many times did they have to make the damn dish to make it look that perfect. But you know what, it comes out looking pretty close, and tastes just the way it's supposed to. I'm looking forward to cooking dinner for us soon, I'll let you know what I make :)

Off to drink tea


Thursday, January 19, 2012

State of the Album in 2012

It's crazy how much music is changing with technology, and how fast it's happening.  Five years is now a lifetime in this industry.  People my age and older grew up listening to albums, whether in CD, tape, or vinyl form.  Growing up my school was 25 miles from home, and I used to pray for traffic so I could listen to the entirety of whatever album I had playing in my Discman.  The album was how the art of music was presented to me, and I spent my whole life dreaming of making my own albums.  I made a couple homemade, 10-song CDs by the time I got to college, but you couldn't call them albums.  I lost count of the  number of bands I played and recorded with, but Broken Fences is the first time it's felt like the real deal.  So finally I'm here, producing the medium I've always dreamed of producing, and what am I hearing?

"The album is on its way out, man.  No one listens to albums anymore."

With streaming music like Spotify and Pandora putting up outrageous numbers and record stores everywhere closing, it's kind of hard to argue.  But to me that's like Major League Baseball deciding to play one inning at a time instead of 9-inning games.  That mentality undermines everything we've been working towards; all the time, money, energy, and emotion.  When I hear people say things like that, it causes me to take a close look at myself as a musician and as a fan.

I realized that the statement above is really about commerce, not art.  Making this album, then, might not have been the best business decision we could have made, but damnit if we didn't need to make it anyway.  An album has an artistic energy to it that a compilation of singles just can't imitate.  We recorded all of these songs close together, using mostly the same musicians, spaces, and equipment, yet still trying to make each song stand out.  I like to think of it as a high-wire act, and the same can't be said for just a collection of songs.

We're planning to make the album available on vinyl, not because that's an efficient way to deliver our music to our fans, but because we know it'll mean more to someone than just a play on some streaming music service, even if that someone is in the minority.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the album.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


So, I'm finding it kind of ironic that on the day that I become unemployed, our single "Wait" is going to be played on a popular tv show. This show is called: Flashpoint. Channel? ION. TIME? 10pm. I will admit that Guy and I plan on sitting down and watching it. Even though we've seen the clip where our song plays, it will be neat to see it on live television. It will also be a confidence booster to yours truly, because I am trying my hardest not to freak out or get down about being back, yet again, on the unemployment line.

Enough about me, lets talk about how we got onto Flashpoint. We have a friend named Brad Yoder. He is basically a legend in the Pittsburgh music scene. He found an interest in our song and passed it along to Beth who works for a production company. She took our song, shopped it around and landed us a sweet deal on this show. And I know I will forever be grateful, as I'm sure Guy will be as well. Is it too soon though to say that I hope we get more and more? haha

I'm trying to think of what to write about. This day has just been a flurry of quitting jobs, Pittsburgh rain, driving my sister to the airport, and making lists to begin figuring out what the hell I'm going to do next. All I know though is that Broken Fences and music are my real jobs. Tonight we celebrate Broken Fences. It's only been a year and a half since we started this band, and we've come this far. We can only go farther...expecially once our debut album comes out! :p

Hope you all have a good night, and sleep well. I know I will.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Music Industry?

I'm back! Back from NYC, settling into snowy Pittsburgh once again. And settling into my new job (ugh). While I was at work today, making sandwiches, french toast, and endless, and I mean ENDLESS bacon egg and cheese on plain, wheat, onion what have you bagels, I was thinking, what am I doing? It's really hard, from my view point at least, to take steps towards making a living off my music. Yes, I should be playing more shows, with Broken Fences and solo shows as well, and I will get on that!, but also, promoting. Promoting is a difficult one. It's something that has never come naturally to me, I would rather sit on my bed and just write songs.  But unless I want to be serving food to strangers for the rest of my life, this is something that I have to, MUST work on. Guy and I have a very good friend named Tim Ruff. You've probably seen him walking around pittsburgh, or caught his video "Walking In Pittsburgh" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELiRqFNdsW0

Anyway, he has a motivation that is to be envied. After talking to him about this, and getting some good pointers, I realized that it all just comes down to doing it. And that sounds so stupid. But part of doing it, is motivating yourself. He has been listening to this pod cast that he says is really helping him, and introducing him to new ideas. Guy has also listened to it, and sent a text today saying that he also was getting tons of ideas. I have not listened to it yet, but I should. and I am. I just have this stupid thing in my way called, being really good at escapism. This is something I have to take down a notch, rejoin the living, you know what I'm saying.

Another part of doing it, is having a team. Tim said this, thank you Tim. We musicians can't do this on our own. We have to have a team, a group of people we can put our trust into, and a group of people where each person brings something different to the table. Guy and I are very lucky to have a good team already. Zoob, Tim, Dave, not to mention the whole Club Cafe scene! Now all we need to add is a booking agent manager, and a great PR person. That will come, I'm sure it will, after our record is done and we tour with it and all of that.

I just have to keep telling myself that I will not be serving bagels or bread of whatever for the rest of my life, because damnit, I have music in me! It's my only real skill, really. So I kindof just, you know, have to make it. :p

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Moving right along

I've been letting Morgan handle the whole blog operation thus far, but she's in NYC and I'm in the studio, so I figured I'd make myself useful.  Morgan and I have been fully hands-on through every aspect of this project to this point, but this is where we have to trust our producer/music production savant, Dave.  Looking over his shoulder at the color-coded sound waves on the screen in all their countless representations, it takes me about five minutes to get a handle on what he's actually doing at any given time, and by then he's moved on to the next editing task.  We wrote strings parts together, made GarageBand mock-ups of all the songs testing out bass and drums and keyboard parts, but this is where the musicians don't bring a whole lot to the table.  The great thing about Dave Hidek is he's a phenomenal musician himself so he can work in both worlds and sometimes translate engineer techy things into a language we in the band can understand.

Dave has shared Morgan's and my vision for this record from the start, and the same can still be said, but that's not to deny there are some disagreements.  But I prefer it that way.  Ultimately the goal is to capture the raw Broken Fences sound as purely as possible, but that can mean a lot of things.  Of course instrumentation can enhance a performance, but it can also detract from it, so we're finding the sweet spot.  Morgan and I wrote the songs, but the whole process as been so collaborative that I've learned even more than I expected.  Zoob's given tons of input Dave Throckmorton (drummer) was a true professional laying down his parts, and he really put his stamp on those songs.  Jason Rafalak (bass) couldn't have been easier to work with, and his parts sound phenomenal.

When I think about the record, my heart rate invariably skyrockets.  It's a pretty potent mix of emotions, the strongest of which are definitely excitement and anticipation, but there's an inevitable element of fear wrapped up in there.  We've invested so much into making this album, from the actual songwriting--songs are like children to most songwriters, remember--to the humbling Kickstarter experience that funded it, to the time and effort spent not only in the studio but all the obsessive planning, envisioning, and brainstorming we do when we should be working or sleeping.

I'm thrilled with how everything sounds.  I know we captured great performances of what I know are great songs.  Sometimes the obsession and anxiety that come along with it make me think, though.   It's so tempting to let this album define us as people.  I see it as a reflection of myself, shared with Morgan and Dave and Zoob and the other musicians---but at the core of it are me and Morgan, and that's a scary thing.  I feel exposed and vulnerable, but at the same time I'm desperate to show it.  It's tough to keep it all in perspective.

But enough psychoanalysis.  We're incredibly lucky to be doing this, honestly.  We're having the time of our lives here, playing music, doing what we love.  The generosity of our friends and fans, as well as Treelady Studios, has given us an enviable opportunity to be heard, and we're making the most of it.  Thanks, guys.  Now please enjoy this incredible video of Ray Lamontagne singing "Henry Nearly Killed Me": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpoVQNR2y6Y&feature=youtu.be

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Year

Hello again,

I'm am writing to you from an amtrak train on its way to New York City. At the same time, Guy is on a plane back Pittsburgh, coming from Texas. It's silly that I am leaving just as he is getting back, but it was the only time that I could find to take time off and visit my family. We've made a deal though, when I get back to Pittsburgh on Thursday, Broken Fences is going to "turn it up a notch" as Guy said in a lovely text. It is true that things have been slow on the Broken Fences front, and that hasn't felt good. So after this much needed vacation, I am diving into ambition for finishing the album, and no longer falling asleep in the studio on Dave's couch, and I'm sure Guy will do the same, though he never falls asleep there.
Speaking of the album, right now we are in the process of editing. It's sounding amazing so far, I can't wait till we can show it off. But all in due time. Guy and I are also in the process of finding a place to hold the release party in the Spring, which you will all be informed about, as we would like to make it a great big event.

Well I'm off to watch another movie and perhaps Guy is too.