How would you classify your music?
I try to steer away from classifications other than ‘New Beatles’… but lately I’ve been calling it ‘Apple-core thrift-pop/windie-rock with a little loft-bop n’ soul’
What influenced the songwriting and sound of the new album Peace Meal?
Most of the songs were originally demo’d on a laptop computer with a tiny microphone late at night while everyone else was sleeping — so there’s a bit of a confessional, stream-of-consciousness vibe. This was the first time I was making demos digitally, so I discovered some magic in experimenting with a different process of piecing songs together. It was mostly an acoustic guitar that I would leave naked for one track but then warp to a bass or a distorted lead on another… I also had fun with keyboard keys, tiny toy percussion, and loops. By the time we brought the songs into the studio, there was an effort to expand the ideas and still leave room for them to breathe, to be human, and to be in a conversational tone much like the demos.
Is there a special story behind the new album or any of the particular songs on it?
The album itself became something entirely different – and much more meaningful – than what I had originally conceived. I wanted the varying styles and shape-shifting to allow for an integrated and engaged listening experience that would keep people on their toes. But it took years to complete. So, alongside the record itself morphing with every additional musician’s contribution and the re-imagination of some tunes, I changed as a person during that span. Then, just as the final mixes were being sent, I experienced a personal trauma when my infant daughter Rishi died in her sleep. This left me entirely debilitated. I couldn’t handle anything in life, much less any music business; I had to surrender to fate and let the world spin its own course. By the time I came back around to release ‘Peace Meal’, the songs and the record as a whole had new meaning and purpose. Now it’s like a communion with the afterlife, the unknown, the divine.
Is there a song on Peace Meal that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?
There’s not one I can pick out as my favorite because they’re all inspired, but I’m glad that songs like ‘Great Wide Ocean’ and ‘Therapy’ are on there, because they are braver in their nude quality than anything I’ve recorded before. A lot of these songs pushed me to be bolder than I’ve ever been.
What was it like working with producer Robin MacMillan?
It’s an odyssey every time we record together; I feel like a chosen one who gets to take my songs on a ride through Willy Wonka’s magical mystery tour. Robin is a first-class musician, a top-rate engineer, an encyclopedia of sounds, techniques, and studio tricks; but what makes him great as a producer is his love of the journey. He’s quick as heck, and never gets in his own way, but there’s also a stoic steadiness to him that allows us to get to the heart of every track, every tone, every take. Making an earnest record is truly hard work. When I was in Brooklyn in April of 2015 tracking some of these songs with him, I never stepped foot inside a bar. And yet, the process of making a record with Robin MacMillan is as fun and rewarding as any trip I’ve ever been on.
Ultimately, what do you want fans to take away from Peace Meal?
Whatever they can.
How have you evolved as an artist since your last album Adventure:Us?
A lot of my life in music was un-learning. I had a few lessons on piano and guitar in my youth, but never properly learned to read music; that felt restrictive rather than empowering to me. Adventure:Us was kind of a flash of unbridled transmissions. Since its release, I took on new roles playing with Tim Cohen and Healing Potpourri… toying with different styles and getting out of my own head. So I’ve become more adaptable to the input and creative contributions of others. I’m a better listener these days, and able to channel my excess energy into a legible form. And I’m always pushing to be impeccable with my word.
What’s next for you? Will you be touring in support of Peace Meal?
We’ve got our official San Francisco release show this Wednesday, June 12 at The Balboa Theater! Then I believe we’ll be delivering Peace Meal throughout the U.S. in the fall.
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