Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Update and a Preview of "All Points North"

Hello again, blog world. Here's an update for you:

My twenty-fourth birthday is in two months, and I’m feeling myself shifting into getting older (Yes, I know, I know- twenty four is NOT old), although most of those feelings have to do with: 1)being more driven by my dissatisfaction with others for not doing things the way I would, and 2)realizing that within the next few years I’ll have to figure out how to stop relying on being “cute” and magically transform into an elegant, educated lady. I think I’m already working on the latter point by not being so angry about things anymore.

I have seven songs that make up what is essentially a new album and while there’s no song that’s completely happy or annoyance free (I find I can only write when I’m irritated with something but am too timid to hash it out with the person or I just feel the need to defend myself without being interrupted), I can see a marked difference between the lyrical content of these songs and the ones of “Cooler.” Cooler was me trying to get the Gin Circus out of my bloodstream and so a lot of the songs are either entirely sad or angry and very much into blaming the other person. Actually, all of the songs blame the other person.

But if that’s what I needed to write then that’s fine. Writing is how I process things that’ve happened to me and a lot of times it ends up sounding bitter because I was upset enough about it to need to process it in the first place. But if that’s my M.O., it’s getting a bit shaky now—I can’t hold anger or upset throughout a song long enough to finish it because I’ve learned in the past month or two that I only hurt myself when I hold onto things. It’s good for my blood pressure, but bad for my established writing style.

I think this new album will be a transition point for me. I’ll probably look back on it as the “Under the Pink” album that came between my “Little Earthquakes” and “Boys for Pele”—it shows the changes happening and while not fully formed yet it will, if nurtured, grow into a deeper kind of songwriting. That’s exciting, but also scary and inevitable. My songs are and always have been of a confessional style and I can’t very well hold onto things in my music I’m not holding onto in real life. That wouldn’t be honest. It’s also like a diary of my life experiences since I’m usually too ADD to write a journal as things happen.

Before I start waxing poetic about how lonely I feel about being the only local musician I know other than Computer at Sea who doesn’t ever appear on stage with a stringed instrument, here’s a rundown of what’s on the new album so far:

1)All Points North: the first song I wrote since “Cooler” and arguably the first one with any discernable structure to it. One night back in May, after a fight with my boyfriend during which I thought he’d broken up with me (I think it’s still open for debate, but he says he didn’t mean that to be what I took away from the interaction) I got into my car and, almost on autopilot, got on the highway with only a twenty dollar bill and a bottle of water and just drove. I ended up somewhere in Massachusetts before I realized I should probably be home asleep and I turned around and headed home around 4:00am. In that weird in-between state while driving home I just followed the “All Maine Points” signs to get home and wrote the song as I went.

2)I Am Your Local: around the same time as “All Points North,” I started a band which came to nothing with my friend Jenna Q. On a trip to Boston, she and I were talking about what songs we’d like to write and she told me about how her goal in any city she lived in was to be a local at a bar or coffee shop she frequented. This is probably as close as I’ll get to writing something that isn’t autobiographical.

3)Nothing: after it seemed like Jenna Q and I weren’t going anywhere with our band, I met a girl named Norita at the Phoenix Best of Portland awards and she and I pretty much became the best of friends and started our own band which, like the previous one, came to nothing. We were meant to be electro-pop and “Nothing” is the only song I wrote for the band that’s moderately good enough to survive the collapse of the musical project it was written for. The subject, like a few others on the album, comes from the two month period where my boyfriend and I fancied we could sustain an open relationship (if you’re wondering, it almost destroyed us, but at least I can say I had some interesting experiences). I wrote it about one of my other boyfriends who got tangled up in some bad judgments and inadvertently hurt my feelings quite a bit. Don’t worry, we’re on good terms again now.

4)Kiss and Run: this song and two others on the album were written about the same night where in the span of about four hours I had two unsettling experiences with different guys I’d thought I knew pretty well who then did a 180 degree turn from the people I knew them to be. I like the structure of this song and it marks the first time I’ve used any type of horn sounds in a song. I generally feel horns are too Rustic Overtones, but the subject in question is friends with the Rustic crowd so I don’t feel I’m betraying any artistic integrity by adding them.

5)Reproof: I work in an historic mansion here in Portland and in one of the rooms there’s a medium sized marble statue of a little girl who appears to be about to slap a kitten she’s holding for killing a bird that lays dead at her feet. On the base of the statue is the word “reproof.” I couldn’t get out of my head that the scene was pretty close to how I felt about a situation I’d had with a guy I’d been having a kind of open affair with that had recently gone all to hell. I alternately felt like the bird, the girl, and the cat, so I took the word “reproof” and wrote a bluesy jazz song using a rather dissonant piano as the background. I think it rivals “You Say Goodbye” in terms of getting close to the jazz tunes my voice was meant for.

6) One Night Stand: oh, dear…this song used to be known by its chorus of “You Have a Big Dick, But Don’t Be a Dick to Me.” It’s also pretty straightforward. There are few things emotionally worse than showing someone a bit of your vulnerable side and then feeling they’re ignoring you or, heaven forbid, are ashamed they’ve been with you. The subject/situation in question has, like “Nothing,” been resolved, but it’s a quirky little tune nonetheless.

7) Harvard Street Actor: I have a feeling if the subject of this song recognizes himself in the title I’ll get nothing but “fuck you” from him if I ever run into him in the future. It’s for the best and anyway I’ll take a “fuck you” in exchange for such a beautiful song. The companion song to “Kiss and Run” in terms of that disastrous night, “Harvard Street Actor” has been a surprising success with everyone I’ve played it for. It also has a cheeky little throwback to my Mad Ophelia days with the bridge where I rephrase some of Ophelia’s words to say: “quoth she: ‘before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed’; said he ‘oh, I would’ve done had you not come to my bed.’” Like “Backstabber” has become my “fuck you” to my Gin Circus days, I’m content to have “Harvard Street Actor” be the summary of the experiences that make up this album.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can still stream and download mp3s of most of my music on my bandcamp website:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Help Me With My New Album!

(Picture unrelated and in Harvard Yard)

Hello my dear little kittens!

I’m putting together the final tracklist for my album and I have two spaces left to reach my goal of 7 tracks. So far I have (in no particular order):

1. (You’re A) Backstabber
2. In the Teeth
3. I, Have a Theory
4. Cupcakes
5. ?
6. ?
7. Cooler

See how tracks 5 and 6 are blank? That’s where you come in!

Is there any song you’ve heard me sing in the past that you want on there? If you guys show no preference or have no suggestions you aren’t allowed to complain that I didn’t include your favorite song of mine so it’s in your best interest to speak up.

If you need a mental refresher on my songs, here are some helpful links:
My Youtube page:

My Myspace:

My Mad Ophelia Myspace:

See/hear anything you’d want on the album? Or remember something I sang live that’s not online (such as “You Say Goodbye,” or “Blood of the Girl”)? LET ME KNOW!

I’ll check back in a week or so. I look forward to seeing your suggestions!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lots of Text and Lots of Context; or, What I've Been Up To

Once again I’ve stayed up into the wee hours of the morning. How do I always end up doing that? At this point I might as well stay awake since I’m already three hours into Saturday.

I suppose my lack of sleep could be due to a number of things. It could be that I’m in the middle of packing up my mother’s house so it can be put on the market. It could also be that I’ve put myself into isolation to work on my album.
How silly do I sound? “My album”? I don’t think I’m at that level of accomplishment yet to speak like that. I know it’s a statement of fact, but describing it makes it sound so professional and I’ve only been performing since July. I suppose this is part of the problem with why I haven’t been doing more since then.
Recently, my friend Bryan Bruchman (who I mention by full name because you may Google him and see he is awesome at photography and blogging among other things) took some photos of me that I could use for promotional use. He was, as he generally is, all about the idea that my music aspirations are worth pursuing. We took photos, they look awesome, and I’ve been using them everywhere, most recently on the main page of my new website layout:


I’ve become a bit agoraphobic while cleaning out mom’s house. I spend my days up my to elbows in bad memories as I sort and throw away and pack over a decade’s worth of things. It’s exhausting and I can’t muster enough energy to go to the grocery store most days, let alone drive into Portland. So when Bryan recently had an evening birthday party at a bar on the East End it took a lot of my energy to haul myself out of the house and into the rainy night to drive over there. I sat there, nodded off every once in a while, and eventually people filtered out until there was a handful of partiers left milling around. Bryan was, by then, quite drunk; I was, myself, sober but exhausted, which amounts to being drunk after a certain point. Somehow this created the perfect conditions for a twenty minute one-on-one chat about my future. Basically, to put it crudely, he verbally kicked my ass about not doing more with my music. And he’s right—I’m really not pushing it and considering it’s what I want to do with my life and I know I wouldn’t really be good at anything else I should be trying harder to put myself out there. So this is my way of doing it—by locking myself up in a suburban home and recording take after take of every song until I feel it’s ready (something I never did before, which is why all previously released songs had lead vocals that were done in one take, which doesn’t always turn out the best). It sucks and it’s lonely, but I have faith the final product will be gorgeous.

On a similar note, I’ve been invited back to perform as Lady Gaga with the For Your Pleasure Burlesque in May. I’m thankful for the opportunity for a few reasons but mainly because of this fact about Portland: Absolutely no one who goes to a show will criticize the performance that they see.
It’s a strange and somewhat unsettling thing, actually. How can an artist of any sort grow without seeing the reactions of others to their art? There may be variations, genres, etc. that go into what form the art takes, but within that category there are good and bad examples. I job shadowed a music critic once and he told me that the way you write a review is that you determine which category/genre the artist is putting themselves in and then you measure them by the standards of that genre. It’s really that simple.
My genre is more or less punk cabaret, so I look to theater of various styles and artists like Amanda Palmer, Meow Meow, and Marcella Puppini to see if I’m on track with my music and performance. I don’t expect the audience who accidently stumbles upon my shows to know who any of those people are, but I know my own genre well enough to know if someone’s critique is valid or is trying to conform what I’m doing to something outside of my goal. If you’re curious, here are examples of each other people above:
Amanda Palmer:

Meow Meow:

Marcella Puppini:

So far I have not, by the standards of my genre, put on a good show in either my Lady Gaga or Aubin performances. I think other people know this but are too nice to tell me, which is frustrating, even though it would be painful to hear it (I’m still young enough to more than occasionally blur the lines between personal attack and artistic criticism. In art school, I developed a facial twitch that came around whenever my drawings were critiqued, but then again I’m pretty high strung anyway). So, to combat this, I’ve watched videos of my performances and decided that my problems are actually just one problem: I have no idea what to do with myself other than sing. I just stand there and look awkward. I’m pretty fortunate, actually, because that problem can be solved by planning the hell out of however much time I’ve been allotted.
To return to my point about my Lady Gaga performance, the last one, while impressive to people who can’t see themselves donning a wig and singing Gaga, was waaaaaay below my standards. I did the bare minimum of everything and it’s my own damn fault. Which is why I’m taking the two months I have left before the show to choreograph like there’s no tomorrow. I want a resulting performance that Gaga herself would be impressed with. Wish me luck—I’m no dancer, but I’ll try my best.
Well, that was an awful lot of text. I haven’t got many photo or video links to upload, but if you care to, you may check out my new song “(You’re A) Backstabber,” which is now up on my MySpace here:

Until the next blog (which will hopefully be about my alum being done) I hope you’re all doing well and I look forward to meeting you in the world outside this house in about a month.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Aubin (Ah ah ah); or, Post-Gaga wrap-up.

My life recently can be described in one phrase that I dearly love but rarely have occasion to use: it’s swings and roundabouts.

I had a dream at the end of December where someone I hold close to my heart who has since died told me that this year would be a very busy one for me and so far that seems to be true. I performed as Lady Gaga with the For Your Pleasure Burlesque on the 21st and it went….well, it went fairly alright considering the little time I had to put the major choreography together (thanks to snow the girl that I was dancing to Bad Romance with couldn’t practice with me until two hours before the performance):

Jon Donnell, one-time Aubin boyfriend and more importantly current Aubin friend, took photos of the event (as he usually does. The first time I saw him was at the same venue as he photographed Gin Circus’s first performance). Here are some of my favorite from the set. The rest can be found here (and if you explore the photo stream a bit more you’ll see me from July in black and white):





I'm a bit too fat to be a truly convincing Lady Gaga, not to mention my outfits lack a zany sort of style, but no matter.

I’ve also just been asked to sing at a benefit for Haiti earthquake relief called Rising Voices Raising Consciousness. It’s April 11, so I’m not thinking about it just yet. But I have to keep it in mind coming up.

My other thing that I’m trying to work on is making note cards out of some of my comics. Here's my favorite one, a portrait of my roommate's cat, Girl Walter, listening to NPR like she does when my roommate is away:


I'm also hopefully doing a photo shoot with my friend Bryan Bruchman sometime soon. He's a busy B so who knows when, but he had me email him a list of things that creatively influence me (which mean me gathering lots of youtube videos and pictures) so hopefully it'll be a great shoot. He took this photo, you may remember:


Alright. Enough of me for now. I shall leave you with what has become one of my favorite pictures lately. It's me playing the Lie Down Game near a Smoot mark on a certain bridge in the Boston area. Look up Smoots, for they are interesting units of measure. This photo is by the lovely Ms. Elisha Clarke:



Monday, January 18, 2010

To Get Him Out of Your Head, v.1

I was told the other day that someone reads this blog so I’ll update it. While there was no use in updating if I was talking to myself I can’t pass up a chance for conversation. In other words, if you read this, comment somehow and talk with me—I do music/art/videos to say things I can’t say in my speaking voice so it’s important to me to know I’m making a connection even if it’s a tiny one.


Back in 2005 I saw The Dresden Dolls for the first time. I had heard Coin Operated Boy on WCYY’s Top 5 at 5 and nearly had a brain aneurism when I discovered that it wasn’t just a one-off foray into cabaret sound land. As a pretty socially isolated teenager who found solace in Judy Garland movies and Tori Amos and they seemed to be the magical bridge I was looking for between the two. I saw them at the Bullmoose Warehouse in Scarborough and was blown away by their acoustic set and was then moved to tears by their full set at SPACE Gallery. For your “old school” pleasure, here is a poorly lit picture from that day:


That’s also the day I decided I shouldn’t use a disposable camera without flash for documenting important events like concerts.
I remember one clear thought during the SPACE concert, where I looked at Amanda and thought: “I want to do that.” That’s what got me into this silly little mess that I’m in right now with my music—seeing her pour her soul out on stage (if you’ll forgive the cliché) turned on a switch on my head (another cliché) that suddenly connected how I could get my frustrations out, how I could communicate things to people that I couldn’t find the attention span to speak (those who know me and interact with me on a daily basis will know that I speak like Neil Gaiman’s Delirium a lot of the time in terms of conversational content).
Either way, it gave me the courage to take a step and perform Tori Amos’s “Pretty Good Year” at the senior talent show in 2005:

At the time I thought I was awesome, but seeing the video it’s almost painful to me how not-awesome I am. I’ve learned a lot about stage performance since and I know I still have a hell of a long way to go but….yeah. Kind of embarrassing.

ANYWAY! My point is that Amanda Palmer, by virtue of being older and more ambitious, tends to do cool things because the idea for similar things is even fully incubated in my mind. For example, I’d been taking dead photographs of myself for about 6 months before she announced what would become the Who Killed Amanda Palmer book. I love that, though—it shows me I’m on the right track and it gives me a challenege to deviate in my own little ways to keep things interesting.
Such is the case with what I’m doing right now.

I’m sure you remember I was in a band this past summer, right? Gin Circus? No? Well, here’s a video of us to remind you:

It was a tough summer for me for a lot of reasons. I booked our first show the night that Michael Jackson died and considering Michael Jackson was my first hero I saw that as a good sign for the musical future that my first performance of my adult life was booked as he did the “off this mortal coil” shuffle. I don’t deny I learned a lot about myself between then and now, but I also ended up going through various levels of emotional hell that I’m only now beginning to genuinely get over. However, as I’m getting over things I’m not angry enough any more to go into detail. Suffice to say that a bunch of things led to me writing a handful of songs that for many reasons could never be Gin Circus songs. Months after, though, it’s proving good therapy to polish off recordings of them and put them out there, to be done with them.

So that’s what I’m doing here:


I like that cover as well. I took it outside Alex’s house before practice one day. Apparently it had run into a window pretty fast because it didn’t have a head left, just a disintegrating body. It’s gross now, but I was in a morbid mood at the time and took a bunch of pictures of it. It made sense to make it the cover considering the location and the title, which was from one of our songs, “Clementine.” The line being: “I’d crush your little skull in, girl, to get him out of your head.”

The nice thing about my constantly having my camera with me is that I have an image that corresponds to each song within the timespan of a week. In other words, the album art that’s on my fan page on facebook right now is a picture I took within the same time as when I wrote the song. You can see what I looked like, what I was doing, and, by inference, what influenced the song.
This one is my favorite because it encompasses the downfall of everything I thought was stable back then. The post-crash car, the person looking at the car, the house it’s in front of—they all ended up in songs and I think twenty years from now, when people no longer hate each other and these things are simply documents relating to a few months in the lives of a few people, it’ll be a beautiful connection:


But none of that is ready to remotely release yet. Other than a rough draft CD to my friend Mary.
But here is the question of the day: If I went to all the effort to release this fabled CD in some form, would you buy it? Would you see me perform it?

While you answer that I’ll go bake some more cupcakes:


Monday, January 11, 2010

Lady Gaga rules my life; AKA- a wig is an instant confidence builder.


Oh, heavens help me. I feel like I’m complaining an awful lot lately. The main topics of complaint are:
1)Money and Job, of which there’s never any of either
2)Friends, who I feel I don’t see enough of despite feeling like I’m not too busy
3)Lack of musical talent, specifically instrumental talent.

The money and job are being vaguely solved by finding money in odd places and my internship at a newspaper (although it’s an unpaid internship).
Friends are…well, maintaining friendships is always a bit tough for me. I’m a loner but I crave hanging out with friends. Anyway my loner tendencies come from my feeling socially awkward because I inevitably have at least two unintentional social faux pas moments per hanging out session. Things I think are funny or clever or interesting sometimes strike people as perhaps stupid or embarrassing so it leads to odd situations.

Lack of musical talent is and has been a huge problem for me. I can sing and that’s about it. As far as doing anything manually I am completely useless. I played saxophone for three years and was very good at it, but I can’t do that and sing at the same time. I want to play piano with both hands instead of one at a time, and I want to play bass on more than just the lowest string and left handed. It makes me so angry that I can only do the bare minimum on every thing that I want to do so badly.

I also feel like if I don’t have a creative outlet soon my head will explode. I’m playing Lady Gaga (again) on the 21st with the For Your Pleasure burlesque at Geno’s here in Portland. I’m learning choreography and it’s alright, but a cold has me on some restriction as far as vocals are concerned so recording backing vocals will have to wait. In related news, my video for Paparazzi reached over 400 views recently:

In studying the choreography/video for Bad Romance I’ve thought about a few things. They’re connected thoughts, really—1)It must be nice to be paid to look and be fabulous and 2) I’m glad I’m not as deep into anorexia as I used to be or watching that video would be quite triggering. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who connected the vertebrae-showing video fashion with anorexia so I googled around and found this article which, though I know nothing of the site before this, seems to agree with some of my thoughts about it:

Choice quote being: “I can’t say I’m overly sold on the whole ‘eating Disorder Gaga’ either I mean, who’s decision was it to put that it there? Surely showing many a girls’ hero looking unhealthily thin is going to send the wrong message to fans?”
Case in point:


But then I looked up the ideas behind the video and, if Wikipedia can be trusted, which it occasionally can, the idea is filled with different “monsters” that haunted her during the tour. I’d read an interview a while back with her where she was asked how she stayed thin and said “It’s all about starvation! Pop stars don’t eat.” That leads me to believe the whole exaggerated anorexia in the video is a representation of yet another on-tour monster. Regardless, I’m ashamed to say it does stoke the dying embers of my own disorder and make me want to touch my ribs and collar bones.

Nothing’s real, though, is it? No one’s ever thin enough and no one is ever what they seem. Although Masha Tyelna could give Bad Romance Gaga a run for her money in the eye department:


Even though I feel like I’m 20 pounds too heavy to play Lady Gaga, I’m doing just that this coming 21st, as I said before. I’ll let you know how it goes. I went to a party last night in my Gaga outfit, full wig/make-up/outfit. I stood against a wall with my Gaga glasses on and it's weird how wearing those wig and glasses gave me a boost of confidence. Someone could've insulted me horribly and I would've just shrugged it off as long as I was wearing that outfit. No wonder nothing seems to bother Gaga. Well, there's probably some lost neurons contributing to that too for her, but whatever. It helps and could mean something important for future performance to know the power of a costume.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You are every broken bottle, you are every parking meter: minor creativity in the final two weeks of college

I’m coming up on the end of my college career now—as of December 17th, 2009 I will officially be done with my academic career. That is utterly terrifying. It’s the same feeling I get when a new relationship proves particularly promising. I feel like I’ve been climbing this very steep hill full of stress and tough obstacles and I’m so used to climbing that now that I’m at the top I have no clue what to do with myself and my body wants to keep going on in the manner it’s become accustomed to. However, while it’s easy to keep running through relationships I can’t really go for more school. I’m $25,000 in debt already and wouldn’t have use for graduate school anyway in terms of a career.

It's also the end of my newswriting career for now. I may write for a blog or two, I can't honestly say. My news article are located here if you're curious (I'm particularly proud of the one on Ben Bishop):

I got to pretend I was a punk singer last night for about an hour. That was fun and sketchy, since it was with two of the Grownups at Prime Artist, a creepy practice space behind an eerily dark and vacant bus station. It came right after I had something upsetting happen and had decided to deal with my emotions by doing the stupid Alex thing of punching a parking meter (not to say he does that regularly, but I saw him do it one evening). It wasn’t the meter’s fault, really. The whiskey in my system stopped me from feeling it too badly, but it’s kind of hard to type with both hands at the moment. I think this might mean I’m turning into my dad, who once broke his hand hitting a countertop in anger and then was too stubborn to have it set or to take pain reliever. The guys were nice to me, though, and gave me a megaphone to scream my frustration into:


Other than that there’s not much to report (yet) possible collaboration with Racer Boy 2 coming up in the spring but if it doesn’t happen I don’t want to feel bad for hyping it up.

I filmed a video for “I Have a Theory” today with the wonderful Mr. Jon Donnell. He was the first person to photograph Gin Circus (at our first show) and I’m fortunate enough now to count him as one of my friends. Here are some stills, but keep checking up on the youtube page for the video: