Saturday, September 23, 2006


Dont Make Me Over MP3
A Trip To NYC MP3

The above mp3s are from Sleeping States, the London-based recording project of Markland Starkie.

...Still unedited for grammar and spelling.

“Style? A certain lightness. A sense of shame excluding certain actions or reactions. A certain proposition of elegance. The suspicion that, despite everything, a melody can be looked for and sometimes found. Style is tenuous, however. It comes from within. You can’t go out and acquire it. Style and fashion may share a dream, but they are created differently. Style is about an invisible promise. This is why it requires and encourages a talent for endurance and an ease with time. Style is very close to music.”

John Berger

A list of things I am excited about:

1. This coming month we will be playing shows with Yellow Fever and Finally Punk. In this wave of "exciting new Austin bands" this is pretty much the apex, as far as I'm concerned.

2. We should (fingers crossed) be recording an album in London during November and December. I really hope this comes into being. I can't possibly describe how insane this entire process has made me. This is something I have been avoiding writing about, for fear of seeming dramatic in the face of something that, in the grand scheme of things, is really not that important. Still, in all honesty I have never felt such an immense sense of pressure and expectation. Sometimes as a band (in my brief experience) you do things, and perhaps it doesn't end up in exactly the desired way. It's not really an issue of good or bad, but more one of missing the intended mark. Now that I'm writing this I'm realizing that this is totally obvious and universally applicable to all pursuits. There was a time when these incidents would roll off me like water but now I find myself grossly obsessed with my mistakes, or rather my inadequacies.

Let me provide a little vignette of daily Voxtrot happenings. If this idea bores you, you should probably stop reading now. Normally, I try to write during the first part of the day and then at three o clock we convene for practice. These days, we're testing out quite a lot of new material so most days I play a song for the rest of the group, accompanied solely by my guitar, and then we build it from there. If I were to return to grade school now I might be really good at giving presentations, in my opinion that sort of thing is like an obstacle course for the nerves. On one certain occasion I brought in a song that received fairly poor response, and then we proceeded to sit down and discuss why that song was perhaps not as strong as others that had come before (or since). This is perhaps one of my least favorite conversations in the entire world, although I realise that, in terms of publishing and presentation it is sometimes a necessary one. When a musical project is new everything is a pleasant surprise and in that way no song is really considered in terms of its "ground-breaking quality." But obviously when that situation changes the chopping block motif comes into play and it's a very different scenario. More and more I find myself in a scenario where I am situated in a room with a group of people listening to one of our songs boom out of a set of speakers, and as the song plays people issue their various views about the song's strong and weak points. I fucking hate this. On the particular day in question as this was occurring, I pretty much lost it and burst into tears, which I know is completely ridiculous. Before I go any further let me say that I am totally aware that I have been very fortunate and there are so many terrible things happening in the world at any given time, that a mediocre song is not really something worth crying over. But this is exactly the problem-it's entirely self-obsessive, and in a way I think music business kind of encourages that nefarious trait.

When I have moments like that I realize how easy it is to become the person I always detested and criticized. People in bands/music industry/whatever are so laden with ego, probably because it's an occupation and industry based upon indulgence and glamor, and I think if you take a step back and examine it, it's a bit like a circus or something. I can't believe the extremes of hedonism, or the way that eccentricities or personality quarks that would usually just remain as those things are allowed to blossom into full-blown monsters. I imagine it must have something to do with the fact that, when you reach a crazy level of notoriety, you probably have the feeling that people are always looking at you. In theory, you are never unseen or anonymous.

I guess I have a certain sense of guilt about that fact that a career in music is not particularly noble, or brave, or something like that, not that I would trade it for the world, or that I am in any way above it, or any of those things. I feel badly even writing this, but then again I have always been filled with a certain sense of guilt, which in a fucked up way has, I believe, aided any productivity I've experienced. In living memory, I have always been terrified of letting people down.

Music is amazing, though, in terms of its cathartic or healing quality. Obviously different music strokes different emotions, and quite a lot of the music I love, I love because it's a reminder that there is somebody in some other place that feels precisely that way I do. Perfectly mirrored specific emotions, that's what I thrive on. And it's not just lyric-based, though that is usually the case. I think even electronic dance music serves this function. When I was in London a few weeks ago I was talking to my friend (who also works for the label we have signed to) Simon about the emotional quality of techno, and he explained it in the following way:

A dance track might repeat the same thing for six minutes, but when the change happens, when it's elevated to another level, that shift is so completely moving. I entirely agree. I think people don't consider that dance/techno music can be emotional. It's just a different kind of emotion, perhaps a bit darker and more serious. Dancing is cathartic and there are many times where I find myself on a dancefloor, listening to one of these harmonic shifts and thinking, I needed that.

Okay, enough about techno. I guess what I'm saying with this whole thing is that it's very clear that a band is not really that important, but I still take it very seriously. Since the conception of this band I currently play with, I have never viewed it as a temporary fix, but rather as something that would occupy the greater part of my life. Longevity and a healthy relationship between artist and listener. From the moment I wake up until I fall asleep I think about this band. I don't remember who it was, but some prominent musician once said that the best way to handle a career in music is to envision the way you would like it to be towards the end of your life, and just work towards that end. I suppose it's like looking 100 feet ahead when driving a car, as opposed to directly in front. For me, longevity means emotional resonance. For a long time music has been such a pivotal thing in my life, and if I can bring that to another person, or make another person feel better for a while, then I think I shall be quite happy.