Letter to You
December 6th 2009: Nine years ago today I created Spell Saga. Well, no. That’s not true. Spell Saga arrived in my head--just the edge of it, sticking out from the sands of many other thoughts. I spent the next nine years creating it.
Things take time. And the number nine seems to haunt me.
Also this month: seven years ago: I was tired. I had been up late. My sister had almost died--the amount of blood she lost giving birth to her first child SHOULD have killed her, but modern medicine, a damn good midwife (the nurses didn’t catch it), and my family’s propensity to live like vampires had kept her safe. But I couldn’t sleep. And the next day at work I spent most of my time crying the bathroom. This was partly due to the feather-brush of such a loss, but (if I’m being honest) more because I had just met Meagen and she had left me after the best month of my life. A different kind of loss, to be sure, but one that felt just as final. Just as unexpected.
I knew we were supposed to get married. It wasn’t in the sort of--it was not a boy wanting to own someone as an object--I didn’t think I deserved her (far from it) but I knew it, in the same way that I knew Spell Saga was supposed to be real: Meagen and I were supposed to help each other, and be partners through life, love, and art for as long as we could manage to stay alive. “It’s like a switch just clicked off” she tried to explain, not unkindly. So I did what anyone should do. I left her alone. Watched my sister almost died the next day, and then crumpled into a heap in a public bathroom.
There have been several psychological “neck-snap” moments in my life. Most of them happened all in nine years ago. When she broke it off it was the end of a barely sustained reality--2011 had seen me finish the first draft of The Novel, create, pitch, and be destroyed by a publisher for Spell Saga, and get kicked out of my own home in the throes of an unexpected (but eventually welcomed) divorce from an abusive ex-wife.
December 6th 2011: After work Meagen asked if she could come over (I didn’t tell her I had been crying all day). She drove up to the bushes in front of where I was staying. I threw a smile on my face and decided that everything would be fine. I walked up to her car and she walked away. I was supposed to follow. So I did. Right beside her. Neither of us said anything. She wouldn’t even look at me. Then she turned right at me and burst into tears. I smiled even wider and we kept walking.
We pretty much moved in with each other that night, until finding a place of our own, just one street over from the moment she had burst into tears. We have tried our best to continue walking together and helping each other where we can. It’s good.
December 6th 2018: Nine years later, seven years later, in our home there is a living room filled with boxes of Spell Saga. I have spent several weeks packing boxes together and writing letters to those who are (even now!) receiving them across the US and Canada (there’s a few on their way to New Zealand as well, and the rest of the world is patiently waiting).
I think there’s probably a whole separate blogpost about Spell Saga—and everything I had made special for the people who waited so patiently for half a decade to receive it. But since it has consumed my life these past few weeks, I thought here would be a great opportunity to showcase some of the special stuff I sent out.
Is this too many pictures?
Okay, let’s keep going:
If you think I’m not wearing my wife’s leg warmers over a pair of jeans with the crotch ripped out, as I type this in a laundromat, you are wrong.
About a year ago I woke up and checked the news on my phone. Another mass shooting. It was the Vegas one (though who knows, by the time you read this, it might only be the FIRST Vegas one). I read the report about it still half asleep in the sheets: someone on a hotel balcony had opened fire on a crowded concert.
I don’t often write lyrics as an immediate way to process things. Most of the time I write from a safe place, farther away. But that news report did something. There’s just something about being confronted by legitimate evil, I just needed to process some shit. I started writing lyrics for a song that would eventually cause the (first) fall of Beset.--the thing was so structurally complicated we had to put it away for almost a year. It needed space to breathe, and, as it turned out, Noah Sabellico to drum over it.
We brought weapons. Family heirlooms from our parents. We brought weapons. Take us to heaven. Call them dreams, they from our parents. We brought weapons. I’ve been runnin’ in place I think for too long, I’ve been trying my best to sing you songs. Numb and tired. the truth is not...so inspired. Dumb on fire, the constant lie of: moving higher. Do you really mean it?
(nine. months. later.) We had two days for free in a multi-million dollar studio. We had three months to prepare. It was obvious We Brought Weapons was the next thing we needed to conquer.
We met in our new practice space nearly every week to try to figure out the song. The parts were still kind of fucked from a year ago, and I knew we needed more lyrics. The Weapon and I had done enough ground work over the last twelve months to freeze the song into some sort of permanent piece , but it was still a bit gelatinous in appearance--like unset concrete. I was definitely signing “bah da da da da dahhh!” on more than enough parts.
We got the song just to the point of “if someone were watching us, it would be okay”. And then time ran out, and we had to two days in the studio to not fuck everything up.
...In some ways, we fucked everything up. But only in the sense that I like to plan things to a crazy level and it just--you can’t really make music like that--you CAN, but it’s gonna be lifeless. I wrote the rest of the lyrics while The Weapon played acoustic guitar beside me, my finger swirling in the air to tell him to keep playing certain parts over and over.
We brought weapons. Take us to heaven. Call them dreams, they from our parents. We brought weapons. I’ve been runnin’ in place I think for too long, I’ve been burnin’ them oils all night long. I’ve been livin’ with hatred anger and fear, it’s unforgivable (do you really mean it?). Numb and tired. The truth is no, so inspired. Dumb on fire, the constant lie of: moving higher. And I will outshine you, may the guiding lights of being nobody guide you.
It was nearly a year to the day that The Weapon and I had first worked on the song. We still liked the demo version but it had changed and morphed into something really strange--still good but different. We brought Geoffrey Maybe into the studio to play some bass and generally just recorded the song over and over again.
Here is an incredible outtake:
It took about a week for me to realize we had two different songs, the demo and the new version. So now we had a new plan: pursue both versions, and keep the same lyrics, like two sides of a coin. Now we have two singles.
(seven. years. later.) Last night I picked The Weapon up at an empty grocery store, and we drove to his empty house to work on “The Red Window. Is Open”. Within minutes he was clutching his side and I was driving him to a (mostly empty) emergency room. We nearly hit a coyote, who glared at us before trotting down the on ramp to a highway. I stood in the waiting room for an hour, just as I had seven years ago.
On Thanksgiving I kissed my wife and drove away from some fancy dinner at some fancy place to go be with EFFORTS for a few hours. Zach and Geoffrey Maybe has spent the day cooking and drinking together, without me, something that has never occurred before in the history of the band. When I got there we took our first REAL band photo and talked about the future.
Zach and I really want to play next year, shoot videos and continue down the DIY path we started paving three years ago. Geoffrey wants to as well, again, maybe for the first time in the history of the band--but he was also just accepted into the air force reserve. I have some strange and conflicting emotions about this, and his reasons for joining, but for the moment he is both in AND out of the band. Something which has been the case since he joined. I mean, we named him Geoffrey maybe for fuck’s sake. So the future of the band is: yes we are doing this thing, and no, we are not quite sure how.
As for Geoff’s and my side project: DAMNSEL & THE EUTH GROUP, we decided a few weeks ago to kill it anyhow, and treat those songs as demos toward something else. And on Thanksgiving, sitting on Zach’s couch, we decided that, no matter where the band is going, these songs will be the roots of the next album. This is a scary decision for me, as the sound is so--I mean it still sound like us, but it veers so alarmingly toward uncharted territory that I can’t help but feel nervous (not to mention there ain’t no way I can play these things live on a guitar, I may have written most of the guitar parts but there’s a reason Geoffrey tracked ‘em). I also had (already) a dozen demos for the next LP. So we’ll see. I mean, I’m sitting here typing this in an EFFORTS sweatshirt so there’s a CHANCE I’m overthinking all this anyhow.
I spent a couple weeks typing this blog during spare moments--between sending packages across the world (hooooooly shit cardboard is heavy and expensive to send), and being struck down with some sort of biblical plague. I was so sick I woke up on two different mornings thinking I was Spider-Man.
Here are some other things that occurred: Beset. Tees. for a Beset. Christmas.
And Efforts Sweaters and Plaques for an Efforts. Xmas.
And last but not least, I sat down one night, ill and tired and gross and awful...and I wrote. I figured out part of the story I was stuck on for months. I wrote about a playing card and a green feather and a ring that remembers magical logins and passwords. The novel is almost finished.
(post.script.)On December 7th I received my first ever comic book in the mail. A story which took me 9 months to write the script, and 9 months to Photoshop it as a comic (it was released nine years after I had written it.
And here is bonus pic of me in 2003, when I was 19 and just wanted to make stuff more than anything (especially, mostly, certainly: comic books).