letters to yvynyl

Get to know YVYNYL

Last year, Tumblr polled 50+ music bloggers to find out their favorite albums, songs, videos and blogs on Tumblr. The blog they loved most was Mark Schoneveld’s YVYNYLWe had a chat with Mark so you can get to know the brain behind the blog. 

When did you start your blog? What inspired you to do it?

YVYNYL: I started YVYNYL the day that Tumblr launched to the public. I already had another personal blog elsewhere so I decided immediately to use the Tumblr platform for blogging about music. In fact, I’ve been told that I have one of the oldest user accounts on the site.

Most exciting changes your blog has undergone since you registered for Tumblr in April 2007?

YVYNYL: My “Letters to YVYNYL” project is my most challenging time commitment, but by far the most rewarding. I love hearing what drives artists forward, and what makes them tick.

Who is this year’s Artist to Watch?

YVYNYL: Cemeteries, Postaal, Cross Record, Shana Falana, Redspenser are some young artists I’ve recently posted about on Tumblr, not surprisingly, ones with totally different sounds. I don’t really post on Tumblr like a game to win. It takes all types of artists to make the world go ‘round, an calculating winners and losers isn’t my favorite pastime. If I post about someone it’s because I was touched by their story, or understood their place in the infinite pantheon of music, or simply got their vibe.

Favorite new artists from home base Philadelphia?

YVYNYL: I’ve been a fan of Philly’s Hop Along, surf pop The Yetis, and indie rockers Cousin Brian. Watch Marian Hill (Jeremy Lloyd and Samantha Gongol) blow up. This is their year.

Who’s an artist, pre-2000s, that you think would have been awesome at Tumblr and why?

YVYNYL: I can’t help but immediately think of Sonic Youth because they had it all: a sound, style, and grace, but with a growl that would put you to your knees. Kim has like a million followers on Instagram because she just came out with an (excellent) book, but if the band came back together, they’d be slaying the Tumblr scene with historical images, sounds and stories of their rock star lives without a doubt.

Favorite song right now?

YVYNYL:  “Sparks” - Beach House

Dog in the Snow - Concrete Wall

This song melts in my ears. Here’s the story behind it’s creation:  

Hi Mark,

My name is Helen Ganya Brown, I play music under the moniker of Dog In The Snow with my friend and visual artist Eva Bowan.

We’re based in Brighton, down on the coast of the UK. As a place, it’s had a huge impact on me and the music we create - like all of the places I’ve visited and cultures I’ve been part of.

I started learning piano aged ten, whilst living in Singapore, followed quickly by guitar (my piano teacher had arthritis in her fingers, not ideal), picking up tricks & chords from a devout Christian teacher - in amongst missionary tales. I went to school in a tiny international school, living in the blistering heat of the equator and getting soaked by the waterfall-like warm rain that would regularly wash over the high-rise skyscrapers.

It’s interesting to contrast the way of life over there to how it is here, the differences in between all the modern homogeneity. But it was still a culture shock coming to Brighton at first. Like being able to cross the road anywhere, being able to chew gum, the cold weather!

‘Concrete Wall’ is a song inspired by the changing of scenes, and more particularly modern life as a whole. It was penned in a dingy barn out in the Sussex countryside, and contemplates the literal claustrophobic nature of walls that we experience from birth to death. How they inhabit where and how we live - homes, cars, offices, presents, even borders.

I wanted to analyse whether there is a nostalgic, primordial longing for an existence with no walls. Or if that would even be possible!

Thanks again,

Helen

P.S. The name ‘Dog In The Snow’ originates from my interest in Franz Kafka and his existential writings. In one of the only novels with a complete final chapter,  ‘The Trial’ ends with the lead character getting stabbed in the heart. As he lies in a cold, snowy and deserted quarry he cries out aloud, “Like a dog!”. 

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Gurr - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I really do get the nicest emails from musicians from all over the world. Keep ‘em coming, folks.

Dear Mr. Yvynyl,

When I, Andreya Casablanca, first met Laura Lee Jenkins, she gave me three cassettes filled with your mixtapes, and while she gave me the cassettes, she held her baby pig closely to her chest. Andrrrreya Casablanca whispered with a Spanish accent: Thank you.

This is not true. Honestly, I just wanted to get your attention. But in fact, we listened to your mixtape on our way out of Berlin – to Laura’s little home village “Bad Zwischenahn”.

We’re two girls from Berlin. Here, we have a huge electronic scene. But we’re craving for some good ole garage music. We’re soaking up all the hangover mornings, all the waste, all the lovely little teenager-atmosphere of puking while kissing, just to record them in “Bad Zwischenahn”, the place where Laura grew up. Large streets, few houses, big lawns, shitting cows. And Sgt. Wolf Finger, a friend of ours, who turned out to be our musical soulmate, became our producer. With his vintage four-track recorder we spent days of drinking and screaming in a room, in one fucking room, drinking scotch, because Andreya thought that might help her voice, but she just got even more drunk.

Dear Mr. Yvynyl, we try to put our Berlin experience with all our heart in a dirty garage sound. Andreya wants to run with her guitar, but she can’t, that’s why she shakes it all out with every part of her body. And Laura is one cute Mag White, just cooler, with her smoochy and dangerous beats.

We are the finest Girl Gang in Germany these days. We like to hang around at supermarkets, while we study “North American Studies” and visit Rollerderbys. Deep in our heart, we still discuss who is which Spice Girl, but we know from “The Switchblade Sisters”, that one can loose an eye in a fight too easy.

Dear Mr. Yvynyl, I am very hungry right now and I would like to drink a beer, but therefore I would have to go outside. Instead, I write you these lines. I want you to listen to our songs and then you either: open your eyes widely and shake in disgust. Or: you nod slowly and put a smile on your face that looks like a greasy producer, who found a blonde girl with big boobs and a nice voice. (Just to let you know: Andreya has small boobs).

Best,

Andreya (and Laura) from Gurr

PS - Tourdates in Philly: Laura’s going to study at UPenn this fall, so I’m going to miss her.

PPS - Other information: We’re playing Berlin to death and planning a small tour when we’re both studying in America (this fall.)
peace.

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Read the latest latest Letter to YVYNYL

West Philly’s Hallowed Bells Allison Stout never intended to be a technology-based artist. She wrote to me recently about her creative path, the growth of a project, and how her a relationship with collaborator Darian Scatton dives into their obsessions of dots and loops. The sound they began producing together reached into old, forgotten electric relics. From here, they started to press all the buttons to where their hearts were inspired.

Hi Mark,

…“What should we do today?” and he answered, “Record some music.” That might have been it.  We started out with me playing Rhodes piano and Darian playing a little 1980’s Casiotone keyboard and his K-Station synth that he’d had for years.  But before long, we became restless for new sounds and soon found ourselves slipping deeper and deeper into the world of electronic instruments..

(read the entire piece while listening to their music on Medium)

Nature
  • Nature
  • The Bearcat
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The Bearcat - Nature

Daniel Meyer sends me this stellar, meditative folk song and writes: 

Dear Mark,

This past summer I was working in Yosemite, at a summer camp with about 150 other young people. I would spend most of any given day doing my job and taking care of children. But at night, all of us staff members would gather the enormous dining hall, to feed and hang out. The scene was great. There were kids from all over the world working there. I met crazy Israeli’s, vegans interested in my aura, frat kids from USC, wannabe white rappers… Mostly though, I met like minded young artists and songwriters. We would all  lounge around together on these giant faded couches, eating good food (the kitchen saved all the best food for staff) and getting to know each other.

There was a river that ran through camp, and during the day, when we had time off, we would go swimming in it. We took our clothes off as often as possible.

So I began a relationship with a beautiful girl. At night, once the kids were asleep, we would sneak off to her tent in the middle of the woods. Moments with her in her tiny tent were the most intimate I’ve experienced in my shortshort life. To be so close to someone in the middle of such a sprawling wilderness, feeling so isolated and so supported at the same time.

We both knew that we only had the summer to be together: we live on opposite coasts of the country. But what began as a merely physical relationship developed into something more and I guess we got attached to each other without meaning too. This song is about the intimacy of those experiences, and the muddled relationship between physical and emotional intimacy. It takes its title from the unbelievably wild landscape surrounding the whole affair, as well as the contrast between the animalistic side of sexuality and the domesticated concept of love.

Sincerely,

The Bearcat

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Read the latest Letter to YVYNYL:

Miya Folick knows that you have dirty underwear because, shit, we all have it. No one is perfect. It feels connected us to more of the universe when we start to remember what lovely flawed human beings we all are. We puke from time to time. We lie from time to time. We make lots and lots of mistakes. These are her ruminations she feels when she’s writing music. Let’s be honest, no one is perfect. Listen to her songs with that reminder.

Dear Mark, 

…I had some people over and one of them drank too much and was sleep-puking from the couch onto the floor. I watched as another friend, without hesitation, brought her a cold towel and a bowl. I watched her pick up the sick friend’s head and gently, but forcefully, pull it off the couch and over the bowl. She said all the things I would have liked her to be saying to me if I were in that situation…

(read to the whole piece while listening to her music here on my Medium)

Waylon S. Thornton - Goddamn Snake Killing Blues

Just got this great story from Florida:

Hey dude,

It’s been a while. I know you’re really into the stories behind music, so I thought I’d share this track I recently recorded with you: 

My dad’s 49th birthday was on the 17th of this month, but he was working late that night, so instead of going out for dinner, my 3 year old son and I just swung by his house (my family home) during the day to drop off his gift. 

When we got out of the truck, I noticed the family dog of 11 years, Daisy laying eerily still on the back porch steps. She’s a Basset Hound, so being lazy isn’t out of the norm, but something was clearly not right with her. I rushed my son into the house, trying to push him past her so he didn’t notice she wasn’t just sleeping. Once I had him situated inside, I came back out to see that she was, in fact, dead. 

I didn’t have time to even react to the emotions of her being dead before a rattle snake took a strike at me. Luckily I was wearing boots and he didn’t actually land a hit on me, but I was scared shitless for a moment. It became obvious that the snake was what had killed our dear Daisy. Now, I’m not sure if she unknowingly laid down on the snake, but he was under her head coiled up, and pissed off. 

I’m not one to kill snakes, a lot of people here in the south kill every snake they see, but that’s really awful for the ecosystem, and it’s also just senseless fear. However, in this case, it was personal, as it very well could’ve been my 3 year old who found the dog and reached down and got bitten. Also, the motherfucker killed my dog. 

My dad keeps a gun safe, as anyone who owns firearms should. I went inside and grabbed my shotgun out of the safe, loaded two shells, told my son to keep watching Spongebob, and hurried outside. By this time the snake was beginning to move away, but any ethical urge I had to let it go was far gone. I quickly emptied off two shots, and that was that. 

After putting the gun back into the safe, my son asked “what’s wrong with Daisy?” We went outside together and it was the first time I’ve had to explain death to him on a personal level. I didn’t expect it to affect him, but his face formed an intense, but sincere frown, and he laid his head on my shoulder, quietly whimpering. Add to this that I had to call my dad and tell him that his dog was dead, on his birthday, and hopefully you can see that the “Blues” in the title of this song is a true one. It was a rough fucking day. 

Hope you’re doing well, 

-WST

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Resistor - Vincent Van Gogh

Okay, it’s official.  Letters to YVYNYL is gonna be a thing, probably my new favorite thing. Here, Steve Goldberg writes a song about artists’ angst with a note:

Hi Mark,

It’s a well-known trope that we hate it when our friends are successful. My story is a bit like that. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where in the 7th grade I met a girl. We both loved to perform and we did all the theater productions at school. We became close friends, but really I was hopelessly infatuated with her. It was my first love, and it was unrequited, so I spent high school trying to pretend I wasn’t heartbroken while I watched her date other guys. Classic teen angst.

Eventually high school ended, and I never got any real closure because this is life and not fiction. I cut off contact with the girl and moved away to college, where I studied English and music and began writing songs. I decided that pop stardom could give me redemption, and so I vowed to hone my craft until my songs were undeniable and made everyone love me. Occasionally I’d hear through the grapevine about the girl’s burgeoning acting career, and that would strengthen my resolve to vindicate myself with success.

So I made albums, and self-promoted, and toured, and slept in a van, and played SXSW, and opened for a couple bands that you’ve heard of. And I had bandmates bail on me, and I played empty rooms, and I lost money, and my emails went unanswered, and I worked jobs that I hated, and I watched bands I didn’t like get the recognition I wanted. But I thought that it would all prove worthwhile eventually, that it would sound like a noble struggle when I someday recounted it in magazine interviews. I thought my music was special, and that my big break was just around the corner. Just like lots of people, I guess.

And now I’m 27 and I’m working a temp job in Philly and still writing songs and hoping for the big break. These days I make music alone with my computer because I don’t have the money or the patience to deal with real instruments or real bandmates. I haven’t spoken to the girl in almost ten years. But then a little while ago I learned that not only was she was starring on Broadway, but she had been nominated for a Tony award.

Suddenly it seemed like I was seeing her everywhere without trying to, and everyone wanted to talk to me about her and how great she is. She showed up on web sites that I read regularly. I even read about her in Rolling Stone. And at that moment I wished more than anything that I were the one being interviewed in Rolling Stone and she were the one nobody had head of. And I felt bad for wishing that, and I wished I could be magnanimous instead of jealous and bitter.

And with all of these thoughts in my head, I sank into a depression. I considered giving up on everything. And at some point in the throes of my existential despair, I wrote “Vincent van Gogh." I see it as both a sincere expression of frustration at the vagaries of fate and a sarcastic jab at my need for recognition and sense of entitlement, but you’ll have to decide on the proportion of each.

So that’s my creation story for you. Maybe this all seems terribly overwrought, and like too much pathos for a simple little pop song, but it’s the truth, which is all I can offer.
Cheers, Steve

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Read the latest Letter to YVYNYL from Balacade:

Andrew Reynolds wrote me a few weeks ago with a bit about his lonesome music. His songs from two recent collections are easy, and deep, and fill a certain void that a lot of us feel during quiet winter nights. Luckily, he’s got someone to talk to, and some beautiful songs to keep him burning.

Dear Mark, 

…I had a connection through my old brother to what I considered “cool” music. At that time, after the childhood thing with Nirvana (although I still feel obsessed with them), I moved into Pacific Northwest sad sac bands likeModest Mouse, Built to Spill, Lync, and stuff like that. I remember in high school, I borrowed my older brothers ID to sneak into a Modest Mouse show (they were touring Lonesome Crowded West at the time!), and it was incredible…

(read more on Medium)

Cedar & Soil - The Beatdown

Brooklyn’s George Abi-Hanna just sent me this letter:

Hi Mark,

Born in Lebanon (1980) in the midst of a civil war, safety was my parent’s number one priority. Uprooting the family and fleeing to Africa was not an easy decision but it had to be done. The plan was to live with my grandparents in Gambia until the war subsided. Little did they know that this would evolve into one of the longest and most violent sectarian strifes in the coming decades. Few months turned into years and a cease-fire gave us false hopes of ending our 4-year displacement.

Upon returning to Beirut we realized this was no more than a calm before the big storm. As a family we were kept safe by constantly relocating away from danger. Through it all, my sister, brother and I rarely felt the fear that our parents did. We led what was seemingly a normal life. As children we saw what was given to us. We were brought up on a strict regiment of my father’s music taste, which included tapes of artists like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Nat King Cole as well as Lebanese folk. I’d spend hours locked in rooms listening to them repeatedly trying to emulate everything on drums and guitar. Having to resort to super glue many times in an effort to keep these treasured possessions from disintegration … some attempts were more successful than others. Music has since been my one constant and true home.

Since relocating to New York in 2001, my influences have grown vastly to include traces of the different countries and environments I have dwelled in. I perform most of the instruments myself out of necessity and self publish the music under the moniker Cedar & Soil. The Cedar represents my place of origin, and the Soil is an ode to NY, the city responsible for my musical growth. I’d like to share a new song from my upcoming LP for your consideration as I appreciate your personable and detailed approach to self-publishing.

“The Beatdown” is about the fears of relocation that rise from long distance relationships. Rooted in indie rock, it is reinforced with Mediterranean influenced crooning set to a foundation of Latin percussion. I hope you enjoy your visit.

My video will be ready later this month - conceived in Brooklyn and shot in Beirut.

Keep doing what you’re doing and thank you!

George

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LOUDS - Ways

Got this end of summer letter from a fellow Philadelphian:

hi mark,

one time my brother charlie and i sailed to an uninhabited island off the coast of maine with some friends. that island is called louds island and it sits in the penobscot bay. we sailed there in tiny dinghy’s outfitted with tiny sails on a pretty regular basis, but on this day a storm rolled in. we had to get before the thunder and lightning started rattling our masts. we rigged up and started racing back. being novice sailers and little kids we got ahead of ourselves and flipped our two vessels.

we spent hours floating in the bay, amidst pouring rain and a violent summer storm. our ships were capsized and filled with water. we had no chance of righting them. we had to wait for help. we had to wait for someone to come by. eventually they did and towed us back to the harbor. we survived and now make dance music in philadelphia. we’d love for you to check it out our first single “ways”. i hope you liked our story. 

sincerely, petie Read more Letters to YVYNYL (see most popular)
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Club Girls - I Can Do a Lot

New Yorker Christen Cappello asked me to premiere this eye-bending video she directed (edited by Stephen Arnoczy) with this sweet letter:

Hey Mark!

My name is Christen and I’ve been making experimental pop music for a while now.  I feel that I must mention I create it all myself, as this is (still) always the first question people (maybe not you) ask younger, female, electronic musicians.

Originally from Connecticut I spent a bit of time in Boston at Berklee College of Music noodling around on my computer, breaking my computer and getting a hang of things in general before making the move to NYC, a place I had wanted to live since high school.

At the top of 2012 I found myself fresh out of significant 4 year relationship and was pretty terrified of everything. Financially unprepared for such a life change and half-brained from the sudden separation, I moved back to my mom’s place in Connecticut. Presented with what the reality of living with my parents full time would be like I decided to commute to New York City to continue to work at a well known gay-friendly restaurant in Chelsea.  I believed that if I just kept one foot in New York’s revolving door I would be okay. Looking back, I suppose I could have stayed home and let my mom take care of me for a little while but I somehow found it less horrible crashing on the couches & beds of friends new & old. Harlem, Astoria, Brooklyn: I got around.

Eventually I saved up enough money to rent a room and moved in with someone I found on craigslist, which could have been bad but in a twist of amazing fate, wasn’t! In an attempt to keep sane during this chaotic time I decided to launch Club Girls, a pop project I had been wanting to realize for a while. My original intention for Club Girls was to work with as many different producers as I could, acting only as the singer/songwriter, so as to focus on other work. However,I quickly realized I didn’t know many producers and didn’t want to wait, so I took on the role myself with gusto.  I tried not to worry much about the songs/production being “perfect” (as musician’s are prone to do) and was able to record more material than I ever had before. I didn’t have any instruments with me and couldn’t afford to buy new ones, so I created almost all of my music from micro samples of top 40’s songs. I started to think of it as Junkyard pop. Re-purposing bits n’ pieces of old songs to make new songs.

Around the same time Club Girls was coming into fruition I started to become involved with someone new which was exciting, but I was feeling a bit anxious and guilty about it because it happened so quickly after the aforementioned parting-of-ways. In an attempt to quell my own fears/anxiety (and also find some courage) “I Can Do A Lot”, the first Club Girls single, came tumbling on out. The song has many meanings to me but is mostly about letting anyone within earshot know that I was having my fun and ‘if you had a problem with it…’ well the song tells the rest. Since then I have continued to explore whatever style suited my fancy as evidenced by the forthcoming unreleased Club Girls single “The A.M.H.” a dark, industrial track with a pop melodies lain overtop.

To bring things full circle, one early September evening of last year I managed to wrangle together a bunch of my favorite scallywags and made them do silly things in front of a camera at McCarren Park.  The result is the music video for “I Can Do A Lot.”

Thanks for taking time to read my story and listen to my music!

Best,

Christen

PS - download the track here.

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Read the latest from Letters to YVYNYL

San Diego’s Joel van Norte is one of those guys who claims to be musician by hobby only. Despite his excellent infectious surf singles he shared with me recently, he tells me that he’s not a professional musician but a marine biologist. I asked him to send me a bit more about what that means, and it turns out to be a lot more than fishing. Read on while you listen to his newest tracks:

Ok Mark, 

…they are about the opposite of deep-sea fish, as they are restricted to waters above 10m, that’s about the same depth that an average Hawaiian can freedive. So, out of that vast ocean, they prefer just the upper fringe…

(read more on Medium)

The Andrew Gilbert Ensemble - Preakness

Kenny Woods sent me this letter:

Hi Mark,

I really love yvynyl and I wanted to send you my record.

My name is Kenny Woods (Beck guitarist, musician, producer, film scoring, blah, blah…). I had a bit of a nervous breakdown this winter and wound up made a record during the course of it. It was a difficult time for me and my wife but I think I got a pretty compelling record out of it, so all’s well that ends well. Includes some musical contributions from, Father John Misty, Beck, Liars

Now I’m trying to find it some friends. 

My objective is really to just put this record into the minds and field of view of people whose art and brains I appreciate. Simple movements, real connections with people – no mass emails, no Facebook blasts…

I’m just kind of tired of “friending” and connecting with people by clicking a button instead of using words. I miss corresponding with methods other than clicks, likes, etc. – I want to go another route for a change. I just want this record to exist in some small way that’s real and tangible using some nobler and more vulnerable avenues. So I’m just personally emailing people and places I respect - no publicists or managers…

I guess I’d describe it is as a love letter to the existential stress and strain of the 21st century and feeling pulled apart by it, a drift in it, and at time inspired by it. Musically it’s a bit of a wrestling match between Steve Reich and Throbbing Gristle with Robert Wyatt as referee. Occasionally I get a Scott Walker or Eno comparison which I happily except.

The project is called, The Andrew Gilbert Ensemble, “From These Charming Hills, After Much Consideration”.  

I would direct you a specific track but that’s like a parent picking your favorite child, so I’ll let fate step in here. I’m very pleased with all of them. The track “Preakness” maybe the center-point where the general attitude of the record is concerned, not a bad place to start – but I could say the same for “The Christ Relocated” – hence it’s position as the record opener. Others have suggested, “Congratulation Mrs. Woods it’s A Boy” as the opener too. The suggestions seem to never end.

If you have some spare time please give it a listen.

Cheers,

Kenny

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premiere: Luke De-Sciscio - Le Suis Charlie, Enfant De La Terre

Luke De-Sciscio sent me a clutch of songs a while back and I knew they were something special. Their melodies, their ambiance, their maddening simplicity did their capacity to tip me into a dream. While you listen to these songs, read about Luke’s life on a boat, how the power he found in silence and water and quiet reverberations steers his ship.

Dear Mark,

…I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve called myself a songwriter for years. I decided I was a songwriter and then, hey-ho, I was.

Then about a year ago, my girlfriend and I bought a house boat.

There was a lot of reasons behind our thought process; its cheap, its our calling, I’ll be able to work on my music, the money we earn wont piss away on rent, its romantic, you’re beautiful, she (the boat) is beautiful, we’ll be free.

And it was and continues to be like living in a dream.

In this dream, whilst the finer details of ‘HOW DO WE GET ELECTRICITY ON A BOAT?!’ and ‘WHY ARE THE BATTERIES NOT CHARGING?!’ were ironed out, there was a short 6 month-or-so period where my girlfriend and I lived on Rachel (the boat) in a sort of pre-Victorian fashion. A candle lit, electricity free glimpse in to a simpler time. Radioless, toasterless, social medialess, distractionless, timeless, chaoslessness. We had one another, I had a guitar and I had a note pad…

To check out the whole letter, with more photos and more songs head to Medium

Read previous Letters to YVYNYL, like the most popular ones, for example, or send over your own stories.

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Facing the Sun
  • Facing the Sun
  • The Lotus Moons
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The Lotus Moons - Facing the Sun

Oakland psych-rocker Roger Poulin writes: 

Hey Mark, how are ya?

First off, just wanted to say that I really dig your site. You’ve got a good thing goin, man, and I already discovered some rad new tunes that I otherwise wouldn’t have been privvy to.

My name is Roger, by the way, and I play in a band out of Oakland called the Lotus Moons - me, Sean Carney (guitar/vox) Brian Fernald (bass/vox) and Luis Ruelas (drums). I thought I’d share some tunes with you, and a bit of our story, and maybe you’d be into them enough to post them up on your page. We recorded these songs about a year ago, but we’ve been writing them- them and buckets of others- for lots of years before that.

I think we’ve always been into analog recordings over digital, so we’ve got mountains of cassettes of stony jams from practice, late night acoustic folk jams, and the ramblings of a bunch of freaked out dudes. We’ve lived together in a tilting duplex west of Boston that backed up onto a nature preserve, a laundry room in North Oakland, a former acupuncture clinic above a barber shop and taqueria in West Oakland, and a weird old Victorian squat in East Oakland named Frowntown, among other places.

I think we’ve all been homeless at one time or another. We’ve been broke, jobless and hungry- but stoked, also. We’ve had more good times than fistfights, but I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been any. I think we’ve done it all just so we can keep on making music together. 

So these songs I’m sending you were recorded to 2" tape and mixed down to stereo ½" tape, cause we wanted to stick to our analog guns. We are releasing a 7" on a newly formed SF label called Lucid Dreams, and then an LP… somehow. Maybe by ourselves? Who knows. 

The songs kinda run the gamut between harmonized 60s merseybeat-ish rock n roll to heavier, psychier jams, so I dropped a couple of tunes in your dropbox from either end of the spectrum. I really hope you enjoy the songs. Thanks for your time, have a good one.

Oh, and we just confirmed that our 7" release show is going to be on Jan 29th at the New Parish in Oakland CA, with Wax Idols and Cool Ghouls.

Roger

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Magnetic Poetry - Noone Knows

If you’re curious about musician’s mood in Russia right now, I got a fantastic letter from my friend Oksana, along with their excellent new track:

Hi Mark!!!

How you’ve been!! How’s the summer going so far, any exciting plans? We went on a little get away now stuck in the city for couple of month :( I got a new fun job, which sometimes is too fun and taking too much time from music making, but we struggle.

So, we finished our new EP entitled Far Away. it’s a bit different moodwise, a bit more decadent (deca-dancy, I call it :)) Cos lately things are not going so well here in Russia, with Ukraine and stuff (my 85 nan lives in Ukraine and I cant go visit her for too long) Its a really troubled time, and the songs are mostly about how you cant stay in your little world just with your loved one, and how all the bad things are here to interfere with your safe happiness and you can do nothing about it. But still they are about love, and finding safety next to your lover. 

We listened a lot to 90s music so it influenced the sound a lot. All the thing is too confusing – that what you get when informational war goes IRL.  It seems to us  that even  people who are actually in this conflict don’t fully understand what they are fighting for and moreover against who.

It’s the case when you can’t really take sides and just  try to emphasize with everyone – which I guess is kinda wrong when its war happening (evil against good, right?). If you turn to media – all of it, foreign even – the information you are getting there can always be just propaganda, or paid by government or just someone’s private point. So you gain this distrust which doesn’t help you to understand things at all. At one side you think that separatism is bad and never leads to good consequences, at other point people revolting against their corrupted government  is totally logic (this would not happen in Russia, we are just too scared). But there’s people dying and suffering, there’s fear and misery. So this should be wrong.

In Russia majority, a really great deal of population are happy with Crimea annexation  chanting in ecstasy “Crimea is ours”! Au contraire, which seems like a fair vote, doesn’t make sense to us at all. If let’s say I live in a border region and don’s want to be a part of Russia, because I think it sucks, I can’t just ask for referendum, right? I’ll be a terrorist, I’ll be a separatist and will go to jail. So how legal and fair this transfer is? The country was troubled and falling apart, people were scared, but will Russia make their lives better? I guess it will! With all the money being sent to Crimea, and not to other needy regions, where people are making 100$ a month.

Our dumbass  government  is mostly just a bunch of attention seeking worthless morons that are here to distract people from real problems – like making a bunch of nonsense laws – like a ban on lace underwear (im not even kidding).  The saddest thing that you can’t make a change, can’t interfere,  can’t say out loud that all the shit is wrong , you just deal with it and hope for the better, that crazy Putin-machine will finally run out of fuel. Every day we wake up and afraid to read the news. That how it goes. Tomorrow doesn’t belong to us.

Uff, too sad. :( 

Anyway, we as always hope you’ll love our new music. Here’s the linky-link and art. xxoxox Oksana&Dima <3 Read more Letters to YVYNYL (see most popular)
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premiere: Southern Boutique - Joanna

Everything about this back story from Austin, TX duo:

Dear Mark,

We are Southern Boutique, but you might remember us as two former members of the now deceased Tiger Waves (RIP).

Let me explain what we have been up to and the making of these songs. Things got pretty crazy. Tiger Waves spiraled into debt, struggled with what felt like an endless sea of dreadful luck, and eventually became homeless - but hey, living in a van with no AC in the Texas heat was a great team-building exercise.

Alas, no team building could have saved the band at that point, and we are moving onto bigger and better things. After doing some soul-searching in the wilderness of Yellowstone for a month, it became clear that we needed to form a new band and start from scratch.

Amidst all break-ups, be them romantic or artistic, something good always seems to arise out of the ashes. So after a year spent coming to terms with what had happened we have recorded an album that we are extremely proud of and we hope you enjoy, especially because it nearly destroyed us to create.

We had a lot of influences that shaped our new sound. These include, but aren’t limited to: abandoned Indian reservations, luxury gas stations, shamanism, shadow people, the Texas Gulf Coast, moose baby, and Don Henley.

We are truly grateful for everything you have done for us in the past (your posting of our song “Weekends” way back in 2012 gave us our big break and began our wild excursion and brief moment in the record industry) and we really hope that you dig what we have been up to since. Thanks for everything you have done and we are glad you are back running yvynyl!

-James and Tyler

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premiere: Pearl Lion - On my Way Home

Jared Scharff’s letter about his long journey to his perfect sound:

Dear Mark,

When I was a kid, I would sit in my bedroom for hours recording my guitar into a 4-track recorder. I was fascinated with creating music, especially guitar instrumentals. Since the early days, I’ve gone through so many different musical phases in my life. There was the RCA Records rock/pop band, Tom Petty-inspired solo project, hired gigs, multiple production/writing teams making pop music, and my current gig as the Saturday Night Live Band guitarist (2007-present). Once I started SNL, I really got into producing/writing pop music and it became my life outside of the show. Around 2012, I started feeling a bit lost in the music world. I knew that I had to get back to my first love and make the instrumental music I had always dreamed of. I had no idea what that sounded like or how to do it yet, but I knew this was the moment to start figuring it out. 

I was bouncing back and forth from NYC to LA during the breaks in the SNL season. On one particular trip to LA in 2012, I borrowed my buddy’s amp and set up in the basement of my sister’s house in Silverlake. One random night I plugged in my guitar and out came the main melody riff for “On My Way Home”. Something about it really spoke to me and I knew I had something special. I started building the track immediately on my laptop using some of the analog instruments in the basement (vintage drum machines, synths/keys, bass, etc). I even used the exact guitar recording from that night on the final version because it had that initial moment of inspiration and feeling. For me, the whole idea, concept and challenge of all of this was to bring emotion to an instrumental song without needing a vocal to do so. 

I went back to NYC with about 60% of the song finished. I tracked the rest of the guitars a few months later in Chelsea, at Claudius Mittendorfer’s studio. Claudius got this amazing dream-like sound with an old tape delay and I used that for the guitar solo (1:20sec). I only played one actual solo and that’s the one you hear at 1 minute and 20 seconds. Right after that take we looked at each other like, “uhhh, I think that’s the one!?!” To this day, that was one of my absolute favorite moments of recording my upcoming two EP’s (Light/Dark). 

I spent the next couple of months tweaking, changing, arranging, sound manipulating (0:52sec mark is a guitar, not a trumpet), etc. It took a year or so from the moment I wrote it till I felt the recording was finished. It was all about listening, taking some time away then coming back with fresh ears and tons of tweaking. I really wanted to take the listener on a beautiful journey and get them out of their own world for a minute. 

That’s the story of how “On My Way Home” came into this world. It was a long road but worth every minute. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and get lost with me. 

-Jared Scharff / Pearl Lion

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Pan Astral - I Won’t Be Long

Dreamy single came with a letter from Denver's Gabriel Otto:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for writing such an unabashedly fanatical blog devoted to exposing the personalities of the artists you feature. I’d like to share my band, Pan Astral, with you in the hope that you find something of interest amongst my meanderings.

Over the last four years, Pan Astral evolved from a two-kids-in-a-basement experiment crossing drum and bass with indie rock into a live act (complete with, yes, a real drummer) in Denver, Colorado. When we started out, I decided that half of the songs we made would be simultaneously created with a mixed media art piece. The songs and works of art didn’t necessarily reflect each other; it was just an excercise that forced me to keep up with my art since music had begun to take up all of my time. I actually hadn’t shown my work in over four years, and I had conceded that my days as a visual artist were probably over. Still, I was burdened by the need to make art.

When the first album was released, Ryan and I decided to attach each single to its respective art piece, augmented with past works for the songs I’d skipped. It was great to hear back from someone in Moscow or New York about how they loved seeing the art pop up onto their screen when one of Pan Astral’s songs was played. It dawned on me that I had inadvertently created a virtual gallery where people could see my art!

Now, working with a full band of four musicians, each song is a culmination of creative input from all sides, which means we are working more methodically on each single. This gives me the time to contemplate an art piece for every single song. The layers of synth pads, guitars, drums and electronic noise have begun to reflect the layers of paper, ink, paint and found objects in each art piece and their execution have become nearly identical in methodology. For me, the processes of creating both music and art have become inextricably connected.

Our newest song, ‘I Won’t Be Long", was made alongside a 35"x29" collage of Crazy Horse leading a horse. It is a hopeful, unrequited love song, which I suppose is how I feel when imagining Native American heroes like him.

The single we are featuring called 'I Won’t Be Long’ will be released on Valentine’s Day (2/14). We are scheduled to headline Artopia at midnight at City Hall Amphitheater in Denver, CO on 2/22.

Thank you for considering our music and art, Mark. I hope you find it appropriate for your blog.

Cheers,

Gabriel Otto

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