#2: Little Frictions

Around May of this year is when I started to get back into the groove of writing music. The GuestHouse EP that dropped recently is largely a collection of songs written during that initial stage of song writing, with the exception of the title track (“Little Frictions on the Window”). At some point I decided that writing new songs would be with the goal in mind of releasing an official GuestHouse album at some point in the near future. Neighbors from down the street had contacted me about resurrecting an old music festival that they had hosted a number of years ago called the SoPho musical diversion. GuestHouse had played there twice and they had hoped that we could play again at this new incarnation of the festival.

The idea was that the event would take place at the beginning of November with music and art and vendors exclusively from South Phoenix. A space to hold the event had been picked over on Central between Baseline and Southern in the parking lot of a small art gallery. The idea was great, and we met up with a number of other people do discuss the next stages of planning but nothing ever really came of it. Our next meeting date came and went without much contact and the festival has been postponed indefinitely.

With that said, the idea of bringing back GuestHouse from the dead suddenly became a very real possibility for me. The last time that GuestHouse had played a show was in early 2013 and since then things had been mostly dormant on that front. I had focused my time and energy devoted to music towards releasing EPs under my own name and later under the REYEZ monicker. I started playing open mics with my cousin Eli and developed a taste for hip-hop and electronic music. The string of EPs that I released during that time period had given me an opportunity to expand my songwriting skills and to branch out into different genres and styles. REYEZ took things a step further and had me learning how to record and produce records using software rather than writing songs strictly with a guitar and mental notes. A Bandcamp page was made alongside a separate Soundcloud account for REYEZ with the GuestHouse Soundcloud, once the online hub for all of my songs, collecting dust and sitting by the wayside.

The idea of playing a live show for an audience of neighbors that had so graciously supported us throughout the early years reignited my faith in the project, and the possibility of breathing life back into the band seemed beautiful and necessary. Once the festival fell through, the idea stuck anyway and became a driving force in my life. The past year has been largely dominated by the idea of recovery and self preservation, and dedicating time and effort towards something that has always been such a strong emotional backbone for me seemed urgently appropriate.

The last incarnation of the band had been the most successful one to date. We played the most shows together to the most amount of people and had sounded the best. The musicianship was top-notch mostly as a result of practice and the passage of time. However, those days are almost certainly cemented in the past. Paul now plays on other bands around town, his keyboard heroics pleasing audiences on almost a weekly basis it seems like. He’s also been busy finishing up his master’s degree and looking to bigger and better things. Dana moved to New York after she finished school and is living her life out there as a working engineer. As for Austin, I haven’t heard from him or seen him since around the time of our last show and to my knowledge he’s doing his own thing in the construction world somewhere. From what I know, Paul and I are the only ones still pursuing music performance in some form of another. Getting the band back together simply isn’t something attainable at this point in time, and I doubt it ever will be. The fate of GuestHouse is solely in my hands now, and it sort of always has been.

I still want to play live shows. I’d love to have a band and call it GuestHouse and rock out in front of audience, even if it was just a house show to a small group of friends, but for now that’s on the back burner. Finding band members that can practice on the regular and are interested enough in the music I’ve written to play it with me is a challenge in itself and I don’t think I even know anyone who has the time or energy to do it anyway. So for now, and for the past few months, I’ve been concentrating on writing.

When the festival was still up in the air I decided that it would be a good thing to write some new songs that we could play in addition to the dozen or so that we used to play back in the day. When the festival fell through I had already started writing and instead of just a few songs I decided that now was the time to finally write an album’s worth of material and put something majorly substantive out into the world. A GuestHouse album was finally in the works and I was very excited about it (and still am. It’s coming out in late December and it’s called L’Appel du Vide).

Writing anything, whether music or essays or anything in-between has always been a hit or miss process with me. Sometimes my brain opens up and the world pours out before me, ripe for the picking. Other times it is a slow and arduous process like trying to wring the last bits of water out of a rag. The early stages of starting to write again mainly consisted of the later. The Little Frictions EP consists of those moments that didn’t come together so smoothly, but still yielded something adequately pleasing to the ears.

The song “MAGIC” was one of the first things that I recorded when I started writing again. It’s big but understated and has this sort of swirling psychedelic feel to it. The drums are circular and pulsating and the instrumentation over it sounds like what I can only imagine being inside of a kaleidoscope feels like. It’s not a complete song, hence the big [DEMO] signifier at the end of the title. It’s more of an idea than anything else. But it’s a big pretty idea that I was very excited about at the time. Like the rest of the songs on the EP, it’s something I really love but didn’t really have a place being on the album. I needed the album to have some cohesiveness to it and this didn’t quite make the cut.

“Small Song” was something I wrote really late at night and was an idea that came out of quiet contemplation. To me it sounds like something Frusciante might have recorded on a four track somewhere. Like the title suggests, it’s very small in nature and quiet for the most part, centering around a very simple chord progression and clean guitar ramblings that dance over the top if it. There’s one chorus and a bridge near the end. It’s a short affair but it’s fairly representative of how my brain tends to feel when the sun’s come down and the white Christmas lights are glowing.

“Lovelight Interlude” is something I wrote entirely on guitar before I even set about recording it, which is something I rarely do anymore. Most of my writing comes from recording loops and building around that in the software until something coherent starts to take shape. This song is the exception. The title comes from a Bombay Bicycle Club song. The songs feels like something I could have written around the time the EP2 came out, in that it’s in the same key and it’s acoustically driven. It’s a nice interlude, it’s just a little too fuzzy to fit into the context of the album.

“Mr. Robot” comes from a finger-picking pattern that I had been playing around with for a long time whenever I would pick up an acoustic guitar. The song was written and recorded in the span of a day or so. Most of the writing came first but during the recording process is when the finer details filled in. It has a synth string section that fleshes it out a bit and gives it a unique feeling that doesn’t really come across in any of the rest of my songs. Similar to how “Lovelight Interlude” could have been placed on EP2,  “Mr. Robot” could have easily fit onto Cambrian. The song was recorded the same day as the first meeting for the music festival and was largely the reason that I felt I could keep going and do a whole album’s worth of material. My friend Tyler from the band Possy really like the song. I’m pretty sure half of its plays on Soundcloud are from him.

“Glass Zoo” is a very old song that used to be a crowd favorite back in the day. This version is just an acoustic rendering of that song. It’s about a person.

“Don’t Panic” is a cover of a Coldplay song of the same name. I’ve played the song at open mics over the years and month or two ago Tyler wanted to record a version of it at his place. We worked on it for half a day and he said he would do some extra work on it and send it my way when he was done with it. That day never came so I came home and recorded my own version of it in the span or an hour or two. It has some keyboard in it that I used on a lot of songs from L’Appel.

These songs are a taste of what’s to come, stay tuned for when the real thing drops.


– SB


#1: The State of Things

This is the first in a series of blog posts about Small Spring Records and related projects.

Today is special because we finally have an official domain name (smallspringrecords.com) and even though that might not seem like much, it’s a step towards legitimacy for us, and me personally (Shawn). Small Spring as a name and an idea has existed for roughly a year and a half at this point and it’s finally getting to a point where the ball is rolling in the right direction. 2016 was a year full of inspiration and artistic output, but it was also full of strife an misery that pulled anything it could down with it.

For instance, I went through a long period of mental illness starting around the time that the REYEZ album came out (VISTA/DVBHC). I actually haven’t even re-uploaded that album onto Bandcamp yet because of how I feel about that time in my life (roughly May-December of 2016). What ended up turning out to be a prolonged period of mania led to a handful of months that went by in a blur of awful decision making. At the time my superhuman ability to ignore and reject the opinions and aid of my loved ones resulted in eventual detainment and hospitalization by the hands of the authorities. To put it simply, I was extremely delusional and was lost in dream land even when I wasn’t asleep. I had convinced myself of a grand conspiracy both for and against me that made me act like a maniac and someone unrecognizable to the person that most people knew me as.

I’ll probably touch on the subject more in the future but for now all I really want to get across is that Small Spring Records was born during a time when I couldn’t tell up from down, and as a result has stumbled out of the starting gate, only recently gaining its legs back. The passage of time has a way of healing in some situations. This is the case with my ability to coherently and comfortably participate in artistic endeavors.

At one point I felt so broken that listening to music gave me no feeling at all, and the idea of making any myself felt like a lost cause and one that I was and forever would not be interested in. It wasn’t until May or June of this year that I really felt the desire to try again. And I had to really try. This shit didn’t come easily.

Anyway, it’s back to business at Small Spring Records and there’s lots of exciting things going on between myself and the company I keep. Karcher and I released an album last month (Welcome by Whosentient Cantaloupe). GuestHouse is releasing an album next month (L’Appel du vide). Cantaloupe is coming together as a live act in the near future and hopefully we’ll be able to play a show or two by the end of the year.

Things are good (mostly) and I’m trying to make the most of it.

Stay tuned,