I am honored and excited to close out 2021 with a mixtape I made for one of my oldest friends. (You should be able to both stream and download it through Currents.FM–please let me know if it is not working, but you can also just straight download it right here.) I have had to wait until today to release it, because it begins with a song they wrote that was kept top secret until its release today! IT WAS MURDER to wait, and possibly why I have been so uninspired for the last month. So, I am overjoyed to finally share with you a mixtape of incredible significance to me that I am very proud to end this year with—an ending which is also the most exciting beginning and which will never really end, as the mixtape will make quite apparent if you really listen. 🙂
I first met Sevan Arabajian-Lawson in the punk house attic where I organized and performed quieter, usually unamplified or low-amplitude shows in Milwaukee in the mid-aughts, when I was 18 or 19 and they were 16 or 17. (Louder, more technical, more aggressive shows happened in the basement. There was a big gender disparity between these spaces.) They played an acoustic guitar cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears that made me realize stripped-down pop music is the blues, and I have never forgotten about it. But their own songwriting and personal brand of poetic philosophy is something I have been a very attentive student of for decades since–Sevan is truthfully one of my favorite contemporary singers and songwriters, and I have always been a little bit floored to call someone so geniously talented a close friend.
I made this tape as a celebration of the incredible debut of their latest band, Credentials, which is the greatest actualization of their talent to date; I also made it as a wedding present, and in celebration of one of my oldest friends really coming into their own power. In keeping with that, its themes are: autumn, everything, change, love tempered by discipline and respect, shedding, sovereignty, looking back while moving forward, marriage, transformation, astrology, universal intendedness, cosmic being, stardust, sentience, mythology, storytelling, seasons of life and death, boundlessness, and eternity. I filled it with a lot of things I have been loving this year, but I took special care to include lots of non-cis-male rock singers and lots of post-rock, noise rock, and post-hardcore, as well as things that communicate a lot about who Sevan is and our shared interests and history–the poetic philosophy of Diane Cluck, the acapella gospel harmonies, all of the themes, the Scout Niblett song about a “lonely girl” rocking her own world and shaking her heart down transforming into the “DJ DEATH PRINCE OF NOW,” and how its all completely and totally cosmically intended.
I have come to appreciate little mistakes in making tapes for people and to find that they often unintentionally improve the meaning or add to the feeling of what I am doing–on this tape, the needle goes backwards for a second during the Jessamine song, and it honestly feels perfectly suited to the meaning of the song, there are little blips and blurps which prove this is a thing I actually made with my hands for someone I love, there are moments where the treble is a little too high for something and you hear me turn it down before it gets out of control, like you’re sitting on my couch by the pure fire of the pure tubes. I love that in so many of these songs, I was able to record them from my records, and because they are songs I love very much and have listened to often since the era of my life in which I first came to know Sevan, the pops and hisses are off the chain (Scout Niblett, Electrelane). You can hear the history between songs and people.
I am very excited that my first feature of 2022 will be about the Credentials record and how it tells the story of the last quarter century of DIY musical culture in Milwaukee, my second hometown. I will even talk about the other very talented members of the band!!! 😉 BUT THIS IS ABOUT SEVAN.
I wanted to end with this message from them:
“O the joy of my spirit–it is uncaged–it darts like lightning! It is not enough to have this globe or a certain time, I will have thousands of globes and all time.” – Walt Whitman
This quote is what I’m feeling to day, freshly born of the Intense Scorpio New Moon and the eve of my band CREDENTIALS’ debut album release, and days from my birthday.
To think of the young kid I was, emerging into a creative field that would prove unyielding in its areas of exploration and spaces receptive to my expression, yet at times stifling or oppressive, never could have imagined it would bring me here, holding this album that I’m so proud of.
I’m grateful to have been apart of fairly successful bands and received local acclaim, but this band and what we’ve all made together feels unique to me personally, but also as an offering to the community.
I have a friend who’s known me since I was a 17 year old playing my guitar in punk house attics and claims to be the greatest student of my poetic, musical, and philosophical work. This friend said that I’ve always written incredible songs and sung them beautifully, but none of the bands adequately made use of my talent. And now, here is a group of people who have made a space for that to happen.
I feel that. I’m sure it’s been a different experience for every member, but for me it’s truly been healing to be in this band, make these songs, record this album, and to get to play them live for you all.
The technical skill of my bandmates is inspiring, their commitment to interesting creative gestures is encouraging, and their openness to me doing whatever I wanted to do without any presumption of what we should sound like is what I felt I was missing in many collaborations.
It was a welcomed challenge to weave my voice with the wild time signatures, and when I stopped trying to count correctly and feel my way through, I made it happen.
That’s how I live best; feeling my way through.
Feel with us, please,
& tomorrow, give the record a listen.
@credentials_mke on Instagram
© COME AWAY WITH EMD 2021