Sterile was supposed to be a double album. It wasn’t. Most of it was recorded in 2016, but a few stragglers (like “To Living Lost”) were recorded in 2017. This whole album feels like a massive step backwards from Afternoon in that it reflects the Third Seed project, where I used a 4-track and recorded too many covers, instrumentals, and lazy things that some may call songs, that came before it more than I’d liked. I felt it relevant to mention that because this already short album has 2 instrumentals and 2 covers. I think “Pride (When You Need It)” has a good ending section but I’d stop short of calling it good. “Phased” is another really bad attempt at sounding like Flying Saucer Attack. I’m not going to talk about every song in detail because most of these songs don’t deserve it. “True North Princess” is a great intro let down by what follows. There are some accidentally good harmonies but I wouldn’t revisit it otherwise. “Citizen Model” is a bit horrid, but I’d been holding onto that voicemail for years waiting for the right time to use it. The 2 covers are songs some of my friends wrote. “I Heard It” is a Barlow song. Shame, it’s a great song. “To Living Lost” is kind of forgettable but the vocals suck because at the turn of the year I got pretty sick. This was a trend for a while that I’d get sick and my vocals would sound horrendous for an album. It’s also too long a song to be this minimal. I think by the end of “Sterile” there are 5 “DI with distortion pedal” guitars. It was supposed to sound harrowing. I guess it’s the one thing I got right on this album. For a while, I would just release an album if it hit 30 minutes, which usually meant one song was the designated “I have to record this so the album can be long enough” song. This time, it was “Men Of Flight”. The part at the end is from a song you’ll never hear called “She’s A Moonrock”. I think, like Afternoon before it, the album’s best stretch is its closing one. “Reunion Forever” is a tender acoustic number, “Young Body, Old Mind” is a rumination on being young and developing writer’s block, and “Show’s Over” is an Ed Gein Mystery Machine song that they’ve since taken off Bandcamp, leaving my version the only proof that song ever existed.
I bought a Zoom multi-effects pedal that also turned out to be an amp sim. I used it religiously throughout 2017, and it popped up a bit in 2018 but not nearly as much. I recorded the songs building up to Donald Trump becoming President, so I remember thinking at the time that the songs were fairly political, but looking at the lyrics now they just read like the lyrics I was otherwise writing at the time. I actually quite like “Jesus Didn’t Die For This” but it’s not any less messy than what came before it. I think I just stumbled upon good melodies by accident. “Desperate Clotheslines” deserved better than this version. The tape recording at the end is really old but I don’t remember how old. My guess is 2013. I’m surprised by how much this EP sounds like Guided By Voices compared to what came before it. That’s all this EP sounds like. Hell, there’s a Guided By Voices cover on here. “Everything Is Fine” is interesting because I was trying to create a sort of “bookends” by using that loop again. I don’t do it much because it’s corny.
“Ace Of Eyes” is the last song I wrote before turning 18. I re-recorded it a year and a half later and I still don’t know which version I prefer. The music leaves something to be desired but that’s a given by now. It holds up way better than anything I did before 2019 has any right to. Occasional non-HW collaborator Dan Jircitano once told me he was bummed that the first chorus only happens that one time. I agree, but for the sake of the song I can’t think of another time when it would work unless I tacked it onto the ending. The “glider” effect on the guitars was an effect on my Zoom. It would be another 3 and a half years before I would own a guitar with a whammy bar. The other 3 songs are just B-sides, which oddly enough were recorded first. “Errors” has a fun chorus at least. “Bull’s Eye” was an outtake from the last EP.
I tend to consider this the point where Hello Whirled found its footing. “Beauty Theory” was a really old song that I reworked for this. “Up In Flames” is good but I think what sells it is the leads from Barlow’s very own Ethan Oliva. I asked my Facebook friends if any of them wanted to be on Hello Whirled songs and 4 people said yes. “Indigo Crystal Asshole” is about people who believe in “star children” and why they suck. Occasional collaborator Dan Jircitano plays chord organ on “Song For Athena”, a song I wrote specifically to accommodate the chord organ’s limited abilities. “Meteor Power Hour” is a good song for only being 1 guitar and a lot of vocals. “Black Molly” is a wild instrumental that really had no precedent from me and that I’m surprised I made in 2017 and not 2020. It sounds like Suicide, a band I don’t like. “Patriot” was a piss-poor attempt at making hardcore. “Right Arm!” features Randy from Oddsock on vocals and lead guitar. I don’t hear from him much these days, hope he’s doing well. “Empty Husk Of A Young Man” is probably my favorite on this album just for one chord about halfway through the song (you’ll know it when you hear it). I forgot about “Torch Women”…they can’t all be winners. “Mirrored Aztec March” features someone who goes by Magic Booka, whose band name I forget. The name was stolen from Robert Pollard, who was going to name an album “Mirrored Aztec” and then didn’t. Three years after I made this album, he changed his mind and gave an album that name, aging this song considerably. I tuned the D-string up to E for this one. I’m really proud of “Retiring Fortuneteller” but I couldn’t tell you why. The bit at the end is a sped-up recording of an old song called “Trying Too Hard”, which was re-interpolated into “Trying To Fly (And Landing)”. This song probably deserves a second chance, it’s a great tune. It’s a good album, and a hopeful sign of things to come.