Been a while, hasn’t it? Apologies for taking so long to write this one. 2018 was difficult to listen to again so I needed to take a breather. I knew heading into 2019 that it was time for Hello Whirled to change a little. I knew I wasn’t going to try to record with a computer when I returned to college, so I recorded a scrappier EP in anticipation of it somewhat reflecting how my music would sound upon returning to college. “Comfort Over Condition” is probably the best song here. It shows an immediate sense of authority over itself, which sounds like word salad but it makes sense if you’ve heard my 2018 stuff. It’s more confident. The vocals are more realized. “Flower Bed” seemed like the hit at the time. I only used 4 tracks on it, to prove that I could. It feels primitive to me but I can’t quite explain why. “Academy Highway” sounded better in my head but it didn’t really land in execution. “I Can’t Stop (Holding On)” is a nice Cleaners From Venus cover. I’m proud of how it came out, especially the bass part. “Magma” is the only song here with real drums. It’s interesting. I wanted to do a song that sounded like Mission of Burma, but it doesn’t really sound like them at all. The speech on “Coming Home” is from a video about Vietnam veterans enlisting in the Army.
This EP was going to be a full-album cover of Robert Pollard’s Kid Marine, which came out three days after I was born. I burned out after finishing 4 songs, but I’m pleased with these that were finished. “Snatch Candy” on melodica is certainly an interesting one. “Flings of the Waistcoat Crowd” is always a delight.
I spent a month on this, which is ages in Hello Whirled time. There were quite a few outtakes this time around too, 16 to be exact. The songs that made it here were the ones I felt were, simply, the best, or otherwise just fit the “vibe” better. “I’m Sure It’s Nothing” was supposed to be a Husker Du send-up, but lo-fi. It kind of worked, but the vocals could have been louder. “Paramount To The Cause” is an upgrade of an old song from 2018 just called “Paramount”. It feels oddly low-key but it’s a good song. I have mixed feelings about “Resident Daisy Cutter”. It feels too sweet for its own good. I don’t like sweet (mostly). I certainly don’t like making it. “Needle Stars (Angel Bones)” is the 3rd iteration of this song, out of 4. It took so many tries to get “Needle Stars” right. Good god that was stressful. That I even attempted a 4th version after getting this one is proof that even this version didn’t feel perfect. I still like it but that chorus really just sort of stands on his own. “Contact Dream” is so fucking good. I send this website to prospective employers so pardon the language, but this is a perfect song. The drum beat is simple but works for all parts of the song. The guitar cuts like a knife. The chorus is so different from the verse that it causes a bit of whiplash. That ending…I wish every song I wrote was this awesome. Some are, some moreso, but this is a specific zone I only entered this once. In a perfect world, every song is “Contact Dream”. Alternately, every song is “Skin At 15 Degrees”, which is a bit less perfect but is somehow just as good as the song before it. I think there are 3 different guitar tunings on this one. “Today’s Angels” was an absolute bastard to make work. In hindsight, I should have saved for an album where I was less restricted by the technology at my disposal, but eh, live and learn. It came out good, it was just exhausting to put together. I’m truly embarrassed by “Pooch Punt”. I love football, but this is a juvenile way of expressing it. One of my friends says this is my best song. Good for them. The sample at the end is from a movie I had to watch for a class. The line worked way too well for a song like this. “Walking On The Broadcast” was originally a lot longer. I edited it down because it was ridiculous having it over 6 minutes long. You can probably guess where the edits are. “In A Distant World” is another personal favorite. Just the gloomy mood of it really works for me. The percussion was recorded during one of my classes by tapping my housekeys against my portable 8-track recorder’s built-in mic. “Nursing More Than Justice” is a monster of a deep cut. The song was written with MIDI so performing all of the parts live was not tremendously easy but I made it work. It’s probably the most I’ve ever written out a song before playing it. The guitar solo at the end was all written out too.
The 8 good outtakes from Skin At 15 Degrees. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I think 3 or 4 of these could have worked on the album proper, and were cut because I couldn’t make them fit, but a bunch are just axed versions of songs that actually did make it. I think the only reason “Zeus In Orbit” and “Dust” didn’t make it was because the album had so little acoustic guitar that these 2 songs would have really stuck out. Fun fact: the two versions of “Resident Daisy Cutter” have the same tempo so they can be lined up. Try it out. I wonder how many times I’ve used the phrase “never learn” in my songs. Probably too many.
Live album recorded on the second floor of the AIMM Building. The show was a mess because we hadn’t rehearsed enough, and also for many other reasons. It’s not Pods bad, but this day was so incredibly stressful and the payoff was debatable so I listened to this at kind of a low volume. Sorry, I just have a messy relationship with Hello Whirled as a performing act. There are nonetheless a few things worth nothing. After 2 shows on drums, Angela played bass for this show. She had a wireless setup, so before we launched into “August”, she left the room with her bass, and then walked in playing when it started. “Puzzle Piece” has a much fiercier intensity to it than any other version, probably in part due to the presence of new drummer Alec Goss. I wish Alec could have been more involved with Hello Whirled over the course of its existence, but such is life. I totally forgot about Alec dropping his sticks and the drums dropping out for a while. Goes to show how sloppy the whole show was, but even though I’m still somewhat apprehensive about the whole experience, I can’t hate that moment. We played “Violet Angel” because I told Angela she could pick a song for the setlist because she’d switched instruments. Despite assuring the audience that it would not rock, a pit opened up during “In A Distant World”. After the vocals were done, I walked into it.
Some Shred Of Optimism was recorded in several stages. These songs were finished in the first stage but didn’t make the final album for some reason or another. “Almost Got It” was originally an instrumental recorded by request from someone who needed something for his short film. I added vocals and thought it sounded good. “Arrows Of Color” and “Indifference” were songs I knew were good, but not in this form. I felt similarly about “Your Door (Take 1)”, but I had the urgency to immediately re-record that one. That one demanded a real piano that I had at school but not at home.
To go into great detail about how this album ended up the way it did would be time-consuming and pointless, but I can explain part of it. This started as two 20-minute EPs. The first was called What The Light Hits First, and featured only songs 4 minutes and longer. The other was called Asexual War Paint, and featured only songs under 2 minutes. I merged them to make it an album before anything had been finished. For what it’s worth, there was enough material for What The Light Hits First to be a proper album, but some of the longer songs were written after the merger. “Numbers Game”, for instance. This is a powerful opener. It’s so refined I’m almost amazed I made it in the same year of college as Clearer Skies Ahead. This album cut it really close to the release date, so it didn’t get any singles, but if it had, “Color My Potential” would have been one of them. It’s another song about how unimpressed I was about local bands. I still am. “Piss Track” is a new version of that one song from 2018, with the lyrical themes serving less as an attack on someone else but rather one on myself, in a sense. “Your Door” in its more realized state is really quite stunning. I don’t make songs like this often. It’s not the sort of grandeur I pine for. It kind of sounds like The Microphones, actually. Maybe it’s the pianos. “Some Shred Of Optimism” was originally 7 minutes long with completely different music, but it sucked so I rewrote some of the lyrics and completely changed the music. I had gone to a basement show with my friends but someone they still associated with who I hated (and still hate) was there and it kind of killed the mood for me, so I left the show and, upon returning to my room, wrote this. My neighbor texted me to say her boyfriend liked my guitar playing while I was recording it. I re-recorded “Forest Nightwalk” for…some reason. I’m sure it made sense at the time, and it’s still a good song, but I don’t remember why I did it again. “Burning Out The Ego” is an interesting case. It’s in an odd time signature, but the beat division changes between the verse and chorus (think “Burn The Flower”). It’s oddly catchy too. So much so, in fact, that I figured out how to make the song work in 4/4 not long after finishing it and even came up with a hook for it. I wonder if that idea was ever realized (it was, and it’s one of my most streamed songs on Spotify). The dual solos too…icing on the cake.