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319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Dan Padley

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Iowa City musician, Dan Padley. We reached Dan at his home by phone. 

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Iowa City musician, Dan Padley. We reached Dan at his home by phone. 

Dan Padley, welcome to 319 Creates. 

Dan Padley: Thanks for having me. 

Mike Weber: So how are you holding up in the quarantine?

Dan Padley: Oh, it’s going alright. I’m still working. I’m still going to work at the hospital, so it’s not as wildly different as it could be. I mean, obviously when I’m coming home, I’m staying in and it’s been nice to make music way more than I have in the past. Keeping all my stuff set up so I can just plug in and play and record whenever. But that’s kinda what’s keeping me sane, I guess, is just playing guitar every day and making sounds. 

Mike Weber: So for those who don’t know – and I don’t remember if I know, actually – what do you do at the hospital? 

Dan Padley: I’m in the food service department, in the catering section.

Mike Weber: So has that changed at all with extra precautions with COVID-19?

Dan Padley: A little bit. We’re actually relatively slow right now, just because there’s not many service events going on. We’re kind of more or less on call, I think. I’m salaried there, so I’d have to be there.

Mike Weber: Lucky you.

Dan Padley: So it’s slowed down. But yeah, we’ve taken precautions. We just got issued the face shields yesterday. So that definitely made things feel a little more real. Not that it wasn’t real before, but it’s just like, yeah. Stuff’s happening. 

Mike Weber: So then you said that you’ve been working on more music recently.

Are you just writing more material or are you trying to figure out – I know you did a live stream. We’re recording this on… I don’t even know what today’s date is. 

Dan Padley: It’s Friday, the third. 

Mike Weber: Friday, April 3rd. So, Thursday, April 2nd you did your first live stream. So why don’t we talk about that first.

Dan Padley: Yeah. 

Mike Weber: Was that a new process for you? Have you ever done anything like that in the past? Were there any hiccups?

Dan Padley: I haven’t really. So, my friend Brian Johannesen, he did a live stream early last week, and then sent an email out to a bunch of musicians because that was kind of a guinea pig run for IPR to do their promoting of it. He said they wanted to do more, so reach out. So I emailed. It was kind of an impulse decision. And I realized that this weekend would’ve been Mission Creek and I was slotted to play there. I scheduled that for when my set would have been at Mission Creek. IPR was very kind to put that on and promote it and get the word out.

I haven’t really played solo much, until recently. I did a show at Goosetown early March. More like background music, like the ambient guitar stuff that I’ve been doing just kind of on my own. But in a live setting is new for sure. And then the week after that I had the great pleasure of opening up for Julian Lage and Dave King at Trumpet Blossom, which has been the last show I’ll play for a while. So it was a good one to take a break on, I guess. Then I kinda took those two sets. And I kind of  realized I can carry some time. A lot of it gets eaten up by weird ambient loop stuff, which is fun. It’s fun for me anyway. I hope it’s fun for people that listen. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. We actually tuned in last night and was listened to most of it. I’m constantly surprised with everyone doing these. I never really listened to or watched any of them before. And it’s interesting to me that we’re at a point technology-wise that this is not only doable, but you can actually sound pretty good doing it. When people started telling me that they were going to be doing live streams, I was just thinking of how a couple of years ago when I saw people doing it – putting their phone in the middle of the room and playing their guitar and nothing sounds good. 

Dan Padley: Yeah. 

Mike Weber: And now Facebook Live has gotten to the point where it’s able to utilize different audio sources and you can actually use a decent field recorder and pump it into your computer. You can sound pretty good doing it. 

Dan Padley: Yeah, I was hoping to get that figured out. Truth be told, I just had my phone on a music stand and that was the audio coming in. I’m lucky that I just have the guitar amp as the only sound source and my voice when I was talking very little in between.

The quality just across the board is pretty incredible. And it’s been nice to see how many people are doing it and making music and making it happen. It makes you think that hopefully – I mean, obviously we all want to go see live music again when this crisis winds down, whenever that is – but it’s heartening that hopefully there’s more music in the world all around with people doing these streams. Then you get friends from other places across the country – across the world – that can tune in and see you. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I was talking with Miss Christine earlier in the week – that episode actually should be going out today.

She was saying the same thing, that she has friends across the country that very rarely are able to actually come see her shows. To do a live stream was something that got a lot of her friends excited because it gave them the ability to see her perform live. I think that’s an interesting thing. As much as we all like going out and seeing a performance live – myself especially – there is a different dynamic to being able to do a live stream. There’s always going to be people that, for various different reasons, aren’t able to experience it in person. Just broadening your audience and being able to get your material in a live capacity.

I think there’s something very unique – you can record a music video, you can record a live performance and put it on after the fact. But there’s another layer to it when you are doing it truly live. 

Dan Padley: Yeah, yeah. There’s that engagement too. Last night I looked over to my computer because I had to go in there so I could see the comments better.

And then I was reading a comment as I was playing and I messed up and had to get back on track. But it’s that thing of like, “Oh yeah, this is happening right now.” I’m not just practicing in my room. Yeah, it’s live. It’s alive. 

Mike Weber: I really wonder now that more musicians are experimenting with this, how much of this is going to carry on after we get past the COVID-19 pandemic?

I almost wonder if we’re going to start seeing more venues starting to stream portions or all of the live shows, just to keep more people engaged. I’m looking at the situation and trying to find – there’s no silver lining in any of this, but that doesn’t mean that we can find something good to pull out of it.

Dan Padley: Mhmm.

Mike Weber: And I’m really wondering if – talking specifically in the realm of music – we’re all traversing the landscape of live streams, are we going to pull something good and useful out of this whole situation?

Dan Padley: Yeah, that’s a great point about venues getting involved in this, because I’m sure some already do this from time to time.

Just bringing the music even farther to the people. That reach. I had friends tune in from all over. Like I mentioned earlier, I had friends tune in who hadn’t seen me play in the decade, like friends from high school. It’s always fun to have that experience and this is one way to make that happen. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think it’s really cool that musicians have this outlet, but as a photographer, I’m still trying to figure out a way to do something right now. 

Dan Padley: Yeah. Right. I mean music is such a temporal medium that it just happens.

I mean, it’s recorded and you can relisten to stuff. But yeah, I don’t know. It’s a different medium altogether. That engagement becomes gone in a certain way because you can’t – I guess you could live stream you taking pictures of something. Not sure how that works out logistically.

Mike Weber: Yeah, people have been making jokes that I should start taking pictures of the computer screen during a live stream and start posting those. 

Nicole and I have talked about that. I think that there might be something there – at least from the realm of satire. Speaking as a creative in this moment, trying to find new outlets to put out creative work into the world – I think that’s why I fell back so heavily on the podcast because this is something that I can still do. 

Dan Padley: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Weber: And, even in this realm, what we’re doing right now. Doing this interview over the phone was not something that I had even remotely considered doing prior to the pandemic.

Dan Padley: Yeah. 

Mike Weber: The first round of the podcast I did in 2018, I hit a wall logistically trying to get people to be in the same room as me. And now, I think we’re on the fourth or fifth one that I’m recording right now. This just seems to work. I think I’ve got the system hammered out.

Dan Padley: Yeah, I mean, there’s always those extra tech hurdles when you’re doing stuff like this. It’s really not that much to overcome.

Mike Weber: Yeah. To me it’s interesting. I think all of us, especially the creatives, are just trying to find different ways to make the most out of this moment of history that we’re living through. I think it’s really interesting and I’m really hoping to see that a lot of this stuff will carry on past the social  distancing that we’re trying to live through right now. 

So I’ll ask you the same question that I’ve been asking everybody. Once all this blows over, what would you say is your number one thing, what you’re looking forward to doing again the most?

Dan Padley: I think it’s gotta be either playing a live show or going to a live show with friends and just sharing space with people.

I mean, I have a roommate, but, yeah. I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert really. There’s something about being at a show, especially in Iowa City. There’s such a big music community of all different genres and it’s always a good hang with so many different people. And the shows, the big shows, kind of bring that all out and bring people together. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I’m really hoping that once this all blows over, the community as a whole will pull together and do a big show at one of the venues or multiple venues. Especially with us missing out on Mission Creek.

I think it would be really cool to see Trumpet Blossom or Gabe’s or both just do a long Saturday show. Start early, go late, and just bring everybody back together. As a member of the music community, I think that could be one of the most beautiful ways to wrap up this point of our history.

Dan Padley: Absolutely. I would agree with that 100% 

Mike Weber: All right, Dan Padley, thank you for taking the time and talking with us today. 

Dan Padley: Thanks for having me. This is great. 

Mike Weber: Alright. Bye. 

Dan Padley: Be well. 

Mike Weber: You can find Dan Padley on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His latest EP Unscene is available now. Dan also plays with a number of well known Iowa City musicians, including Crystal City and Elizabeth Moen.

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Jordan Sellergren

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Iowa City musician, Jordan Sellergren. We reached Jordan at her home by phone.

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Iowa City musician, Jordan Sellergren. We reached Jordan at her home by phone. 

Jordan Sellergren, welcome to 319 Creates. 

Jordan Sellergren: Thank you. Thanks for having me. 

Mike Weber: So how are you holding up in this quarantine?

Jordan Sellergren: Oh, I’m fine. I cannot complain.

I’ve certainly been making the most of it. My business is still moving ahead, but some of the non-essential tasks have been reduced. So I’ve basically got time off and I’m taking advantage of unemployment. 

Mike Weber: That’s always a good thing. So you work for Little Village and you also have your own music project?

Jordan Sellergren: Correct. Yup.

Mike Weber: So why don’t you talk a little bit on the effects on both of those. 

We’ll start with the music project first. Have you had to cancel? Did you have any shows coming up that you had to cancel? Are you looking at doing any  live streams or anything  that? 

Jordan Sellergren: I don’t have any plans to do live streams.

Well, I had a Codfish Basement Stormer show on the 21st of March that was canceled. And she called it off a bit before things started getting crazy in the States and really before a lot of the closures started happening. But it was totally the right move. There’s no way it would’ve happened.

And then the next show I had scheduled is our album release, which is May 23rd. And I will tell you that I think that’s looking less likely, not necessarily because of the state of business openings and stuff, but because I think my record pressing is actually going to be delayed about a month because they’re a non-essential business in Ohio.

Mike Weber: That makes sense. 

Jordan Sellergren: But you know, it’s really no big deal. I don’t make a majority of my income – at all – from music. It’s just kind of a labor of love for me. I know my bandmates – they do way, way more than I do, you know, teaching and performing. But my personal show cancellations are certainly not going to be my ruin.

Mike Weber: So then let’s talk a little bit about Little Village. I’m assuming you’re working pretty much entirely from home at this point, correct? 

Jordan Sellergren: I am working from home and it’s fairly intermittent. Like I said, we’ve had to, well, basically we’ve ceased printing for the month of April.

And I’m a print designer. That’s what I do. I do the magazine. I do a few other publications that are also temporarily ceasing print. So I kind of took a furlough and have just been focusing on homesteading, I guess, in the meantime. 

Mike Weber: Let’s talk about that. What kind of projects have you been trying to get done around the house? 

Jordan Sellergren: I’m a landscaper/gardener, kind of a novice. We bought our house in 2018 and ever since – I’m walking around the yard right now, actually, if I sound at all out of breath. So ever since 2018 really, I have devoted a lot of energy into making our yard kind of like a sustainable paradise. We have some really nice wooded area in our yard. We don’t have a huge yard – we’ve got about a half acre. But, there’s just a lot of really awesome shit that grows – a lot of native woodland plants, we’ve got garlic ramps. And then there’s also a lot of landscaping projects that you constantly have to fine tune. So yeah, I’ve been plenty busy. The weather’s been good. I think that it’s very possible there will never be time like this again. So I’m taking advantage of it.

Mike Weber: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting seeing the ways that different people are utilizing the extra time that they have. This whole project of mine – 319 Creates – has been a backburner project for me personally. I’ve always been more focused on my photography. This has seemed like a really good opportunity to be able to do multiple interviews with different people, but all around the same topic. 

Jordan Sellergren: For sure.

Mike Weber: And, having the time to do that is… Not only having time personally, but the fact that we collectively as a society have extra time right now.

Jordan Sellergren: Everything is on hold.

Mike Weber: Yeah. So I find it really interesting just seeing all the different ways that people are finding to utilize the time.

Jordan Sellergren: Yeah. And you know, I really thought I’d be working more on music, and I’m sure it’ll kind of come rushing back at some point. But, the first week that everything was shut down, I was definitely focused on music. I was playing guitar for hours a day, and putting up some recordings and stuff like that.

Then the weather got nice. And I honestly, maybe I play guitar for half hour a day, maybe, maybe, maybe. So yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I have a lot of different interests. So my focus is kind of spread out.

 And it’s really nice. I mean, you don’t get bored when you have a lot of different things to do. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And it’s nice for people, just having the time to do that. I know personally, I’m constantly looking at different things to do.

One of the things, aside from the podcast, that I have recently gotten into learning how to do… Not specifically because of the quarantine, but it just so happened that’s when I decided to do it. I’m learning how to screenprint.

Jordan Sellergren: Oh nice.

Mike Weber: I’ve had the time. Last week, I didn’t have any shoots going on. I didn’t have anything else in my world happening. You know, I’ve got most of the stuff in the garage… I think I’m going to try and build a printing press. And I did. 

Jordan Sellergren: Awesome.

Mike Weber: And it’s been cool to have that type of extra time. But you know, I wish it was under better circumstances.

Jordan Sellergren: Well, we all do. You know, I think a lot of people who are in a position where we’re not essential workers. So we can just kind of take a break and accept the isolation, you know, home shelter for what it is and focus on other things that we normally wouldn’t have time for. But it’s basically like, when else do we have time to focus on this shit?

You know, I just don’t. I have to carve out moments of my life. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. I feel for people who are still busting their asses and going out in the world, sacrificing their safety. I dunno, I feel really lucky. That’s all I have to say.

Our kids are home. But they’re at an age where they’re not really demanding. They’re pretty self entertaining. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. It’s interesting seeing how different people are just adapting to this period.

Jordan Sellergren: For sure.

Mike Weber: I’ve talked to other people who – not even just from the financial aspect of being furloughed or laid off or losing gig work – but just as people who are very extroverted are in dire straights right now. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m one of them.  

Jordan Sellergren: I’m an extrovert, absolutely. But I totally appreciate the time. It’s nice to have – to be forced to go inward a bit. But yeah, I mean, I miss shows. I miss seeing my friends. I miss seeing music and I miss playing music for other people. I miss my band. 

Mike Weber: As you’re processing through all this and enjoying the extra time, as you look forward to when this inevitably blows over and life resets back to normal – what do you think you’re looking forward to the most? Being able to go back out and do and experience?

Jordan Sellergren: Oh God. I don’t even know if I’ve thought that far ahead. I will say it’ll be really nice to get Little Villages back on stands. We have an awesome web team of journalists and editors, and you know, developers and social media people who are still busting their asses. But, the print magazine is my baby and this is the first time we’ve ever not printed. So getting that back to normal will be a relief, I think, for us. And I hope for the community. I think people may not miss it right now because they’re not leaving their houses. But, it’s odd. It’s odd for Iowa City and to some degree Cedar Rapids to not have our physical presence out there. So that, for sure. 

Honestly, otherwise, playing shows. Obviously it’s just so fun and it’s such a great creative challenge, and personal challenge. It’s constantly challenging to get over your own fear of presenting your art and doing it well. Leaving at the end of the night and feeling like you didn’t suck. So having that opportunity to get back and kind of hone that again. I look forward to that. 

Other than that, I’m fucking enjoying myself so I dunno. In a way I think it’ll be difficult to readjust to going back to normal life.

Mike Weber: Well, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

Jordan, thank you for taking some time and talking with us today. I’d say take care of yourself, but I think you’re doing a pretty good job. 

Jordan Sellergren: Yeah thank you. I’m doing alright. I’m mitigating all the garlic mustard in my yard right now as we speak. So I’m trying to do my part.

Thanks for having me. 

Mike Weber: You can find Jordan’s music on Bandcamp. She has a new album coming out May 1st with a physical release to follow. You can order the vinyl today.

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Dave Helmer

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Dave Helmer of Iowa City band, Crystal City. We reached Dave at his home by phone. 

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates, I’m your host Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Dave Helmer of Iowa City band, Crystal City. We reached Dave at his home by phone. 

Dave Helmer, welcome to 319 Creates. 

Dave Helmer: Hi. Thanks for having me. 

Mike Weber: So how are you hanging in there with the quarantine?

Dave Helmer: Oh, I’m doing alright. Practicing a lot of guitar and spending more time kind of cooking than I have been. 

Mike Weber: So how has this affected, I mean, obviously you haven’t been able to play live shows anymore. Have you guys tried doing anything else to fill in the gaps? 

Dave Helmer: Well, we did do a concert, maybe a couple of weeks ago. We did an online concert and that was alright. That was a lot of fun. And that helped. Definitely. Put a little bit of scratch in our pocket. But other than that, not really. Just been laying low. You know, you can save a lot of money by just not going nowhere. 

Mike Weber: That’s very true. 

Dave Helmer: And, I repair guitars. So I still got a few repairs going, but that’s kind of dried up too. 

Mike Weber: So you were mentioning that you’ve been working more on cooking, are you trying to actually learn more stuff or just that’s how you’re spending your time?  

Dave Helmer: You know, we’ve been making veggie tacos, chicken tacos, some soups, you know. Kinda constantly using onions and garlic, the kind of mainstays. But yeah, just getting the time to cook is nice actually.

Mike Weber: So is that not something that you normally did? 

Dave Helmer: Not really, no. I usually work until, you know, go to work at 10 in the morning, come home anywhere from 7 to 10 at night. 

Mike Weber: Oh geez. 

Dave Helmer: Every night, pretty much. You know.

Mike Weber: So then you have a lot more time on your hand. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah. The guitar workshop and playing shows really takes up a lot of your time.

Mike Weber: Wow. 

Dave Helmer: I mean, maintaining tools. It’s been kind of nice, you know, trying to find the silver linings in things. It’s been real nice just to be able to practice guitar. That’s the one thing that I’ve really been enjoying a lot of. 

Mike Weber: Are you writing any new music?

Dave Helmer: Yep. We have a new record we’re working on, of a bunch of old tunes. But, new ideas are always kind of flowing. I record little snippets on my phone. Or if I’m sitting at my recording desk, plug in and try to get a good fidelity document of something, you know? But, yeah. There’s new ideas flowing. 

Mike Weber: So, is there anything else that you’ve started doing in this time period that you didn’t really see yourself doing before? 

Dave Helmer: Oh, we’re working on putting a garden together out in the yard. We live here in West Branch. We’ve got enough yard to have a garden, and that’s something that I can’t imagine we would have time for. But now that we do, we’re gonna go for it. We’d never done a garden or anything. Or I haven’t, but Sam has.

Mike Weber: Yeah, gardening is pretty cool. Nicole and I do that here in Cedar Rapids. What type of vegetables are you thinking about planting out there? 

Dave Helmer: We already got some garlic going and some carrots and some potatoes and some lettuce, onions. I think zucchini and cucumbers too. I kind of imagine I have a lot of back pain in my future. 

Mike Weber: It’s not that bad. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah, it’ll be okay. 

Mike Weber: So what would you say that you’re most looking forward to once this whole thing starts to blow over? 

Dave Helmer: A couple of things I’m looking forward to is, just getting to crank up a tube amp with a band, and playing a show. That’s going to be a lot of fun when we get to do that. And, just being able to get together with people, play music. I mean, with other guitar players and drummers and stuff like that. And, having people come though my workshop is kind of nice. You know, right now, no one’s coming by at all. I like that too. Having people come in and hang out while we talk about their instrument, their guitar. I kind of miss that. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I feel like everyone’s kind of feeling a certain amount of social isolation right now. 

Dave Helmer: Absolutely.

Mike Weber: A lot of us are used to going out and playing shows or just going to shows. And for a lot of us in the music scene especially, that was the way that we interacted with everyone around us. And now that has been completely removed. I think that’s been a period of adjustment for most of us. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah. Are you missing it too? 

Mike Weber: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think we’re at a point here that we’re definitely close to, if not over, the longest that I’ve gone without shooting a live show in five plus years. So. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah, I bet.

Mike Weber: So yeah, it’s a bit of a struggle for me. That’s one of the reasons I started this project. Just trying to keep myself busy and engaged with the community when my normal path of doing that has been removed. And as awesome as the Facebook live concerts are, and as much as I’ve been enjoying watching all the bands do them, my engagement with the music scene has always been behind a camera. Trying to figure out a way that somehow I can do that with a live feed doesn’t exactly work. And I’m not sure if there’s a way to make it work. So yeah, for me personally, I can’t wait for things to calm down and us to all be able to get back together. And actually see you guys play again. See anybody play and be able to get back behind a camera. Because I mean, almost everything that I do in my craft as photographer does kind of revolve being in close proximity to people, and I can’t do that right now. So it has been a period of adjustment for sure. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah, it’s crazy. I agree with everything you said. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And it’s nice to be able to do this, at least. Working out ways that I can still communicate with musicians and get musicians’ stories out to people. Because I view my photography as I’m telling the story of the music scene. Right. And, by doing stuff like this with 319 Creates, I’m still able to do that to a certain extent. But it’s different. And I think that it’s good for the music scene to hear these stories and get these interviews – as far as how they’re dealing with this crisis right now, but it’s not the same.

Dave Helmer: Sure there’s so many people. But from between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, there’s so many players and musicians that all their money has just disappeared, you know?

Mike Weber: Yeah. And it’s crazy too, because a lot of the musicians I know, while they do make money from playing music, a lot of them have day jobs that are something in the service sector. And that whole industry, with very few exceptions, is just not there anymore.

So you have a lot of these musicians who not only are they losing their income from playing live shows, but they’ve also been furloughed or laid off. They’re just left kind of holding their hands and going, “What do we do now?”

Dave Helmer: Well, hopefully people have documentation and everything’s in line to show they’ve been working, you know?

Mike Weber: Yeah, I hope so too. But from my understanding, they’re being a lot more flexible as far as the onus of proof that you have to provide to the state to get some help.

Dave Helmer: I hope so. Yeah, I just hope it stays that way. 

Mike Weber: I hope so too. And at the end of the day, my hope – and at this point I feel like maybe I’m just being a bit too optimistic – is that this is going to resolve itself relatively quickly. I know deep down inside that we should probably be prepared for another month, two, maybe even three of this.

(Dave laughing)

Mike Weber: But, there’s definitely part of me that’s being really hopeful that we are towards the peak of that curve and that things are going to start getting better. They’ll figure out a vaccine or something and everything will return to normal by summer. But you know, with every day that goes on. Everyday brings another postponement or cancellation. The other day, I saw that 80/35 was canceled for this year, and that was a big shocker to me. 

Dave Helmer: I mean, that’s big. That’s summer in Des Moines, you know? 

Mike Weber: Yeah. It’s crazy to me. It sounds like Luke over at Flat Black is still like, “I’m preparing for Gray Area, but at this point I’m not holding my breath that it’s still gonna happen.” So. Yeah. I mean, I’m really looking forward to when things get back to normal, but it’s an interesting time right now. 

Dave Helmer: Yeah. I wonder if there’s – it might be till September, October. Or even further than that. It may be a long time, so we get to play and wait and see. I hope not. I hope that it gets resolved soon, but mother nature is going to do what she’s going to do, so we’ll just keep rolling with it, you know? 

Mike Weber: Yeah. Like I said, my hope right now is just that the doctors out there will figure out a solid treatment – or even better, a vaccine for it – and we’ll get that out into the wild and everything will go back to normal. But for right now, yeah, we’re just kinda stuck with this. I also look at it from the standpoint of, the longer that we’re kind of cooped up, I wonder how much pent up creative energy, we’re just kind of bottling up. And once things do return to normal, the explosion that we’re going to see of bands getting back together, new bands forming and just this deluge of new creative content.

I’m really hoping that once everything blows over, we’re going to see this renewed energy in people to do stuff like go out to shows. Because we’ve had conversations in the past – you and I – about attendance at local shows. And I’m really hoping that this situation will make more people appreciate what they have. Especially, in Cedar Rapids, which is not a known for its music scene. I feel like it is always pulling teeth for me to get some of my Cedar Rapids friends to go to Iowa City for a show. And I’m really hoping that – 

Dave Helmer: That’s a long trip though, to be fair. That’s like your whole day driving from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City. 

Mike Weber: I mean, I guess. I’m just used to it. It really doesn’t feel like it’s that big a deal to hop in my car and drive 28 minutes down the road. 

Dave Helmer: I’m just joking. Yeah, I agree. 

Mike Weber: I’m really hoping that this will kind of get people to realize that they can’t take this stuff for granted. You know, we’re sitting here in a time where two months ago, any Friday you could have gone to Iowa City and there was probably at least three different places you could have gone to see live music. And now that’s not an option anymore. I’m hoping that this’ll just remind people that the arts and the music is something that they shouldn’t be taking for granted and they need to get out and experience it while they can.

Dave Helmer: I think it will. I think there’s so  much talent between the two communities, you know. And then you think of the two communities as one. There’s so much in the corridor. There’s so much there. There’s great singers, there’s great songwriters, there’s great bands. I bet there’s going to be a huge creative output. I bet there’s a lot of people practicing their guitars and writing songs. And I think there’s going to be a big boom of quarantine songs after all this is over. 

Mike Weber: I really hope so. 

Well, Dave, thanks for taking some time and talking with us here today and we’ll catch you later.

Dave Helmer: Totally. Thanks for having me. Have a good day. 

Mike Weber: Dave Helmer is the songwriter of Iowa City band, Crystal City. Their new album, Three Dimensionality, is available on vinyl. You can find them online, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Devin Alexander

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Devin Alexander of Quad Cities band Giallows. We reached Devin at his home studio by phone. 

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates, I’m your host, Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we check in with Devin Alexander of Quad Cities band Giallows. We reached Devin at his home studio by phone. 

Alright. Devin Alexander, welcome back to 319 Creates. 

Devin Alexander: Thank you so much for having me back, man. This is great. 

Mike Weber: So I will say that the episode that you were first on has not gone out yet. It was actually going to go out about two weeks ago when all this started happening, but I’ve put all the other projects on pause for 319 Creates until the world resets back to normal. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah it’ll be a little bit.

Mike Weber: So Devin, how are you holding up in quarantine?

Devin Alexander: Well, I’m working from home and, the band is still jamming for the time being. I know we’re not supposed to be, but the drummer and guitar player are relatively quarantined in their day to day lives as well. And I’m working from home now, so it is not too bad of a deal. 

Mike Weber: Well, it’s good that you’re still able to see your bandmates and do a little bit. I know the other day you guys did a live stream. You want to tell me about what made you decide to do that and getting it set up and how you feel it went? 

Devin Alexander: Well, we’ve been talking about doing live streams since, boy, at least last June when we played at the live from Factory of Fear Haunted House event. And, at that particular time I couldn’t do Facebook streams with high quality audio for some reason. They just said your profile is not updated yet, so you can’t do this. So we were doing YouTube. But just last week I figured out that Facebook now allows you to select a wide variety of input sources now. So we were just like, alright, let’s just start streaming practices because we’re not gigging. And if people throw us a little bit of tips through our PayPal account, then we can at the very least, be slowly working towards, you know, vinyl money or whatever. 

I thought it went pretty well. From a technical standpoint, I’m basically just micing up all the sources in the basement and then mixing them in Logic. And then, Logic by itself won’t be a source for Facebook to look at, but I have another program that sort of like coalesces all sources on your computer into one assignable output source. So that’s the only reason why it works the way it does for us because I already have that piece of software.

Mike Weber: Interesting. And that was actually the question I was going to ask is how that all shakes out with making that work. That’s something that I’ve definitely, I’ve been kind of keeping an eye on all the local bands that have been trying to do livestreams. And some of them sound better than others. But I think it’s really cool that we’re now at a point from a technology perspective, at least, that options like this are available. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. And I think people who are waiting to jump into it now have a reason to. You know, if you’ve got live gigs, you’re probably like, “Eh, streaming.” But now that we don’t have anything better to do, it’s like, “Hey, I guess I’ll figure out the streaming thing.”

And for us at least, it has worked out really well. I’m very happy with the overall sound quality. And you know, even though it’s basically like a low bit rate MP3 over Facebook, it still sounds relatively listenable. It’s not, you know, a single microphone on a USB camera pointed into a big basement. It’s, individual sources, and I’m giving it some mixing love here. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I didn’t have a chance to watch your livestream. I was actually on one of the last shoots that I’ve had to do at the time, but Nicole watched it and she said that she was actually really impressed with just the audio quality that you were able to achieve through the stream. Because you’re right, some of the people that we’ve seen doing the livestreams – they don’t have the type of equipment that you do and they’re just throwing up their phone and doing what they can do. Which is still really cool and it’s still a way to be able to experience some local music. But when you’re able to take it to that next level and be able to have the fine tuning that you can do in Logic. I think that’s really cool. I mean, the next step of course, is trying to figure out how to get a better camera attached to it. That’s something that I’ve actually been looking into. Nicole and I were talking talking about –

Devin Alexander: The one that we’re using is just that Logitech C 920, which actually looks really good if I light the basement well enough – which I can, but I’ve been keeping it really dark. I found that in general, an audience will forgive a low video quality if the audio is good. But the other way around it’s not the same. If the quality is gorgeous, but the audio is garbage, people are like, no. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And that’s one of the reasons, like we were talking a few weeks ago when I invested in this new audio recorder. But that’s like when I do video. You know, I have a higher end camera and I can get really good quality video, but that’s not the end all be all. And people will rather look at a poor video with good audio than a good video.

Devin Alexander: Yup, exactly. Exactly. They’ll forgive video quality a lot, but if they have to listen to garbled stuff or stuff that’s really crushed by like, you know, bit rate compression, or like I said, like a single microphone in a room when people are actually trying to play music and the microphone is not in the right spot. It’s just all symbols. Usually it’s all symbols. 

Mike Weber: So I’m going to bring us back to – you mentioned that you’re working from home now. Was that something that you had ever done prior to this? Is this a whole new experience for you? How has that working out for you? 

Devin Alexander: I have never worked from home. Today was day five of working from home. I started last Thursday. And it’s a fucking nightmare because… For a variety of reasons, it’s a fucking nightmare. I don’t have any kids and I don’t have any dogs or whatever, so there’s nothing in my house that’s distracting to me. But, the place that I’m working wasn’t quite ready for the entire establishment to start working from home all at once. So the only thing that’s a nightmare for me, I should say, is just inability to interact with customers the way that I normally do, you know. Which is quick, efficient, get them what they need and get them on their way. But, that might be resolved tomorrow, we’ll find out. They’re doing some infrastructure upgrades. But anyways, that’s boring. But, I don’t mind working from home. I actually like everything except not being able to do my job. 

Mike Weber: Well you can’t have everything, I guess. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. Right. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I’ve found it very interesting that it seems to me like there’s a lot of different opinions on this. Like Nicole works from home on a pretty regular basis. Before this all happened, she was working from home three or four days a week, so this is nothing really new to her. And some weeks she just wouldn’t go into the office at all if there wasn’t a need. And now her company has gone full on. I don’t think that there’s anybody that’s actually in the office at this point.

Devin Alexander: Well, good. 

Mike Weber: And for her it’s like it’s another day. She feels like she’s way more productive when she works from home anyway, so this is all good news for her. But it’s interesting seeing some of the other people, kind of like you were saying, that just they’re not used to that and it’s such a jarring experience. Going from getting up, getting dressed, going to the office, working, coming home – to you just kind of roll out of bed and you sit at your desk.

Devin Alexander: Dude. It’s so good. That is like my favorite part. 

Mike Weber: You and Nicole will agree on that. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. It’s like set my alarm for five minutes before I have to get on the computer. Done. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. That’s what Nicole does on a pretty regular basis. But I also find it interesting, people complain about losing the trip. Like it’s no longer work. It feels weird. I’m still at home. And I’ve also been really surprised, how there are a lot of people who just don’t have a desk at home. 

Devin Alexander: A what? 

Mike Weber: A desk. Like just a place to sit your laptop down and work. She was telling me how some of her coworkers have had to like go and buy a desk because they had nowhere in the house to set up a laptop. And I’m like, really?

Devin Alexander: That’s so weird. I mean, people like myself who do a lot of audio stuff where like I have already got a desk. It’s got all my stuff on it. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. We were talking to somebody and they were like, “So Nicole, how are you doing working from home?” You say that like this is a new thing.

Devin Alexander: Yeah. There’s no difference there. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And for me, with the little work that I still have, I mean, I always worked from home anyway because I’m a freelancer, so that’s not really a change on my part. But I think it’s interesting and I really wonder in the longterm if this whole large social experiment, as it were, is really gonna change the way that people and companies think about work habits. Like, are we going to see that most people tend to be more productive working from home than coming into an office? And will that cause a shift in the way that businesses and organizations allocate their resources?

Devin Alexander: My favorite thing about it is that they have no – not a single leg to stand on – now saying that the internet is not a utility.

Mike Weber: We were actually talking about that a little bit earlier today 

Devin Alexander: It’s like, yeah, it’s the real deal. So you either, you know, make it the real deal for people or you better not expect them to work from home because at this point, just about everybody has the internet, I’m sure. And if they don’t, they probably don’t work for, you know, a tech industry or something like that. But I think everybody who sits at a computer is expected to be able to work from home. What about those people who don’t have that? 

Mike Weber: Yeah, and taking it even broader than that – we’re starting to see, not necessarily here in Iowa, but in other states and other bigger cities that some of the school districts are opting to finish out the school year remotely and are actually asking students to do stuff like via Zoom and other types of video conferencing to still finish out the education that they’re supposed to get for the rest of the year. And it seems to me it’s really difficult to put that onus on, especially lower income people when they might not have the internet. And even if they do, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize the amount of people who their only access to the internet is via their smartphone. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah.

Mike Weber: Which in a lot of cases is not capable of doing the things necessary to facilitate any type of teleconferencing or video conferencing or anything like that.

Devin Alexander: Yeah, exactly. So we’ll see what happens after this. I hope that what it really does is, you know, helps make the argument that the internet is just like water, is just like electricity is just like plumbing, etc. 

Mike Weber: I feel like a lot of people in the tech sector have vocally been trying to push for a broader understanding of what access to the internet really means in recent years. And I feel like this is just spelling out their case word for word for them. Showing just how important it is to have reliable internet in every home. And moreover – this was something interesting that I was listening to on NPR the other day – beyond just that, we’re also now opening up this conversation to, this job which you as an employer said could not be done by somebody who is disabled. We are now proving that it can be.

Devin Alexander: Eat shit, you fucking idots.

Mike Weber: Yeah. Like if you’re saying that you can’t hire somebody with disabilities because they have to come to the office and you can’t make accommodations and now that same job is being done remotely.

Devin Alexander: By people, at home, on the internet. Yeah, it’s like eat it guys. Start hiring people who can do stuff. Hopefully when it comes back – like I’m exceptionally lucky to still be employed during this, but I have many friends who are now unemployed and collecting unemployment as a result of what’s going on because they work in a very public facing situation. I hope that when they get hired back, it also draws a lot of other people into the workforce who maybe weren’t in there before for exactly the reasons that you were just talking about. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And talking about people who don’t have the luxury of just shifting over and working from home and have been furloughed, fired, laid off, what have you. I’m hoping that this is creating more of a understanding of the nature of the way large portions of our economy work. I feel like in the past we were very flippant about like the need of service workers and to watch how overnight that entire industry can just be shut off.

Devin Alexander: Yup. And now we’re like thanking our grocery store workers and thanking our fast food workers. Not that I didn’t before, but now it’s like, Jesus, thank God they’re here. Before, you maybe take it for granted because things aren’t about to go down the tubes. But now it’s like I go to Hy-Vee and I’m like, “Hey, thanks for working. I appreciate it.”

Mike Weber: Yeah, I’ll tell you that I went to Hy-Vee earlier today and I was very happy to find toilet paper.

Devin Alexander: Oh, you had some, huh? Interesting. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I had some to begin with. You know, I usually go to Target.

Devin Alexander: I’ve been wiping my butt. I’m a modern man. 

Mike Weber: But, you know, I usually go to Target and I get the big package. That’ll last me like two months. So I still had a bunch when this thing started. I’m like, “This’ll last like a week or two. People are going to stop losing their minds and the stuff’s going to come back into stock.” And with every day that went on I ended up like, “Okay, I think we need to get some groceries.” And I go to Hy-Vee thinking they’ll totally have toilet paper today. No. Yesterday I ended up going to like three different stores. People are still hoarding this stuff. I just, I don’t get it. 

Devin Alexander: So stupid. And selling it on eBay per roll. I didn’t see this personally, so I could be full of shit, but I heard from a friend who was like, “Have you seen people, they’re selling it by the roll or the selling it by the, you know, by the square?” It’s like, dude, come on guys. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised. I think I read somewhere that, I want to say it was Facebook marketplace was actually proactively looking for people who were trying to sell toilet paper and removing the listings. You can’t do that. 

Devin Alexander: Good. They should get the shit kicked out of them – with no toilet paper to wipe it off, I guess. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, probably one of the funnier things I’ve seen recently – we have a couple of local bars that are still trying to stay open and do like carry out only service. And one of them was doing a giveaway promotion. It was like, the 20th or 30th customer that came in also got a couple of cans of beer and two rolls of good old bar toilet paper. 

Devin Alexander: A couple rolls. That’s awesome. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’ll be interesting to see, as all of this kind of moves forward and passes on, just what things are going to stick around from this period? Like as we go six months down the road, let me say that again. Six months back into normal life. Like once things get back to normal, once this is fully in our rear view mirror, what things that we have learned in this period are we going to look back at and hang on to? And how much of it are we just going to basically instantly forget as we move on?

Devin Alexander: I hope we don’t forget too much of it.

Mike Weber: I hope not too. And I’m seeing a lot of positive things that people are doing. That, you know, they didn’t do previously. For me, I miss my friends a lot. I can’t go see them, or at least I shouldn’t go see them. So we’ve been doing a lot of video hangouts, which is not something that I would have done previous to this. I think that opens up a lot of possibilities for, you know, having closer  connections with your friends. I think it’s really easy on a Friday night when your friends are like, “Oh, we’re having a couple of people over. You want to come over?” to be like I don’t want to leave the house and just not have that interaction. And when it becomes more acceptable to do those types of video based hangouts, I think it’s going to allow more people that access to do that personal interaction that I think we all need.

Devin Alexander: Yeah, for sure. As an example, I was talking to Al’s wife today, by the way, he had a little girl in February. Congratulations to them. 

Mike Weber: Oh, wow. Awesome. 

Devin Alexander: She was saying, they were thinking about reaching out to people this weekend to play that, “You Don’t Know Jack” online trivia game where you can just log into it with your phone. So it’s like exceptionally easy. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. You know, Claire and Larson from Dead Emperors, right? 

Devin Alexander: What’s his name? 

Mike Weber: Matt Larson. 

Devin Alexander: Did he used to play bass in, um… Is he a bass player now? 

Mike Weber: He’s a little bit of everything. He was a bass player. He originally was bass in Dead Emperors. Now he’s guitar in Dead Emperors.

Devin Alexander: Okay. No, I haven’t met those guys yet. I feel like when this is all over, we’re due to have a gig with them here at some point. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. But, so we’ve been trying to do hangouts with them and they found, I think it’s Jackbox Games or whatever. You get a room code you put in and you can just do it all online. That’s been, 

Devin Alexander: And it’s like, you put in your stuff and you can follow along on a TV. Or on your computer or your smart TV or whatever. And it just, you know, it just works. It’s like, “Oh, all right, cool. Very cool.”

Mike Weber: Yeah. And I think if we hang on to that extra layer of social interaction, I think it will be a nice thing for us to take away from the situation. 

Devin Alexander: I think it would be a very… Like I’m perceiving this whole situation, sort of in the analogy of someone pinching the garden hose closed. As soon as we can get back together and start doing stuff, I feel like there’s going to be a pretty awesome explosion that first weekend when they’re like, “Uh, actually I think we’re pretty good.” That first weekend is going to be insane. It’s going to be live music everywhere. It’s going to be live comedy everywhere. It’s going to be live entertainment out in the world, and people are going to be – at least for a little bit – they’re going to be like, “Man, I missed this so much.” I hope, you know, I hope. 

And then I hope, like you said, we retain some of those other avenues of staying close with our friends when we don’t feel like going out to bars and we don’t feel like whatever. We can just be social in the privacy of our own homes. Isn’t that strange? But that’s my hope. That’s my desire is that when all these events that got canceled get rescheduled, I hope that the entire, you know, the entirety of humanity comes out in full force to support those things. Beause that’s the other thing that people were sort of taking for granted is entertainment. It was everywhere. I mean, it’s still technically all over the internet, but as far as like music, art, comedy, performance, movies, all that stuff. It’s like you can’t take that for granted anymore because what would we be doing right now if we didn’t have that stuff?

Mike Weber: This will lead me into my final question. So if you had to pick one thing. Like right now, we’re thinking forward. We’re thinking to when all of this is going to blow over and life is going to reset back to normal. 

Devin Alexander: Sure.

Mike Weber: What are you looking forward to doing again the most?

Devin Alexander: I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that I’m just looking forward to playing live again.

It’s going to be, you know, by that point, I bet it will be over a month. If not, you know, six weeks, seven weeks or something of pent up being able to rock out really loud with a bunch of people who are ready to be rocked on. That’s what I’m missing. Second to that will be being able to just have people over and watch a movie or, you know, I got a birthday party coming up that is going to definitely going to be rescheduled. I like to cook ribs and, you know, cook stuff for people.

This year it went from being, you know, sixth annual and no big deal to, “Oh, this party’s going to get f’n real this year.” Because when we finally get to reschedule it, it’s going to be out of control. In a good way. But yeah, I’m looking forward to just being able to play gigs because I think – not to belabor the point – but I think I was taking… I think local bands, you know, bands that play mostly in their home towns, and even bands that tour constantly. I think bands in general maybe start to take live shows a little bit for granted. I don’t mean that in a negative way. But I mean to be able to capture the excitement of those first few live gigs. Like I kind of remember my first couple actual live gigs in front of an audience. I kind of remember them, but after a while it kind of goes away. I don’t really get nervous. It’s a pleasant feeling to jam out live. But to pinch that garden hose shut like that, and then eventually let it fly and just, you know. Just spray it all over the audience is going to be terrific. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I mean, I’ll piggyback off that real quick at the end here. But I feel the exact same way. I’d have to sit down and figure it out, but we are really close to the longest that I’ve ever gone without shooting a live show since I got real serious about photographing live music.

So it’s going to be a very interesting experience when we’re finally at a point where it is safe for me to grab my cameras and go out to a bar and experience live music again. Like it is going to be something really exciting. And also, you know, by that point it’ll be like, “Oh, do I remember how to do this right?”

Devin Alexander: You miss going out to a bar and having every band look exactly the same because the lights never change?

Mike Weber: Yeah. I mean, I just like getting out of the house.

Devin Alexander: Oh yeah. Totally.

Mike Weber: I like listening to the music and I like experiencing it. So for me, I think that that is… I mean, if you would’ve asked me last week, I probably would’ve said, I just want to go out to a Mexican place and get a margarita and sit down.

Devin Alexander: Dude. Right?

Mike Weber: But as the days go on and the days turned into weeks, it’s becoming more and more like… no, the thing that I miss the most is being able to get out of the house and do the photography that I want to do. 

Devin Alexander: Yeah. Get out and connect with humanity on that level in an artistic and an expressive way. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: Well, all right, Devin, thanks for taking the time and talking with us today. We’ll catch you later. 

Devin Alexander: I appreciate the invite, man. And I look forward to hearing this one. And the other one as soon as you’re ready to put them up. 

Mike Weber: All right, we’ll catch you later. 

Devin Alexander: All right. Thanks. Bye. 

Mike Weber: You can find Devin’s band on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp. You can find more information as well as the transcription in the show notes. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Miss Christine

On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we talk to Miss Christine about adapting to life as a musician under social distancing. We reached Christine by phone at her home studio.

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Quarantine Sessions 2: Miss Christine

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host Mike Weber. On today’s episode of Quarantine Sessions, we talk to Miss Christine about adapting to life as a musician under social distancing. We reached Christine by phone at her home studio.

Miss Christine, welcome to 319 Creates. 

Christine Moad: Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Weber: So how are you holding up in the quarantine? 

Christine Moad: Oh, well, that is quite a question. It varies day by day. I’ve definitely been keeping myself busy. The first week I had three live stream concerts. And just kind of dove right into that experience. And I’m a workaholic so I was using that to distract myself from these feelings that I’m feeling because my whole tour has been canceled.

But this week I’m not doing a livestream concert and just really focusing more on my mental health and meditating and tapping into these feelings because they’re real and I shouldn’t try to hide them. 

How are you coping with this? 

Mike Weber: Well, I’m basically doing the same thing, trying to keep myself busy as we can see here, taking on a new project.

Why don’t we talk about the live stream? That’s something that I don’t think you’ve done a whole lot in the past. Obviously that’s one of the few options that we have available at this point. But why don’t you talk to me a little bit about diving into that and learning how to do it and any obstacles you’ve ran into.

Christine Moad: Yeah, so it’s been a new experience. There’s this program called OBS that I’ve been using with the help of my tech guy, and we’ve been just live streaming. We were on KHOI Radio in Ames, and that live stream ended up being broadcast live on the radio. So that was a new experience. 

Then I put together the Musicians 4 Bernie. That’s a group that I founded. Our first live stream concert, and we had six different bands from all over the country play and we had them live streaming in. So there’s definitely a big tech learning curve to this and I am grateful that I have someone that can help me with it. And, yeah, it’s been a new experience.

It’s amazing to be able to perform to anyone. I’ve had friends in Alabama send me videos of them singing along to my songs, friends in Tennessee, around the country. But it’s just doesn’t feel the same as being in a live concert with an audience and that vibe and picking up on that atmosphere. And that’s something that I’m really missing and that I get a lot out of. And you never know how much you miss it until you can’t do it. So that’s kind of where I’m at with all of that. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I mean, I definitely feel you there. As you know, as well as anybody, I’m usually out at shows a couple times a week, and now… This is the longest that I’ve gone without going to a show probably in five years and it’s only getting worse.

But I find it interesting that we are – as artists and creatives – actively trying to find other ways that we can still do the things that we want to do in this situation that we’re living through. And seeing all these bands quickly adapting and putting on these digital concerts, I think is very endearing.

I think it’s really great to see that we’re all trying to work together and make the best of of a bad situation. Have you started looking into other ways that you can kind of, I don’t want to use the word monopolize, but, you know, try and make the best out of what we’re dealing with right now?

Christine Moad: Not so much. I guess… I think this last week I really proved to myself that live streaming is a viable option and something that after this passes that I’ll probably continue to do in some capacity just because it’s been very successful. And I’ve been able to make money doing it, and I’ve been really grateful for that because of all of my gig cancellations.

I think I’ve had 16 gigs canceled since this has all been going on. But yeah, there’s so many creative outlets and I’m so grateful for the internet during this time. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about you and your photography and, just, you know, for you to do the same thing of taking photographs of people playing, but in the live stream format, would… I just was imagining your photo albums of these live stream concerts and how that would just be such a different vibe. But also it’d be really cool to just document this time in some way. Obviously it’s just a totally different experience. 

Mike Weber: So I’ll give you a little anecdote. So we were watching the first live stream that you did. I guess that would be like last week at this point. And we were sitting watching, and you have that one song that you tend to flip off the audience for. I was waiting for you to do that. I had the screen capture set up. I’m like, “I’m going to catch this and I’m going to post this”, but then you didn’t do it. But yeah, that’s actually an interesting idea that I didn’t even think about. You know, I can’t photograph a live stream because I’m not there, but I could document it in another way.

I can get screen captures of the stream and they’re not me taking a photo, but then we start getting into that whole other discussion of like “What is art?” Am I a photographer because I have a camera in my hand or am I a photographer because I am capturing moments? So that’s an interesting thought and I’ve been trying to – talking about me personally and utilizing 319 Creates right now, I think is a very good outlet for me because right now I can’t really… I’m going to start doing more like city landscape stuff in the interim. But the biggest body of work that I have is live music. And that’s not happening right now. Anything else with photographing people just isn’t happening. So there’s very little that I’m able to do. Especially with my audience who follows me for music stuff, like trying to figure out a way to keep them engaged. Short of just digging through the archive. Nicole and I have been talking about, you know, maybe I should try live streaming a photo editing session or do a gallery critique where I talk about a band and photos that I’ve done of them over the years. But it’s really interesting trying to figure out ways to kind of adapt to this time and not being able to conduct ourselves as we normally would. And all of this just brings on more and more stress. 

So I’ll come back to to that. Have you found new ways of adjusting and coping to the situation? 

Christine Moad: Well, this kind of ties into what I was going to respond to what you just said. I think that it really just shows how we’re all in this together and just how much this affects every single person right now in some capacity. And thinking about you and your photography and taking photographs is often of people, whether it’s at a live concert or wherever that may be, and because people can’t really get together right now that totally changes your line of work. It changes my line work. So many different things, like the ripple effect of this is huge. And so coping with that stress and these feelings is a lot. I’m the type of person that I feel a lot of just how other people are feeling. I have a lot of compassion for the world and wanting people to just speak their truths and whatnot. So this is really hard for me because it’s at a point where – because I just want to help everybody as much as I can – I’m really feeling the weight of the world in some ways. But at the same time, I need to have that compassion back towards myself. And so I think I’m going to learn more about how to be better to myself because, you know, that’s really all I’m going to be able to do during this time because I can’t get together when groups of people or play a live show and pick up on that energy of the crowd or the people that I meet at it.

So it’s very challenging, but it gives me comfort to know that we’re all in this together and we’re all feeling the effects of it. And once we come out of this, we will be stronger and can all relate in some way to this time. That is, I think, a really powerful thing. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, it’s interesting. Nicole and I were actually talking about this yesterday. Talking about the lasting effects of this time and two things came up that we were thinking about is, you know, my son’s nine and a half now, and it occurred to me, this is going to be the biggest, like the first societal event in his memory. Like the way that I think about the death of Princess Diana or 9/11, that’s going to be the first real marker in his life. 20 years down the road he’s going to be talking about, like, “I remember when the Coronavirus pandemic happened.” Well hopefully, as long as we still have a planet in 20 years. 

Christine Moad: Yeah.

Mike Weber: But you get my point. This is an interesting situation. When we have an event that is so widespread and impacts so many different lives, that it becomes something… It is a point. It goes beyond just like, this is “history”, but this is a point of history. This is an event that lasted. Years and decades – again, if we’re still here centuries down the road – we will likely point back. As we’re sitting here, most people who paid attention to history could probably tell you, “Oh yeah, I at least know what the Spanish Flu was.” And for us to be going through that type of period again. I think the interesting thing, with the way the world is now, is we’re kind of packing together the Spanish Flu and parts of the Great Recession and the Great Depression all into one big ugly ball that we’re all kind of dealing with at the same time.

And, the other part of that is that as we figure out how to navigate and traverse this moment of history, we’re all making these adjustments to our day to day lives. Especially us as creatives, doing live streams or like me going back to doing more with the podcast. But the interesting thing that I find is how much of what we’re experiencing right now is going to carry over beyond this point.

You know, right now I’m really missing my friends and we’ve started doing Google Hangouts with them on a regular basis. It’s an interesting thing because if you asked me like two or three months ago, would you ever consider sitting down in front of a computer or a TV or an iPad and doing a video chat with your friends, I would been like, “I’d rather go see them.” The thought of just interacting with your friends in that capacity has never appealed to me and has always seemed kind of silly. Short of having  friends that are across the country – I mean Nicole and I have friends in Chicago and we text them, but we really only interact with them when we go visit.

I feel like this situation has kind of broken down that tech barrier. I think going out the other side of this, I feel like I’m going to be more likely to. You know,it’s winter – we don’t want to drive. Well, why don’t we just hop on a Google Hangout and do a Netflix Party or something.

I feel like I’m going to be far more likely to entertain that as an idea to still interact in a more direct capacity with my friends than I would have before this situation. 

Christine Moad: Yeah, totally. And Netflix Party is awesome. I’ve been doing a lot of that as well. The big thing for me with group chats is… So I worked for the Bernie campaign and we had a lot of group video calls with like 15 to sometimes 60 people in them. And you would like mute your microphone, obviously, so there wasn’t feedback. There’s just people not talking over each other all the time. In January when I worked for the campaign that was kind of my first introduction to video chat and using it in a bigger capacity. And I thought that was really cool for having these meetings and these different things like that. So it’s interesting now having that in this pandemic setting. The big thing for me is I’m an extrovert. I love parties. The cool thing about parties is you get to go off in the corner and talk to someone for a little while, but then you get to jump back into the group of people and then, you know, find someone else and you chat with them for a bit or whatever.

And in the group video chat environment, that is just not something that can be recreated. At all. I mean unless you did your own private video chat, just the two of you or something. So it’s interesting because I think I saw that Facebook Messenger, you can have up to 50 people in a video chat. And I learned that FaceTime has group chat. I do not have an iPhone, but I learned that recently. And you can have 32 people in one of those. And to me that sounds like… I don’t know what capacity you would use that in other than for like a business meeting or something. Because that is just a lot of people.

I love that we have the ability to use the internet to have this shared experience and we can connect in that way. But, you know, it just won’t be able to be a substitute for all things. And I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I’m just really missing those big social gatherings, I guess.

Mike Weber: Yeah, I definitely feel the same way. For me, it’s nice that we have this as an alternative. So like, I don’t feel like I’m completely disconnected from everything and everyone, but you’re right, there is a massive difference between hopping on a group video chat and being able to go over to somebody’s house. In the context of a house party and being able to hang out in the group and then move over here, move over there. But to me it’s better than nothing. And I’m hoping that this is broadening a lot of people’s ideas on how socializing can and should happen.

I’ve always felt that there’s a certain amount of us that – we make excuses for not being able to go out and see our friends. And there’s that line of, for whatever reason, I can’t get out of the house tonight to do this. And I feel like some of us put up barriers and that can socially isolate us from our friends. And if this situation teaches us that we don’t necessarily always have to be in the same room to socialize, I think that’s going to open up some roads for people that would otherwise feel more isolated. They now have an option that is more socially acceptable to still see and socialize with their friends.

Christine Moad: Totally.

Mike Weber: So I’m hoping that will be one of the, shall we say, lingering effects of this. 

Christine Moad: Yeah, and one thing with that is some people that have been tuning into my live stream are some introverted folks that I know who haven’t come to my actual live show for a plethora of reasons, but probably because there’s a lot of people there.

So it’s been really cool to see the people that I’ve reached with my livestream that wouldn’t come to a live show necessarily, just because you know, they’re more introverted or have social anxiety or things like that. So that’s been a cool thing to see with that different medium of being able to perform my music.

I can reach people in that way and that’s something that I want to continue to do after this, just because I totally understand that going to a live show with people at a bar or wherever it may be is not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m glad that this platform allows me to be more accommodating to those folks. So that’s been something that I’ve learned from this. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. And I would like to see even more venues start doing, especially for like smaller shows, offering some type of live streaming option. Because I feel like there are a lot of people who are more socially introverted or even like on the anxiety spectrum that just… I have friends that will not go to shows with me full stop because they just have too much anxiety being around large groups of people. And then I tell them it’s a local music show, you’ll be fine because there’s nobody there. I think it’ll be nice to see more bands and more venues kind of adapt to giving this as an alternative.

And now that we’re kind of, you know, basically being forced to test out some of these concepts, I think we’re going to learn a lot, and I really hope it sticks around. 

So we’re just about out of time and I’ve got one last question I’m going to pose to you. Once everything starts calming down and we go back to normal, what would you say is the number one thing that you want to do once society kind of resets?

Christine Moad: Whew. Wow. That’s a big question. So this has catapulted my whole life timeline, I guess. Because I was planning to move to New York City in June, so that’s going to be pushed back. The biggest thing for me is I just want to be able to travel. And what I love about touring is going to a city and before the show, walking around and people watching and observing what that is like. And I’m curious, once we get through all of that, what my people-watching when I’m on tour is going to be like. Will people be more friendly? Or how is this gonna change how we interact with people on a daily basis? Because I think, at least for me, it’s made it so whenever I’m in a coffee shop or something, it’s cool because you get to be around people, but you don’t really say much to them. But why hadn’t we been saying much to them? And now we’re all in this position where we can’t say things to other people or have that communal ability to get together. So I just can’t wait to travel and just observe how this affects society and my travels and the places that I’ve already been and see if it’s any different when I go back. And I’m looking forward to that. And I never thought I would get to this point. I mean, I’m sure none of us did, where a pandemic would be happening and it would halt our ability to do most of the things that we love to do. And just learning how to cope with that. It’s really powerful. There’s a lot that we can learn from this time. 

One thing I just want to say is if anyone’s listening to this, don’t feel like you have to be productive or you have to create the next big thing or the next piece of art, because it’s okay to just take this time to exist. That’s something that I’ve been having to tell myself every day. The creativity and all that stuff will come. But it’s a matter of just making it through this – and we will, and we’ll persevere as a species together. So it’s cool in the sense that we all have effects or feel the effects of this, and we can all relate in some way to that. But it is not my favorite time of existing for sure.

Mike Weber: I think we can all get behind that. That’s wonderful. All right, Miss Christine, thank you for taking the time to speak with me here on 319 Creates and just keep taking care of yourself. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon. 

Christine Moad: Thank you so much for having me. 

Mike Weber: You can find Miss Christine website or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Her music is streaming on Spotify and bandcamp. Her next live stream will be April 10th at 7:00 PM on her Facebook page. Miss Christine  also founded Musicians 4 Bernie, which you can find more information about here. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates: The Quarantine Sessions with Matt Larson

It has been a few weeks since I announced that the show would be returning and since then a lot has happened. The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on most things around the world and here in America we are doing our best to observe social distancing.

For the time being, I’ve decided to alter the format of the show. For the foreseeable future, 319 Creates will be focusing on how the pandemic is affecting artists and creators in Eastern Iowa. These episodes will be much shorter and will focus on how social distancing and isolation are affecting people’s lives. In this first episode, we check in with Matt Larson of Iowa city metal band, Dead Emperors

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. It has been a few weeks since I announced that the show would be returning and since then a lot has happened. The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on most things around the world and here in America we are doing our best to observe social distancing.

With that, the ability to do in person interviews has all but disappeared. Over the last week, I’ve thought about the best way for me to move forward with this project. For the time being, I’ve decided to alter the format of the show. For the foreseeable future, 319 Creates will be focusing on how the pandemic is affecting artists and creators in Eastern Iowa.

These episodes will be much shorter and will focus on how social distancing and isolation are affecting people’s lives. In this first episode, we check in with Matt Larson of Iowa city metal band, Dead Emperors

Matt Larson, welcome to 319 Creates.

Matt Larson: Well, thanks for having me here. 

Mike Weber: So with all of us locked up with the coronavirus, how have you been coping?

Matt Larson: Oh, being in isolation isn’t too much of an issue for me personally. Coping as far as just being a person in isolation. I’ve got a lot of different options at home that have sort of built up over the years. Obviously I’m still stressed out just because of the state of things and the prospects of a future employment and all that stuff.

But as far as keeping myself busy, you know, I try to hit as many different sort of things as possible. Claire and I decided that the first thing was going to be just to start ourselves off with sort of a routine schedule and make sure that we were getting up and not just sort of lazily lounging around all day in bed.

So that helped make sure we get a workout in every day, taking no off days anymore. And making sure we put a specific amount of time to writing is really pretty key. You know, writing and/or art. 

With Claire doing all of her visual arts stuff, it’s good for her to have some time to do some sketching and work on all different manner of projects to sort of get her own store up and running. Designs, making sure she’s digitizing them and getting them put out for t-shirts or stickers or pins and stuff. 

Me personally, I’m working on solo material or duo material depending on how that turns out. Sort of just trying to put together tracks and learn how to use a synthesizer and different things to fill out the arrangement that I’m not as familiar with. Trying to stay away from drums, just because recording and mixing drums is always a little bit of an extra hassle. But still trying to add in percussion and stuff with that. So that’s been kind of an interesting and fun challenge as well. 

Also just making sure I’m writing material for Dead Emperors and keeping up on the heavy stuff since we’ve got recording dates in July right now. So wanting to make sure that we have some fresh material and things that we can work on and refine for a few months ahead of time, and there’s really no better time than now to get a lot of that stuff taken care of. 

Otherwise. Hell, I mean, it’s a good time to get into cooking, right? You’re sitting at home, you got all your supplies, you got an extra hour. You don’t have to worry about prepping for the whole week. So, we’ve kicked things off with fermentation projects that are starting to come to fruition now. Homemade hot sauces and sauerkrauts and things like that. I just keep, you know, looking deeper into the books and trying to find out what other projects I’ve been meaning to do and putting off for too long. And what I feel comfortable with and have access to the materials for.

So that’s been a tasty way to get through the first week of isolation at least. So that’s been brutal. And the hot sauce turned out deliciously sour, pretty damn spicy. Very happy with that. Definitely looking to hopefully find some other peppers and do some other variations on that in the near future.

I’m lucky enough to have an extensive collection of books that I never got around to reading. So this is also a good chance to start digging into those. Besides that, you know, board games, video games, and plenty of movies to rewatch or movies that I have not got around to watching in the first place – besides hanging out with the dog and taking him for extra walks and stuff that we wouldn’t have time to do as well.

So that’s kinda like the beginning. That’s been the initial week. I plan to get some deep listening on these vinyls. Dig out some of these records I haven’t listened to in awhile. Go from front to back. Just lay down, close my eyes and listen to the mix and just sort of see… especially with my own duo and solo project stuff here, I’m looking for more of a classic rock approach, so I’m really digging into the old Floyd stuff. The middle stage Floyd stuff there. Just to see how those sounds are balanced and to see how many layers I can pick out and what I might want to add to my own take on that.

Mike Weber: So, focusing in on the music stuff that you’ve been doing, the writing in particular, do you feel like this extra time has given you an opportunity that you’ve maybe not had recently? You mentioned that you started working on your solo material, and I believe you’ve told me in the past that that’s something that you’ve wanted to do, but never seemed like you’ve had quite the time to work on it. So do you feel like this has given you an opportunity you didn’t have?

Matt Larson: Oh, most definitely. I mean, I had kinda penciled it in for myself when the summer hit and when the school year ended and I had some extra time. But now that I’ve got time now, you know, I’m just trying to make the most of it. You know, while you got it. And you never know… If things go well, if I can figure out what I’m actually wanting to do with it, if I get the material done now, then I could actually get out and do some house shows or do some small shows with Claire and perform the stuff.

It’s been fun. I haven’t given myself too much of a chance to do a sort of classic psychedelic, you know, classic rock, sort of a music project before. So this has been a great time to just sort of mess around with pedals that have been gathering dust, see how many different sound effects and layers and classic vibes I can produce that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to explore because I’m putting in all that time for the main project for Dead Emperors.

Mike Weber: Yeah and it’s a good opportunity. You were saying about going back and listening to some old vinyl… Have you felt like you’ve come across anything recently that you’re like, “You know, listening to this again, I can see how this style could be useful in my personal project.” – either for Dead Emperors or for the solo work?

Matt Larson: Well, I mean with Emps, it’s always helpful for me to dig out the more contemporary stuff and just give it another listen through. Just really digging in to the, you know, Uncle Acid, digging into Whores, digging into Red Fang are always kind of the go tos. High On Fire – though I’m not prone to get as heavy as all that, but it’s always sort of inspirational to hear just how far one can take it. 

With the solo stuff, you know I went through a huge phase a few months back with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and listened to the first maybe six albums that group put out. Just listening to and internalizing those synthesizer sounds and seeing how that sort of mixes with some nice guitar playing. Like I said before, Floyd has always been a good go-to for that nice combination of really silky synth tones that have that sort of dark sci-fi vibe to them as well as that nice classic blues-adjacent guitar feel. So definitely, for me as far as mix and stuff goes – The Wall is not my favorite album as far as the music itself, but I feel like just the overall production, it’s kind of verging on that disco era where you get a lot of that kick, snare, and bass out front. And I really like that vibe. A couple of albums before that, clearly “Wish You Were Here” and “Dark Side”, have such a good take on layering and ambient sounds that I love to just go back and close my eyes and listen to the whole surrounding soundscape that gets developed on those tracks.

That stuff is constantly a big inspiration. But I’m just digging stuff back from that time period. You got some things that you just never quite get into or think about that much. Mott the Hoople is a random one. They’ve got like a Stones-adjacent vibe listening to recordings from A Humble Pie, which is something that Frampton did before he did his solo stuff.

There’s a lot of interesting like verging on folk and blues, but still hitting that sort of barroom rock vibe, sort of recordings from that time period. They’re not like my main jam as far as going back to really dig into the tracks themselves. But getting a vibe off of them, just putting them on in the background and feeling like you’re in a different time period. There’s a lot of good stuff that stays a little bit more buried in my collection that I’ve been digging out for sure. 

Mike Weber: So, going back around to – we were talking about having more time to do food projects and cooks of the sort. Anything in  particular that you’ve done that you’ve been kind of putting off or wanting to do that you just haven’t had the time to?

Matt Larson: Oh, no. I mean, I really wish there were some more like full on cooking stuff that I was getting into. For me personally, I like to sit back and watch stuff happen, which is why I think fermentation has been such a big part of my culinary experience. There’s definitely stuff I’d like to get back into. And now that we have a hot sauce, we’ll probably have to look at some sort of slow cooked meats, and make some sort of tacos. Things like that would really play into the fermented toppings that we’ve made. you know with the kraut, I’m also looking for some kind of meat… I mean, sausage is always traditional with that kind of thing to cook, but really any nice fatty piece of meat that I can cook to sort of balance out the bit of sourness and sweetness from the kraut. That’s what I’m looking to do here. Yeah, that’s basically – whatever the grocery store has that’s cheap, that’s kind of how my fermentation craft works out because it’s just so good. It keeps forever. It gives it a nice sort of unique flavor that it wouldn’t have on its own. And that’s why we made a bunch of kraut. It was Saint Patty’s Day and there was a shit ton of cheap cabbage. So we just said, let’s go for it. Throw a little bit of carrots and sweet onions in there to give it a hair of sweetness. A little bit of that to balance out the sourness. And then also we kept it to about a week so it wouldn’t get overly sour. So it’s more steeping in all those sort of vegetable flavors and not really pushing it so far into the acidic realm. Just enough to be sour, but still sort of very versatile. 

Mike Weber: Very, very cool. So with us being caught up in being isolated for probably at least in another week or two. Probably much longer than that. Do you have any other projects that you’re hoping to have time to tackle? Or just trying to hunker down and survive? 

Matt Larson: Oh, I mean, personally, I want to just figure out other ways to connect with my friends and other musicians. It’s hard. I haven’t found a good way to be isolated and play music with other people.

My band mates, my family and my dad and my sister want to jam, but there’s a certain amount of lag that’s really hard to get over. It’s easy to show each other things, but it’s hard to really sync up things and play at the same time. And with friends, even jamming aside, I’d love to find some more games – board game options, card games – and things that would be fun to collaborate on that we could do via video.

Otherwise, really, like I said, I’m trying to keep myself getting a good few hours of writing and recording. I kind of tend to geek out when I do solo recordings of things. And so when I do one of these tracks that maybe I have a demo of from last summer when I was working on duo stuff. Or I just wrote a new one last week and just followed it to its logical conclusion – at least three quarters logical conclusion.

I probably still have another 20 layers I want to add, but I can put a good week in on a track with that. The time flies by pretty quickly and that definitely keeps me engaged in these end days, as it were. 

Mike Weber: Very, very cool. Well Matt Larson, try and take care of yourself.

Stay active, keep your brain engaged.

Matt Larson: I will, You too, man. You too. 

Mike Weber: And we’ll catch you on the other side. 

Matt Larson: Very cool brother. Have a good one. Peace. 

Mike Weber: You can follow Matt Larson and Dead Emperors on Facebook and Instagram. You can find more information in the show notes.

You can subscribe to the podcast on most platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Thanks for listening and we will catch you next time on 319 Creates.

319 Creates Episode 5: The Return

Can you believe it’s been over a year since our last episode?! 319 Creates is back by popular demand with new and previously unreleased episodes. Thank you to everyone who supports the show and encouraged me to get back into it.

You can listen below or find 319 Creates on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates, I’m your host, Mike Weber. It has been well over a year since our last episode, and I’m glad to announce that 319 Creates will be returning with new and previously unreleased episodes. The return is thanks to a number of changes in my personal life and an outpouring of support for the show.

Most significantly, I have transitioned into being a full-time photographer. Unfortunately, this was not by choice. At the end of October, my wife and I took our first vacation together. This was meant to be both a time to recharge and a time to work on an overhaul of my website. The goal with the latter was to expand my reach and to make myself more hireable as a photographer.

Little did I know how important that would end up being. We rented a cabin out at Backbone State Park. This gave us a nice mix of natural landscapes and some creature comforts. The plan was to spend some of our time outside exploring and some working on the website rebuild. It seemed like a good lowkey vacation.

At least until I got an unexpected phone call. The first morning we were out there, I got a call from my boss. I was working as a Macintosh technician at the time, and I assumed it was about a repair. I was very wrong. I missed the call originally and had debated whether or not to return it. I told him that I would likely not have service, so what’s the harm right?

But for some reason I decided to call him back. The service out there was sketchy at best, so as soon as he answered the phone, I led with “My service might drop, but what’s up.” He sighed and said that the store would be closing in a week. In that moment, I had a rush of emotions. Briefly, I felt angry, but that quickly faded.

I knew that this would be coming, and if I’m honest, I’m surprised it took as long as it did. In a split second, I transitioned from anger to acceptance. I didn’t ask many questions at the time. I knew what was happening. Just like that, the purpose – the mission – of our vacation became more crucial. I decided to work on my photographic work instead of getting another day job.

The last few months have been a learning experience. With the extra time on my hands, I have been revisiting projects that had previously fallen off my radar, not least of which is 319 Creates. It’s not just the extra time though. I have received a lot of requests to revive this project. So here we are.

After a couple of months of planning, we’re coming back. For the next few months, episodes will be a mix of new and old recordings. I still have about four episodes that were recorded but never edited. Next week will be a conversation I had with Devin Alexander of Giallows in the summer of 2018. This episode was recorded in his basement studio before a Giallows show.

I hope you can join us.

319 Creates Episode 4: Reid Anderson

Episode 4 is live! I Talk with Reid Anderson of Faces Turned Ashen about his journey as a musician and the local music scene. Also, the podcast is now up on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud so you can now subscribe!

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On this episode, I’m speaking with Reid Anderson of Cedar Rapids band Faces Turned Ashen. We talk about his start in music and his various projects before he joined FTA. We also talk about the ever-changing Cedar Rapids music scene and the things we think could make it better. I hope you enjoy. 

Okay, Reid Anderson, welcome to 319 Creates.

Reid Anderson: Yo, what up.

Mike Weber: So we all know that you’re part of Faces Turned Ashen. Why don’t you talk a little bit about how you got involved with those guys and what did you do before that?

Reid Anderson: Well, I got asked to be in it, five or six years ago now, somewhere about there.

Their old bass player was moving and they needed a new bass player. I worked with Ethan at Guitar Center, so he knew I could play bass and they asked me to join. And that’s the story of that.

I’d only been living here in Cedar Rapids for a couple of years when they asked me. Before that I lived up in Minneapolis and played in a few bands up there and played/saw a bunch of shows up there. Went to a bunch of stuff up there because it’s just a vibrant, crazy city. And then before that, I grew up in Omaha and played in bands there and did a bunch of stuff there too.

Mike Weber: So it really sounds like you’ve been all over?

Reid Anderson: A little bit. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. Let’s start with how did you actually get into playing music?

Reid Anderson: Playing… I was about 11 or 12. My uncle, Uncle Miguel, played in a mariachi band growing up. So I would see that all the time. And I just really liked guitar – thought it was cool. I thought the way he played it and they played it was fucking sweet. Originally I wanted to do that and play classical flamenco style guitar.

So that’s how I started doing that. Around the same time too my buddies were starting to get into punk rock and stuff. We were getting into Pink Floyd and all the good stuff. So, we would jam out together in high school. Then they kind of started a band on their own and kept pushing me off and not letting me join for a while.

So finally I got a “fuck you” attitude towards them. I started learning how to play everything I could get my hands on. During that period is when I originally wrote under a name called Alive and 45. I wrote electronica-y bullshit. It’s terrible. I believe it’s still on Last FM. If you really want to pursue it, I think it’s still all up there. But it was a lot of really poppy, really fun synthy stuff. Through that I learned how to play piano and drums, and that opened a bunch of avenues up as well.

Mike Weber: So then you know how to play pretty much all of the instruments in a band at this point?

Reid Anderson: Pretty much. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: So, in the bands that you’ve been in previously – currently you play bass – have you always leaned more towards bass or is that a newer thing? 

Reid Anderson: This is the first band I’ve played bass in. I learned it back in high school because that was one of the instruments they told me, “If you learn this, you can join.” And then they found a different bass player who admittedly was a way better bass player. They were way smarter to get him. It still kinda, you know, felt like a knife in the kidney there. That was the “fuck you moment.” Fuck you, I’m going to learn everything and do it on my own. I don’t need you guys. 

Before this I had never actually played a guitar in a band. Before this I had played drums. Mainly drums just because up in Minneapolis everyone would find out I played drums and were like, “Well, I’m looking for a drummer.” And I was like, “Oh boy, let me play!” And I would play with anyone at any time. It was a lot of fun.

Mike Weber: So I know there are at least a handful of Faces Turned Ashen songs that Dustin typically will call out during shows that were written by you. 

Reid Anderson: Yup.

Mike Weber: Two questions. What percentage of the music at this point in FTA have you written and how is that recording process?

Reid Anderson: Well, those couple songs, “Cranston, Why Are You Crying” and “Shut Up, Baby (I Know It)”. “Cranston, Why Are You Crying”, I had written years ago. Then “Shut Up, Baby (I Know It)” I had been working on for a while and they both just sorta meshed with what we were doing. 

But, as far as the rest of the music goes, we all generally write it pretty much together. Certain parts I’ll come up with. All the bass parts I obviously come up with – except for a couple Jake’s come up with. But I would have to say at least a quarter just because of how, I mean, the only one who could maybe write basslines like me is Jacob. Otherwise, you know, that’s my domain. Just like how the drum part is definitely Jacob’s. We generally share it pretty well.

Mike Weber: I find it interesting – I don’t know Dustin that well, but I know Jacob Willenborg pretty well – that at least two members of this band are musicians that are fluent in every instrument possible. 

Reid Anderson: Pretty much. 

Mike Weber: How does that work? Because you mentioned that sometimes Jacob will write some basslines. Do you find it interesting recording with other musicians who are able to cross that line? 

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s nice just because we can bounce ideas back and forth across one another. Especially arranging. The actual writing of the notes themselves, typically it’ll be: Dustin will handle most of the rhythm. Ethan will handle most of the lead and sometimes rhythm. I’ll do the bass part and me and Jacob will do the main rhythm section of it. But, the arranging of a song – this part should go here, this part should go here, we should do this and do that – we can all just throw out ideas. 

While writing the songs, it’s interesting for us because we record throughout the process – making demos and all sorts of stuff so we can practice on our own if we need or have to. With that, it’s interesting to go back to those early demos of songs and listen to them and just think, “I play this whole part completely fucking differently now because we have changed it so much.” That part is definitely interesting because we all have different areas of music that we’ve all come from, so we can throw in different ways to mix it up.

Mike Weber: How frequently do arguments come up? 

Reid Anderson: Not too often.

Mike Weber: Really?

Reid Anderson:  Yeah. 

Mike Weber: That’s really good. 

Reid Anderson: We’re all pretty mellow laid back guys. Plus we also know how to handle it, we’ve all played in different bands. We’ve all played with musicians at least now for over 10 years, individually. So you just get used to learning how to deal with people.

Mike Weber: Also at this point – I know Ethan had gone, but he’s come back – this iteration of Faces Turned Ashen all of you guys have been in the band for… at least three years? I think that was when Jacob joined, or maybe my timeline is off. 

Reid Anderson: Two and a half, I think. Let’s round it up. Pretty much three. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: I think it was a little bit after that when Ethan left and Jeremy Jacobs came in, but that was only… was that even a year?

Reid Anderson: Yeah, a little over a year. 

Mike Weber: So, the point I’m getting at is that this composition of the band has been around for a while and you guys have been working together for awhile. Especially in the Cedar Rapids music scene, having a band that has been in one form for an extended period of time is not something that we have a lot of. Really, with the exception of Faces Turned Ashen and Knubby who has been around since…

Reid Anderson: They’re gonna outlive us all.

Mike Weber: They are.

But having that dynamic and being able to work with the same people over the years, over multiple albums or EPs, you’re able to get comfortable with each other and understand the way the other members think and work. Do you feel that has moved the creative needle a little bit further out than it was in the past?

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. Because at a certain point we have to think amongst ourselves. We can’t just fall into the routine of how we write songs. We have to keep changing it up. If, for nothing else, like you said, where we all are so comfortable with each other that we can throw out crazy ideas and not have to worry about like, “Oh, well, what if they don’t like it?” We’ve had fucking way more bad ideas than we’ve had good ones. And that’s okay because that’s how you weed out the good ones. You know? It’s every fucking art form. You gotta just throw shit at the wall and go with what sticks. It’s helped that we’re just so much more comfortable with each other.

Also because we just wanna keep surprising one another. It’s always nice to have Ethan write something where I’m just like, “Motherfucker, you still got it. God damn.” You know, it helps with that.

Mike Weber: So going back to talking about Faces Turned Ashen and their time in the Iowa music scene, specifically here in Cedar Rapids. We’ve talked about a couple of members coming and going and the current composition of it. How do you feel that Cedar Rapids has changed in that time? You mentioned that you’ve been with the band for about five or six years now, and as far as a music scene goes, that’s a long time.

Reid Anderson: Fair amount. Yeah. It’s like high school – freshman to senior? I’m a freshman in college right now. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, that’s exactly what you are. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. Or in kindergarten or whichever. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. What have you seen in the last five or so years in the Cedar Rapids music scene? Do you think we’re moving in the right direction, or what would you want to see differently?

Reid Anderson: More, not necessarily more venues – but more venues. That would be a start. But really for a city our size, we have great venues for where we are and how many of us there are. You figure we got Tailgators, Red’s just started up in downtown.

Mike Weber: I haven’t been there. Have you actually been to a show yet? 

Reid Anderson: Not yet. 

Mike Weber: I haven’t seen any pictures from it yet. I’ve been in Red’s once or twice. 

Reid Anderson: Sure.

Mike Weber: And I’m just trying to visualize how they laid that place out to accommodate a show. 

Reid Anderson: I’ve been to some shows in some weird places, and they kicked ass so… 

Mike Weber: Well, this is true.

Reid Anderson: If they got it, they can pull it off. Plus they’ve gotten a bunch of really creme de la creme of the local area bands play there. They’re doing right things. Then, you know, Hive Collective – I love what they’re doing. What we got going is good. I remember five years ago, it felt like it was very difficult to get shows for a period there. I’ve been in the band long enough to think back, of droughts that we’ve had where we just couldn’t get shows. And not because we weren’t looking, but because we just could not get shows. No one was playing anywhere, nowhere wanted to have bands basically. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I tend to see an ebb and flow, especially in Cedar Rapids.

Reid Anderson: Yeah.

Mike Weber: There are certain venues that I feel like kind of go through this period of – like a surge where I’m there every weekend. They are not just booking shows, but they’re booking really good shows every weekend. And then it just stops. The one venue that I really noticed, and I’m not trying to put anyone on blast here, but, Cocktails and Company.

Reid Anderson: I love Cocktails. 

Mike Weber: Cool venue. I like shooting there. It seems like they will get into a spurt where for a month or two they will have good shows every weekend.

And then… I can’t remember the last time that a show came across my plate that was at Cocktails.

Reid Anderson: Last one I remember, I believe it was Coolio. That was the last one I can think of. 

Mike Weber: I think the last one that I went to there was a Heavycraft show, so that would be, that’s at least a year and a half ago.

I see a lot of venues will go through these phases. I think a lot of it with venues like Cocktails and Tailgators is that they’re more conscience about putting together shows that their regulars aren’t going to hate with every fiber of their being, right?

Reid Anderson: Oh, yeah. Just Jules, by the way. They do that as well. Yep. 

Mike Weber: I don’t want to sit here and say that I think music should be curated to, you know, fit the masses. But at the same time, I think, if nothing else, sometimes it’s hard when bands break up and go away, having enough similar bands that you can put a bill together that is complimentary.

In my time in the music scene, which I’ve been active from like 2009 to present. It really wasn’t until 2015 that I started getting really active, especially from a photography front. 2015 and 2016 were, at least from my perspective, really good years.

Reid Anderson: Pretty good years. Oh yeah. 

Mike Weber: I think in 2015 I shot nearly a hundred shows. 

Reid Anderson: I can believe it. That was around the time we were playing, and especially during the summer, almost every weekend, if not a couple every weekend. It was nice. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, there was one point, I think it was about two or three weeks, that I had gotten burned out because I was averaging… There was one month that I shot something obscene. I think it was almost 20 shows inside of a month. 

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. 

Mike Weber: And to be fair, some of those were open mics. But you know, I’m still out. I’m still being active. 

Reid Anderson: Absolutely.

Mike Weber: And I just remember thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t know how I’m going to keep this up.” And then I think I took two or three weekends off just to kind of decompress. But now, there are weeks that I struggle to get one show in. The open mic that I used to shoot weekly isn’t really a thing anymore. 

Reid Anderson: That will happen. 

Mike Weber: And a lot of the bands that I used to work with – you know, Leviathans, Milk Duct Tape, Heavycraft. A lot of the bands that I would shoot virtually every time they played aren’t here anymore. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. It’s a shame they’re not here anymore. That’ll happen though. It’s nice to see what’s come from all of those bands and everything nowadays though. I miss playing with Leviathans. But also, I’m not going to lie. I don’t mind having their drummer now.

Mike Weber: You’re not biased at all.

Reid Anderson: No, not at all.

But no, back in that time, like you said, with all of those bands playing around here, it was great. Pretty much anytime you wanted to put together a show or anyone wanted to put together a show, you could get something going down pretty quickly.

That was back into the Undisclosed days because that’s when they broke up. With them in the mix, there was just a ton of really good bands around at that time.

Mike Weber: Yeah. I remember in 2015, when I actually made a conscious decision – I think my goal was one show a week.

Reid Anderson: Right.

Mike Weber: I’m going to do one a week. Then I started doing the open mic thing and decided I’m going to do the open mic plus one actual show. I remember in late 2014, early 2015, in Cedar Rapids there was Undisclosed, there was Miner, there was Leviathans. There was Knubby. There was, what was it, item 9? 

Reid Anderson: Yup. Item 9. 

Mike Weber: Then there was The Sound Thoughts? 

Reid Anderson: Yep. God, I’m trying to think. There was a bunch of really good bands at the time. Plus we always had Knubby in the mix, because like we said, they’re going to outlive us all. At the end of the world, they’re basically cockroaches in the best way, in the best way. 

Mike Weber: They are cute, cuddly, cockroaches. We love them to death. 

Reid Anderson: I would describe their music as nuclear fallout. It is radiated nuclear fallout in the best way. It’s amazing.

Mike Weber: We’ll take this opportunity since we’re kinda being all downers about how the music scene was really good a couple of years ago. 

Reid Anderson: It’s still really good right now. 

Mike Weber: It is. And because we were talking about Knubby, we’ll just give them a plug and say that they sound freaking awesome with their new guitarist. 

Reid Anderson: Nadge. Hell yeah. 

Mike Weber: I was skeptical going into it.

Reid Anderson: It’s a great blend.

Mike Weber: When you take a band like Knubby, who has been around for a while. 

Reid Anderson: A while, yup. 

Mike Weber: And has been the exact same member composition. You can go back to their first album and listen to it and listen to their last release. Then you’re like, yep, yep. 

Reid Anderson: That’s the same band. 

Mike Weber: The same band. They’ve definitely evolved, but there hasn’t been anything like really drastic with their sound over that time. So I was going into it being kinda skeptical how they would sound as a four piece. But it sounds really, really good. 

Reid Anderson: It sounds pretty bitching. I loved what they did as a three piece, but it’s the type of stuff that they just have a lot more breathing room with four people to do what they wanna do. Great. I love Nadge. It’s a great addition. 

Mike Weber: Especially with the older material that they rehashed for the four piece. It sounds good. But the new stuff, I think it was “Sand Dune” (actually it’s “Dune Buggy”). It sounds bad ass. 

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. It’s always different adding in someone to a song when they weren’t originally written to be in the song. But when you’re writing with the four parts in mind, especially with those four dudes. Yeah, they got a lot of room to breathe. I’m very excited to hear what they’re going to do. I can’t wait. 

Mike Weber: So bringing this back around to the music scene as a whole.

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. 

Mike Weber: I want to pose a question to you. What do you think that Cedar Rapids is lacking right now? Or what do you think that we need?

Reid Anderson: Dedicated… This is going to ruffle feathers, so I hope it doesn’t, but – 

Mike Weber: I’m okay with ruffling feathers. 

Reid Anderson: Let’s ruffle some feathers. Dedicated sound systems. If you’re going to have live music, have live music. That’s a thing I’ve noticed in most major cities. Places that have music, have music. As much as I love the fact that we have an amazing wealth of sound people around town who are running their own mini production companies that are amazing. They need to partner with different venues and do that. Instead of like floating around, which I get in this area of the country is more the way it needs to go. But that’s what I would want. Down in Iowa City, the venues down there – they are venues, they have incredible sound systems, so that even when you have a shit sound person – which I have only maybe a handful of times – you still sound pretty good. Whereas up here – we got great ones, but you never know. And sometimes I’m surprised to play bars in podunk towns that have better sound systems than bars here in Cedar Rapids. In that, they own the gear, they have people coming to specifically do it. You know?

Mike Weber: Yeah. And that does bug me a lot in town here because I look at as an example, Trumpet Blossom in Iowa City. It is considered a venue, but it’s a cafe. 

Reid Anderson: Yes.

Mike Weber: It is a restaurant first and foremost, and it’s always weird going to shows on Friday and Saturday nights when there are people in there finishing their late dinner while people are doing soundcheck. It just feels weird, but they don’t rent their gear. They don’t have a sound company come in and set up. They’re dedicated to it, and it’s something that they only do one or two nights a week, if that. I think there are some weeks that they don’t even do music.

Reid Anderson: Yeah, yeah. 

Mike Weber: But then we look at Cedar Rapids, and we have venues – again, I’m not trying to put anyone on blast – but a venue like Tailgators who reliably does shows every single week but doesn’t have a dedicated sound system? 

Reid Anderson: It’s one of those things where I get why, because of this part of the country. It’s an incredible risk from the point of view of the venue owner. I get it. You know, it’s a lot of sound system. It’s a lot of money to invest into a good sound system, a good board, and someone who actually knows what the fuck they’re doing and how to run it all. Set it all up, tear it all down. I mean, shit. Most places that have actual sound – they don’t have to tear it down. They just leave that shit up. Like I said, shit or get off the pot. It’s the one thing I wish we had in Cedar Rapids was dedicated venues that had a dedicated sound person. Like when you go here, this person is working. You know who you’re dealing with. You know what you’re going to sound like. I can’t think of the number of shows I’ve played in this area, and it’s better now, thankfully, because a lot of the sound people in the area are able to kind of anticipate. Like my song, I don’t sing in most of our songs, but there’s a couple that I’ve written that I obviously do. So most of the time my mic is obviously mixed way out of the mix. I can’t think of the number of times I can’t hear myself at a show, which is fucking terrible.

But then go into play at shows in the middle of nowhere where they have a dedicated sound guy and I can hear myself singing. Why the fuck can’t this happen in goddamn Cedar Rapids? I don’t need to drive two hours to be able to hear myself through a fucking monitor.

It’s one of those things where that’s what you see in places that want to have a dedicated, consistent, thriving music scene. You need to have thriving sound people as well, you know? Instead of just this crab bucket pulling each other down.

Mike Weber: Well, in an ideal world, yes, I would like to see everybody who’s trying to be a venue. If you’re going to be a venue, yes. 

Reid Anderson: Like I was saying, I get it. I absolutely get it. It makes perfect sense. And I don’t mean to besmirch any of the sound companies in the area, anybody. Because, especially in the last three years, fucking everyone’s been great. It’s been fantastic. But five years ago? Oh, those were the dark times. Those were the lean times. Swear you had no idea what the fuck you were getting into anytime you played a show. 

Mike Weber: I think there is an in between, in my mind at least, because part of the issue that you run into with the production companies that do sound is that when you’re mixing in this venue once a month maybe.

Reid Anderson: Exactly.

Mike Weber: You know, you don’t have the time to really get – 

Reid Anderson: You will eventually get the feel for it. 

Mike Weber: Right. But I think that the kind of in between steps some of these venues could take is instead of putting all the responsibility of the sound onto the musicians they say, you know what, we want people to come to our venue and we want our venue to sound good.

So we can’t afford to buy the board and the speakers and all that. But what we can do is reach out to Production Company A.

Reid Anderson: Exactly.

Mike Weber: And say, you know what? Every time you’re here, it sounds pretty good. How about –

Reid Anderson: you just do all of it? 

Mike Weber: Yeah. Let’s work something out that’s mutually beneficial.

Reid Anderson: Agreed.

Mike Weber: You will have more time in here to perfect the sound, and then we don’t have to worry about sourcing a sound production company. We can tell bands that Person A is going to do sound, and they sound good and they know what they’re doing and they know what they’re doing in our venue.

Reid Anderson: Exactly. It’s just one of those – I mean, with anything, consistency is going to get better results. You don’t buy a fucking Twinkie because you think it’s gonna taste like, you know, a Snowball. It’s going to taste like a fucking Twinkie. That’s why you get it.

At the same time, I don’t think we need to have a Twinkie-fied music scene or anything. It’s just that it also shows – I don’t want to say anyone in this scene doesn’t give a fuck about music – but like you said, it’s almost like this is our name on the line, so we want to make sure when people come in, they are hearing great stuff, which is great.

In Cedar Rapids right now, like you said, we have these great sound production teams that are doing good things. We have enough. Let’s solidify and make a bunch of good venues for a bunch of good shit, you know?

That would be my wish. That would be my one wish.

Mike Weber: And I totally agree with that. A lot of times those production companies are also the ones that are doing lighting. 

Reid Anderson: Yup. Exactly.

Mike Weber: So for me, as a photographer, in Cedar Rapids it’s very hit and miss. If I go to Iowa City and I shoot at like Yacht Club or Gabe’s – 

Reid Anderson: You know what the lighting’s going to be?

Mike Weber: I know exactly what I’m getting into and I’ve shot in those venues enough that I don’t need to take test shots. I don’t need to check my metering. I walk in and I know, okay, I’m shooting upstairs at Gabe’s. I’m shooting at ISO 3,200 1/25th of a second, 1.8 done. One shot. Oh yeah, look, it’s exactly the way it should look, because I’ve shot here so much. I know where to throw it. If we have that relationship built with those production companies, I think that puts a little bit more on their end. Like there’s more of an incentive to come in and do a really good job.

If you think about, and I’m not saying that anyone out there goes out of their way to like not give a fuck.

Reid Anderson: Right. No, yeah. Absolutely.

Mike Weber: But it does happen. And if that was in the context of, I’m working with the venue. It’s not, well, this was a crappy show that some kid put together. I really don’t care if I impressed them.

But if you’re coming in at the request of the venue, you want to maintain that relationship.

Reid Anderson: Right. It’s one of those things where it’s like right now in Cedar Rapids, you can tell, especially with like the Go Cedar Rapids Fest in the fall.

Mike Weber: New Bo Evolve!

Reid Anderson: Cedar Rapids, whatever it’s called. I can’t remember. Whatever that thing is though. Clearly, wheels are turning, where people in Cedar Rapids want to start having good bands coming to this area to play good shows. That’s what they want. But that doesn’t necessarily mean bands that are gonna play in the U.S. Cellular Center. I mean, there’s plenty of bands in this country or that are touring this country from fucking everywhere that will play here that are fucking amazing. It’s one of those things where our city needs to invest in that idea. If we want to have this scene, we need to have venues for people to come to.

We got great ones. We got great sound guys. I just, I would love them to all meld into an incestuous mix of bodies and spit out great venues. That’s what I want. That’s my wish. I haven’t rubbed that genie.

Mike Weber: Let’s keep rubbing that genie. 

I’m going to toss something on. Just kinda to piggyback.

We’ll have an open debate on the state of music in Cedar Rapids. But I think all of these problems kind of intertwine. And we need to figure out a good way to bridge all the gaps. I think it’s a chicken and the egg problem. A lot of times we will talk about either venues aren’t as good as they could be.

Reid Anderson: Exactly.

Mike Weber: This isn’t as good as this or that.

Reid Anderson: You go to war with the army you have and not the army you want. 

Mike Weber: Right. And, I think the number one thing that we can do is focus on promoting our stuff and promoting our friend’s stuff. 

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. 

Mike Weber: And the number one thing that we should be focusing on right now is the scene is only as strong as the people that support it. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. Oh, yeah. 

Mike Weber: And if we have attendance start to trend downward at shows. That’s just the beginning of the end.

Reid Anderson: Yeah…

Mike Weber: And if we want to make the scene better, if we want to fix a lot of those problems, the first step is get more people to shows. When more people are coming to shows the scene will grow. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. Obviously, like you said, that’s the chicken and the egg situation, but also at the same time, if you build it, they will come.

Mike Weber: Right, right. 

Reid Anderson: To use an Iowa metaphor. 

Mike Weber: I’m not a native, so…

Reid Anderson: Neither am I. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. It’s one of those things, and I see it from both sides. 

Reid Anderson: Absolutely. It’s like any good problem, it’s not an easy solution. Even us, you know, we’ve been around in the town long enough that we understand there’s kind of a Faces Turned Ashen saturation where we have to be like, “Okay guys, we need to play outside of Cedar Rapids for like a month or two because we’ve played here a bunch.” Like, we need to stop. That just happens. But at the same time, a lot of bands need to start playing more. You know? I feel like it’s been great right now because for like a month and a half, there’s been at least one good show every weekend, which for Cedar Rapids is a good streak. That’s a great streak. And especially during a period of time where winter only ended like three weeks ago. It is not long since we’ve been in the dark times in this area. And for people to actually want to go out to shows during this time period is amazing.

Let’s face it, it’s the Midwest. The Midwest tends to dry up during the winter – it’s what happens for shows. And throughout the winter there were great shows. It’s a good momentum that we need to keep going. And I feel like there are enough people in the area that are keeping it going.

Mike Weber: And that’s what I want to see. And I’m glad that we have the momentum that we have. I’m always nervous, perpetually, when it comes to the music scene, because I always want to see it grow. And I’m always scared that – I always feel like we’re one misstep away from things starting to dry up again.

Reid Anderson: Well, yeah. 

Mike Weber: And, I think that we’re definitely on a path that we can make this so much better than it ever has been. And, I think that’s important for us to stay focused on.  

Reid Anderson: We’ve got a lot of heads in the right places, you know. Everyone’s thinking the same direction and that’s a good thing.

Mike Weber: Yeah. I really feel like right now, to a certain extent, we have less bands in play and fewer musicians. But the ones that we do have are really conscious about the scene itself and what needs to happen to kind of keep it growing.

And I almost think that’s more important to a certain extent. We could have a bunch of really good bands, but if nobody’s doing anything aside from playing shows, who cares? Good bands are important, but if we don’t have people who are being advocates for the scene, nothing’s going to happen.

As somebody that that has been active in one way or another in the local scene for almost 10 years, when I go to a show and somebody doesn’t know who I am… That’s really cool because that means that we’re getting new blood.

Reid Anderson: I love introducing myself.

Mike Weber: It’s so weird. The weird experience for me though, is since I’m not really big on putting my face out there on the internet…

Reid Anderson: Says the person who has posted on Facebook twice in 11 months. I understand where you’re coming from. Don’t worry. 

Mike Weber: It’s always really interesting when I run into somebody at a show who will look at me and see that I’m a photographer. You can tell by the cameras hanging off my side.

Reid Anderson: Naw, that’s a bowling ball. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, it’s a bowling ball. But it’s really interesting when someone will walk up to me and say, “Oh, you’re into photographing bands?” 

“Yeah.”

And then they’re like, “You know, there’s this guy around here that does a lot of really cool photography of bands. I think it’s called like Shadow Fox or something like that. Have you heard of him?”

“Hi, nice to meet you.”

“Wait a minute, that’s you?”

“Yeah.”

That’s a really interesting experience.

Reid Anderson: Speaking of face melting. 

Mike Weber: I will tie this up by saying the same thing that I’ve been hounding on for the last few years:

I think one of the most important things in keeping a scene growing is bands coming out to shows they’re not playing.

Reid Anderson: Yeah. How’s the old expression go? Don’t judge the twig in someone else’s eye with the log in your own.

That is one of the bad things about having a scene that is the way we are because let’s face it, we’re a pretty working class scene.

Mike Weber: This is very, very true. 

Reid Anderson: You know, everyone in every single band is working their ass off outside of both the band and their full time jobs. And probably trying to provide for kids and trying to provide for houses and blah, blah, blah.

We’re all not lazy is the problem. You know, in big cities you can have people where all they do is fucking just play in a band and do drugs. And then let people jerk them off. That’s what happens. Out here, no.

Mike Weber: I don’t understand how that works. 

Reid Anderson: I don’t either. It makes no sense to me. Out here in Iowa, you know, you can’t. You really can’t and that’s part of the problem. But it’s also one of the fucking most kick ass things about our scene. God knows, like I said, no fucking log in my own eye.

I need to start getting out to more shows. I can admit it, it’s one of those things. I’m sorry. Let’s just all say “Okay, I’m going to try to go out to more shows.”

Mike Weber: I wasn’t trying to poke fun at you. 

Reid Anderson: Oh, no, no, no. You’re good. But you’re right. You know, you don’t want to say, “Oh, they didn’t come to my show.” But sometimes it’s like, what the fuck else was going on in Cedar Rapids this night? At the same token, I totally get it. It’s someone’s birthday, someone’s fucking anniversary. Someone’s third shift. They just worked back to back and they’re getting home and just want to get high and play some fucking video games and pass out. 

Mike Weber: And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Reid Anderson: No, there isn’t. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with none of these things. That’s going to happen in every music city. You know, any city that wants to have a music scene – this is a thing that happens. I haven’t complained about crowd sizes in awhile, you know? 

Mike Weber: I think that we are doing better in that regard.

Reid Anderson: Absolutely.

Mike Weber: I always bring up that point just because I think my perspective’s a little shifted. I’ve been involved in the scene for a while and I’m not looking at it as a pure observer or a fan. I’m looking at it as somebody who wants to see it get better, right? And I’m like, okay, what do I think? In this little brain of mine, what do I think would improve the live music scene?

Reid Anderson: If you could rub the genie, what would be your wish?

Mike Weber: I mean, if I could rub the genie and have my wish – there are some times that I feel like the bands don’t work together as much as they should.

One of the things that I think, I mean, it’s a good problem to have, but it also kinda sucks is when I’m going through my calendar and I’m like, all right. This Friday or Saturday or whatever, I’m going to go out and I’m going to shoot a show.

Reid Anderson: Oh, I know exactly when to keep going to. 

Mike Weber: Well, all of the bands that I love to photograph are all playing shows. 

Reid Anderson: Right now.

Mike Weber: In different cities. Well, actually no, let me take that back. The worst ones, and it doesn’t typically happen in Cedar Rapids, it’s more of an Iowa City problem, but I look at my calendar and there is a good show upstairs at Gabe’s, there’s a good show downstairs at Gabe’s. There’s a good show at the Yacht Club and also one at Trumpet Blossom. And these are all bands that typically play together, headlining different smaller shows. 

Reid Anderson: Yep.

Mike Weber: I want everyone to play as much as they can. Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I wish that there was just more communication. Because I always think like –

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. Speaking as a band in the area, we’ve run into that or run into like fuck, they’re playing this show. But at the same time, I want to play a fucking show. I totally get where you’re coming from, but at the same time – I lived in Minneapolis and there was never a question of having only one band to see tonight. Typically when there were bands to see, there were three or four playing on the same night and you had to choose. Like, I’m going to this one. And yeah, sometimes you fucking struck out and a sound guy was terrible, something like one dude was drunk as shit and it just sounded like fuck. You know, like that happened and other times it worked out. That is an amazing problem to have in a scene that wants to have a thriving music scene. You know, an area that wants to have a thriving music scene and it’s a dual edged sword. It is. 

Mike Weber: Why that always bugs me is that it always seems to happen where it’s like drought.

Reid Anderson: Yup.

Mike Weber: Three shows, same night. Then drought. 

Reid Anderson: It’s like Bangladesh, you know, no rain, and then suddenly a fucking typhoon.

Mike Weber: Especially when it’s bands that I perceive as being relatively close – if there was just a little bit more coordination, we could have had: Friday one awesome show. Friday two awesome show. Friday three awesome show. Instead of three pretty awesome shows on the same night, fucking pick one. 

Reid Anderson: Or even Thursday, Friday, Saturday. 

Mike Weber: Oh man. I would love that. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. You know. 

Mike Weber: It’s one of those weird things. I really like when I have weeks where I’m shooting multiple shows. 

Reid Anderson: Of course.

Mike Weber: Like that is something that. It is…

Reid Anderson: A great problem to have. I’ve said that three times Mike.

Mike Weber: It’s a great problem to have. It’s a psychological thing for me too. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is a bit more real. When it’s like, alright, for the last three days straight, I have shot music. Hey, maybe I’m actually doing something here. I want to see more shows. I want to see more good shows. I want to see more bands kind of crossing over and working with other bands. More diversity in the bills. I mean, you can only go so far. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah.

Mike Weber: I don’t know if we have an original country band in Cedar Rapids, but I don’t want to see country with Faces Turned Ashen. 

Reid Anderson: It would depend on the country. Sorry, it would. I wouldn’t mind playing with one. Give me some old, you know, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., even fucking Hank Williams III. That’s not really country, but you know, there’s definitely some we could play with, but it would have to be how you arranged the evening.

Mike Weber: I think it was more – I don’t think we have any original country bands in Cedar Rapids. 

Reid Anderson: We really don’t, and not like that style. I guess I’m thinking of like Okkervil River. When they first came out, they were way more country than fucking shit that was around at that time. And it’s great. I would love to play with a band like that. But then also I don’t want to play with a band like Florida Georgia Line. That’s for goddamn sure. And you’re right, you know? It’s just genres of music, you know? 

Mike Weber: Yeah. There’s this one band I’ve shot, I think twice, and I cannot remember for the life of me their name. But they, I wouldn’t say country – they’re folk music. It’s all improvised instruments, like washboards and things like that. And spoons. And saws – like they were playing a saw. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah, I know how to play the saw. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: But it wasn’t, it wasn’t the musical saw. It was just a regular saw.  

Reid Anderson: It’s a rhythm instrument. Even the singing saw is considered a rhythm instrument because they hit it. Were they’re hitting it, I’m assuming?

Mike Weber: Yeah, I think they were like bending it and tapping it with a little mallet. 

Reid Anderson: Depending on how you bend it, it’ll change the pitch. And then the singing saw is where, instead of hitting it with a mallet, you just play it with a violin bow – or technically a viola bow. Those are the best ones. Back in my day, I don’t know how it’s changed since then. 

Mike Weber: Today I learned.

Reid Anderson: Amen brother.

Mike Weber: I would say that’s my list. Let me backtrack just a little bit. The one thing, more than anything and this is coming purely from the standpoint of being a photographer, if I could just be endowed with the ability to 

Reid Anderson: Control lighting?

Mike Weber: Yes. For the love of Christ. There is nothing that annoys me more.  

Reid Anderson: Consistency?

Mike Weber: Consistency and also understanding color theory. I mean, I understand that not everybody’s sitting here doing lighting and being like, “I wonder how this is going to photograph?”

Reid Anderson: Right.

Mike Weber: But ultimately, I think that bands want to be photographed well. 

Reid Anderson: It’s the worst. It is.

Mike Weber: There are typically two or three problems with lighting at shows. It is consistency – like having some type of cycle, like lights that change periodically throughout the show. Especially if it’s on a short cycle. Having to plan around what’s happening can be annoying, but that’s fine. Then there is just overall light level, like how much light is on the stage. There’s a certain threshold where as long as we’re above this, you’re fine. Don’t care. But when we start dropping below that, that’s where things start getting really dicey.

And then the last one, and this – everybody’s an offender. Every venue I’ve ever shot in, everybody who brings their own lights. Please, for the love of god, solid colors don’t look good. They don’t photograph well. I’m biased so it’s hard for me to like completely detach, but I’ve never seen a band play and thought, “Man, with that red light on them… God, that looks so sweet.”

Reid Anderson: It depends. I’ve seen a few where, yeah.

Mike Weber: There’s a trick though. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah. Well, and it also helps with strobe lights because the juxtaposition of the white with like solid color is amazing. 

Mike Weber: I’ve read online in photography forums and also venue forums who’ve employed photographers – the trick is, if you like the idea of being able to throw a solid color on somebody, the trick is to have what they typically refer to as base lighting. 

Reid Anderson: Yes.

Mike Weber: So there is a neutral lighting that illuminates the stage. And then you have your accent lights that are your solid colors or your strobes or whatever craziness you want to do. If we can get better lighting – because better lighting means my job is easier – it also means the bands look better. 

Reid Anderson: I was going to say, I would look better. Yeah, I’m okay with that. I’m all right with that. 

Mike Weber: And also control your fog machine, for the love of God. I’ve had to exit venues because I couldn’t fucking breathe because of fog machines. 

Reid Anderson: Yeah… Yeah. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. Fog looks cool. But again

Reid Anderson: Less is more. 

Mike Weber: Less is more. That’s the other thing – if there’s too much fog on stage, it doesn’t look good from the crowd. I’m coughing and it doesn’t photograph well. Like it just doesn’t. Little bit of fog, especially when you have the right kind of lights and you get what almost looked like laser beams going through. 

Reid Anderson: Fuck yeah.

Mike Weber: Or if you have the laser thing-a-thing and you have the actual beams going through. I had this one shot in the gallery show I did. I shot at Lefty’s in Des Moines and it was a touring band. They had a hazer foggy thing and they had one of those little laser projectors and the guy was up on the monitor with his guitar and he was kinda looking down and playing his guitar with all these laser lines coming out of him. It looked really fricking cool. But they were smart in how they were running the fog machine. There was just enough to catch the light. 

Reid Anderson: Fog is supposed to be used for moments, not for entire songs. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. Unless you don’t want people to see on stage. I mean, if that’s your thing. 

Reid Anderson: But if that’s what you’re going for, it should be because people are smoking pot, not because of fog. Let’s face it. Come on. Granted, fucking A, I’m an old man. I’m old enough to remember when you could still smoke in venues. Oh boy. Which was amazing because no one had to worry about fog because it just was provided. There was a fucking mild yellow cloud hanging over everyone. It was a simpler time. 

Mike Weber: It’s funny because, we established earlier that Reid and I are the same age. 

Reid Anderson: 1988 baby. 

Mike Weber: Good year.

Reid Anderson: Great year to be born. 

Mike Weber: There was still the Soviet Union. 

Reid Anderson: Amen. God damn right. Fucking Gorbachev. 

Mike Weber: Oh man. But the point I was getting to was that so I was able to go into bars when smoking was still a thing, but I did not get into music until after. That wasn’t a thing anymore. So I don’t have memories of going to shows in a smoke-filled bar.

Reid Anderson: My first concert was a Neil Diamond concert, which was fucking amazing. That goddamn man is fucking – he can put on a show. I could still believe today he could put on a show. It was great. My first show though that I can remember going to was Cursive because I grew up in Omaha. It was Cursive. It was the release party for their EP they did after The Ugly Organ. Burst and Bloom, I think. Music nerding out for a second, but it was fucking amazing. It was incredible. And it was fantastic. 

In Omaha, there was this venue, the Sokol Auditorium, and then there was the Sokol Underground. And the Underground was fantastic because it’s in the basement of the Yacht Club that has the pole in the middle of it?

Mike Weber: There’s a lot of pole-type venues.

Reid Anderson: Yeah, you’re right. But it was one of those venues where, you know, there was a pole in the middle. I remember seeing Tokyo Police Club there – or no fucking The Go! Team.

The Go! Team was fucking amazing, and there was like 150 people in this venue. I mean, it was roughly the size of the room we’re in right now, and it was fucking packed. Everyone was smoking, so like I said, you didn’t have to worry about lighting a venue. Anything that they could send out looked fucking cool because there was just this haze of smoke. And it made smoking pot in venues way easier too. Just throwing that out there.

Mike Weber: I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Yacht Club, but it’s pretty easy to smoke in there. Every show I shoot from the Yacht Club, I walk downstairs, I’m like…

Reid Anderson: Woo!

Mike Weber: I’m hungry. What’s going on? 

Reid Anderson: Thank God I’m near the ped mall. Oh fuck. 

Mike Weber: Man. So we’ll tie this up, but I want to toss one more thing on wishes for Cedar Rapids. The one thing that would be really cool… Just to get a cool venue.  

Reid Anderson: Amen.

Mike Weber: And, I don’t mean that as –

Reid Anderson: I love everywhere we play, but like I said, a dedicated fucking venue.

Mike Weber: But more than that. A cool venue – there’s something interesting about it. We go to Iowa City like Gabe’s is cool, but it’s –

Reid Anderson: Like look at Spicoli’s

Mike Weber: Spicoli’s is cool. 

Reid Anderson: I love playing Spicoli’s just because I can say I’ve played the same stage that multiple of my favorite artists have played. You know, and that’s fucking cool to say to me. That’s really fucking cool. 

Mike Weber: I like venues that have character. 

Reid Anderson: Exactly.

Mike Weber: Yacht Club I think is really cool because like the downstairs is interesting. And in case you were unaware, it used to be a morgue. So, there’s that.

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah.

Mike Weber: Spicoli’s is cool because it’s basically an arcade and then there’s a stage in the back. I hadn’t been to Spicoli’s until this year, and I was not sure what I was getting into when I went. But when I shot a show there, it was actually the first show that Knubby was playing with Nadge.

Reid Anderson: Oh, nice.

Mike Weber: I was like, this is actually laid out pretty well. It sounds pretty good. Their lighting’s pretty decent. They’ve got all of these arcade and pinball machines. And one of my other favorite venues… I don’t know if you get out to Dubuque? The Lift.

Reid Anderson: Oh. I’ve heard, I’ve heard. I would love to play there, but we’ve never played. But we’ve heard. 

Mike Weber: It’s really cool. I shot Knubby there once or twice already. Nicole and I went down there, and we saw, what was the band, Whores. 

All right, Reid. Well, before we take off here, I think we’ve talked as much as we can about the scene.

Reid Anderson: Oh yeah. I’ve made an ass of myself enough. 

Mike Weber: We both did.

Reid Anderson: No, I can never do enough of that. Let’s face it. 

Mike Weber: All right. Well before we go, why don’t you talk a little bit about what you have going on, what FTA has going on, that sort of thing. 

Reid Anderson: What do we got going on? We’re just, I believe, sending off to get the physical copies. This week or next week? Very soon. Within the next month. 

We’re trying to find a date to have our release party for the album. So this is May 21st, by the way. So if you’re listening in the future, welcome from the past. As of now, we are still looking. You may not hear it at that point. But, knock on wood. Yeah, we’re still looking for a date. We’re trying to figure it out because we’re getting the physical copies and we want to release our new album. It’s going to be dope. We spent a lot of time working on it.

Next month, we’re going to be filming a video for it, which is going to be sweet. I’m excited. It’s a couple songs – Portals and Hideous Reaches. Spoiler alert: sasquatch is involved and it’s going to be ridiculous. Our previous two were ridiculous, but this is going to take it to like. We’re going to have a PhD in ridiculosity here in a second. It’s going to be ridiculous.

So yeah, that’s what we got going on. We’re really excited. And then just in the words of Brook Hoover, playing ’em straight, keeping ’em great, you know. Keeping ’em great, playing ’em straight.

Mike Weber: One of these days I’ll have Brook Hoover on. 

Reid Anderson: Oh my God. Fucking A dude. Do it. I love Brook. Prepare for a trip.

Mike Weber: Yeah, I’ll need a lasso or something like that. 

Reid Anderson: No, just let him go. Just let him go. You’re going to have to edit the fuck out of it and that’s fine because you’re going to just keep diving. You may have to send a canary down in that mine. And once you get to the point where the canary’s dead – come back up. But just fucking, just keep diving in. You’ll get gold baby, you’ll get gold. 

Mike Weber: Well. All right, Reid, thank you very much for coming on talking about art and stuff.

Reid Anderson: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Mike. It was a pleasure. 

Mike Weber: You can find Reid’s music on Facebook. You can also find FTA on Spotify and iTunes.

Next time, I talk with Claire Thoele, of Dead Emperors about her work as an illustrator and transitioning from primarily working with paper and pencil to a digital workflow. I hope you can join us.

319 Creates Episode 3: Fred Kenyon

On episode 3 I talk with Fred Kenyon from Tinyhands. Also, the podcast is now up on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud so you can now subscribe!

319 Creates Episode 3: Fred Kenyon, Milwaukee musician

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On this episode, I am speaking with Fred Kenyon of tinyhands about their music and the politics that influence it. We talk about being homeless, protesting, and issues in the LGBTQ+ community. I hope you enjoy.

 Fred Kenyon, welcome to 319 Creates.

Fred Kenyon: Thank you. I’m happy to be here. 

Mike Weber: So I know that you’ve recently been working on your project, tinyhands. You want to tell us a little bit about that and how that got started? 

Fred Kenyon: So tinyhands was originally just a name that I went by. I was working as a freelance horticultural manicurist, which is a very fancy way to say pot trimmer.

One of the farms I worked on, my hands were too small to fit in any of the gloves. And one of the other trimmers who had a night job in a warehouse, brought a giant box full of extra small gloves so that I could wear gloves while I was working. And the grower of the medicinal farm would say, “How are those gloves fitting, tinyhands? Did you make a pound yet, tinyhands?” So that kinda just stuck. At the time, if I wasn’t trimming, I was traveling and busking. Most people who live a lifestyle where they don’t have an address – they don’t go by their legal name. They don’t introduce themselves as their legal name. So I just started going by tinyhands.

But tinyhands became a duet when I came back to Iowa for a month or so. I was making recordings with my friend Jay and Jay wanted to add parts. They would said “Oh, I’m going to do this. I’m going to make this for the recording.” And I was just like, “Do you want to be in a band? Do you want to make this a thing?” So, that’s how it got started.

Mike Weber: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the music then? 

Fred Kenyon: A lot of our songs are kind of raunchy or dirty. Again, that dates back to when most of them were written, and when I first started really performing, which was when I was busking. I learned that I could make a lot of money if I sat on a street corner and sang about eating ass. There was one time where I was singing a song I wrote that is called “Eating Ass: A Love Song“. This man walked by with his family and they were all just kind of blushing. He rushes his wife and kids into the car. Then he gets in the car and he opens the door and comes out and hands me a 20, and he says thank you. So yeah, I guess people like to hear it. 

Mike Weber: So now I’m going to ask you, because you keep using the term busking, and I’m not exactly sure what that means. (Busking example video)

Fred Kenyon: Oh, you see it happen sometimes in Iowa City. I feel like the laws in Iowa City are more strict, so it depends on where you are. There’s some places where you’ll see a lot of buskers and some are just here and there. But that’s a street musician. 

Mike Weber: Oh, okay. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. And you play for tips. And if I wasn’t trimming, that’s how I ate. 

Mike Weber: That makes sense. And you were mentioning how for a while you were living kind of without an address. Were you still in one relative location or were you just kind of traveling around?

Fred Kenyon: I stayed on the West Coast. I didn’t really leave the West Coast when I didn’t have an address. Primarily in Oregon because that’s where a lot of the work was. I started out with a van and I lived in the van and I had a pet rat and he crawled in the motor of the van and did horrible things to it, and the van didn’t work anymore. Then I got another van, which… the motor seized after two weeks. After that I started living on foot with a backpack for awhile. 

Mike Weber: What was that experience like for you? What do you feel like your big takeaway from doing that was? 

Fred Kenyon: I realized that people who have never really been homeless don’t always understand what it’s like. And I feel like a lot of people have a lot of preconceived notions. Like you see someone that’s panhandling and think, “Oh, that’s just a beggar. He’s lazy, she’s lazy. They don’t want to work. They’re addicted to drugs. If I give them money, they’re just going to spend it on beer.” It’s like, first off, they might spend it on beer, but if you’re sleeping in a pile of gravel underneath the bridge, you might need a Steel Reserve to fall asleep.

So unless you have a sedative or a place for them to stay… shut up Karen. For me, living in a van was completely different than being on foot because in a van I still had a space that I could go, shut the door and lock it, and people couldn’t come in or bother me.

Whereas when you’re on foot and you’re living out of your backpack, you have no safe place to go, no privacy. At any point in time, anybody could come up to you and talk to you and you don’t have any downtime ever. That’s another thing, people view homeless people as being lazy because they’re sitting there and they’re drinking. You’re going to go home and shut the door and drink.

So, people see you very differently. And some people are very, very kind to you and they recognize that you’re just doing your best and they want to help you. Or if they can’t help you, they’re at least friendly to you because they see you as a person. But a lot of people aren’t, and they’re cruel and they’re mean. I have had the cops called on me just for existing and a lot of people experienced that, every day. Wrong place. Wrong time.

Mike Weber: I feel like a lot of people who treat homeless people that way… To them, they only identify someone as being homeless when the person is doing something that they would do behind a closed door. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah.

Mike Weber: And it’s really easy for us to think, “Well, if you’re sitting out here in public drinking and you’re homeless…” You’re making your own bed, as it were. And, I think that’s wrong. I think, as people, we tend to judge others for things that they ultimately have no control over. We don’t know why they’re homeless. Did they make wrong decisions? Maybe, but we don’t know. We shouldn’t make those determinations. And we should be kind and gentle to everyone around us. And I think it’s valuable to have the perspective that you have and to share that with other people – especially people who are the type that might make those kinds of assumptions, if that makes sense. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. I am not proud of getting in a Facebook argument with anyone over this, but there was somebody really shit talking homeless people in general, and I was just like, “Hey, you shouldn’t say that.”

And their response was, “Have you even met a real homeless person?” I was like, “Yeah, maybe several hundred.” That person kind of went off on me and said, “Well, you must have made a bunch of horrible life decisions. I’m sorry you suck at life.” And I’m just like, “You know, just because someone’s homeless or in a transitional period in their life, doesn’t mean they did something horrible to get there.”

Mike Weber: Well, I look at it from this standpoint. All of us, unless we come from a lot of privilege, we’re only a couple mistakes away from homelessness. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah.

Mike Weber: I look at it this way. I have a house. I have a job. What happens if I walk into work tomorrow and they’re like, “Yeah, we’re closing shop and we’re going out of business.” Then I don’t have a job. What happens if I can’t find a job that can pay my mortgage? Within a few months I can be on the street. I don’t think that it is our place to judge other people, and we should not be making these decisions for them. Ultimately, why do you care?

Anytime that I see a person that needs help or can be helped, the first thing to go through my head shouldn’t be “What did this person do wrong?” First thing that goes through my head is, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. And you know, if you see someone that’s panhandling or busking and you don’t have anything to give them, you’re not a bad person for that. I think people get really defensive, like, “Well, I can’t give them this.” Okay, don’t. Just be pleasant. Just respect them and move on. Most people who are traveling or houseless don’t feel like you owe them something. They’re just out there being like, “Hey, here I am. If you can help, great.”

Mike Weber: Well, I think a lot of these people that are rude, that do say those things, are the type of people that view it from the standpoint of, “Well, no one helped me.” And, as a person that’s worked in retail for 13, 14 years now… They’re the same type of people that when encountering a retail worker will treat them like the lowest form of life on earth. And it’s like, why? Why do you feel the need to judge other people’s lives? Because they don’t have what you have and it’s just disgusting. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah, that’s true. 

Mike Weber: I think a lot of that comes back to that preconceived notion that homeless people are lesser, that they have made some type of mistakes. All of those things that you pointed out, there’s the assumption that if you don’t have it, there’s a reason that you don’t. If you don’t have a good job, it’s because you’re not a hard worker. If you’re homeless, it’s because you’ve made mistakes. If you don’t have good references, it’s because you’re a bad person. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah.

Mike Weber: And, all of that comes back to what I keep saying. That as people, we have this tendency to judge people on face value. We will focus in on these one or two characteristics that we put so much value on, that really don’t matter in the large scheme of things.

I know so many good people, people that would give you the shirt off their back that have a credit score of 450. It’s like, who cares?

Fred Kenyon: I have a credit score of like 2.

Mike Weber: 2? Wow. That’s impressive. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah, it’s bad. 

Mike Weber: But, to me, it’s just one of those things. Everybody has something to offer. If we want to sit here and pretend that we live in a society, in a community, we have to accept that everybody has a role to play in that. And everybody has something unique to bring to the table. When we are forcing people into a cycle where they are stuck, either being homeless or stuck renting in a bad part of the city…to a certain extent, when we put these limitations on people because we think they’re going to fail, we’re just setting them up to fail. 

So, let’s talk about your music again. You brought some instruments with you today.

Fred Kenyon: Yep. 

Mike Weber: Did you want to play a song for us? 

Fred Kenyon: Sure.

Mike Weber: Why don’t you tell us what you’re gonna play. 

Fred Kenyon: I’m gonna play a song called, “Should I Tell My Dog That He’s Adopted?” It’s a song I wrote about flag burning and a lot of people get really up in arms when the topic of flag burning comes up because they think, “Oh, you hate America.” Most people I’ve met who have participated in a protest such as flag burning, actually don’t hate America. They are burning the flag as a symbolism for rebirth or renewal, like a Phoenix rising from the flames.

And most people I’ve met – and I can’t speak for everyone – but most people I’ve met who protest actually love their country and they love that they’re here, but they want things to change. So the song itself isn’t talking about any particular thing to be protesting, but the overall message is if you are more upset about somebody protesting than you are about why they’re protesting, you got a problem.

Mike Weber: Well, let’s take a break and listen to that. And I have a feeling we’re going to have a conversation about that too.

You can listen to “Should I Tell My Dog That He’s Adopted?” on Bandcamp.

So it sounds like you have some opinions on flag burning.

Fred Kenyon: Maybe a little. 

Mike Weber: Well, I think the song is really good and I think that the message in it is something that’s actually really important to talk about and ties into a little bit of what we’ve already been talking about. I think you have a really good point that the people that get upset about flag burning aren’t really upset about flag burning. It’s just a vehicle for their visceral hatred for everything, not “American.” 

Fred Kenyon: Well, it’s not even flag burning. I’ve attended many protests in my life and even when it’s been completely like no fire involved, people have still been very combative and have shouted and threatened. In my song, I have a line that says, “Should I tell my dog to get a job?” Like they say to you when you go to a protest. People say, “Oh, get a job.” It’s like, I have a job. I protested outside the Trump rally in January of 2016. And that was just like the most commonly thing they said. “Get a job, get a job.” I work full-time. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, I remember during the election… I try very hard to have positive engagement, if that’s the word we want to use, with people of different opinions than myself. A lot of the conversations ended up happening with people that were supporting Hillary instead of Bernie. Those were typically more productive. But anytime that I encountered somebody, especially during the primary season, that was like, “Yeah, Trump.” And I thought, “Whoa, hang on a second.” I was a Bernie supporter. I’m really weird because there are a lot of things that I’m more center on, but I was still a Bernie guy. There are things that I’m very left-progressive/socialist on. But also a lot of things I think there’s ground in between the GOP and the Democrats on. I can understand supporting a candidate, like Mitt Romney or John McCain, or even George W., but Trump was just something else entirely.

The people that I’ve encountered that just… there was not a conversation to be had. It was instantly, “If you’re not supporting the God emperor, you hate America.” And there was this time when, if you are not a Trump supporter, they think you don’t have a job. You don’t like America. You think America should be ran by Muslims or something crazy like that. There wasn’t a gradient of their support. You guys come off as bat shit crazy.

Fred Kenyon: Well, even if for some reason you didn’t have a job, like we were speaking earlier about – people that were traveling or houseless. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have an opinion that reflects what you want to see happen in this country. Having a job doesn’t make you a valuable human necessarily. 

Mike Weber: My wife and I talk about politics a lot and one thing that we have, the terminology that we use a lot is “I got mine. So fuck you.” And we know people who were working minimum wage jobs, not full time, people that a lot of the ideas of candidates like Bernie Sanders would have propped up. People who have “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps” and are now working a “real job” making $12 an hour and they feel like they’ve accomplished something. And I don’t want to discount that. I think that anybody who makes any type of progress up the “social ladder” or whatever terminology you want to use. You had a shitty job, you have a better job now. You did something to get there and you should feel proud of that. That being said, it’s not like you’ve gotten far enough that the ideas of a Bernie Sanders… those policies would still prop you up. You are still in a position to benefit from the ideas of the progressive left. But beyond that… Have you completely forgot what it was like to not have a full time job and not be able to find a full time job and not be able to have a job that pays more than eight bucks an hour? I feel like you are a prime candidate of somebody who should be like, we need to have this kind of change in America. I remember what that was like, and that was terrible. When I met my wife, she was unemployed. She had just finished college and could not find a job. It wasn’t even that she couldn’t find a job in her field – she could not find any real work. Even minimum wage jobs were telling her they can give like 10 hours a week.

And it was just like, well, that helps, but that’s 10 hours a week that I can’t spend looking for a better job.

Fred Kenyon: Yeah and she’s getting paid seven buck an hour. $70 a week. Woo. Before taxes. 

Mike Weber: At the time I was making just over minimum wage and it was a full time job. But, we remember what that’s like. That was six years ago now. But that’s not a distant memory to me. That was one of the roughest periods of my life. If the world was a bit more progressive, I don’t think that would have been as difficult as it was. There’s no reason that we need to make that hard for people, and there’s no reason that should be hard for people. And there’s no reason that these Trump supporters should feel like, “Well, if you’re not supporting these ideas, you are probably one of the dregs of society that the God emperor tells us to hate.” And the connection between that – if you don’t support my ideas, you are not only oppositional to me, but you are my enemy and I will do everything in my power to cripple you. I think that’s the big thing. When they go to their rallies and they see people protesting the rallies, they are the personification of everything that they are told to hate. And I think that’s where that comes from. 

Fred Kenyon: Some of the shit that the supporters were saying to us while we were protesting… One of the chants – there was a group that was there protesting with us that was showing support for Muslim Americans – we were saying “We stand with our Muslim neighbors.” And one of the Trump supporters – he took a video of him and me going at it and it got on the internet. Someone found this video with me in it and sent it to me. But he kept saying, “Yeah, support the Muslims until they bomb the shit out of you.” Do you think that everyone who practices a religion is going to be violent to you? This is a very peaceful religion that you probably have not taken more than two seconds to even get acquainted with. 

Mike Weber: That just blows my mind. I am not religious at all. And I’m one of those people that overall thinks religion in the world hurts it more than it helps it.

But when we talk about the protests… these people are saying things like, “You hate America because you didn’t support Donald Trump or you hate America because you’re out here protesting.” When I stop and I think about it – to me, protesting is probably the most American thing that a human being can do.

There’s nothing more American than utilizing your voice of dissent. That is literally what our country was founded on. Our country was founded out of dissent when we did not have a representative voice over in the UK. We were being taxed and the entire founding of this country was out of us not having a voice. When a citizen utilizes these rights – or not even necessarily a citizen because the Bill of Rights does not say these rights are exclusive to citizens of the country – it says these are inalienable rights to every person and for these chest pounding Americans to say that us utilizing that very basic right makes us un-American is incredibly hypocritical.

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. Well, this country was also founded on colonization and stealing land from people who already lived here. But after that already happened. Well, we declared independence. Yeah. 

Mike Weber: And that’s the other thing. A lot of Trump’s message was anti-immigration. Again, that’s one of those things that I kind of cocked my head at. It’s like, how aware are you of the history of this country? 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. This isn’t even our land.

Mike Weber: I’m going to toss one out here because this is one that really annoys me – the people that argue it’s okay to take pride in your race unless you’re white. Let’s unpack this for a second. Number one: white is not a race. It is a skin color. Number two: you are more than likely a mutt at this point. If your ancestors have been in America for more than a couple generations, you’ve been distilled down to nothingness. You don’t have a race to be proud of. And we are a country that was founded by people coming in, literally murdering people, and stealing their land. What are you proud of? What are you trying to pound your chest about? There’s nothing there. You are a citizen of America. Congratulations. You were born here. It’s fine. 

Fred Kenyon: I want to show you something since we’re talking about pride. It’s kind of taking a step away from race and toward another issue since it is Pride Month here, or it’s Pride Month at the time that we’re recording this. So there’s this t-shirt I found a picture of online. It has a picture of a rooster and then a plus sign, and then a cat, and then an equal sign, and then a baby. And it says straight pride. And I’m not exactly sure that’s how babies are made. Like you put the rooster and the cat together?

Mike Weber: Well, I’m pretty sure they’re going for another word for both of those animals. 

Fred Kenyon: I know. It’s just… straight pride. Woo. 

Mike Weber: Yeah. I think that a lot of – I’m just going to just start referring to people as normies – a lot of normal people feel left out when people have something that they can take pride in. Well if you’re proud of being gay, then I’m proud of being straight. 

Fred Kenyon: Good for you. Great. 

Mike Weber: Again, when you have something that is the norm. I don’t think… 

Fred Kenyon: Well, straight people haven’t been persecuted and executed.

Mike Weber: Nope.

Fred Kenyon: Sent to mental institutions. Forced to go through therapy, been jumped, beat up, you know, like straight people don’t… You can walk down the street holding hands with your partner and not be worried about somebody yelling at you or throwing something at you because you’re straight. I think that any given person can be proud of themselves. Like you mentioned, you’re proud of your photography. Someone could be proud of their relationship. If it’s a heterosexual relationship, they could love their partner and be proud of that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But to, especially at a time where queer people – the LGBT community is having Pride Month and saying we’re proud of ourselves and we’re here and this is who we are. And then someone would be like, “Well, I got straight pride.” You want a cookie or what?

Mike Weber: Both of the things that we’re talking about right now about white pride and straight pride. I think a lot of people who do say these things are conscious of it. It is an effort to take the air out of the room. It is an effort to put a little bit less emphasis on the things that actually merit the pride. When we’re talking about Pride Month, when people are pounding their chest and saying, “I’m proud to be a heterosexual. I’m proud that I’m straight.” All that’s doing is trying to take a little bit of the emphasis away from the community. I think that’s incredibly selfish. I mean, that’s the easiest way that I can put it. I look at it from the standpoint of these people deserve their Pride Month. They deserve to have their moment to be out there, clearly visible. And it is our responsibility as good citizens to give them their space.

They have been prosecuted, they have been murdered. And many other things. And we’re finally starting to get to a point as a society where they can walk down the street holding hands with their partner and not have the cops called on them.

Fred Kenyon: And there are still people in this country that are rooting and working against that.

They want to overturn same sex marriage. Trans people face an awful lot of discourse in this country. I wrote a song about it and the line ended up being the title of our album that just came out. It’s called “I never knew that taking a shit could be so sexual” and it is directly referring to this debate over whether or not people should use the bathroom that they feel comfortable in. It’s all of a sudden an issue of sexuality and safety. It’s a toilet.

Mike Weber: When that conversation hit the mainstream, was that about three years ago? I think it was 2015 when, I can’t remember what state it was, passed the first bathroom bill. That started a national conversation about it.

I remember sitting there and being incredibly confused by the whole idea. Maybe this was coming from me being a more liberal progressive person. First off, a lot of these people you would not know are transitioning unless they told you. By the time a lot of these people start using the bathroom that they identify with, they are already passing. And you wouldn’t even know. That aside, people have been gay for decades.

Fred Kenyon: Centuries. Thousands of years. It’s always been a thing. 

Mike Weber: Well centuries, yeah. More than likely if you’re a dude, you probably took a piss next to a guy that was gay. If you’re a girl, you probably were sitting in a stall next to somebody that was a lesbian.

Their sexual orientation does not make them a predator.

Fred Kenyon: I kind of want to jump in here. Sexual orientation and gender identity are kind of two completely different things. 

Mike Weber: Well, yes. My point with this is the whole national conversation about the reasons behind the bathroom bill. Their argument, not my argument, was that if we allow trans people into bathrooms, they’re going to assault somebody. They’re going to assault a kid. It was all about trans women. We’re going to have a trans woman, who they perceive as still being a man, in a bathroom with little girls and they’re going to rape them. 

And that’s not the way this works. My point relating it to sexual orientation – if putting two people into a bathroom who are compatible sexually is going to result in assault, we would have had that problem with gay people.

Fred Kenyon: Yeah.

Mike Weber: That’s the point I was trying to make.

Fred Kenyon: Yes. No, that’s a good point. I just wanted to throw that out there. There’s another word you used – and I’m not coming at you, like you said something horrible. I think a lot of people use this word and don’t realize the problematic-ness of it. But you said “passing”. Again, I’m not coming at you, I don’t think you were trying to be hurtful in any way. I personally feel like passing can be a very problematic way to put it, because there’s a lot of people that are trans and don’t have access to the medical treatment, or for various different reasons, don’t present with that gender. And so they’re not passing. I think that’s kind of playing into – there’s a cis look, and then there’s a trans look. And there’s someone who is a trans woman presenting as a woman, but you still look at that person and can tell they’re trans.

To say they’re not passing could be perceived as invalidating their transness. We could get into people that are non-binary, or gender queer in the middle. What does passing even mean for them if they’re in between genders?

Mike Weber: I completely agree with that and it was just the best word that I thought to use.

Fred Kenyon: Oh, no. I understand. And I only bring it up for the sake of discussion about what that word means. 

Mike Weber: I think that actually gives us another interesting talking point. Again, as a society, we try and put people into boxes. I perceive society as slowly evolving. I think we really need to get to a point where we don’t have to think about it. You mentioned a couple of different terms. Are all of these necessary or can we get to a point where we don’t have to think about it? One of the things that I’ve thought about recently is that we’ll talk about gender identity and, how does that play into why, if you identify as a woman, do you have to look like a stereotypical woman?

Fred Kenyon: Mhmm.

Mike Weber: It’s not just that you can identify as a woman, but you have to be this typical feminine woman. Why can’t you identify as a masculine woman? And, I think overall we need to kind of realign what we define – really we need to get rid of our preconceived notions of gender and gender identity.

I want people to feel empowered to just…

Fred Kenyon: Be themselves. 

Mike Weber: Be themselves and not have to worry about it. 

Fred Kenyon: So I’ve kind of heard both ends of the argument from various friends and acquaintances that are members of the trans community. I’ve heard a lot of people say genders are relevant or gender doesn’t exist. Then I’ve also heard people say, well, no, gender does exist. And, by saying that it is irrelevant, it doesn’t exist, is invalidating to me as a trans person. So it’s kind of hard, for me at least, to really put my finger on it. But I think, what you’re saying about we should get to the point where people are comfortable just being themselves.

You said earlier, and we were talking about something completely different, but you said “Why do you care?” And that’s kind of my attitude when I’m faced with people that are transphobic. I’m gender queer, I use they/them pronouns. I definitely get a lot of friction that way. Today you see me wearing makeup, I have a necklace on. And some people would argue and have argued with me in the past, “Well, you’re dressing like a woman.” So I like do my makeup once in a blue moon? Literally anybody can wear makeup. But your notion of “Why do you care?” I’ve had to explain this to a lot of people. They didn’t see themselves as transphobic. They didn’t see themselves as anything phobic. They didn’t understand what they were saying was wrong. My little rule of thumb that I like to share with people is “It is none of your business what’s in someone else’s pants.”

Mike Weber: I think that is 110% on point. I struggle to understand why people care. Why is it so important to know? I’ve known people who will stare at somebody and be like, “I wonder.” And it’s like, why? 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah.

Mike Weber: Why? Why does it matter? How does it affect you?

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. Someone’s argued, “Well, how am I supposed to call her she when she has an Adam’s Apple?” Why do you care that she has an Adam’s Apple? She says she’s a woman. Just call her she. Respect her. 

Mike Weber: Not to make the conversation seem more basic than it is because it’s not basic – it’s incredibly nuanced. That is almost like walking up to me and me introducing myself like, “Hi, I’m Mike.” And you’re like, “Nah, I think you’re more of a Chris.”

Fred Kenyon: You look like a Chris. You don’t.

Mike Weber: A lot of people would disagree with you. I get called Chris a lot. I don’t know why.

Fred Kenyon: I get called Francesca because my name is Frederica so they go Francesca, Felicia.

Mike Weber: I don’t understand why we feel the need to impart our wisdom onto other people. If you walk up to me and say, “I identify this way and these are the pronouns that I would like you to use.” My response is, “Okay.” I apologize to people when I mess up. Because this is new to a lot of people. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to interact, especially with gender queer people that are in the middle or gray area, whatever terminology is best. I know a couple other people that prefer they/them and I’ve slipped up and I apologize. 

Fred Kenyon: Well, that’s one thing. You accidentally said the wrong thing. That happens and that doesn’t make you a bad person as long as you’re still acknowledging them in their identity. Saying sorry. I think that’s another thing. I had someone who repeatedly calls me girl, and I say, I’m not a girl. Don’t call me that. And then they get angry and they say, “Well, if you can say whatever you want, then I can say whatever I want.”

What do you mean, I say whatever I want? “You correct me whenever you want!” I don’t think that’s exactly the same thing.

Mike Weber: The one that I struggle with – and I know that this is a conversation that comes up a lot and I know you’re not gonna attack me for it, but I know you’re going to have an opinion on it – is terms like “guys” or “dudes”. How’s the best way to word it?

Fred Kenyon: Hey guys. Hey dudes. Hey man. Hey dude. I think that it kind of just varies person to person. There are some people that when they’re called dude and when they’re called guy, even if it’s meant completely in a unisex manner, it still makes them feel dysphoric and makes them feel uncomfortable.

So if that person says to you, “Hey, don’t call me dude. I really don’t like it.” Then just be respectful, remember not to call – or try to remember – not to call them dude. There’s other people that are totally fine with it. I mentioned earlier, my bandmate Jay, who was in my wedding when I got married a couple of years ago. Jay’s official title was Dude of Honor, and that was a title that they chose. So it definitely varies from person to person.

Mike Weber: Respect people. If someone tells you that they really don’t like it when you use that word. I have friends that don’t like it when I swear and I do my best not swear around them. It’s not that hard to just be conscious. Overall it is just being aware of what makes people comfortable. I try very hard to make sure that the people that I associate with are comfortable around me. I don’t want to be that person who people don’t want to be around because I make them feel uncomfortable. It’s not our place to judge or question what someone else says makes them feel comfortable.

If someone says, “Call me this or don’t call me that or don’t use this word around me…” Don’t overanalyze it.

Fred Kenyon: Put forth an effort. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, that’s just called being a good human. 

Fred Kenyon: Another thing that I see a lot as someone who uses they/them pronouns is people arguing that it’s not grammatically correct.

First off – it is. If somebody left their cell phone at the grocery store and you took it to the front desk, you would say, “I wonder if they’re still here” because you don’t know who owns that cell phone. “I wonder if they are in the store.” If somebody runs down the street and it wasn’t apparent to you whether or not it was a man or a woman, you would say, “I wonder where they’re going.” “Why are they running?” It actually is grammatically correct to use they/them pronouns for people that don’t have a distinguished gender. I had a conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago about this. I said, “Even if it wasn’t, who cares about grammar?” And she goes, “I care about grammar.” And I said, “Okay, but do you care more about grammar than you care about the people in your life and respecting their pronouns?” And she said, “No, it’s okay.” There you go. Problem solved.

Mike Weber: I feel like this applies to a lot of things, but when we don’t like or disagree with a topic we always go to the easiest, lowest common denominator excuse. You know, it’s not grammatically correct. That’s such a silly one. We see this a lot in other topics, like talking about immigration. “Well, they’re not legal.” Okay. Who cares? If we spent as much time and energy as we do on correcting people and analyzing and dissecting what they want in their life or their opinions, and put that energy into just being compassionate towards them, I think a lot of our problems would go away. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. Probably. 

Mike Weber: This is one of those things that I legitimately do not understand. It is such a basic one to me – the thought of just being nice. Just be kind and don’t overanalyze what people are asking. I don’t understand why this is so hard and I don’t understand why people make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. I don’t know. That’s my thoughts on that. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. I had an interaction with someone over the internet. And this was somebody who I had known briefly in high school and he found me over the internet and friended me. He was talking to me over Facebook Messenger, just about my music and stuff. The conversation started out very, very friendly and amicable. But he noticed that I use they/them pronouns and asked me about it and what it means? I explained it to them to the best of my ability. We talked about my identity and how I felt on the inside versus what the world expected of me and that I was more comfortable with these pronouns. His response was, “Well, you look like a woman to me and I’m not gay. So I would know.” Basically saying since he’s attracted to me, I have to be a woman because he’s not gay.

Okay, first off, way to make this about you. But, I actually wrote a song, a direct response to that. All you see about me is my anatomical features… The song is called “Tits and Ass” 

Mike Weber: Oh man. That kind of goes back to what I was just saying. Pretty much everything we’ve talked about for this entire episode stems from people just not feeling comfortable going out of their comfort zone. And I think that people who are straight are very comfortable and have never questioned, ever. Ever. I think that they have a really hard time being confronted with somebody that falls outside of that. In that situation, somebody that they perceived as being one gender they were attracted to, identifies with another gender. Which means that if I’m attracted to you… Then I’m actually gay? Having to process through all that… People don’t want to do it. They don’t want to accept that there’s more nuance to this. I think that some people feel threatened by that because somehow it threatens their straightness. I don’t know. That’s another one that’s hard for me to wrap my head around.

Fred Kenyon: That’s a big issue that I’ve seen happen a lot – where somebody, say a cisgendered woman, identifies as heterosexual. Then she dates a trans woman. She says, “Well, I’m still straight because she’s trans.” Now you’re completely disregarding your partner’s gender – of all people.

You should be supportive and loving and see them for who they really are. And I think that does happen a lot because a lot of people are so insecure with their own sexuality and their own gender that they will go out of their way to invalidate others to make themselves feel normal.

I don’t know what they’re trying to achieve, but…

Mike Weber: I think it just comes down to – it’s a can of worms to them. Emotionally, if they go down that path of stepping out of the box that is perceived as being normal. I’m rolling my eyes as I say that, just to clarify. That poses a lot of unanswered questions to them.

If they can find a reason to walk back into the box, they will. Like that guy saying that you’re female because “I know I’m not gay” and implied attraction there. That walks him back into the standard binary box. Or dating a trans person and saying, “Well, I see them as female and I’m still attracted to them.” That again walks them back into their binary box. It’s just looking for an excuse to not have to deal with it. I think that some people are aware how difficult it is to not fit in that box. And for them to be confronted with something that makes them realize that they might not fit into that box, it’s opening a can of worms that’s going to make their life harder. They just want to find an excuse that their life doesn’t have to be any harder than it is. But I think it’s incredibly  disrespectful. All we have to do is respect the other people’s opinions and you know, maybe the world would be a better place if everyone just accepted that this conversation about gender, sexual orientation, and what we find attractive is not as basic as we’ve made it out to be.

And it’s only going to get worse from here – or better.

Fred Kenyon: I would say better, but –

Mike Weber: I think with every year that goes by, as more and more people are empowered, the conversation gets more nuanced. 

Fred Kenyon: Yeah. Which would be worse for some people, right? The opposing people, they would view that as worse.

Mike Weber: We’ll just say it’s probably going to get more complicated before it gets less complicated. But I think the people that feel threatened that way, the sooner they can accept that gender and sexual identity and attraction is not binary – and see it as more of a gradient – the easier their life is going to be moving forward.

And ultimately, again, it doesn’t affect you. Just be respectful of the people around you.

We are running out of time and I think you have one last song for us that’s related to the conversation we were just having. Could you tell us about the song and we’ll go from there?

Fred Kenyon: This is a song called “Tits and Ass“, and it’s about being mis-gendered and over-sexualized for all the wrong reasons.

Mike Weber: Alright, we’ll hear that in a second, but before we do that, I would like to thank you for being on, and it was a really good conversation. 

Fred Kenyon: Thank you for having me.

(Fred plays “Tits and Ass”)

Mike Weber: You can find tiny hands on Facebook and Bandcamp. They just started a tour and you can catch them on July 9th at Petal Palace in Des Moines and on July 11th at Public Space One in Iowa City. Next time I talk with Reid Anderson, from Faces Turned Ashen, about his music and the Cedar Rapids music scene. I hope you can join us.

319 Creates Episode 2: Manda Bollinger

319 Creates Episode 2: Manda Bollinger, Iowa City artist

Manda Bollinger is an Iowa City artist who creates reclaimed (garbage) art. Her passion for making new art pieces out of old materials started at 11 years old when her father handed her a newspaper clipping that was a picture of a mom, a dad, 2 kids and their house – with a pile of garbage next to it. Since then, Amanda has learned to incorporate many types of materials into her work: wood, paint, glitter, packing paper, beads, plastic – basically anything she can save from that garbage pile.

319 Creates Episode 2: Manda Bollinger, Iowa City artistIn this episode we talk about her artistic journey so far, the importance of the story behind the art, and what she has planned for this year.

We also talk about Art in the Yard, a grassroots art fair she started with her cousin a few years ago. Art in the Yard started as a small community festival for artists who didn’t exactly fit into the mold for the larger art events that happen in Iowa City. The event has evolved a lot over the years, with the biggest change happening this month. In partnership with the Lucas Farms Neighborhood Association, Art in the Yard is now part of the Yewell Street Art Fair.

You can check out Amanda’s work online here.

If you’re in the Iowa City area on June 24th you can see more of her work at the Yewell Street Art Fair on June 24th.

Podcast Transcription

Mike Weber: Hey everyone. Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On this episode, I am speaking with Manda Bollinger about her art and the upcoming Yewell Street Arts Fair that she is organizing. Manda has been an artist for most of her life and is currently focused on using reclaimed materials in her pieces, something she refers to affectionately as “garbage art”.

We talk about why she’s drawn to using repurposed things as her medium and how Art in the Yard became part of the Yewell Street Arts Fair. I hope you enjoy.

So Amanda Bollinger, welcome to 319 Creates.

Manda Bollinger: Thank you. 

Mike Weber: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the art that you do? 

Manda Bollinger: I like to, okay. I like garbage art.

Most of my art uses recycled, reclaimed, and repurposed stuff that I get for free from people who don’t want it laying around their house so that it lays around my house for awhile. And sometimes I turn it into art. And sometimes it just stockpiles in another room.

Mike Weber: So how did you start doing reclaimed art, if we can call it reclaimed art?

Manda Bollinger: I guess so. All I know for certain is that when I was 11 years old, my dad gave me this clipping from a newspaper that was a picture of a mom, a dad, and two kids and their house, and then a pile of garbage next to it. And the article went on to explain that a family of four creates that much garbage in a typical year, and the pile of garbage was bigger than the house and it blew me away.

So I became an avid recycler and re-user right from there because our family was almost twice as big as that one. So I was just disgusted and terribly sad about the whole situation. I have always rescued things that were going to the garbage if I could find a house for it or something.

And it’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve just started seeing their potential instead of what they are. So like the bale of wire that I got a couple of weeks ago from a house that was getting cleaned out because the owner went to a nursing home. I’ve used it like six different ways in a bunch of art since then.

People see piles of trash and I see stuff that I could make really groovy. Into a collage, most of my art is collage. I don’t know when I started doing it, but that was definitely the seed that my dad planted in my head when I was a young girl. And I’m sure that contributes in some way to my passion for not throwing anything away.

So one of the things that sparked me using garbage in my art was melting plastic. You might notice the panels around here. I started melting plastic and that was all, I wouldn’t pay like full price for new beads because that’s ridiculous. So I just started asking people for their leftover plastic beads because people buy things and think, “I’m going to make this really cool plant hanger out of 7,000 beads”, and they buy 8,000 beads. And they use like five of them and then they just sit in a closet. So if you just ask anybody and they’ll bring you a bushel of them. So that was awesome. And once I realized that people are more than willing to get rid of stuff that I could use and turn into stuff, just start asking. And then it literally shows up on your doorstep. I got four pounds of pop tabs from the kids’ parents at school in like a week and a half. And I had to shut it down because I didn’t have anywhere to put all the pop tabs. Also, I will say that when you can make stuff out of garbage, it’s really impressive to people who have money. That freaks them out. It was pretty cool because then they just think you’re smarter than you are. But it only really works with people with money. Poor people are like, yeah, you do that. You make stuff out of garbage so that you don’t go hungry and you have a place to live.

Mike Weber: Do you think making art out of things that have effectively been thrown away, that are aimed for a garbage heap, that sends the message to other people that there is value in things? Even if you no longer have a use for them? 

Manda Bollinger: I hope so. Every time I drive by a car, I just think that we’re so wasteful. It’s sickening. So anything I can do to lessen that, I feel like it’s my responsibility. 

Mike Weber: Do you think that you’ve ever shown somebody a piece of your art that has made them rethink that? As far as how much stuff they throw away and what they do with the things that they no longer have a purpose for?

Manda Bollinger: This guy back here –  the money tree –  has that effect on people. That’s just six months worth of the free paper that they throw at your driveway that nobody asked for. Nobody wants it, nobody uses it, but they still mass produce it and throw it at your driveway.

So that’s only six months worth. And that rope up there is just packing paper that was blowing through our yard. I wind it up and braid it, and it supports the weight of that huge four by four foot piece. So that one, yeah, but for the most part, no, I don’t think so. Sometimes people are like, “Oh, that was a cabinet door, and now it’s a painting? That’s weird.” But never like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to go through my garbage and make sure I’m not throwing away plastic shit.”

Nobody does that. Really. I wish they would.

Mike Weber: So currently you’re working on a lot of reclaimed art, but previous to that, what type of stuff did you do? 

Manda Bollinger: Oh, melting plastics, like I was talking about. I did a lot of that for a couple of years. I was building lamps, lotus shaped lamps. It was pretty cool. I was able to buy this build your own cookie cutter thing off of the internet, and so I made a big lotus shape and then I would bake several of those, and while they were still hot, bend them over bowls.

I would stack it up into a lotus and then put a lamp in it. A lot of that. I was building structures out of coffee stirrers with my cousin roommate a few years back. We were making lamps and stuff out of that. I was doing a lot of luminaries before I moved on to this textured kind of stuff I’m doing now.

And jewelry. I made jewelry for awhile, but I was using pop tabs and safety pins and stuff like that. Aluminum cans I would cut, but it wasn’t very safe and went through a lot of scissors and most of the things would fall apart. So I moved on.

Mike Weber: So it sounds like over the years you’ve primarily done 3D art of some kind. What got you into working in that way? Did you have education in it? Or was that just something like crafts as a kid eventually evolved into doing this as an adult? 

Manda Bollinger: I don’t know. I didn’t have any formal, like art school. I took every class I could in high school. We only had one art teacher in high school. She was not super encouraging. She wanted to show you techniques and then she wanted you to use those techniques to make a thing that was just one thing. So you couldn’t really go exploring with the new materials that you were being taught to use. If we were making coil pots, you just made a coil pot. She failed my sister on a project because she didn’t make a coil pot. She made a huge, beautiful butterfly that had intricate patterns and everything, but out of the materials that we were supposed to be using for coil pots. So that wasn’t very helpful, really. I was introduced to a lot of very elementary mediums. And then in college I just took a graphic design intro class and a photography intro class. I’ve just always really been about interactive art and stuff that you can touch and feels cool. Texture is like the most important aspect of art to me. I like it when you look at something and you think, “How on earth did they make that pattern? Or what would that feel like if I touched it?”

Mike Weber: So there’s one point in there that I want to latch onto and talk a little bit more about. Do you feel that having the experience of going to school and being in an art class that was very structured, telling you that we’re going to teach you how to do this one thing and we want you to follow these parameters. Do you think that has influenced you as an artist to kind of broaden, in a rebellious kind of way?

Manda Bollinger: I think so. That would be exactly what it is. I’ve always definitely hated it when people tell me what to do or show me a thing and be like, this is what it’s for. It’s like, but it could be for 12 other things.

If you thought about it for 12 seconds. 12 is the number today. Let’s don’t forget it, everybody, 12. So, yeah, definitely. I think it definitely did. It doesn’t make any sense to me, for everything to just have one purpose. Because that’s when you get too many things, you know? If you have one tool that can be a palette knife or it can engrave things or cut stuff. Why wouldn’t you want that one thing? Instead of getting a palette knife and a pair of scissors and an awl. Multi-use things make more sense. Especially in a world where we’re just eating up the resources and ruining everything good. It makes more sense for things to be multi-use.

Mike Weber: So continuing on, talking about trying to have tools that have multiple purposes. Between that and doing the reclaimed art, do you feel like you try very hard to deemphasize the tools involved with creating art and just try and do it?

Manda Bollinger: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, I was trying to do some work with palette knives and I could find a palette knife, but it was actually an offset butter knife. I got it at Goodwill for 88 cents. It made more sense for me to go there and buy that than to go to Blick and spend $8 on a palette knife when they do the same thing.

But before I went to Goodwill, I went to the kitchen and I got a butter knife. I heated it up with my heat gun and I bent it into the shape of a palette knife so that I wouldn’t have to wait, I can just go for it.

Mike Weber: I think that’s very interesting. As a photographer – and especially as a photographer who works in the darkroom in 2018, there are a lot of tools that are either expensive and hard to get or just near impossible to find nowadays. So a lot of my exploration in the darkroom as a photographer has been trying to find ways out of problems that don’t involve me buying something that I’m only going to use for a specific task. As an example, when I’m developing film, after the developing process is done, we need to wash the film. And instead of going out and buying a specific tool for washing the film, I fabricated one. Instead of spending $20 or $30, I spent probably $7 on a couple of bits from Home Depot that I put together. 

When we talk about art and we talk about the craft of art, I think there’s almost another artistic aspect to finding ways to make our tools work the way we want them to without having to just go out and buy something that does it. When we do make those tools, we create something to create, that has more weight to it for us. Like, this isn’t just a tool. This is our tool. We made this and it works exactly the way that we want it to, not the way that somebody at some company thought was best. I think at the end of the day it just gives us more creative control over what we’re doing.

Manda Bollinger: I think so too. I liked what you said about the weight of the thing, because the weight of my art is an important thing. Almost everything in here has a story – where I got the piece of wood that I painted on. I can relate it to a person or a place or an event. So that just automatically gives me something that I can talk about. When people ask me about my art, it’s not me talking about myself and what I do. That frame over there, that beautiful frame, is made out of reclaimed barn wood that was in the house of a woman who’s going to a nursing home. A company was going to come and just clear out the whole house and who knows where it goes. But I know that Norma had that hanging in her basement for years and years, and it was important to her and I’m glad that I could give it a new life. Plus it came with a canvas inside that I could paint over, which is awesome. 

Mike Weber: So that’s another interesting thing, at least to me. When we start talking about art, the story behind the pieces. I feel like when a lot of people look at any kind of art –  flat art, music, photography, 3D, mixed media, any of that – they will just kind of look at the aesthetics of it and the colors and the shapes. What does it make them feel? Every piece of art was created by somebody, there is a story behind everything. The last time I did an art show with my prints, people would pick up a print and say, “Oh yeah, this looks cool.” And I would instantly be able to tell them, “I remember where I was, I remember why I was there. And the camera I was using, the lens I was using. What it was that made me stop and take that picture.” And there are some people who will stop, listen, and smile and nod and be very engaged. And then there are other people who would just be like, “Oh, that’s nice.” 

Manda Bollinger: They liked the pretty shiny things and they just want to look. They don’t really want to form an emotional attachment to anything. 

Mike Weber: Sometimes I wonder if people try to avoid that connection with art because that starts to weigh it down. That’s where you start getting into like, “Oh, you want how much for this? Why? Why is it worth that much?” When you start breaking down the cost to the artist of creating the piece, that’s when we start generating this weight.

Manda Bollinger: I have always, from what people tell me, underpriced my artwork. Then I get all this stuff from people in the art community like, “No one’s going to take you seriously if you don’t charge more for your artwork.” But my whole philosophy is that art should be accessible to everybody, not just people with deep pockets. Everybody wants to look at beautiful things. 

If somebody walked in here and was like, “Oh my God, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I only have $20 – what do you want for this thing?” I would say $20 and I would give them the thing. All of my prices are always negotiable. And the stuff is free. The only thing going into it is my time and my consideration and my thought, and it’s brimming out of me all the time. So it’s like, how do you charge more for that? I have to get it out of me. I’d go crazy if I didn’t sit around and get this stuff out of me. I have less nightmares when I do artwork all the time.

There’s so much in this house right now that it would be awesome if somebody came in and wanted to buy something for $20. Just take it, put it up on your wall and tell people I did it.

Art in the Yard is a perfect example. I’ve had people walk up and be like, “This is so cool. How’d you even make this?” And they’ll ask me like 20 questions and then they’ll see $60 on there and just kind of walk away. I’ll call them back and ask “Do you think that’s a fair price?”

“Well, it’s fair. I just don’t have that to spend on art.”

“Well, what do you have to spend?”

“$45.”

“I’ll take 45.”

And it’s the exact opposite of most of the people in the art scene and I don’t care.

Mike Weber: That’s something that I’ve encountered as a photographer. The prevailing thought when it comes to prices of art is that you set the tone as far as what to expect. If you are asking $20 or $10, there’s this perception that this is not good art. This is just something to throw on a wall. Then as you start climbing up the cost ladder, then you start setting the expectations. As soon as someone sees that price tag, it’s like, “Oh, this is a serious artist. This is not just somebody that’s doing arts and crafts. This is somebody who is very serious about what they do.”

I understand that to a certain extent, but at the same time, I feel like it’s a chicken and egg problem. If you can’t get $80 for a piece or $100 or $200, or insert whatever price here, you just can’t get that price. That’s something I’ve always struggled with every time that I have done events. Do I price it low enough that it is accessible? And in theory I will sell more prints. Or do I price it high? And just hope that one or two people actually buy it. I’m assuming many artists have had this problem. It’s like until you have a name for yourself, until people actually know who you are, you’re taking chances.

Manda Bollinger: Yeah. Like I said, I don’t overprice my art. I don’t want to jack it up. I certainly don’t want to put it in a gallery that’s going to take 60% so I have to charge more, and that’s why I don’t frame my stuff either. I have that painting collage I made that is so freaking cool. I was going to sell it for $75. And I went and had a frame put on it. Well, I built the frame, they cut the materials and supplied them. It cost me $90 to frame that thing, which was more than what I wanted to sell it for originally. So now it’s like if I sell that, I have to sell it for $150. And that’s undercutting my original price just to make up for the frame, which is why you see a miter saw down there. I am going to start framing my own stuff. But I only need to frame like the canvas boards. Some of them I think look great without frames. It just depends on where you’re putting them I guess. I have things stacked six deep all over the house and I think it looks cool. So what do I know?

Mike Weber: Yeah, that’s something I have struggled with over the years as I’ve done art shows too. If I have a print that’s just in a plastic sleeve, it doesn’t feel finished. Especially with photography, I feel like there’s always that thought – well, you just hit print. And that’s not how that works. 

Manda Bollinger: Nevermind that 12 hours you went through the film and the four hours you shot it. Yeah, screw those guys, man. They don’t know what they’re talking about. 

Mike Weber: It’s that struggle of, should I do loose prints and charge less, or do I actually frame stuff and charge more? But then by the time you get the frame on it and everything… I was charging 20 bucks and most of that money was able to go into my pocket to fund my next project, but now between printing and framing this, I could probably sell this for about $50 or $60. But 80% of that is just the cost of getting it physically made. At that point you’re not really making money when you’re doing it. We don’t do art to make money. We would be insane if that was the reason we started doing this. But at the same, when we do events, we are investing our time, energy, our emotional health into it. So we would like to get a little bit of something on the return and it’s just a struggle of figuring out what do the people want?

Manda Bollinger: That’s hard. I don’t do art shows except for Art in the Yard. Juried things, you have to spend $60 for them to look at your stuff. And if they like it or not, you’re not getting that 60 bucks back. Then if you want to do Iowa City Arts Fest, it’s up to like $360 for a space for three days, which is, you know, whatever. The Iowa City Arts Fest is a big deal. Tons of people come. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and there are really great artists there, but that’s really prohibitive for a lot of people like me. I just don’t have that kind of scratch. If I did, I would buy better materials to work with. You would think, but I really wouldn’t because I like my garbage art and it’s everywhere.

Some nights I can sit here and crank out eight paintings in a sit down, and then there’s other ones like that sucker over there that I’ve been working on for like literally two months. I just keep going back to it and adding on. So I don’t know how to charge for these things anyway. Most of the time if somebody asks me, I’ll just say 60 bucks and see what happens.

Mike Weber: So do you have any other specific bodies of work or projects that you are currently working on or have been working on that are interesting or noteworthy? 

Manda Bollinger: One series that I’ve been working on in between other stuff is the “As Seen on Television” series. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but TV sets are stepping up their game these days and there’s some kickass art in the background of them. Like Parks and Rec. I got one piece that I think my cousin’s going to buy that’s called “Treat Yo’self”, and it was in Tom Haverford’s apartment. It was the inspiration for this piece that I made and that I sold to my sister. Another piece was from the entryway of Ann Perkins’ house. There was this really cool painting there. I did my own take on it on a piece of a wood. I put a moon on it because I dig the moon. I put the moon in a lot of stuff, but there was a hole in it, so I made that the moon. My sister’s going to actually put a lamp through there. I was going to do that myself, but she wanted it and she’s going to do it. That saves me the prop, the trouble and the thought. So, yeah, the “As Seen on Television” series has been pretty cool. I just did it today. Watching Will Robinson or what is it called? 

Mike Weber: Lost in Space.

Manda Bollinger: Backed it up. Parker Posey is talking to her sister in this super plush house. There’s some really, really beautiful paintings on the wall. So I screenshot that shit. Later I’ll do my own take on it. 

I also have an art nemesis. I can’t remember her name. She’s gorgeous. She’s got money. She’s got a real life studio in a high rise in some city, and she makes the coolest stuff. So I take pictures of all her art too, and I mimic the colors. I don’t reproduce it, but it’s definitely an inspiration. So that’s a fun series.

Mike Weber: So how far do you tend to stray from the source material? Do you follow colors or designs or themes? When you approach something, what’s your thought process and how you’re going to recreate it? 

Manda Bollinger: Well, it just depends on each one. Have you seen Archer? The artwork in the background of that is insanely fricking cool. It’s seriously gorgeous, like gallery shit. I don’t know who does it, but they’re my absolute hero. And so I’ll just look at the overall structure of it. And then play with it. Obviously you can’t see a lot of texture in a cartoon background or even in like SNL has been having some really kick ass set pieces in the back. So I’ll look at it, take a screenshot of it, and when I’m flipping through my photos, I’ll see it. And it just worms its way into my head and I’ll sit down without looking at it and make it. By the time I compare them, it’s really nothing like the original at all. But I know where the inspiration came from and I can see where my synapses did their magic. So it doesn’t really ever look like it. You would never think, “Oh that was in Tom Haverford’s apartment,” because I’ve got yellow and gold and bright red in mind. And plus that one’s way better. I’m sure it costs a lot of money. 

Mike Weber: So it’s not necessarily that you’re recreating the pieces, but you’re using it as raw inspiration?

Manda Bollinger: Yeah, like a jumping off point. 

Mike Weber: Yeah, that makes sense. 

Manda Bollinger: I mean, everything’s like that. Music is like that. There’s really nothing that’s 100% original anymore. Actually, a couple of things I’ve made are 100% original, but nobody else. I’m just kidding.

No, it’s really hard. Oh, and I did a long stint where I was painting with alcohol ink on glass tiles, which I and my partner and his son helped with that. We helped carry a bunch of glass out of this building that’s getting torn down in downtown Iowa City. The whole basement was just like tons of glass, literally tons of glass. We probably moved out 200 pounds of it of all different shapes and sizes.

And I wanted to try alcohol ink. So I went to Michael’s and I got three little half-ounce bottles of alcohol ink for $12 – the shit is $8 an ounce. So that is never going to happen. I am never going to pay that much. So I asked people to bring me their markers and I got Sharpies for free. You take them apart and you put the little tube things in the nib and all the little pieces of color in some 91% isopropyl alcohol and let it sit. There’s your alcohol ink and it’s more vibrant. You get more colors, you get a ton of it, and you can just keep reconstituting it. So I made my own alcohol ink and I used that reclaimed glass. I taught a workshop. I had my family over to do it. It was a really awesome blast. But I’m sick of it now and I never want to paint with alcohol ink again.

I am making a really cool piece out of 27 of them that we planned out. I painted and they’re going inside of a frame face that we found at Goodwill for seven bucks. I built a frame for the back. It’s going to have LED lights inside of it. It’s going to be rad. It was commissioned by my boyfriend. So basically we just moved money around, but it’s going to look really cool on the wall.

So I go in and out of different series and materials a lot.

Mike Weber: So bringing this back around – we’ve mentioned Art in the Yard a few times. This was an event that last year I was involved in and I had a booth and I had a great time. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that is? I know that there’s another one coming up this year. And shameless self promotion – I will be there also selling prints.

Manda Bollinger: I’m bringing all the best artists with me. Okay. Art in the Yard is a grassroots arts festival that my cousin/roommate and I, Ed Cavett. He’s also an amazing, amazing garbage artist.

He and I lived right downtown basically on the Northside. It was the best place ever. Anyway, we were so close to downtown, we thought, let’s do an art sale in the backyard, like a yard sale with art. It was going to be called the Yart Sale to start with, but that sounded bad, it was too close to shart sale and we just went a different direction.

Anyway, babbling… Art in the Yard, so it was me and my cousin/roommate. We got pop up tents from my parents, and we invited other artists. My friends, Shawn and Julie Jones were there selling t-shirts and Claire Thoele was there selling art. And Toxic Joe was there and Kay was there. And I think there were 15 people. Nick Beard was there. Eric Whitaker was there for a little while. Lots and lots of really cool artists. Like spare time artists, you know, the cool, cool stuff. So we set up and we did quarter sheet sized hand flyers that people passed out at bars, and the first day was a Saturday. It was pretty cool. We had I think 75 people come through in the first couple hours and I think all day we had close to 200 people just walk through. Everybody sold some stuff. It was awesome. We shut down for the day and a huge storm rolled in that first night. So some people came back and took all their stuff down so it wouldn’t get damaged. The next day everybody showed up at 10 a.m. and by 11 a.m. there was a tornado. That sucked because we had to get like 40 people in my basement and I’m wearing a whistle and directing. The neighbors didn’t have access to the basement, so they were over there too, and I was getting gallons of water and trying to make sure that nobody was going to die because 2006 was pretty scary here in Iowa City, so I didn’t want it to be a revisitation of that horrible tornado incident. Anyway, it didn’t kill us, but we ended up bringing everything into the house and the second day was a total wash. Then we did it again the next year – half in the front yard, half in the backyard.

Billy Barber was there doing live glass blowing demonstrations. It’s a kid friendly thing. Anybody can set up too. If I know you and you do art, or if I don’t know you and someone says that you do art and you want to bring a table over, it doesn’t matter. You know, I don’t want cost to be prohibitive for people to sell their art.

And it’s a really cool thing. So we’ve done that five times. The first three times there was a tornado. It was crazy. The third time was in November. There was a tornado.

Mike Weber: So you’re saying the trick is I have to be there for there not to be a tornado?

Manda Bollinger: There was one time that you weren’t there, that there was not a tornado, but no, last year was the best one of all. We had live music. The kids tent was a new edition last year. They could go in and do a collage or a painting or whatever. And this year I’m combining with the neighborhood association in my new digs. So the neighborhood artists and then the people I’m bringing in, that are Art in the Yard veterans at this point, are going to be there.

Yeah. It’s just basically like trying to get people to feel confident showing their art. A lot of people had never been, had never had their work shown anywhere, or didn’t really sell it. They just made it and had some stock and brought it in.

But every year everybody has always sold something and it’s getting bigger and bigger, but I’m going to keep it free. I’m going to keep it real, man. There’s so much art in Iowa City. It’s so saturated.

Mike Weber: One of the things that I really enjoyed about it last year was the fact that a lot of the artists there were also musicians and they were people that we’d seen out and about at the local shows. People I photographed. It’s really interesting seeing the different musicians and seeing the other forms of art that they are proficient at. Especially like we talked about Claire being there, who was in Flannel Season (now in Dead Emperors), and seeing all the other artwork that she does.

Also Chad Willenborg who is in Knubby. I knew that Claire did illustrations and seeing more of her stuff was amazing, but I had no idea the type of stuff that Chad Willenborg did. Actually not only seeing it, but seeing it in person. He does oil painting, and that is one of those things that you can see a picture online, but until you’re looking at one right there, there’s something very special about that. And like all of that, it’s one of those things that sometimes I forget that creative people tend to not have one skillset.

Manda Bollinger: It flows right out of them.

Mike Weber: Except with me. I can do photography and that’s about it.

Manda Bollinger: You can also talk. You’re pretty good at talking. I do want to say about Chad Willenborg – I own several pieces of his art and I want to have them all. I really like his stuff because his use of color, like it just freaking pops dude. And then you just want to touch it. There’s so much texture in it.

Usually when you see oil painting, it’s just, it’s different. I don’t do oil painting, so I don’t know a lot about it except that it’s expensive and I can’t afford to buy oil paints. And even if I could afford it, I probably would try to make it myself. I know there’s ways to do it. I’ve saved several PDFs on how to do it, and I’ll watch videos. I’ll find out how to make it myself. I always do.

A really cool thing that happened last year was I put out on Facebook before Art in the Yard, a post like “I don’t have as many artists as I normally do. If you guys know of anyone or whatever.” And I had this woman contact me, Jenny Arnold, out of the blue, and just be like, “Well, I’ve started doing some water painting. Can I set up a table there? But I don’t know if I have a table. Can I bring my stuff?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll get you a table. I’ll make sure you have some tent space. It’ll be fine.”

And she just immediately started producing way more artwork after she sold stuff there. She got her stuff into the Nodo downtown. She started selling and framing and has cards and an Etsy shop now. So that was the coolest part for me, seeing somebody who had never even shown their artwork to somebody come to Art in the Yard and have such a positive experience that now that’s what she does.

Mike Weber: So I’m going to take us back a little bit for a second. Where did the idea for Art in the Yard come from? Was that something that you had thought of or was that something that you had talked with a couple of other people? 

Manda Bollinger: Me and my cousin Ed. We came up with it because we were producing so much art and it was becoming a hoarding situation.

So we’re going to do the yard sale. With art, you know? So that’s what it started with. And then like I said, I know so many amazing artists that we thought, let’s let them set up. We had extra tents. I actually lost a lot of money on that first one. I traded some art. The tent I use for the kids’ tent now I traded for some art. But I bought everybody else’s art. I bought like four t-shirts from Julie and Shawn because they were so great. So I always end up poorer afterwards, even when I sell artwork. As soon as I sell something, I know what I’m going to spend that money on. I’m going to go over to Chad’s booth and spend it over there, or I’m going to go buy one of your prints. As soon as I make the money, it goes right back into art. If it’s not me producing more art then it’s art that I want to own. So I guess it’s like a sustaining sort of hobby since I don’t do it for a living. Not really that sustaining. I do lose money. But yeah, it was a cousin/roommate, and my idea.

Mike Weber: So then over the years of the different iterations of Art in the Yard, how much has it changed and where do you want to see it go? 

Manda Bollinger: Well, the idea was always to have it be like a fair. Almost like a flea market where you have people walking through and seeing all different kinds of stuff and maybe getting something, maybe just being like, wow, that was neat.

It’s more of a showcase really than a sale. Last year I tried to make it more kid friendly and we had the kid tent. They could go and make something and take it home. And I liked the idea of making it kid friendly. And I liked the idea of hands on people being able to do stuff. If I could make it more interactive, make it so that people could come there and for free, make something that they really love, that they feel proud of and like they created. That’s where I would like to get it to, but I’m really happy with where it’s at right now. Like I said, we’re combining with the neighborhood association. There’s going to be 20 artists. There’s going to be pony rides in the vicinity and a shuttle bus from downtown and a taco truck and an ice cream truck. And I don’t have to pay for any of that. There’s like a budget. This shit’s already happening. Somebody’s handling that end of it. I just have to bring the talent and get us set up on Yewell Street that day, and I love it.

Mike Weber: Compared to previous years that you had organized it to happen in your yard or a friend’s yard, to working with the neighborhood association this year. How has it been different from a planning standpoint? 

Manda Bollinger: It hasn’t so far. It’s all just a lot of fluff. It’s up in the atmosphere, and the next two months are just going to be me trying to get tents when I need them, trying to find people to help me set up those tents. Knowing what time I’m going to be able to do everything, because depending on the weather, it could set up the night before or have to set up that morning.

It’s just crazy. The last week beforehand is always complete chaos, but then it always goes really smoothly, except for tornadoes. It’s always a really good time and everybody has always had a really positive experience, so I’m just being chill. Things are going to probably feel weirder and different after the first meeting with these people that I don’t know, that are just always involved in it.

I don’t know, ask me that question in a week. Right now it just feels the same. I’m really anticipating it and I know it’s going to be crunch time and then it’s going to be fun and then I get to start worrying about it for next year.

Mike Weber: Well, let’s hope that this year goes really well, and next year we can do one that’s even cooler. So why don’t you say a little bit more of the fine details – when it is where it is and that way we can give some promotion for it. 

Manda Bollinger: Art in the Yard 2019 is now being billed as the Yewell Street Art Fair. It’s happening on Lucas Farm Heritage Day. It’s Sunday, June 24th and it’s from noon to three. It’s gotta be longer than that. But there’s a taco truck and an ice cream truck, and we’ll be on Yewell Street. The artists will be on Yewell Street. I’ll be there. Mike, not Michael, will be there.

Mike Weber: This is correct. 

Manda Bollinger: Nicole will be there. We’ll all be there. Chad Willenborg is going to be there. Claire is going to be there. There’s going to be so many people there and they’re going to have so much cool stuff. My sister is going to be there. And there’s pony rides and blah, blah, blah, blah. All this stuff. Kids tent. Art in the Yard 2018. June 24th. Noon o’clock, be there or be whatever kind of equilateral shape you want to be.

Mike Weber: We’ll be there because we’re cool. And if you’re cool, you should also be there. And buy art. We all appreciate it. 

Manda Bollinger: Thank you, Michael. Mike. Thank you, Mike. 

Mike Weber: Well, Amanda, it has been a wonderful time talking with you. Thank you for being here on 319 Creates. 

Manda Bollinger: Thank you. My pleasure. 

Mike Weber: You can find Manda’s work on Facebook or Instagram. The Yewell Street Arts Fair is June 24th 1-5 PM on the 1200 block of Yewell Street in Iowa City.

As always, more information is available online at shadowfoxphotography.com, under the 319 Creates tab. Next time I will be speaking with Fred Kenyon of tinyhands about their music and how politics plays a major role in the music they write. Thank you for listening. Hope you can join us next time.