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Sea Change (First Blog of the New World Order)

By Adam Sullivan, February 21, 2013

It’s funny how lots of little changes can add up to one big change anywhere you look in life. Sometimes you don’t even realize the profound effect all the tiny redirections (the “pithy nuances” as Nathan would say) have in the bigger scheme until one day you look up and you’re seeing a different landscape than what was on your map. Those of us who mix music a lot can certainly vouch for having “prudent ears” that suggest that you not put too much ooey-gooey on any individual instrument in a mix, or not to listen to an instrument by itself for too long (more on that in future posts I think) because when you put it all back together and listen to the mix as a whole, suddenly you realize you’ve crawled into the tar pits.

But this is also true of the group dynamic of playing music in a band over the long haul, and at the risk of sounding too autobiographical….this being about Great Magnet, not just me…it’s kind of been blowing my mind lately thinking about where I thought I was going with this thing when I started writing my brand of music, versus what it has become due to the undeniable influence of some really sharp band members with strong visions of their own.

I’m trying to tie all this into what I think is an axial moment in the evolution of Great Magnet, so fucking bear with me, okay? I swear this is going somewhere…

Great Magnet

So, six years ago there were these songs. I wrote them while goofing around in the new studio I’d just set up in this rural farmhouse in the middle of windswept nowhere. I wrote them while I was listening to a lot of “alt” whatever in the vein of Ryan Adams, Matthew Sweet, Fiona Apple…folks who know how to write kickass pop music that has heart, keep it short, leave people wanting more. My buddy Nate was down, we recorded the songs with our mutual friend Paul Bertolino on drums…I thought that was the album.

Fast-forward three years to a new studio, a new house, and some friends Nate and I had made in the interim. Jeff was a recovering metal drummer who was working with Nate in an alt-country band and trying to hone the art of dialing shit back. But sometimes he missed the heavy stuff. I’m right there with him sometimes. He brings the Big Rock. Jason, like myself, was a recording nerd whom I met on the TapeOp forums and we hit it off right away and had collaborated on and off since the first studio. When I asked if he wanted to be in a band with me I thought he’d laugh. He’s a damn good guitar player and a forward-thinker that always keeps me on my toes with technology. He’s not so enamoured with “tight short rock” as me, but we megabond over Pink Floyd and I think that ended up meaning something.

Those guys taught me to “jam”. Fuck I hate that word. I never used to do that. My improv skills sucked balls. If you’d asked me ten years ago….well, I guess that was the first little shift: improvisation and collaboration.

Great Magnet

Then there’s what happens when you spend a lot of time rehearsing in a studio: that’s the second little shift I think. It began with us taking those songs and making them into the REAL album: the one that sounded like us, after playing those same songs together for two years. For-fucking-ever it took us. I think we began looking at our live improvisations as an integrated extension of the studio process…or vice versa? Plus we got really used to using headphones, and at some point we realized that we were all just hearing ourselves way better in those things. I mean that in the bigger, and in the smaller sense: there was audibly improved clarity, but there was also collaborative clarity waiting in those cans. Telepathy bourne of removing communicative boundaries. It’s funny because most musicians that come into the studio see those ‘phones as an impediment to just that. Don’t get me started on headphone mixes.

Great Magnet

Then there’s what happens when one of your musicians moves away in this day-and-age, and when the internet becomes your “Fifth Magnet”. That’s number three. I think anyone who’s on Facebook has experienced the phenomenon of never really feeling like your friends have moved away anymore, even when they actually do. In the same way, Nate moving to Hawaii (bastard) hasn’t really fucked anything up too badly…it’s just changed the way we look at making music together, and that of course means including the internet as a band member. We’re all writing music together now….like really together…and if the miles between us and the headphones and the computers have been an impediment, well I’m a monkey’s uncle.

So there’s all your little things, and there’s your Sea Change, too.

Now here we are on the cusp of releasing our first album together in the very same week that we are premiering one seriously badass new website courtesy of that tech marvel we call Jason Reed. Once again, technology is influencing our ability to communicate, but not with each each other…with the world-at-large. I’m talkin’ about you, Dear Reader. It feels like holding a mirror up to what our creative process has become, and the reflection of that image is proof to the world that the really satisfying nugs have only just begun to catch fire.

I smell smoke…