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2019-2020: Music Videos and Singer-Songwriter Period

In 2011 I discovered while deep in my indulgence of YTP that I was synesthetic. I really liked the effect of making visual representations of the sounds I was hearing into video form, and i got good enough at making abstract and colorful videos that I found myself doing this quite a lot over the years. This was one of the threads that led to the development of my desire to be a musical artist.

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Between 2017 and 2018 I tried making music videos that approached the level of quality I desired:

In 2019, I starting making work that I felt met my personal standards. Everything was filmed in my bedroom using a green screen i bought myself:

Meanwhile, in January 2019, I met Maddie Tourmaline (aka Page Fortysix) in person for the first time.

We had initially met on twitter in May 2018 and start talking regularly from that point onward. They were always a very steady friend through even really hard times, and they were never scared or tired of me at my worst. That felt very special to me. As it would turn out, they would become a very very major part of my life, which they currently remain so.

Maddie and her long-time partner Wess flew to Portland, OR for a week right around the time I was moving from the Beaverton House to the apartment in the Gateway district in Portland, and I met them as they landed in the airport. Maddie and I were ecstatic to finally meet each other. They retired to their hotel soon after and I went home to go to school the next day. I had a really bad day at school and suffered something of a small breakdown, and Maddie allowed me to vent out my frustration into a pillow in their hotel room. As they were comforting me, we realized we had a mutual crush on each other, and essentially began a relationship right then and there. It lasted only for 5 months, most of it long distance, but it was a mutual conclusion and we agreed to be chosen sisters to each other, which we remain to this day very happily. They bought me the laptop and phone I currently use, and were a huge part of getting me finally housed in the summer of 2020 in her home city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the strangest way, I absolutely love it here because it is absolutely not Portland. It feels like a place that's mine and not my family's. I also really love living 10 minutes away from Lake Michigan and 5 minutes away from a neighboring river. The integration of nature and urban sprawl in this city is really nice and lovely. With my other partner Qwerty having moved here as of February 2021, life finally feels okay. Everything in my life finally feels balanced and settled.

Anyway, the period of time I dated Maddie inspired a Lot of songs. Mostly love songs, which I don't usually write. But I felt like at that time I had the tools to write about them in a way that truly felt genuine and real, and that now was a good time to take a crack on it. I wrote "Two Little Pansies", "Undoctored/Spirit Wife" and "My" during our relationship, and "...I Continue Living" immediately after we decided to end it, in a burst of inspiration.

"What Do You Expect Me To Do" was written on a morning before my college math class, at a time when I was preoccupied with death and the afterlife and I felt terrified about the idea that if I was to die now, I would be torn away from my music forever, which is for me a major reason why I stay alive. It was a song where I allowed myself to sink in just how important music was and is to me. I may have been slightly(and I mean slightly) influenced by the single Radiohead song I actually like ("Let Down", which I like to say perfectly sums up the band).

I wrote "Ready Yr Not" during the same period I wrote much of Absolute Whoopsie and in an early draft had it slated for inclusion somewhere. Heavily inspired at that time by the music of Simply Red, I came up with a new way to use it that involved that very transcendent vamp that runs its way through this song and directly into "For As Briefly As I Live...", which was musically inspired by Bill Withers' music. The latter song is actually the earliest on the album, written in February 2018 and at that time envisioned to be a hard, desolate stomp much like "Deliver Us" from the beginning of The Prince of Egypt(1998)The suite that makes up the combined two songs is to me probably some of my best and most dramatic music.

"A Threat Is a Promise" was written about someone who doesn't like me, or rather, the image of this person in my head that tended to plague me during my darkest and most manic periods. I don't actually seriously feel this way about the person in question (who shall remain nameless, the 'James' of the song was mostly devised as a placeholder name) but I wrote the song to fight the internal demons out of me in the best way I know how. Some people close to me have told me its one of their favorites, notwithstanding how I horribly mispronounced Gore Vidal and Truman Capote's last names in singing the lyrics.

"When All Things Are Well" was inspired by the music of Eric Satie, and was one of my attempts at pursuing a writing style inspired by that of Randy Newman, a fascinating songwriter to me despite my relatively lukewarm feelings about his music overall. The idea was like, simple with few words, but communicating vastly complex feelings and images. I felt like I did pretty well. It later also came to represent the relationship I shared with Maddie back then.

"Deep Red" was the first song finished for the album and was an early experiment in me playing with autotuning my voice(consider it a taste of what's to come). I later rerecorded it and made it nicer for this album.

"I'm Gonna See My Abuser Again" was something I just kinda banged out, inspired by moments of weakness when I felt like going back to people that hurt me just because it's even the least bit more stable and comfortable than my current position. It's the simplest song and seems to be everyone's favorite. I made it the first single from the project it became a part of as a result.

Finally, "Run/Fly" was written for/inspired by the music of Chase Milo Reid, a Portland trans masc musician and one of the first trans ppl I met after I escaped my old house in 2015. I don't know if they've ever heard it or will hear it, but I hope they know I was thinking about them while writing it. I planned to play this on guitar, but my hands weren't fast enough to get it down on recording like I wanted it, so I turned it into a piano song.

The finished project became my eleventh album, For As Briefly As I Live, which I released in Feburary 2020. It marked a major step in that it was the first album I released onto a label, my current home of Grimalkin Records, a fantastic imprint with so many brilliant artists that I'm lucky to call my music family. This saw the first time my music got a physical release as well, being cut to cassette and a 7" single of "I'm Gonna See My Abuser Again" b/w "Deep Red". Three music videos got released on the official Grimalkin Youtube channel. I also received actual press from online blogs. I was super happy to get all of it.

For those of you wondering what my tenth album was, that would be Music For Recursion Plaza, a commissioned collection of tracks written for my friend Tabitha Nikoli's experimental game Recursion Plaza, which was shown at the Dire Jank art fest from March to May 2019 in NYC and later made its way to Paris. It's a lovely, atmospheric game when you're exploring an abandoned shopping mall and I had a delightful time recording the audio for the tracks, mostly in an actual mostly abandoned shopping mall with very few people in it.

My next two albums were pretty much already mostly done, with the exception of a few tracks and other changes that I made/finished in early 2020; I was planning at this point to only release one album a year and hold off both of these releases until 2021 and 2022. I ended up having a pretty stressful summer however, and I felt like at one point I had developed too unhealthy of a fixation on music and the pursuit of popularity and that it was destroying my personal relationships. I felt like at that point I needed to just stop, and I "retired" from music on June 28, 2020, releasing all of the rest of the music I had built up all at once. This included two full albums of new music, Vanishing Into a Thin Chair and The Silence of Me.

The Silence of Me was intended to come first and had the newest music of the two. I began making tracks for it in early 2018, with "Alter to Alter", "June" "Worker" and "One Day" more or less all recorded around the same time. For a long time the album was just those 4 songs, but slowly over time I added more tracks to it. "Doe Deer" I believe came next, although it had been written as early as 2017. Next came "The Authentic Spirit Journal #7", which I got inspired to make from the way Kendrick Lamar wrote about his spirituality. This was then followed by "Lone Leaf", which I wrote about my experience being homeless, and "Blank Canvas Butterfly", which was built around a guitar progression I was always playing that felt enjoyable to play. It's one of my only songs where I played on an actual instrument.

"A Ghost Keeps Slamming My Door" and "Monstrrbody" were both recorded in August 2019, with both being among my personal favorite songs I've made. "Orb of Weatherwarm" and "Drag The Paisley" were both recorded around the turn of the decade in my friend Irkalla Lustre's bedroom. The last song to be both written and recorded was "The Symonds Angel", which I recorded in the basement of my friend Kat Enyart and her partner Juanes' house in January 2020.

Vanishing Into a Thin Chair was a dark and massive album that I first conceived in June 2017 while couching in an apartment in downtown Portland, having just had a really bad and disheartening correspondence with my mom, with whom I have since severed contact. This inspired a flurry of depressed and upset writing about how she raised me, memories of growing up, and feeling like I no longer have a family of my own. One of the first songs I wrote during that period was "Just Me". "I'd Talk To You", "Mother Maybe", "It Shouts Back", "Beautiful Creature In My Arms", "She Taught Her", "Bethany" and "One Little Detail" all came soon after.

I wrote "Bad Friends Forever" for Never Angel North, inspired by a time she told me she was a bad friend and I responded "hey, I'm a bad friend too! Let's always be bad friends together!" I recall her having a strong emotional reaction when I played her an early version of the song.

Originally the album began with a thundering song called "Depression Beard" that I later dropped, and the lyrics eventually became the song "Nighttime Scream Morning Smile", which I wrote in 2018. I later decided to end the album with a reprise of it since I really liked it and it also had the perfect melancholy feeling I wished to capture for this album. "Cat and Crustacean" was written about my two younger sisters, using representations of their sun signs (Leo and Cancer). I wrote and recorded this around the same time as "Nighttime Scream Morning Smile".

"Terrified" I recorded live in my room at transitional housing in 2017, making it the second song ever I've released that I've played on an actual instrument. It's somewhat my impersonation of the music of Izzy and the Chimera, sped up to add some extra silliness and manicness to it. I later followed it with a discordant and epic prog-type song called "Terrifying", using some leftover writing for the lyrics.

"She Taught Her" was inspired by the music of Hey Colossus and was one of my early forays into more rockier music, back before I had the tools to make sound as good as I wanted. It's one of the darkest, heaviest and scariest on the record on purpose. Recording that felt really good.

"I Once" was recorded way back in 2016, and I decided it would make a good pick me up after the utter despair that was the end of "I'd Talk To You". It was included unchanged, and I felt like the effect I wanted worked. "Favorite" I wrote in early 2017 and when I recorded it, decided to segue it directly into "I Talk To You", both of which were musically inspired by Joni Mitchell's 80s music.

"The Wettest Cold" was inspired by the defiant sounding music of latter day Lou Reed and was for me a personal queer anthem when I recorded it. I still find it very powerful of a song and I hope others do too.

Irene Striffler June Witchmonstrr(I think that's their name), Never Angel North's previous spouse, came back to Portland for a brief time in June 2017 and allowed me to secretly sleep in their parents' basement one night, an ominous place that made me feel frightened to be alone in. She ended up sleeping at the foot of my bed that night, and we stayed up talking a whole lot about music and life. It was there that I conceived and wrote the lyrics of "Vanishing", another one of my personal favorite accomplishments as a songwriter and composer. I spent the most time by far getting that single song right, tinkering endlessly with the mix to make sure it really soared at the right moments. I still think a lot about Irene. There was a point where we shared a look, a feeling, that seemed to signify something; I haven't seen her since and I don't know if I will ever find out what that was.

The last song to be written and recorded for the album was "They'll Even Use My Name", written about the mental gymnastics of my family in relation to my transness, and completed in January 2020. I ended up selecting it as the replacement opener for my album, since I felt like it perfectly set the mood I wanted throughout. I changed the mix of the next song to accommodate that in a complementary way. 

I recorded an early version of most of this music at the Gresham house in September-November 2017, and by the end of the year I was already considering it finished. With all these updated elements gathered together over time. I felt like by 2020 Vanishing Into a Thin Chair was finally finished after 4 years, the longest time I spent on any album.

My "retirement" lasted all of a few months. Music is a hard thing to remove from me completely. By August of 2020 I was writing and recording brand new material once more, and at this point I have a new album from that period already completed. Details of that album will be written about very soon, it's something that I am very excited to share. But for now, that is my story. Now you know how I have gotten here today!

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