About this project
This new album differs from my last, Spare Parts, in several ways. The songs were written with keyboards and drums/percussion rather than acoustic guitars, and their lyrics focus on politics rather than on relationships. (To the extent that those two can be disentangled.) The sound is based on various kinds of electric/electronic music and is closer to the work I did with the Folk Implosion. Musical influences include Prefuse 73, Let England Shake by PJ Harvey, and In What Language? by Mike Ladd and Vijay Iver. For more on the political subject matter, read the text that follows the photographs below.
I started working on these songs back in 2010. You can hear instrumental versions of several of the demos I made for this album running in the background of the above video, which was produced by filmmaker Michael Galinsky of Rumur, who also created two videos for Spare Parts along with his wife and partner Suki Hawley.
I've been working with producer/engineer/mixer Scott Solter and several other musicians on the final versions of these songs this summer, and 90% of the tracks are now complete. We've been adding live drums, percussion, bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals, saz, oud, marimba, and trumpet at a few studios here in North Carolina. Much of the work involves replacing parts I originally wrote with samples and virtual instruments with live playing to bring more sonic depth and organic variation to the songs. This is where the money I hope to raise will be invested.
Here's a rough mix of one of the songs that we've been working on recently, called El Pulpo:
The project will probably cost about $8,000. I'm setting the bar here at $4,000 because it would be easier for me to work on creating and delivering the rewards for this campaign in August than September, because of my teaching schedule. (I discuss how teaching and music weave together at this stage of my life in the above video.) If I'm fortunate enough to hit the initial project goal while this Kickstarter is still kicking, I will begin delivering the rewards immediately.
The lyrical focus of the record has to do with a satirical look at the politics of the food industry. There are songs about HFCS, soy, supermarkets, cows, and bananas. Various historical characters appear, including Minor Keith, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, Earl Rusty Butz, and Mean Joe Greene. Creative collage, both musical and lyrical, is used to draw overlooked connections and avoid sloganeering. The lyrics stitch together historical references I picked up from various texts and observations from daily life. Inanimate objects like coffee and abstract corporate entities like Chiquita appear as characters who sing to the listener, or who are addressed by the song itself in the second person.
This project was influenced in several ways by experiences I've had as an educator. Working with students and their families in different school systems teaches you a lot about the politics of food because of the way education funding is based on property taxes in the United States. Seeing students have access to organic produce at an affluent private school while students at a Title 1 public school do not, while not surprising, was a daily routine that influenced this project over the last four years.
There is an international frame of reference to the songs that was influenced by the opportunity I've had to work with students, parents and colleagues who came to the US from other countries. I wouldn't want to say that this project speaks on their behalf, because they all have different points of view, and they can speak for themselves. But I did become increasingly interested about the impact of United States foreign policy as a result of getting to know folks from a long list of countries, including Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Guinea, Spain, Vietnam, China, India, the UK, Iraq, Lebanon, Ghana, Russia, Japan, Sudan, Haiti, Jamaica, Thailand and Turkey.
I've enjoyed developing and teaching curriculum that deals with food justice issues, and been inspired by work colleagues of mine have done along these lines as well. I've seen great things happen when organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers or Gaining Ground give presentations and workshops for young people. I'm especially interested in organizations like the CIW that focus on political action rather than charity. I heard a talk given by Abner Sauveur, director of Matènwa Community Learning Center in Haiti, in which he spoke about how Bill Clinton's "food aid" policy had put rice farmers in Haiti out of business. "We don't need aid," he said. "We know how to feed ourselves. We need the United States to stop undermining our economy." I was reminded of an organization called Food For Free that drove a delivery truck around town when I was growing up in Cambridge, MA adorned with Hélder Pessoa Câmara's words, ""When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."
One of my favorite novels that deals with these issues is The Chronicle of The Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau. It chronicles the downfall of a neighborhood of vibrant outdoor vegetable markets in Fort-de-France, the capital of Maritinique, at the hands of supermarket chains that came into the area after the former French colony became an overseas department of France in 1946. It's a good example of the broken promises of nominal decolonization.
When I lived in Paris as an exchange student in 1991, it was the first time I had ever shopped at an open air market on a regular basis. It was also the first time I had frequented neighborhoods where immigrants from former French (and currrent neo) colonies like Algeria and Senegal were in the majority. It was awesome. I almost never went to a supermarket during the 6 months I spent there, save for a few visits to Ed L'Epicier to buy generic Nutella and cheap wine. But I almost never went to street markets anymore once I got back to the US. It was a lot harder to find farmer's markets and CSA's in the US in those days than it is now.
Risks and challenges
I'm also not sure exactly when the record will be released, so take the delivery dates of rewards that include it as guesstimates. I will deliver the other components of those rewards - lyric sheets, demos, etc. - as soon as possible, well in advance of the estimated date on which you will receive the record, which should be 2 weeks prior to its street date.
As mentioned above, it will harder for me to deliver the labor-intensive rewards immediately in the fall because of my teaching schedule. I will post regular updates about the delivery dates of rewards if they are postponed, but you won't have to wait long. You'll read project updates here, such as notification that the recording has been completed, that mixing is finished, release information, etc.
Thank you for your support in helping a network of musicians share ideas about social issues and engage in meaningful creative work together. The group dynamics of the project have been a real blessing, and my thanks go out to Peter Hughes, Andrew Levi Hiller, Louis Landry and Scott Solter for their contributions to date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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