About this project
UPDATE 4/15/16: WE DID IT!! We are WILD WITH GLEE over here! And it's all thanks to our amazingly generous supporters. There's still time to get in on the Year of the Cat Centipede if you haven't already - this page will be backers' behind-the-scenes pass to kickstarter-exclusive updates and previews and other stuff while we finish & prepare to release this album.
HUGE thanks to Amanda Palmer, Barry Crimmins, Margaret Cho, and Aimee Mann for signal boosting the campaign. Huge thanks also to all our wonderful backers who've not only pledged but shared the project far and wide. We're so excited to share this with everyone.
Take a listen to just a few of the different sounds and grooves on the album on this 5-minute excerpt reel:
HEY EVERYBODY! I'm Lainey Schooltree, bandleader of art rock band Schooltree. After the release of our debut album Rise (funded largely by the generous support of our Kickstarter backers) in 2013, a lot of people were like “Lainey, you should make this album into a rock opera!" and I was like ...imma just write one! Easy, right? OMG SO EASY. It made sense that the next step for Schooltree's theatrical music would be to put it in the context of a larger story. So I withdrew from the world, stopped using social media and going out and showering and stuff, and somewhat naïvely embarked on what would be the most epic and, at times, harrowing adventure of my life.
I researched, I wrote hundreds of pages of ideas, I threw out my story halfway through, I returned to an original idea I wrote off as too simple and dumb, I tortured the band with charts and graphs and story twists and many edits and changes. Three intense years, several crises, and a couple injuries later, Heterotopia the album is almost completed, thanks to a team of talented people putting in extraordinary effort, often going into overtime to carry the ambitious spirit of the project. The fruit of our labor is this crazy huge symphonic art rock opera, with an engaging story that traverses a rich soundscape - and which, I'm certain, will be a piece that people will be able to listen to over and over again and experience something new each time.
Heterotopia is a rock opera about Suzi, existential everygirl and underachiever extraordinaire, who loses her body and must travel through a parallel world of the collective unconscious to get it back.
story & libretto
Heterotopia is not exactly science fiction, more like a kind of metaphysical fiction - you could call it metaphysical fantasy. I wanted to write a story that could stand on its own, with the feel of modern mythology, so I spent a year or so researching, including how story structures work, comparative mythology, and reading/revisiting the classics in fiction and philosophy. The arc, characters, and themes are inspired by authors like Tolkien, Octavia Butler, and Richard Adams, and the work of thinkers including Plato, Jung, and Foucault (from whom the title is borrowed). Part hero's journey, part existential survival guide, Heterotopia explores the illusory nature of reality and self; Suzi and her world are each deconstructed and destroyed. With a concrete plotline (girl loses body, becomes ghost, travels through a parallel world to get it back), the story unfolds more linearly than is typical of rock operas. My emotional connection to the story and characters along with years of legwork and merciless edits and cuts have enabled me to visualize this world clearly. I was lucky to convince to join me some of the most talented people I've ever met to bring Suzi and otherspace into this reality (in as much as reality can be determined to exist! haaaaa). I believe there's a lot to sink your teeth into for those seeking something uniquely substantive.
Although the music of Ht has roots in classic and progressive rock of the 1970's (Genesis, Yes, King Crimson), that aesthetic is carried forward into the sounds and styles of contemporary rock and experimental pop. I drew inspiration from visionary concept albums like Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. I was also discovering the music of Everything Everything and Queens of the Stone Age while writing this.
While researching the libretto, I delved into rock music from last and this century, and endeavored to understand what it is that makes this music visceral. I put what I learned into this music. And I think that whether listeners are looking for multi-layered complexity or just something to rock out to in their car, Heterotopia is for everyone. Amidst the intricate arrangements and intense twists and turns, you'll find straightforward rock.
When I was a kid, some of my most transformative experiences were sitting down in front of the stereo with the liner notes of an album and listening while looking at the artwork and reading the lyrics. Something about the combination of the sonic and the visual input of an amazing album together galvanized my brain. Those albums became a part of me. I want that experience for listeners of this album; to go as deep into this world as you wish to and make it your own.
Since Heterotopia is a world I've been hanging out in for years now and its characters are all my bffs, I know what it looks like. I have a storyboard in my head. I wanted to make the libretto available as part of the album, but it seems like so much cooler an idea to have it fully illustrated. So we're making it into a book, including "panels" - scenes that, when viewed in order, will tell the complete story on their own. Stylistically it'll be a sort of art nouveau graphic novel. I was introduced to the amazing Amanda Watkins, who has officially signed on for this laborious task, and we've been drawing up some concept art, which is featured in the video and elsewhere on this page, which she'll begin developing full on once this project is funded.
traditional album artwork
In addition to the libretto, I've commissioned the dazzling, weird brilliance of Crystal Araiza, whose unique style perfectly compliments the eerie vibe of this world. She's currently working on the album cover and the Year of the Cat Centipede poster pictured below.
Here's a sneak peak at the limited edition print, one of our rewards (I'll tell you more about this character as we get into the campaign):
I'm confounded by the fact that Peter Moore exists, let alone his proximal advantages. I've obsessively admired his work from a distance ever since the first time I saw his brainchild/band Count Zero play the Abbey Lounge in Cambridge around 2006. Getting to work with him is like getting to work with Todd Rundgren, or Kate Bush, or Jeff Lynn - the superstar artist-producers I've idolized throughout my career. And I suspect his talents surpass even those of these superstars. He's shepherded this album with incredible skill, care, and regard and is responsible for the successful actualization of this recording project, bringing it to a level I wasn't aware was possible.
how your pledge will be used
Every aspect of this project has been done to the highest possible standard available to independent creators. As a small but plucky team, it's been extra labor intensive to create to this standard, and has entailed, frankly, obscene amounts of of extra hours to accomplish. I used all the money the band had saved from gigging, cleaned out my personal bank account, and even borrowed some money to get this recorded and mixed. Mastering, physical production, packaging, and distribution are the next stages of the making of this album. The costs that go into making the average record are considerable, and due to its size (24 songs, over 100 minutes long in total - nearly three regular-length albums long), costs are doubled for a lot of these things for Ht.
Funds will go towards:
- Physical Album Printing and Distribution
- Album Artwork
- Libretto illustration
- Copyright fees
- Online Distribution Fees
- Rewards Production
- Kickstarter Fees & Taxes
Every week throughout the campaign, we'll be releasing little bits and pieces about the process, the story, and the music, including behind-the-scenes stuff we captured throughout the making of this project. Anyone who donates anything will have an all-access pass to these updates and Kickstarter-exclusive downloads.
please share this project with everyone, ever
After contributing, the best thing you can do for this project is spread the word. Our goal is ambitious. With your help we will meet it!
our hashtag is #heterotopiarockopera
I'm @schooltree on twitter
@meowroyale on instagram
This project has been my whole life for the last three years. It's been weird to not publicly document what I've been up to for so long, but I've been secretive about it because, to be totally honest, I wasn't sure I could pull it off. This has been without question the most challenging thing I've ever done, and not without considerable sacrifice along the way. But it's the best work I've ever done. I'm so proud of what we've created, and the wonderful artists who've come together to make it happen. I have years' worth of excitement about sharing it with you. It's almost done. It's happening. You're gonna really dig it.
Please ask me anything! And let me know if there's a reward you'd like to see. I'm adding new stuff every week.
Risks and challenges
The album is recorded (and backed up in quadruplicate!) and mixing is well underway, so it's not likely anything can stop us. After I ran out of money I borrowed enough to get Heterotopia to the mixing finish line. Beyond that, professionals are lined up (mastering engineer, illustrators, production houses), dates are being held, all we need is the money to make it all happen. If anything unforeseen arises, backers will be updated immediately.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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