Sing me into this song.
Last month we gave Brian Dickens a ride to our show at The Mit Pit. We met Brian on tour in May when we played in Fitchburg. I remember fairly clearly what it was like meeting him. I was sitting at our merch table, and this really friendly looking fellow walks over and starts inspecting our zines and stickers. He introduced himself and we were instantly in the midst of a passionate discussion about safe all ages spaces for music and art. We talked most of the night. So last month he met us at our apartment and we all drove down to Connecticut together. Brian is one of those people who can spark a really great and though provoking conversation with every question. He played an impromptu acoustic set that day when more than one band was late. So on the way back that night we were having a long discussion about being musicians, lyricists, thinkers, etc. and he asked one of those incredibly provoking questions that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.
He said, “Do you ever feel like, when you’re singing, that you’re detached from the words and the music? Like you’re just going through the motions?”
What he meant was that, when you practice and perform a song enough times, we tend to become detached from the original emotional intent of the tune. Sometimes instead of the song being an honest expression, we’re just going through an exercise.
I used to feel like that. I used to be in a ska-core-esque band called Silent Distortion and I felt like that a lot.
I don’t feel like that now though. So I have to wonder what changed.
When Brian asked me about this that night in the truck, my first reply was a real half baked notion of an idea. I said something to the effect of, “Oh no. I mean, my main contribution to this band is the voice, so all of my thoughts are on that.”
But in reality, I recognize that that’s a real bad answer for a number of reasons. I perform a majority of the vocals, but most of the time I’m also playing keyboard, accordion, or acoustic guitar. So that really wasn’t a valid answer.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m in a band that practices almost every day. How do I stay emotionally connected to these songs when I need to perform them so often?
I still don’t have a perfect answer for this. But I think the answer ( and the answer to most things in life) centers on love. To me, true love occurs when we find ourselves so enraptured and focused on one act, that all else becomes entirely insignificant. We’re a society of people incredibly focused on the future, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I think it’s a really spiritually uplifting experience to express yourself in a way that makes you forget everything else. I think one of the main goals of life should be to fill our days with these moments, when future concerns cease to matter and we can live honestly. (There’s a lot of contradictions between this belief and my decision to be in a close-to-full-time-working-band.) When we practice, when we perform, I try as hard as I can to shut everything out. My life has become a search for perfect harmony, and for me, the best parts of playing music happen when I achieve that sense of harmony with everything around me. When I become so at one with the song, that my mind’s eye can hardly tell where one begins and the other ends, that’s an expression of love. There have been moments, practicing or at shows where I’ve entirely lost myself and my self awareness in the music. Like rising to a higher spiritual plane, performance does something to me. With open hearts and minds, music can move us to new places of thought and awareness.
And I don’t think that this means we can’t sing angry or depressing songs and still fill our souls with love for what we’re performing. Whether it’s the two week fling that’s left you a complete wreck a quarter of a year later, or recounting the surrounding events of a suicide attempt, or the smashing of the Spectacle, etc. etc., love for this pure spontaneous expression can still exist in completely full and beautiful facets of creation.
It’s hard to explain some of these ideas. How do you start to explain your innermost realms of thought, particularly on the internet?
So to answer Brian’s question after a huge wall of text, what I try to do is fixate on the exact moment of my life that inspired whatever song we’re performing. I’m always seeking new meaning in the words we sing. Let the original inspiration permeate your entire existence. There’s a message in every song, and when we forget the message, the song becomes nothing more than a filthy lie.
This was a long way of saying nothing.