First off, there is the title… Santos. Meaning ‘Saints’. The idea for the title came from watching Bill Murray’s most recent movie St. Vincent earlier this year, when I was fishing around for a title for the EP based on the songs I had recorded at that point. The whole idea of “saints among us”, so the EP has kind of a quasi-religious tone to it – though I prefer the terms, mystical/spiritual – from the get-go.
The image for the cover is the stained glass from St. George’s Hall of “St. George Slaying the Dragon”, taken by my mom on her last trip to the UK. When I had the title, I thought the image was a good fit; much of my mom’s side of the family is either from Scotland or the Liverpool area before they came over to the U.S. I scanned the image, then took it into Photoshop where it “cleaned up” rather nicely.
The songs themselves…
The Owl and the Lynx: Written and recorded at the end of 2014, early 2015. The chorus vocals here are virtual vocals, synthesized, and they carry the song. The visual I get here is a video, like something that would’ve come from the 1970’s – you have an owl in flight and they’re very graceful when they fly and swoop down upon their unsuspecting prey, usually at night, and the owl has this friend, Mr. Lynx, and you see the lynx running and being stealthy and all, and they strike up this partnership, like detectives on a cop show because this is a video made to look like it was from the 1970’s and cop shows were very popular back then (e.g., Starsky & Hutch), and so there’s a lot of flying around and the lynx is always running after something when we see him, and it’s all suggestive of something happening but nothing much really happens. But it’s so 70’s cool…
Well, that was the idea anyway. It’s actually kind of a dark song. Which is appropriate ’cause owls can see and hunt in the dark. They’re night birds. In Native American symbolism, owl can see that which others cannot… and there’s a lot of darkness out there right now, my friends. Likewise, the lynx is an animal you won’t see very often – they stay hidden much of the time and in Native American symbolism, they are the keeper of secrets. Symbolically, both owl and lynx have to do with discernment, seeing what is true and separating from what is false, especially important in these days of information (and disinformation) and distraction overload.
For All the Afterthoughts: This song was originally written and recorded way back in October, 2010, just after Nights on Venus made its debut (coming up on 5 years now), but it was never completed. This happens a lot. I have a ton of those songs which I could work on from now until 2030 (spoiler alert). For one reason or another some songs don’t come together initially as you’d like – or sometimes not at all – so you put them on the backburner. To be completed another time. But I always liked this song so I would revisit it at various times, work on it, record different parts for it. At the time, I put this one aside and wrote and recorded “The Clouds Form on the Left” which, by contrast, finished up in just a few days. I love those songs – they practically write themselves. But “Afterthoughts” stayed in my mind as kind of a… well, an afterthought.
In its first incarnation, “Afterthoughts” was very, very slow tempo-wise, around the 85-88 BPM-mark… as was most everything on that first album. Things proceeded at a glacial pace. A lot of this slow tempo came, in part, from a band I was listening to a lot only 1-2 years earlier, Spokane. Check out their song “Proud Graduates” and you’ll see what I mean. Very good, moody band – I always liked their songs. But the tempo on “Afterthoughts’ was the first thing that needed to change; it was too slow for the song and needed to be faster. I re-recorded it at a faster tempo but It wasn’t until the middle section came together late in 2014 that “Afterthoughts” became alive again. Totally by accident.
“Things turn out better by accident sometimes. But you can’t organize accidents.” – Jeff Beck, from the book Zen Guitar, Philip Toshio Sudo
Very true. I totally subscribe to this because it has been my experience, whether working in music or visual art. The book Zen Guitar itself is one of my favorites and I turn to it often for inspiration. The quotes alone – from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page to Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, and Jerry Garcia – are worth the cost and it’s applicable to any other instruments and other arts across the board. I’ve been meaning to write a review of this book but just haven’t gotten around to it. I find it invaluable and it is highly recommended.
The first and most important thing to know about “Afterthoughts” is that it’s not about “thinking” at all. It’s about the feeling one senses of being an afterthought to other people that you may be close to – for instance, in relationship with a significant other or even in your own family on a personal level or also an “afterthought” on a larger, societal level… as in the idea that “some people count, and others don’t”, an idea which is very prevalent in America today – and I’m sure elsewhere (and probably always has been).
Substitute the word “underdogs” or better yet, “disenfranchised” for afterthoughts and you’ll see what I’m getting at here. I think for most of us, we’ve all been there at some point and if you’ve been there, you know that feeling and it’s not a good one. In fact, it sucks. So this song is for everybody who’s ever felt that way at one time or another, whatever the reason. Eventually you cut out that toxicity (from others) in your life, if able and necessary, and ultimately find your own way because that’s what is required. You become a trailblazer… for yourself and your own life. It doesn’t matter what anybody else or society thinks [about you]. That the song ends on a positive note is a testament to this and hopefully I’ve conveyed this musically.
And then you begin a journey…
The Fool’s Journey: Written and recorded in January, 2015. A.K.A. the Hero’s Journey. If you would be your authentic self, then of necessity you take this journey. And it’s definitely a journey worth taking. The road less traveled… off the beaten path. Really it’s the only path worth taking. What… you’re going to be satisfied by corporate culture which insists on hegemony and conformity? If you have any degree of self-awareness, then no, probably not. And the thing is, once you begin this journey toward greater self-awareness and [unfettered, unattached] awareness itself, you really can’t go back. The ‘Fool’ sets out on his/her journey with youthful exuberance, blissfully unaware of the pitfalls ahead. Usually as you step off a cliff. And the hardest thing to be in society, any society, is to be your own person, truly an individual. The Individualist. It’s the most rewarding journey anyone can ever take.
A lot of digital delay and echo on one of the guitar parts here – it’s a wonderful thing.
Terra Incognita: Written and recorded in February, 2015. Terra Incognita means “unknown territory” and I think this is where we arrive once we shake things up and take the journey toward becoming a true individual, outside the dictates of our upbringing and of society. I think it also describes where we are on a planetary level right now – humanity – as our world continues to change and we often don’t recognize it as the world that we used to know. I think this will continue to hold true in the years to come, and yes, I’m talking about climate change here but also all the sociopolitical and economic changes that are bound to follow and are inevitable as a result. Constant change. Personally I’d rather come from a place of peace rather than fear.
It wasn’t until I had finished recording that I realized where the ending, the chord change, came from. That is an ending in traditional hymn structure (Episcopal/Anglican tradition). That is “the Amen”. Talk about upbringing…
So these are some of the thoughts that were running through my head as I was working and listening. Individual results may vary.
Eventually the Santos EP will be piggy-backed onto the full-length album, its predecessor, Perspective and released on CD – yes, well after the fact I know – probably in early 2016. Next up is the 2nd EP for this year, entitled Unearthly, which is scheduled for a December release date… unless it becomes a full-length album which it very well may.
‘Til next time…