Friday, 31 May 2013

ATWN Weekend Covers - May Playlist

Preview of our new look
coming soon...
This past month we started something new on our Twitter account called "ATWN Weekend Covers." On the weekends throughout May we tweeted some of our favorite cover tracks along with the hashtag, #ATWNWeekendCovers. The obvious next step...a playlist for you! So, for those who are always in search of something new to listen to, we will be creating a monthly playlist on our YouTube channel from our tweets and posting it here at the end of each month.
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In our inaugural #ATWNWeekendCovers playlist, we feature covers by artists such as Stereophonics, Gorillaz, The White Stripes, and The Joy Formidable. Enjoy, and keep your eyes out for our new look coming this week!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

My Newest Obsessions

Please excuse me for this super short post. The last few weeks have been insane around my house. I was out of town, then we had family visit, then my husband went out of town. Then I got sick, and right in the middle of all that, a new book idea just won't leave me alone. Oh, and then there is also the fact that I'm 28 weeks pregnant (YAY!!!) and we are expecting our third little boy this August.

And then, in the midst of all that excitement, my husband introduced me to two new-to-me artists: Alpha Rev and Passenger. I cannot get enough. I find myself sitting and listening to the lyrics over and over again. Do the singers really mean the words they are singing to be taken literally or are the meanings deeper? I LOVE IT.

If you haven't already discovered one or either of these, definitely check them out!






Monday, 27 May 2013

Query/Submission Playlist

CAN YOU SAY, "EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER?"

amusement parks,leisure,rides,roller coasters,tracks,picnics,recreation

Querying to find an agent or being on submission to editors can be simultaneously 
heart-wrenching and joyful.
Scary and liberating.
Puke-inducing and fulfilling.

To help you survive as you dig your way through the query trenches, searching for that perfect agent, or endure weeks of awaiting news from editors who love your characters like their own children, as you do, I've put together a playlist. This playlist echoes the emotional trauma I endured while I queried and 
am currently embracing *sarcasm* as I have a novel out on submission to editors.


1. Beautiful Day by U2 - because the day you send your finished, polished manuscript that you've labored over for hours over and poured your heart and soul into is, indeed, a BEAUTIFUL DAY!

2. Dragula by Rob Zombie - the first three words: Superstition, Fear, & Jealousy. You're freaked out. You wish upon a shooting star, cross your fingers, say a prayer, stick needles in a voo-doo doll, you do anything and everything to bring you and your manuscript good luck. You're scared. And those witches who get a major book deal on their first novel and only querying 5 agents suck. (Besides, it's Rob Zombie.)

3. Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine - "And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off." You have a lot to be happy about. You've finished a frickin' book! Stop pouting, shake that devil off, and dance!

4. Dancing Queen by ABBA - You are elated. You want to celebrate. You just want to dance and sing.

5. It's the End of the World As We Know it by REM - It hits you - what if your manuscript sucks? What if you have no talent what-so-ever and you've just been fooling yourself? It's the end of your world.

6. Swim Until You Can't See Land by Frightened Rabbit - No. Stop being a Debbie Downer. Just keep going. Stay the course. Don't give up.

7. Faith by George Michael - Because ya gotta have-a faith, faith, faith- ah!!! (Have faith in yourself and your work.)

8. Gogal by Gonzales - This song plays in my head as I'm staring at a blank wall. I'm numb to all emotion. It's all so overwhelming I try to shut if all off. I shut down.

9. Get Up! by by Korn (feat. Skrillex) - Shut the *@#% up, GET UP! What are you saying? Stop it. Get your $#*+ together.

10. Alcohol by Brad Paisley - Self explanatory. You've gotten to the point where you just need a stiff drink.

11. Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys - After a drink, you can conquer the world. Your book is going to break records, you are going to be famous. This girl (or guy) IS ON FIRE!!!

12. Up In the Air by Thirty Seconds to Mars - Your not quite so on fire. You realize exactly where you are. You're up in the air. "Up in the air, chasing a dream so real. I've been up in the air."

13. This Too Shall Pass by OK Go - This will be over at some point. Not just the searching for an agent or editor, but the feeling that you suck as a writer, that your dream will never come true. It will pass.

14. Just Say Yes by Snow Patrol - At the end of the day, you want one person to JUST SAY YES!

This is the emotional roller coaster one can feel while querying/on submission....


And that's just the first day!

Just hang in there though. You can do it. Cheerleader out, yo!



Thursday, 23 May 2013

ATWN Interview: Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis


Speedy Ortiz/photo by Noe Richard                     

So, for our readers who don't already know, the band's name comes from a character in the Hernandez brothers' Love and Rockets comics.  I went through a phase in high-school where I couldn't get enough of indie comics and Love and Rockets was one of the first to open my eyes to what could be done outside of superheroes and spandex.  When did you develop a relationship with comics?

I've read comics as long as I could remember. My mom bought me MAD Magazine when I was a tiny kid which pretty quickly turned into collecting comics together, learning how to draw characters I liked, and eventually drawing and writing my own stories.


In doing research for this interview, I happened upon what I believe is your Goodreads page and noticed a lot of graphic novels.  Some you loved (Watchmen) some you didn't (The Walking Dead).  Some of our authors are working on graphic novels of their own.  What is it you look for from a great graphic novel?

Ha, I forgot that existed... I set up that account half-assedly and was ultimately unimpressed with the service. Kind of like Pandora or Netflix which only ever recommends me things I already know. I'm all for zombie stories but I find 'The Walking Dead' (at least the book) to be 2D, underdeveloped, misogynistic. I don't feel for any of the characters on 'The Walking Dead' (and by necessity of the plot) they're totally disposable. The most memorable things about them are their hair-dos, their accessories, their weapons. If you have a great story with weak characters, no one's gonna give a shit. Interesting characters are necessary. That should go without saying. Someone page Robert Kirkman.


So, lets get to Speedy.  What is it about the character, Speedy Ortiz, that struck such a chord that you decided to name your band after him?

A few people close to me died in 2011, and at the time I was reading Locas, and I remember feeling impressed with the way Jaime Hernandez portrays grief in "The Death of Speedy Ortiz" and the stories that follow it. More so than Speedy, I was interested in how Maggie and Izzy and the rest of the people close to Speedy continued to live their lives after his death, the way Hernandez hints at their grieving processes, and how the narrative continues so abruptly after he dies (we're led immediately from Speedy's ghost haunting his sister to a scene about Hopey on tour).

You have a background in poetry.  What poet, past or present, do you think would fit in nicely as a member of the band?

We once played a show that ended with a reading from Wendy Xu, whose new book 'You Are Not Dead' is one of my favorites of the year. It would be cool to do another show like that. Wendy Xu, wherever you are, please eat sandwiches with us.


I've asked other artists this same question so I'm curious what you think.  I know that as an aspiring novelist, I spend a lot of time wrapped up in music.  I write important scenes to songs.  I use songs to try to get into some of my characters' heads.  It plays an important role in what I do with words.  I've always been of the opinion, beyond actually writing lyrics, that there is a special kinship between authors and musicians.  Still, I can't really play much of anything on my guitar (which doesn't stop me from shredding it up with my two kids).  What is your take?  Do you see music and writing as being partners?

To be honest I've never really seen my writing and my music as connected. I have to focus so intently when I read and write that I can't even really listen to music when I do so. I'm jealous of my friends who go into a coffee shop for a day and knock out huge chunks of their novels while listening to an iPod, because for me that's way too distracting.  But I do enjoy books and poems that use music as their subject matter and I read a lot of music criticism.


The majority of our readers are pounding out words on their keyboards to try to tell stories and we all go through a variety of processes to get those stories out.  What does your process look like when you are songwriting?  Where do you struggle?

Almost always I compose music first and the lyrics fall into place afterwards. Sometimes I'll come up with a line when I'm walking around or in the shower or whatever. Sometimes I'll fill in the rhythmic blanks with phrases I've jotted down in a notebook. I'm lucky in that a lot of it comes automatically to me through association. As far as where I struggle, editing is not my strong suit. Once something's done I typically let it go without changing anything. But sometimes I'll be performing an older song and be like, "Man, I really wish I'd changed this shitty line right when I first wrote it, but now we've recorded it this way and now it's stuck and now I have to embarrassed every night." So I take some live liberties and change the lyrics for that, which is kind of a revisionist history. Not that anyone can understand what I'm saying anyway.


My rock soul was shaped in no small part by Sonic Youth.  You recently toured with Thurston Moore.  What was that experience like?  Did you happen to catch what books he was reading?

The shows were with Thurston Moore & John Moloney's Caught On Tape duo, which is improvisational, so the sets were different every night, which was nice. Super talented, both of them (obviously) and really interesting performers. Didn't snoop anyone's books but I did pick up a cool compilation CD from Ambrose Bye, a friend of Thurston and John, who was along with them for the dates. It's called Harry's House and it's got work from Eileen Myles and Anne Waldman, Thurston too. Pretty cool.

In another nod to our readers, many of which are writing books for a younger readership...think middle school and high school...what's a book from your childhood that really stuck with you?

As far as middle and high school, I don't think I had a big YA reading phase. I liked beat stuff in high school and got super into Burroughs (story of every teenager's life). I loved Murakami. I definitely read a lot of manga in middle school. I probably have every Sailor Moon book. Oh, I probably got into Animorphs too, now that I think about it.

There's an interesting thing happening right now in the world of books related to self-publishing.  E-readers have really opened the door for almost anyone to get a book out there into the hands of the public.  With that addition to the market, there's been a backlash against self-published authors.  For years and years and years there has been a DIY scene in music and it doesn't seem to have that same "You don't know what the fuck you're doing" vibe that lingers around book publishing.  Your band itself began as a bedroom project.  Why do you think the music scene has really embraced that spirit of self-promotion while DIY publishing is struggling with legitimacy?

This is probably tough for me to answer since I don't know a ton about self-publishing literature (outside of homemade zines and chapbooks, that is, which are totally legitimate!). My depressing analysis is that for whatever reason, as a member of both literary and musical communities, it seems that less people (at least in my mid-20s age demographic) are invested in supporting literature, independent or mainstream, than are interested in supporting music. Maybe it's an issue of attention span and time commitment. I know that when I bring chapbooks to shows, which I make in a limited run and give away for free, we're more likely to sell out of $10 EPs at the show than to get rid of all of the free chapbooks.

If I jump into the backseat of your tour van and start poking around through your stuff, what books am I going to be dragging out of your duffel bags?

Right now I'm reading Dorothea Lasky's Thunderbird, which she signed for me at AWP (I got totally starstruck). Last tour I read some Oliver Sacks, some Wallace Stevens, some comics, some shitty goofy guidebook about touring. I have Joseph Ceravolo's Collected Poems in the wings for the next tour, and a couple other dumb pop science books.



Monday, 20 May 2013

10 Questions with...Team Spirit


This week at A.T.W.N., I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did with Passion Pit's former synthesist & remixer, Ayad Al Adhamy. Ayad has gone out on his own and is now the frontman for the amazing Brooklyn based "rock-n-soul" band, Team Spirit. Let's get to it...

10 Questions with...Team Spirit

Ayad, what’s the biggest difference for you going from the back of the stage on keys with Passion Pit, to now being the lead with Team Spirit? 
The need to be in better physical shape! Singing, ripping guitar and flailing around on stage is quite tiring... Also the responsibility with leading a band into battle!

What was it like opening for the amazing Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable?
It was great! I’ve played with them in the past countless times (I even started a label to release their EP in the US!) and it was amazing to see them just rock out relentlessly. It was amazing!


Hardcover, Paperback, or Kindle?
Paperback

For those who are new to Team Spirit, tell us what bands have helped to influence your sound?
Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, The Replacements to name a few...

Movies or Books while touring?
Movies/TV shows. Ive exhausted most of TV by now... Currently watching Game of Thrones, Vikings and The Following.

Comics or Novels as a kid?
I was a little bit of both - I did have a serious comic collection - favourites included Cable and Deadpool series.

Avengers or Justice League?
Hmmm loaded question? In essence it could be Marvel vs DC... as a kid i was heavily into Marvel but never liked the Avengers. However the Justice League animated movies are pretty rad... Justice League!

Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Non-fiction, or fiction based on fact... But sometimes Fantasy, which I guess is total fiction...

One book, and one band.... 
Fatherland by Robert Harris is a great historical crime fiction book... I read it way back in high school and I remember loving it. And the band “Guards”!

Last question: What was the main source of inspiration behind your self-titled debut EP “Team Spirit”?
Freedom! And rock n roll!

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Thanks to Ayad Al Adhamy for taking the time to stop by All The Write Notes and chatting. If you would like to keep up with the band, you can check them out on Facebook and on Twitter. You can pick up Team Spirit's debut EP here, and check out their live dates here. Trust me, Team Spirit's energy is amazing and they put on a show not to be missed.

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music and book blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

My Love for Singer/Songwriters + GIVEAWAY!

I love music. We all know this. I create playlists for everything in life--I have playlists called Move, Dance, Smile, Cry, Girls Night, Football,...you name it, I've probably created a playlist to cover it.

I'm not a hipster. I like it all. My iTunes library has everything from The Black Eyed Peas to The Black Crowes to Blakroc. I can find something to appreciate in most songs (even that newish Britney- Will.i.am song where she has that ridiculous accent--it's awful, but I can TOTALLY dance to it).

(Also if you happen to know WHY she has that accent for this one specific song, please share. It literally creeps into my mind at the worst times and I simply need to know.)

While I'm not particularly attached to any certain genre, I always always always love singer/songwriters. There's something about knowing that the person performing a song designed every piece of it, you know? From the melody to the lyrics to the instruments involved--the song is exactly how he or she planned it. That song MEANS something to the artist, and it changes the listening experience for me completely. I have so much respect for a person who can find inspiration in something--an idea, an emotion, an event--and turn it into art.

I can do that with words. People who can do it with music fascinate me.

My friend Chris Weiss is a local singer/songwriter and an award-winning guitarist. He plays fingerstyle steel string guitar and sings as well. His music includes sounds of bluegrass, folk, jazz, gospel, classical, and blues. As a musician, Chris has been influenced by everyone from Bill Monroe to Dave Matthews and from Cole Porter to John Scofield. His music has been compared to the likes of Alex Degrassi, Phil Keaggy, Waylon Jennings, and James Taylor. "I take those as great compliments, but you really need to hear it yourself," he says. "My music means different things to different people."

Chris gave me a copy of his album, Reflections, and I've spent the last week listening to it while I outlined my next book (aka, BETWEEN PART DEUX). At this stage in the process, when I need to seriously focus and plan out a story, I like to listen to something laid back and meaningful, with as few lyrics as possible. Instrumental is best, so the lyrics don't distract me from what I'm working on. I typically turn to jazz or classical playlists to get me through this part.

Chris's CD came at the perfect time. The majority of the songs on Reflections are instrumental and it's exactly the type of album I love to plot to--smooth rhythms, great melodies, and filled with emotion.

As a matter of fact, I liked it so much, I'm giving one away! To win, just leave a comment on this post with either 1. your favorite singer/songwriter or 2. your favorite type of music to listen to when you're writing. (And also the answer to that Britney question I had earlier.) Don't forget to include your email address or twitter handle so I can track you down if you win.

I'll use Random.org to pick a winner from the comments. This giveaway will close Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:00pm NOON EST.

If you'd like to get to know Chris better, (and you do--in addition to making good music, he makes me laugh all the time, plus he's just a super nice guy), you can follow him on Twitter and check out his Facebook page!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Radiohead - An Interview with Author Evan Roskos


Today at ATWN, author Evan Roskos stops by to talk about his love of everything Radiohead, his critically acclaimed book Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, and Evan offers up some fantastic giveaways for our readers, and Radiohead fans. Let’s get started…

How did you get introduced to Radiohead?
A UFO descended from the stars and landed in my backyard. A small creature, looking basically like the stereotypical grey alien creature of popular culture, only with a more pallid face and the crackling voice of an English adolescent, placed a cassette tape in my hands. The creature left without a word. The tape contained no markings, but the music needed no words to tell me it was the glorious sounds of some far off land. Also, I borrowed a copy of Pablo Honey from my friend Valerie, dubbed it, and started saving up to buy a legit version after the first listen. I never looked back, but I yearn for that alien to return and apologize for knocking the limb off of our tree.

How many times have you seen Radiohead play live?
Five times, all post Kid A. (They only played one Philadelphia show when I was in college, but it was during the summer so I didn’t get there.) I have dozens and dozens of phenomenal bootlegs thanks to the internet. Even though you didn’t ask.

What is one song by Radiohead you couldn’t live without?
Oh, man. I don’t know. There’s so many. I mean, “Let Down” is pure and wonderful. “Bloom” is amazing. “Arpeggi” and “Street Spirit” and “There There” and “Paranoid Android” -- I can’t choose! I won’t choose! I’ll just say “Creep” or the cover of “Nobody Does it Better” to annoy people.

Are there lyrics to a Radiohead song you wish you had written?
Not really—writing is so particular to a person’s sensibilities that I’d never be able to match what someone like Yorke has written. I mean, I’ll always love my own writing best of all because it’s mine. But I’d rather have Yorke’s lyrics with the band’s phenomenal music.

Kid A or The Bends?
There’s this really obscure German import of the band jamming to some Miles Davis that’s better than both of them, but you probably haven’t heard it.* The Bends. But not by much. I mean, it’s like picking between two different but perfectly wonderful desserts. Some days I want chocolate pudding; other days I want mint chocolate chip ice cream. Either way, I win. With The Bends there’s a stronger nostalgia for me, though I introduced Kid A to my wife and that’s her preferred album. So maybe I should say Kid A to avoid marital strife. No! I’ll remain true to my inner Radiohead nerd, who will always be single and awkward around women! I felt that the live versions of Kid A had a better tempo than the record. A little more raw and aggressive. After listening to the concert bootlegs all summer in 2000, I was surprised that the album itself had a slower pace, despite how layered and beautiful it sounds. So, The Bends.
*This is a fabrication.

Atoms for Peace or Thom Yorke’s solo album?
Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser. But in this case it’s like picking room temperature tap water or room temperature bottled water. I have no issues with Yorke’s interest in his side projects and I do enjoy The Eraser. I have yet to really fall in love with anything related to Atoms for Peace.

Paranoid Android or Fake Plastic Trees?
PARANOID ANDROID. Paranoid Android is easily a top 3 Radiohead song. Fake Plastic Trees is the song I play on my acoustic guitar when I’m reminding my wife I’m sensitive and poetic. It’s basically the pale, British version of Colt 45.

Have you ever been caught dancing like Thom?
Caught?
No.

What did you think of the “pay what you want” formula Radiohead did with their album “In Rainbows”?
I actually bought the special edition with all the cool artwork and the bonus CD, which was a great deal since worldwide shipping was included. I remember talking to a guy I knew who worked in the music industry and he chalked the whole thing up to a publicity stunt that overcharged fans for the special edition to subsidize the people who were going to clearly pay nothing for the album.  That conversation...sickened me.
I thought it was a cool idea and certainly an idea that would work for a band with a huge, web-friendly following. It fit with Radiohead’s various online experiments (the TV station, the webcasts, the rabbit-hole website designs). I was disappointed that they didn’t release full information on the results, as they had claimed they would. The reports were that the average price paid was pretty low. I expected that, since there are plenty of people who don’t believe in paying for music, but hoped for full disclosure anyway.

What were you listening to when you wrote Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets?
It was 2010 when I wrote it and my son had been born that spring. So, lots of upbeat stuff: Los Campesinos!’s Romance is Boring, Jonsí’s self-titled debut; Murder by Death’s Good Morning, Magpie; and Menomena’s Mines. Also, obsessively and less upbeat in many ways, The National’s High Violet.

Would James, the MC in Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, like Radiohead? What about the imaginary pigeon therapist, Dr. Bird?
James actually has a moment where he puts on a Radiohead shirt but is hesitant to wear it to a party he’s attending that night for fear it’ll seem like he’s trying to be cool. (Though, I suspect RH doesn’t get teenager cool points. They seem like REM in the 90s: dad rock. YES, I SAID IT. LET’S ALL JUST ADMIT IT’S PROBABLY SOMEWHAT TRUE PERHAPS.) Anyway, James’s friend Derek sees the Radiohead shirt and makes a face. “I just find them boring,” he says to James, who replies: “Well, is the SHIRT boring? It doesn’t play music.” That exchange in the novel is 100% for my friends who know I’m a huge Radiohead nerd. Dr. Bird prefers the work of Andrew Bird not only because it’s an easy joke, but because the work is atmospheric and lyrically complex and most importantly: sounds great on sunny days. Have you ever see a sad pigeon on a sunny day? Hell no you haven’t.

Photo Credit: Radiohead
Favorite album cover by Radiohead?
OK Computer. That album cover is carved into my eyeballs. I have a print of the artwork from that era on my wall. I also once made a Windows 98 theme based on Radiohead artwork from The Bends and OK Computer. It even had sounds. Spent a week perfecting it. What a horrendously awesome waste of time. I could’ve been talking to girls!

What other bands/artists do you like?
I have a weird collection -- it’s not deep or hipster-obscure. It’s somewhat commercial and random. I can listen to any of these bands in the same week: Andrew Bird, Neutral Milk Hotel, System of a Down, Björk, Murder By Death, Menomena, PJ Harvey, The Mars Volta, Talking Heads, DEVO, David Bowie, Beck, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Los Campesinos!, Jónsi…. Nevermind the 90s standards (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) and other classics (REM, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin).
So. Yeah.

Photo Credit: Poetry Foundation
We couldn’t have an interview with you and not bring up Walt Whitman. Tell our readers, who may be unfamiliar with his poetry, why they should read his work.
Simply for this line: “Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice” More seriously, though: Walt Whitman is a tough sell -- he doesn’t write short, compact poetry, so it’s not like a Robert Frost poem where there’s a clear point in a compact number of lines. Whitman uses archaic language and the structures of his poems don’t make themselves apparent immediately. He writes about America in all its variety -- the good, the bad, the true, the gory. He celebrates everything. He’s in love with the human body, its strength, its sexiness, its vigor. He never really gets pessimistic, even when he starts writing about the Civil War. He celebrates the passion of soldiers, the bravery. He says it is lucky to die just as it is lucky to be born. The universe is a vast, fascinating thing just as a blade of grass is a vast and fascinating thing. He believes we should learn from experience not from books. And yet he writes a book to tell us this. “Do I contradict myself?” he asks. “Well, I contain multitudes.” There’s something so vital and exciting about his poetry, especially when digested in snippets as James does in the novel. Whitman has little mantras, nearly perfect life-affirming, glorious statements that don’t require that you decode. He’s often smashing you in the brain with these truths. He’s not for everyone, but he’s one of the most positive poets I’ve ever read, constantly looking to the world and celebrating something. The perfect poet to read on difficult days or bright sunny days. I highly recommend the site http://whitmanarchive.org. Especially to read the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass which is, in my opinion, the superior version (Whitman revised the book a number of times in his lifetime, but the poetry gets a little stodgy as he ages). Also, Walt Whitman’s America by David S. Reynolds is a great book about 19th century America and how it influenced the poet.
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Thanks to Evan Roskos for taking the time to stop by All The Write Notes, and now it's time for the giveaway! Evan has graciously offered our North American readers two chances to win...
First: The Mega winner will receive a signed copy of Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets + Radiohead postcard from Amnesiac promotion + 1 copy of a high quality Radiohead bootleg from the winner's preferred era (Bends/OK Computer OR Kid A/Amnesiac OR In Rainbows).
Second: Our second place winner will receive a signed copy of Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets and a journal featuring a Walt Whitman quote on the cover.
Amazing!!! Now,  if you aren't one of the lucky two to win, or you just can't wait to read Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, it can be purchased at any local indie-book store, or through Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. Now if Evan has you craving more Radiohead, then check out the amazing fan-site At Ease on the web, or on Twitter.

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music and book blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

a Rafflecopter giveaway *The Giveaway is for North American addresses only. Sorry.

Do you have a band like Radiohead is to Evan? If so, we at ATWN would love to hear about it. Leave us a comment below...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

An Old Fart Listens To "Just Give Me A Reason"

Hi! My name is J (just one letter because my parents were convinced that the birth certificate people charged by the letter and they are frugal), and this is my very first post for All The Write Notes. So, who are you?

Good. Cool. Nice to meet you. How’s your mom and them?

Excellent.

Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, I guess I should tell you a little bit about me and music. I play the saxophone, piano, and, being from Mississippi, washboard. In fact, I’ve played music for too many years that I don’t want to count because dammit I’m old.

I don’t really listen to “modern” music--more of a polka fan myself. But this blog? Way too hip for Lawrence Welk appreciation. So, I thought and I thought and I thought what I could bring to this blog. And here is what I decided.

I’m going to look at the Billboard Top 100, take a song, and tell you what it’s all about in a segment I like to call “An Old Fart Listens to What You Youngsters Are All Jiving To And Explains It All”.

First--let’s look at the list. Hmmmmm. Something named Macklemore on here. Pretty sure that’s one of those “boutique” shops my wife buys a handbag for half a grand. Taylor Swift? If I get in touch with the feelings of a teenage girl, pretty sure that means jail time. Darius Rucker? Holy crap-on-a-stick-pickle, Hootie lost the Blowfish.

Ah--number one. Good place to start. This week’s number one is “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink who once spelled her name P!nk and the lead singer of fun. which means this song must be all about unusual uses of punctuation. The other singers name is Nate Ruess. (Surprising tidbit--Nate was one doctorate away from having to listen to people say “Would you carry on in a box? Would you, could you, carry on with a fox?”)

So, here’s the song…

 

 At first, our heroine Pink sings about the loss of love.

“I let you see the parts of me that weren’t all that pretty”. Going to go out on a limb here and say that she had an open door bathroom policy. Then we get into the heavy stuff.

“You’ve been talking in your sleep…Uh oh…Things you never say to me…Uh oh” This, I believe is unfair to the young man. I mean, what if he had been dreaming about being chased by a giant egg roll? “Get AWAY, you ginormous mass of fried cabbage!” Pretty sure he’d never said that to her before.

Now, Dr Ruess comes in singing what NO GUY SHOULD EVER SAY. “Sorry I don’t understand where all this is coming from…” Really, Nate? Listen to someone who’s been married a few years--you might as well sung “I also think you’ve put on some weight and your mother is a hag…”

He then sings about it all being in her mind because he never wants to make whoopee again. Welcome to ‘Not tonight honey’-ville. Population Nate Dog.

Also, lost in all this is that something is written in the scars of their hearts which must mean they share a cardiologist. And he’s not acting very professional.

So, here it is--the “Old Fart Listens To What The Young Kids Are Jivving To And Explains It All” for “Just Give Me A Reason”:

Basically, Pink’s tired of Nate being all distant, mostly because of his dreams. Nate responds in the absolute worst way he possibly can, basically telling Pink she’s gone cray cray, and then then repeat the words “Our Love” four times because love. Then they sing about drinking and rust and other stuff because it’s supposed to be way deep and nothing is resolved in the end.

Basically, a description of my marriage.

So, what do you think of the song? Let me know!!!!!

Till Next Time,

J

Monday, 6 May 2013

On Rock Star Friends


The biggest problem in rock journalism is that often the writer’s main motivation is to become friends with the band. They’re not really journalists; they’re people who want to be involved in rock and roll. ~ Chuck Klosterman

A friend of mine sent me this quote a few days ago. This is why the music biz needs you! she gushed.

On the surface, Klosterman’s statement rings true for me. I think most rock journalists are, at heart, big music fans and big fans of the idea of rock and roll. You have to be. And we all know how easy it is to get lost in that idea, or get caught up in the hubris, or get too “into” bands—even local bands—with the sexdrugsrockandroll veil over our eyes. The prospect of befriending a big rock star is super tantalizing if you're caught up in the mystique.

As for me, what I “geek out” about are not the rock stars themselves—or merely the music—but the freedom that they have to be fully creative. I love hearing about that, and I like talking to rock stars the same way I like talking to strangers in a bar: it’s a risk but it’s usually fun, even if it’s all at arm’s length.

But to be real, live, hang-out friends with a rock star? Playing Scattergories together over crudites? For the most part, no.

It’s not about ruining the illusion. Illusions are meant to be used and quickly destroyed. I am very comfortable with the idea of famous rock stars making sandwiches, arguing with their family, and farting audibly. I also have enough non-famous musician friends to no longer be awed by the bullshit of rock and roll. The only rocker mythos I don’t dare disturb is Led Zeppelin’s because, let’s face it, their whole Aleister Crowley/Lord of the Rings thing is fucking awesome.

We salute you, Dark Lord Jimmy Page!
But if I’m being completely honest with myself, it's more about the fact that I’m totally not cool enough to be friends with a rock star.  

Plus, nobody likes journalists and music journalists are like the D&D-playing younger step siblings of the journalism world. The awkward tag-alongs of journalism. We are the dorks to the rock stars’ gods, and everyone knows it.

I think every music writer feels a little bit like a fraud; I know I do. How could we not? If we don’t feel that way a little bit, then we’re living a bigger illusion than the believers in the hype surrounding those we interview. We write about people way cooler than us instead of living way cooler lives ourselves. Even the "rock stars" of rock journos (such as they are anymore) are met with annoyance and indifference. The clout these big-name music writers once had is a thing of the past, and those guys themselves are like Quakers—once (and still occasionally) revolutionary, but facing extinction.

And yet we all continue. We occupy a strange place in the world, getting creative about others' creativity, working purely for passion and fun, and doing our best to keep up with the same imploding music industry that's confounding even the most talented and established musicians. 

The big question is... where do we go from here? A few things are for certain: Music will always matter and people who love music will always matter; therefore, people who write about music will always matter somehow because meaningful conversations will always matter—even between dorks and gods.

I think there's only one thing to do: How ’bout it, rock stars? Want to grab a beer sometime?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Universally Singular Sensations

Hey there. It's Angi Black. It's my first time at All The Write Notes. So hi and thanks for having me.

Today I wanna talk about why music and writing go are alike. Some people use music for inspiration. some people just don't like a room of quiet and music is preferred over screaming children. For me, songs are simply old friends. Books are my comfort food.

I have to have my music. I've been told if you cut my arm, I bleed music notes. I'm sure that's partly true..that and caffeine at least. But my point is, I NEED my music. I have a soundtrack to my life that tells you who I am and where I've been, but it also helps define me. My first album was one by the Beatles. The Red one, '62-'66, and I picked it out when I was three years old. I knew all the words six months later and for my fourth birthday my great uncle got me my own record player and I could work it by myself. I'm sure it's no small thing that I enjoy peace and love and long hair boys. See what I mean?

After that, I made some questionable choices in music, but the one thing remains constant, I buy the song because it speaks to me.

Maybe it reminds me of something, maybe it builds a world in my mind, maybe it tells me to dance. But no matter what, it says something to me. And here's where I get to the point.

Music is really one of two things, books being the other, that is something that is truly and singularly yours, but at the same time completely universal. I'm sure that album was a lot of people's first music memory, and while mine is fully mine, the exact same music, lyrics and cover means something equally powerful but totally different to them.

Think about it. You hear a song. You think, my god, that is exactly how I feel. This is MY song. It was made for me. And no one understands how I feel but me and this song. (Sorry, I let my inner emo girl write this post.) Time passes. You meet someone and circumstances become that you hear the song together. They say, OOh, I love this song.You say, Me too!!! You both commiserate about how the song got you through. It was your song. and it defined a moment and will always take you back.

But wait a minute.

That song was about you and only you got it fully. So how is it that something that is totally your own and feels deeply personal, was written by someone else about th human condition, and is universally accepted and embraced? How can it be yours and theirs and then yours together?

That's the magic of song. It can be something so personal and yet binds us universally together in harmony. Oh my god, music is The Force!(hey Inner Nerd, get back down in there.)
One song can means everything to one person and but connect many in their solitude.

The only other thing that can do that is a book. Books are much like songs. You read them. You get lost in a whole different world. It means something to you. Maybe it connects deep within you and you're so wrapped up in your book, you forget reality exists.

Is there anything more exciting than meeting someone and them loving the same book? You can discuss this and that and experience the emotion all over again. I love that moment you find out your have a book or a song in common with someone.

So here's to hoping today you get wrapped up in a song or write a book that becomes someone's singular(universal) sensation.