Written and mostly recorded while living in LA in 2013/14 where, like anywhere, every morning is a desert and every night hopefully ends on the porch.
Thanks to Nolan Eley for engineering and mastering, Ken Korb for guitarist magicianship on “From the Valley” and “Morning is a Desert”, Lorena Alvarado for vocals on "No Words", and to all my LA friends for one of the best times of my life.
This album contrasts well against my previous: Bike Mantras, which I wrote while fighting the loneliness of being so far from my best friends for the first time out in Olympia, Washington. Golden, Colorado, was the next stop in my post-grad-internship-travels era. But Golden was different in that one of my best friends, Rob, moved out there as well. Instead of experiencing that constant Olympia struggle for resolution, our days were spent hiking and drinking and watching movies and going out to brunch with my roommates. The clarity came easy and this album is the result of nights spent mindlessly strumming my guitar and singing in Rob's apartment. I fell in love for a minute and tough loved for an hour. I also may have driven some of my roommates to madness celebrating the mixes my friends made me.
Snoop Robb -- Lyrics/Vox on Joy in Headaches and No Place to Call My Home.
Ken Korb -- All impressive instrumentals on Joy in Headaches.
Golden Friends -- Beautiful voices on Make Me a Mix!
Most songs were written in Olympia, WA during the summer of 2012, far from my friends. Starting over in a new place, knowing no one, is tough. I was also car-less to start and so I had to bike 20 miles a day for work. I really like to sing while I ride my bike. Lots of my songs are written on bike rides and lots of them turn into little mantras meant to calm me down, to ground me, to bring me back to things we so easily forget day by day. Take it from me, world, ride yer bike, write yer mantras, get outside.
This album ended up becoming a calling for a balance in life between two seemingly conflicting requirements: we must be able to identify our dissatisfactions while simultaneously trying to be happy with what we have (like making the best of a bad situation). Those who are good only at the former tend to be incessantly dissatisfied and ready to remedy their dissatisfactions with extreme actions - these are the unreliable, the unstable, and the inconsistent. Those who are good only at the latter tend to repress their dissatisfactions - these are the complacent, the muffled, the ones who live only half as much as they can, if even that. Mastering this balance requires that one come to terms with issues that cannot be solved, but not resolve themselves to accept all problems as fateful and unchangeable. Once one knows-- truly knows what can and cannot be done, they will no longer feel disappointment. They will discover how best to build within the safety of their comfort zone and know when is best to expand into new territories. I find that singing on bikerides clears my mind and brings me closer to those expansions.
Mike and I (Greg) have both been important figures in each other's musical lives while growing up in Long Island. I looked up to Mike throughout high school for the music he made and before we'd actually met I thought he was a big successful musician out in some professional musician-land. It was the biggest confidence booster to find that true talent and ability was no longer a distant, unreachable dream; in fact it was alive around the corner (and perhaps, I thought, one day [or right now!?] that talent could live in me).
But as obvious as it was to me that his solo music is incredible, Mike tended to be too nitpicky about his music to ever release any solo stuff... ever. So with enough pressure and finally the suggestion that we just man up and do a split together Mike has released his first official solo songs on Go Ahead under "Michael Brandon" and I, again, under "Sonoak". Although we wrote these songs over a long segment of time, separately, they actually fall into a strangely coherent theme. This split is one that reflects upon the useless breed of depression and anxiety and how we can and must make do with what we have because at some point were just avoiding a happiness that's sitting right in front of us. It's time to take a step, so go ahead!
If you're ever in Upstate New York, in the Elmira area, then you should stop by Watkins Glen State Park. It's really an incredible place. One time a bunch of our friends went to Watkins Glen and we saw three dead deer in the gorge. We can only assume they couldn't have anticipated the approaching cliff and fell to where we found them. It must have happened recently too, as their flesh appeared fresh. Later on in the hike a large chunk of slate fell from the overhanging cliff straight down onto the path just ahead of us. It was a strange thing to see knowing that this was a popular park where lots of families brought their young children. If one of us had been 20 feet further along the path and if another one of us never had the chance to warn the others of the rock mid-fall then who knows if this split would have even been written.
This mind-blowing album cover (one of Tyler's favorites) is the result of one night when a few of our friends tried finding images in the pixels of some Rubik's Cubes. At first they were little things using the 3x3x3 but then we moved up to the 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 cubes and drew some really... interesting scenes. For a while after that we had drawing sessions with our friends and families to see what different things everyone saw in those few bright squares.
So the cover makes a little more sense, here's the 5x5 face: