Sonoak is Greg’s solo project.
All of his songs are notes to self.
NY to VA 2015 Soundscape
Composed entirely of sounds, songs, and interviews between New York and Virginia from a cross country bike trip in 2015 from NYC to LA with friends, Kenny and Cara.
Thanks to Kenny and Cara for taking this trip with me and helping me with these interviews, yelling in tunnels, and singing in the woods. Also a big thanks to Nolan Eley for mixing advice as well as friends who provided super helpful feedback before release.
Morning is a Desert
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.
Go Ahead [Split]
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!
Watkins Glen [Split]
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.
We The Chocolate Sparrow [Split]
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.
Decay (Spring comp #3)
Compilation of PRR artists and friends.
Practice Room Records presents Secret Admirer – a compilation of PRR artists covering each other.
I am seriously struggling to write about what this compilation means to me. 16 people volunteered to cover each other’s songs for no money, no real “exposure”, nothing beyond wanting to be apart of such a project. 11 of those people were given the artist they’d cover from out of a hat. All of the songs you’re hearing (with the exception of “New Year”) are songs that have been previously released on the PRR discography for free download on a website that one of those artists (Ken Korb) built from scratch. Each of these people gave their time and energy to reinterpret a song that a friend (or a friend of a friend) created. Some of them offered even more time to help mix and master each other’s tracks. All of them at least seem to have really enjoyed it (and I hope they love the final product as much as I do). Of all the compilations and albums released on PRR, this one takes the cake on what PRR truly means to me: community.
A small tangent: why do some people create and others don’t? Why do some people take the risk of exposing and expressing themselves while others with that same desire stay silent? Certainly there are the few that seem to have been born without an embarrassed bone in their body. For those of you who are so blessed to be amazing at what you do from the get-go and don’t feel that shame and nervousness and insecurity – you’re lucky, so go take advantage of that! But for the rest of us (is it safe to say most of us???) who are doomed to start at anything poorly and then excel only with time and practice – we need each other. We need someone to think that we’re better than we actually are so that we can keep going, keep practicing, keep doing.
Our growth, then, is a result of our mutual support. Our growth is a result of our growing up, listening to each other’s terrible, cringe and laugh-worthy music. Maybe we weren’t always the greatest critics in retrospect, but maybe that blindness that friendship causes is partly to blame for our feeling like rock stars in each other’s eyes. And now, so many years later, we have 16 people volunteering, wanting, to not only put out music together, but to play each other’s songs that we love. Am I still blinded or is this compilation truly amazing? I may never know, but I don’t think I really care because these people make me feel like a great artist and I hope everyone gets to feel that way.
At the end of the day, I’d insist that to some degree, this collective is a mystery. Some part of it must be luck and some part of it must be us. I can’t speak for everyone who contributed but I can publicly thank them (even if only a few people ever really read this). Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by the fact that I get to call these brilliant people my friends, collaborators, and, if I can be so bold, mutual admirers. It’s been an honor to assemble these tracks, thanks to everyone for participating and thanks for making a community with me.
And a special thanks to Ken Korb for the incredible album art (for real fans: try to find all the art from PRR releases re-collaged here) as well as Jackson Wargo for volunteering to beautifully master this compilation and promising not to hide fart sounds in the mix.
Cloud – Abunoriginal
Performed and engineered by Tyler Taormina. Mixed by Nolan Eley. “My ode to Cole.” Covering the original song “Aboriginal” off of the album “Dark Room” by Redstone Repeater.
Roberto – Blind, Blind, Blind
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Brendan. “With respect to the production styles of Bad At Baseball.” Covering the original song “Blind” off of the album “Go Ahead” by Michael Brandon.
Beach Moon/Peach Moon – Sapito Lipón/Cross Paths
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Robbie Prisco. Samples by Alone. Covering the original piece “Sapito Lipón” off of the album “Las Villas” by Alone.
Michael Brandon – Snowflake
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Michael Brandon. Covering the original song “Snowflake” off of the album “Watkins Glen” by Sonoak.
Trestin Eeling – Lifeboat
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Ken Korb. Covering the original piece “Age” off of the album “Lifeboat” by Plain Grays.
Raw Paws – I Loe Ou
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Cole Verderber. “I would just want to say, thank you to Kenny Korb for being an amazing musician and songwriter and for inspiring me through the years!” Covering the original song “I Loe Ou” off of the album “This is Paradise” by Trestin Eeling.
Samira Winter – New Year
Vocals, Guitar, Keys, Drums by Samira Winter. Bass, Guitar by David Yorr. Mixed by Samira Winter, David Yorr and Matt Hogan. Covering the original song “New Year” which is unreleased as of 2015 by Jason Lerman.
Snowball II – Desperation Club
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Jackson Wargo. Covering the original song “Desperation Club” off of the album “Comfort Songs” by Cloud.
Cherry Bomb – Haley House
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Nolan Eley. “Primacy Effect is my favorite band.” Covering the original song “Haley House” off of the album “The Done Days of Piano Row” by Primacy Effect.
Tapestry – Waiting for the Summer
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Casey Jacobs. Covering the original song “Waiting for the Summer” off of the album “Supreme Blue Dream” by Winter.
Safehouse – Allison Archer
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Dillon Vetere. Samples by Fjords. Covering the original piece “Allison Archer” off of the album “The Slow Death of Allison Archer” by Fjords.
Glass Frog – Brush It Off
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Konrad Kamm. Covering the original song “Brush it Off” off of the album “Killer Wails” by Beach Moon/Peach Moon.
Sonoak – Memory Swipe
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Greg Salwen. Covering the original piece “Memory Swipe” off of the album “Nighttime Noise” by Glass Frog.
Alone – Burial
Performed and mixed by Lorena Alvarado. Engineered by Tyler Taormina. Covering the original song “Burial Ground” off of the album “Branches” by Tapestry.
Jason Lerman – Fly Into the Mystery
Performed, mixed, and engineered by Jason Lerman. Covering the original song “Fly Into the Mystery” off of the album “Zen Summer” by Cloud.
David Shotwell – Skymother
Performed by David Shotwell. Mixed and engineered by Lucas Holstein. “Thanks to Practice Room Records for inviting me, and to Life On An Island Records for raising me. And thanks to Mom and Dad for the guitar.” Covering the original song “Skymother” off of the album “Every Starry Night” by Adam & Naive.
Volume 8: Live from the Couch House (I)
Live recordings from a show at Greg and Kenny’s old apartment in Flatbush.
Featuring from PRR: Sonoak, Trestin Eeling, Glass Frog, We the Chocolate Sparrow, Tapestry, and Michael Brandon
PRR Plays the Hits Vol. 1
Practice Room Records Plays the Hits is a compilation of covers.
“Personal Tornadoes” performed by Marblemouth (originally performed by Trouble Books on the album The United Colors of Trouble Books, 2008)
“Eventually, All At Once” performed by Trestin Eeling (originally performed by Joan of Arc on the album Eventually, All At Once, 2006)
“She Did A Lot of Acid” performed by Primacy Effect (originally performed live by Neutral Milk Hotel, c. 1997)
“Go” performed by Sonoak (originally performed by Daniel Johnston on the album Respect)
“Born on a Train” performed by Jason Lerman (originally performed by The Magnetic Fields [The Charm of the Highway Strip, 1994], but Jason had only heard the Arcade Fire cover version [c. 2005] when he recorded this)
“Derwentwater Stones” performed by Tapestry (originally performed by Robin Pecknold on the E.P. Three Songs, 2011)
“Give You My Lovin’” performed by Glass Frog (originally performed by Mazzy Star on the album She Hangs Brightly, 1990)
“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” performed by Cloud (originally performed by Leonard Cohen on the album Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967)
“A Spindle, a Darkness, a Fever, and a Necklace” performed by Ena Alvarado (originally performed by Bright Eyes on the album Fevers and Mirrors, 2000)
“Merchandise” performed by Male Unbonding (originally performed by Fugazi on the album Repeater, 1990)
“He Doesn’t Know Why” performed by Raw Paws (originally performed by Fleet Foxes on the album Fleet Foxes, 2008)
“Bankrupt on Selling” performed by Michael Brandon (originally performed by Modest Mouse on the album The Lonesome Crowded West, 1997)
“Our Last Night Together” performed by Moviegoer (originally performed by Arthur Russell on the album World of Echo, 1986)
The Players (album art, clockwise from the bass neck)
Greg Salwen, Samira Winter, Tyler Taormina, Michael Brandon, Jason Lerman, Kyle Oppenheimer, Ena Alvarado, Nolan Eley, Kenny Korb, Cole Verderber, Lorena Alvarado, Brendan Mattox, Casey Jacobs, Michaela Weglinski, and Konrad Kamm
Recently, I was interviewing Brooklyn artist & musician Taraka Larsen. In the course of our conversation about an end of the world karaoke event she and her sister, Nimai, put on several years ago, she dropped this interesting thought about singing other people’s songs:
“You’re willingly opening yourself to being possessed,” she said, “like, if you’re singing an Elvis song, and you’re really good at it, you’re channeling Elvis.”
At the same time, I finally got my shit together and started organizing the dozen or so tracks that other members of PRR had sent me to compile into the compilation you’re currently downloading (thank you for reading this and not, god forbid, looking at porn or Pitchfork).
Taraka’s observation has stuck with me. Why play the hits? It’s not like it’s hard to find the original recording of anything anymore––they’re streamable, buyable, and audible from the quad of your local college.
But nothing quite compares to picking up an instrument yourself and trying to arrange someone else’s song. Our bodies are so different, so unique. Often times it requires more than just a set of tabs from Ultimate Guitar and a six-string acoustic.
I’m at a loss to describe just what that is: I think it takes a loving, deep connection to the song that you’ve chosen to cover. You need to know original so intimately that your stupid fingers can compensate for what it does not know how to do, and replace that essence of the creator with your own.
-Brendan Mattox (aka Marblemouth)
All the artists whose awesome music we covered.
Brendan Mattox for organizing and compiling these songs.
Ken Korb for the beautiful original album art.
And a big, big thanks to Kyle Oppenheimer for mastering!
Pie (Spring Compilation #2.5)
Compilation of PRR artists and friends.
Puddles (Spring Compilation #1)
Compilation of PRR artists and friends.
2. Cloud – End of an Aura: Produced by Jon Davies & Lorena Alvarado
Guitar by Jon Davis
Bass/Vocals by Samira Winter
3. Tapestry – Salt Stains: Recorded by Cole Verderber
Drums by Joey Puelio
4. Sonoak – One Day, a Straight Path: Mixed by Kenny Korb
5. Trestin Eeling – Cute Pop Apocalypse: Whistling by Jess Katon
6. Adam & Naive – Not a Film: Engineered at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn
7. Plain Graze – Lost and Found: Mixed by Greg
10. Samira & Lorena – Six Years Later: Mixed by Nolan Eley
13. Ena Alvarado – Irene With All: Mixed by Kenny
Drums by Tyler
Second guitar by Greg
Bass by Konrad
Extra vocals by Lorena & Greg
Volume 5: Live from the Practice Room (II) [1/14/11]
Live recordings from a show in the Practice Room.
Featuring from PRR: Glass Frog, Trestin Eeling, Sonoak, Cloud, Michael Brandon
Volume 2: Live from The Practice Room (I) [8/17/10]
Live recordings from a show in the Practice Room.
Featuring from PRR: Trestin Eeling, Glass Frog, Cloud, Sonoak, and Adam & Naive
Volume 1: Live from Bay Icemint (I) [7/2/10]
Live recordings from a show in Greg’s parents’ old basement when they went out of town for a night.
Featuring from PRR: Sonoak, Trestin Eeling, Glass Frog, Cloud, and Adam & Naive
Also featuring: Pipiabat