Where the Light Shines

The Allen Stone Electric Ensemble played a corporate event at the St Regis in Punta De Mita yesterday, and the client mentioned seeing us back in 2011 at the Independent in San Francisco, opening for Nikki Costa.

I remember that show well. It was, in fact, the very first show on our very first tour, and I wore a cookie-monster-blue button up shirt for the occasion (shudder).

We sounded exactly like what we were: a group of barely-acquaintances who piled into a van with zero plan. And while we were pretty much unlistenable, there was something visceral and punk rock about those early shows. They had heart.

And through the endearing blunders and innumerable fashion catastrophes, that heart transcended, ultimately paving our way to this beautiful place.

I’m grateful for the reminder to make good art, share fearlessly, and go where the light shines.

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Thank You Scientist

I’m procrastinating on a dreary, rain-soaked afternoon, watching Thank You Scientist on Audiotree Live

A YouTube commenter compares the band to “Snarky Puppy on cocaine,” which is pretty accurate, and at their show at the Exit/In last night, the number of Dream Theater and Coheed and Cambria t-shirts took me back to a wonderland of romantic underachievement, unironic double XL sweat shirts, and the glorious freedom unapologetic nerdom affords. 

Thank You Scientist are a great band. It’s A LOT of notes, but kicks ass, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. And I just love what they stand for - buddies who met at music college and stuck to their guns, never succumbing to the pressures of the mainstream music biz. 

It’s the Vulfpeck model, which all of us involved with labels and stuff are not-so-secretly jealous of, and a reminder that fans are out there, and no manager, A&R person, or ephemeral hype can make manifest the music in your heart. 

Building Blocks

At the beginning of this MOAT project, I wrote about identity based goals, how identifying as someone who writes a thousand words a day, say, potentially opens the door for anxiety and perceived failure, whereas being someone who simply puts pen to paper daily welcomes both productive and unproductive sessions as what they are - foundational building blocks, glorious in their imperfection and oh-so necessary.

It’s fun scrolling through past entries. Terse, sardonic commentary, intermingling with verbose and clumsy explorations of James Joyce inspired fantasies, and, every once in a while, kinda useful and heartfelt stuff. 

Since starting this project, I’m a better lyricist, better melody writer, and the gremlins in my head purr rather than snarl. I’ve lost weight. I can run non-pitiful distances. In professional situations where I wish we’d hurry up and pull our heads out of our collective ass, I’m able to channel patience rather than vitriol. 

This newsletter reminds me that tiny changes, over time, yield massive and, most importantly, sustainable results.

Tool!

Many of you know that Tool is one of my favorite bands, and they’ve been debuting new material during their current mini-tour (!).

For the uninitiated, Tool hasn’t released a record since 2006, and their fanbase is, to put it lightly, rabid, so this is big news.

I’ve impressed myself twice this week by resisting temptation to ignore my adult(ish) responsibilities and check out their shows in Birmingham and Louisville at objectively ludicrous expense.

Provided Adam Jones doesn’t garrote Maynard James Keenan with the E string of his guitar, I assume they’ll tour in the fall, and you bet your ass I’ll be there, head banging along to dirges in 7/8 about sacred geometry. 

Getting Endorsements

I’m often asked how to develop relationships with gear companies, etc.

In my experience, it’s an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. Mesa Boogie, for example, approached the band back in 2012 at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco - they dug the set and signed us then and there. D’Addario became interested only after numerous sold out shows in LA, and we weren’t on the the head of A&R at Dunlop’s radar until he caught a Bay Area show.

There was, at no point, a strategy, or even a semblance of a game plan - we just did cool shit and, eventually, people took notice. 

So - frustratingly, I know - it’s a long game, but that’s a blessing in disguise. It’s in your best interest to build your thing to a point where it’s undeniable, and on your terms, and it’s in their best interest to partner with artists they believe in. Building to a tipping point’s the only way the two paths meaningfully intertwine. 

Solidarity

I’m attempting to write this while “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd’s playing at the Red Bicycle, specifically the intro, wherein not-yet-chubby David Gilmore, at the height of his understated, Britishy powers, plays perhaps the perfect guitar solo. Maybe I should drop acid after all, and embrace a megalomaniacal Roger Waters as the cantankerous brother he is. 

This song has everything I love - obscure lyrics about psychedelic adventurers , not-jazz sax solos, and a rock shuffle into a classic fadeout. Erstwhile songwriters, if there’s ever a formula for success, this is it, or at least a formula for pleasing an unknown musician with scoliosis.

The playlist’s just shifted to the Grateful Dead. I’m as big a John Mayer fan as you’ll find, but he’s perpetrated an egregious crime - making the Grateful Dead popular amongst generations not yet embracing golf and proctology exams - and for that, I’ll in no way make a scene if I’m ever fortunate enough to meet the man, but I feel it’s important sharing that I don’t care for the Grateful Dead, and if you don’t either, consider solidarity voiced. 

Guitar Thoughts

I’m gearing up to teach a few online lessons and figured I’d share a quick thought on approaching the guitar.

Whatever’s fueling the fire in the moment - a riff, solo, melody, whatever - I’m a big fan of reverse engineering the awesomeness. For example, learning “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd gives you an understanding of the song, which is great, but not necessarily a deeper understanding of the instrument. The how’s there, but not the why. 

But by practicing triad inversions, the building blocks of the main riff, you not only get the tune, but also a nifty roadmap that’s applicable to everything. 

Now, you can play the song in multiple keys, say, or in a different register, or different position on the neck, or, most importantly, come up with your own thing. You’re in possession of a creative tool, rather than just a lick, primed and ready for Instagram.

TLTL Podcast

The Trevor Larkin Talks and Listens podcast is back! Well, almost, new episodes starting next week.

After being a guest on a few podcasts recently, I was reminded how much I enjoy talking with interesting people and putting it on the internet. That said, it was important stepping away for a while. 

I’m a relentlessly creative person, one who needs multiple outlets to stay sane, but after the Allen Stone tour last fall, I realized I seemed to be doing everything except the thing I wanted most - to make loud rock music with my friends.

So, the podcast went on hold, Climb The Sky was formed, and now that we’re settled into our video and single every month routine, I’m inspired to share some conversations again.

The podcast’s returning to an audio-only format. It was fun adding video, but the show felt most like “me” on the road, with just a couple mics and my trusty Zoom H6. Whenever a camera’s involved, people inevitably slip into show mode - myself included - and I want to capture something more honest and spontaneous.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I’m enjoying making them, or conversing, or whatever the hell it is I’m doing, which, thankfully, I hardly ever know.  



Reminders

I’ve written about my neighbor Big Country in this newsletter, but I have another neighbor, Don. Just as hillbilly, just as nuts, and just as disconcertingly wise. 

While BC is jovial and, provided extreme caution’s applied, approachable, Don is not. He used to be, but something inside him’s soured, manifesting in ranting, reclusiveness, and hobbled posture. Whatever friends and family used to come around no longer bother. I’ve seen him chase them off, anyway. 

There’re any number of potential reasons why, and my aim isn’t to conjecture overly, or conjure a dark cloud over your morning coffee. I wish I could help Don. I wish I knew him better, or that he’d let me in, even just a little, but I don’t, and he won’t, and that makes me sad. He’s a good man, but that’s just how it is sometimes. 

I’m reminded of tendencies within myself, to withdraw, to feign strength, not to ask for help, to microscopically and insidiously become overrun, and how no wrong, no matter how egregious, prevents me from taking incremental steps towards where I perceive the good stuff to be.

Magnificently Lost

Headphones off, it’s Waylon Jennings, the clacking of designer boots against concrete, and a table of born-again Christians evangelizing in the general direction of eavesdropping hipsters. Oh, Tennessee. 

Headphones on, it’s my pal Louis Baker, crooning about love and forgiveness. Next time, maybe New Zealand won’t let me leave. “Trevor, you’re simply too handsome, and we need your sexual magnetism continually to uplift and inspire.” With predictable humility, I accept the challenge, and am immediately emblazoned on their currency.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a whole lot, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt as deep a connection with a country and people as I did with New Zealand.

Google Flights cued up, curser hovering over “book now,” it’s taking every ounce of restraint not to hop on the next flight and get magnificently lost, all over again. 



Badge of Honor

Four days in Nashville, no longer swimming quite so catastrophically in jet lag, at the trusty Red Bicycle, tapping away on the ol’ keyboard. I’m back, baby! Thank you for tolerating my semi-coherent posts while I was returning to a semblance of normalcy.

The hardest part of touring remains that sense of well, now what? Epic adventures, screaming crowds, cheesing in front of selfie sticks, and then, what, the freaking grocery store? An oil change? The goddamn DENTIST?! It’s like hitting a brick wall, every time.

In a sense, this is where jet lag comes into its own. 2am work outs and 4am trips to an already dubious Kroger solidify a satisfying and still necessary sense of otherness, and all there is to do for the better part of a week’s allow thoughts to roll around one’s depleted noggin, trusting it’ll all make sense when it’s time.  

Fellow touring weirdos, I hope the YouTube rabbit holes are plentiful, and furiously cleaning your house at 5am out of sheer desperation is, in fact, a badge of honor.

Sleep

…and one final jet lag inspired post, this one, ironically, about sleep.

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley, the Berkeley most people assume I went to (I don’t bother correcting them). His book, Why We Sleep, is an international best seller, which, to my shame, I haven’t read, but I recently listened to his podcast with Joe Rogan

Say what you will about Joe Rogan and his meatheadish tendencies, but the dude has some fascinating people on his show and, in this case, lets the guest steer the ship. 

There’s so much about sleep we’re not taught, and sleep machismo dominates our workaholic society. I came away from this interview dismayed by how little I knew, but eager to entertain said dismay after 7-9 solid hours of shuteye. 

Where Were You

More beautiful rediscovers courtesy of jet lag! 

There’re lots of great guitar players, but very few who’ve cultivated a truly unique voice on the instrument, and fewer still who’ve conjured a magic so deep that imitators are few and far between.

Jeff Beck is just such a sorcerer, and on top of his musical genius, he’s a bit of a bastard, which I love. 

I’m mesmerized by this performance every time. The Live at Ronnie Scott’s version’s also killer, but there’s something about the rawness and vulnerability captured here.

It’s inspiration to continue chasing the timorous-yet-sparkling music in my head

Rivendell

This morning, I was in Rivendell, and now, I’m watching fireflies dance in the Tennessee twilight, marveling at how distant and impossible one place feels against the other.

And yet, here I am, back again, embracing jet lag like an old friend, scheming how life might continue taking me brazenly around the world.

But, for now, sleep. Like the dead. For the next 12 hours.

More thoughts on the trip tomorrow, from a decidedly less soupy and loopy brain... 

 

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Back to Work

It’s eye crushingly early in the departure lounge of the Wellington International Airport, which evidently also doubles as a sleep apnea research facility. I’m flying back to Nashville today, and not entirely thrilled at the prospect.

Would that I could hang out indefinitely in variously accented, international hubs of intrigue, and as I’m writing this it occurs to me, hey, why not? Never having had a real job lends itself to head scratching lifestyle choices, and why am I trying something as stupid as getting a new band off the ground anyway? Better to hang out here, herd sheep, and drift into anonymity, right? 

Perhaps sadly, that’s not in the cards. Reality’s a subjective thing, and that I’m heading back to it means only that it’s up to me how things take shape. I like that. 

Rights of Passage

Last full day in NZ, and thankfully the band’s popular here because I can’t wait to come back.

I’m struck by the similarities between NZ and Iceland, two places I instantly fell in love with. Both islands, isolated, fiercely proud, gifted with millennia-old lore. Small, but with seemingly infinite, grand, and deeply wild country, the backdrops for reimagined tales of fantastical heroism.

And both with gnarly-yet-delicious seafood delicacies, rights of passage for wide-eyed off-islanders, that even staunch meat and potatoes enthusiasts from impossible places like Connecticut wolf down with near-orgasmic delight.

The sign of a good trip’s when you leave questioning everything, and this has been one of the best, and most necessary, in a long time. 

Word To The Wise

After a couple day bout with food poisoning, I’m back and primed and ready for Lord of the Rings tourism! Word to the wise: when staying on a rural New Zealand farm, replete with sheep, horses, and any number of enthusiastically defecating creatures, don’t eat unwashed fruit you find on the ground. 

Anyway. Wellington is a truly remarkable place, windswept, rugged, and instantly and effortlessly charming. The NZ fanbase is predominantly Maori, and we’ve been welcomed with a warmth I’ve been told’s unusual, and inundated with generosity of all sorts. In Auckland, we played our largest headlining show outside of the US and, almost by accident, we’ve discovered the Al Stone band’s second home.

The world’s a big ol’ confounding bit of, some would say, flat nonsense, and regardless of the insanity levels of those I meet along the way, I’m happy to be right there on the front lines with them, just as befuddling in my own forsaking-soy-lattes kinda way.