One of my favorite internet music finds of the year was a guy named Ian Johnston, a British Columbian who records under the moniker Shaky Snakes. With a handful of indie-pop singles earlier this year, and then the more ambient/beat-based Glowing EP in September, Johnston used 2011 to take some small steps out into the large and intimidating world of online music. Here he recalls some inspirations behind his promising beginning:
This year has been pretty great! In the early winter months I often found myself at these after-hours warehouse type shows. And the atmosphere was so much more appealing to me than pubs or clubs. It’d be late and people’s guards would be down, and the music was so loud and everything was just uninhibited and blissful. Then in the daytime there was so much winter sun coming through my windows and I kept thinking about the vibes of these late night spots and I started trying to write songs that would sound good played at said parties. In the past I would get close to finishing a song, play it for a couple people, then either never find the right way to finish it, or realize that it’s just a Magnetic Fields ripoff or something and get discouraged. But this year I started to feel more confident about things and just started putting them out on the magical internet.
There were three live shows I caught in 2011 that were more memorable than most. Each has given me somewhat of an inspirational push to continue with my own music. I’ll list them chronologically.
The first was Myths. The whole thing was completely magical and I’ve just spent the last ten minutes writing varied descriptions of it but it doesn’t work. You had to be there. Myths are these two incredibly talented ladies and their live show is just them on either side of a table littered with gear, and it’s this crazy intensity both aurally and visually. And the fact that they were playing well after midnight at this warehouse just made it so that everyone there was that much more into it. There was this mystical quality to it all. So much visual stuff happening with lights and projections, and then this total assault of sound. If you get a chance to, see them.
Then in June I had the pleasure of seeing Teen Daze perform. His setup appeared to be nothing more than a laptop and a MIDI controller which, on paper, could be less than exciting. But he owned it. He politely asked the crowd to step forward and dissolve the all too frequent 2-3 feet of space between the crowd and the front of the stage and then just he just got started. Watching him manipulating all these samples and loops and then singing over top of it all, I started to realize the possibilities of all this technology. There was nothing lacking; no one was wishing there was a full band playing these songs – it just worked. The crowd loved him. Of course, he has all sorts of experience with this. Surely he’s fine-tuned the performance, but it inspired me that it was at least possible for me too, and I’ve spent the months since trying to figure out my own live setup.
Finally, in October, I saw Purity Ring. I had heard people rave about their live show, but I never bothered to look up any videos. I was very much looking forward to seeing it without any preconceived notions. Their stage setup consisted of three sheets, each a different colour, hanging behind them, each with a light behind it that was triggered by different parts of different songs. In front of Corin was a table with a Dr. Seuss-like array of twisting copper pipes, each with a lightbulb protuding at the end. Megan had a giant drum on a stand, lit from behind, and a hanging floodlight. And then it started and I just stood there in total awe. It’s not that I want to imitate their live show, but it taught me that you can step out of these classic full-band performance arrangements, and if you do it right, it can be better than a full band could ever be.
Lastly, has anyone else noticed that the fall colours seemed weirdly off this year? They seemed brighter, and in different hues. Maybe I just never noticed before. It’s been a good year, but I feel like 2012 will be even better. These three shows all played a role in inspiring me to make music, and to play it for people, and right now I feel closer than I ever have been to doing it and hopefully doing it right.
MP3 :: You, You, You
MP3 :: Fever When You Spoke
MP3 :: Ozone Exciter