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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times.


Available now at gavincastleton.bandcamp.com

This is a collection of fairly despondent songs with bare-bone instrumentation. I was #blessed to have the help of friends like Brian Cass, Kyleen King, and Courtney Marie Andrews accompany me on this one. The title, "It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times" is probably the only comical thing about it. 60% of this EP was written in July of 2011, in the days directly following the death of my 15-year old furry son, Lumas. Those three songs came quickly and easily (though I hesitate to describe a process so gut-wrenching as "easy"), but I immediately archived them... I didn't feel like I had the distance or stomach necessary to polish and productize them. I made a video for Expensive Love, and played Watering the Soil once at a show in San Francisco, but ultimately I wasn't ready to do right by them... until now. Underestimate Me arrived a few years later, after a healthy dose of rejection. The ease with which all four were written underscores what is surely the universe's bitterest joke: heartbreak is the best creative lubricant.

Team Love was the holdout; I'd never before had to be so patient with a song. The original demo was very different than the version you hear on this EP. It was a bitter fragment about how everyone in my generation seems to be growing out of friendships and into marriage and/or parenthood, with a tempo and arrangement more akin to Gary Jules' cover of Mad World than the upbeat piano doo-wop it became. But I was starting to turn a corner on a long bout of depression and I wanted the last song on the record to lead me out, rather than keep me there. I'd never before taken a sad song and inverted it, so I set about trying to do so.

"What if love is not, in fact, a noun... what if it is only a verb?"

This was the question that popped into my head and inspired me to write a holistic (in both the medical and the philosophical sense) song that would help me challenge and articulate my understanding --- or misunderstanding --- of love. Stephen R.  Covey had a similar thought in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People program, “Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions.” But I was inspired to look closer at the cost of employing the noun form of "love" by this fascinating TED talk by behavioral economist Keith Chen (and related TED Radio Hour Podcast episode, "The Money Paradox") on the economic implications of a concept known as "linguistic relativity" (the sordid history of which is recounted here). His research shows that people whose native languages lack future tense conjugations don't invest as much in savings as those whose native languages do have future tenses. I hypothesized that our culture's constant use of "love" as a noun, to be quantified, given and received, may have some adverse effects on our relationships.

Lyrical progress on Team Love was glacially slow - for over a month I averaged only a few words a day, resisting the tendency to use "love" in anything but verb form. Aside from a few hours each day dedicated to alternate revenue streams, most of my time was spent devouring every published thought I could find about the psychology of love, from the horrible Buzzfeed-style list "articles" ("10 Amazing Things About Love That You'll Never Believe He's Thinking And Are Impossibly Horrifying") to opinionated interviews on podcasts like Savage Lovecast and Death, Sex, & Money. From statistical sources like the OKCupid blog and various TED Talks to the motivational prose of pop psychology books by the likes of Brené Brown and Gary Chapman. I kept a running list of any revelations or arising questions about love and my relationship with it, and ordered it in a way that best illustrated the linear and sometimes long-jumping path of my thought process. Then I began to write lyrical blocks that illustrated each precept.

About five weeks after I began writing it, I was the exhausted owner of a relentless and cerebral song without hooks or a conventional structure. The irony is thick: I think that this song's lyrics are my most useful and thought-provoking to date, but I've delivered them in such a torrential manner that I fear few listeners will have the tolerance or perseverance required to unpack and examine them. But if anyone can handle a slow digestion process, my listeners can. I hope it becomes one of those songs that keeps giving with each repeat listen.

If you've already purchased It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times, then I want to thank you for trusting me with your money and time and helping me afford rent and dog food. If you haven't, I could sure use your support.





A few weeks back I published a cover of a song called "The Middle," by Portland folk artist Jeffrey Martin. I'd caught him playing at the Sisters Folk Festival and was floored by the authenticity of his voice and songs. I bought his CD, Dogs in the Daylight, and quickly developed an obsession with this song. Its message of moderation and compromise really resonated with me. In my arrangement, I organized the instrumentation into three camps: organic/analog instruments, synthetic/electronic instruments, and voice. Throughout the verses of the song, the different groups stay panned to opposite left and right channels, polarized. As the sequence progresses towards the chorus, they work their way to the center of the stereo field, reorganizing and optimizing themselves into an integrated stereo mix with more middle channel focus.

Free stream & download: gavincastleton.bandcamp.com/track/the-middle-jeffrey-martin-cover

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Year of the Horse

This year I decided to shake things up. Instead of a full-body suit --- which really only gets used once a year on Halloween --- I decided to #bless my niece with a Horseface mask that must be used year-round and for formal events. Sure enough, it was the big winner at her seventh birthday party - all the kids took turns looking horrific.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Doom performed live at Overclock Inc.

I've finished editing the second video from our Overclock Inc. Studios shoot last May. It's a song called "Doom" from my new album, #blessed (available as a free download here):



 Here's a little tutorial I made to walk you through the vocal fx programming if you're interested:

 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Average Man performed live at Overclock Inc.

This past May I toured New England with a live band I've been working with for a few years now. I've never really done a proper live shoot with them, so I'm excited to finally put out some footage from a day-long session we did at the Overclock Inc studio. We recorded seven songs from my catalog; this one is from my new album #blessed. Since the song features some fancy vocal effects, I made a little tutorial to walk through it all - for you gear heads out there. Enjoy!




Monday, March 10, 2014

One Steel Door



One Steel Door

Maybe there's just one last door between your lover and your heart
Maybe it was forged from the most impervious steel
and hinged on the most expensive parts

Maybe you will wait your whole life for someone to unlock it
And maybe they will,
maybe they won't

Maybe you're wrong about which side of the door the keyhole is on
and that's the most important part.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Average Man



Average Man
Now when I was a young boy, 
‘bout the age of five 
my teachers told me
I could be the greatest man alive 
they told me I could change the world
be whatever I wanted to be
there was no one in the world like me
every one of us was so unique

I’d not be an average man
no sir, I’d be no average man  

so I had those big dreams
and I had those big skills
had a reason to live
and I had some time to kill
but the world got louder still
yeah the world got louder still
it tried to drown me out
it tried to break down my will

“Get out my way, I ain’t no average man”
I was thinking so much bigger than the average man 
they flood my feed with all these useless lists
while I was curing cancer with these nonstop hits
so I was bitter towards the average man

then I hit my thirties like a bird against a window
I couldn’t reconcile the two disparate versions of me:
on the one hand was this man in search of comfort
and on the other was this meta-superhero I could be 

the man who knows his place
may be the greatest man of all 
I found freedom in obscurity
and purity in poverty
why try to be amazing in a world so saturated with amazingness? 
it’s blazing us
exhausting me, 
I wonder what it’s costed me,
the price I’ve paid for baby boomers 
propping up my self-esteem,
I should let go of all these scripted, movie-lifted dreams
and seek solace in my species 
as an average man
I’ll pay admission like an average man
I’ll raise a family like an average man
I’ll rock the hairline of an average man
I’ll binge on Netflix like an average man
I drop a remix like an average man
I crowd-source it like an average man
I’m hyperbolic like an average man

I only iterate like an

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Eye of the Storm

On rare Saturdays
when the kids oversleep
you'll startle me awake
by sliding your hand under my nightshirt
and resting it on my formidable gut
where the long dormant muscles will clumsily try
to stand at attention for your superior fingers
but before they can get out of their cots
or even attempt to form a proper row
you will slap them lightly
"at ease"
putting them down humanely
like befuddled leaky dogs

Next you'll trace spirals
out from my inny
to the rings of my ribs
mapping the wild tantrums of my acid reflux
and whispering in your indian oracle voice
nearly inside my ear,
"De eye of de storm."
I'll smile then,
eyes still closed,
puffing out my back
like a morning cat
and pushing my ear ever closer
to that apocalyptic breath of yours
like a child who loves to be tickled.

Then I'll reach my hand back
and run it over your pilgrim night gown
to find the womb we've worn out
and press the back of two sausage fingers
flat into your tummy crease.
With the adjacent fingers I'll wrap your belly around them
and declare in my french chef's voice
"Porcs dans une couverture."

And as the kids begin to herd around upstairs
waking the furniture,
one of us will kiss the other
right between the shoulder blades
and push these words deep into the last taught skin:
"Remember our waistlines?"



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Doom


Doom

They say depression is a weight that pulls you down
but to be honest I've not found that to be true
it grabs me by the lungs, it tries to lift me off this planet
chewing up the final threads that connect me to you

and I've been running out of things to keep me grounded
I'm having trouble finding love that makes me stick
with every song I try to run it down  
before it runs me through
everybody's talking ‘bout progress
but all I see is
         
Doom
it follows me around
it drips into my shoes
I feel like I'm the only one who sees the future as a noose
I got them future blues, Satan

If you don’t know what I’m going through
I can try to spell it out for you:

Sometimes the sinking starts just thinking ‘bout my cel phone
I wonder how I have so many friends but feel alone
I notice how I feel so weightless when it’s left at home
and how I fill up every space with content that doesn’t leave me content

I start to spiral down through thoughts of population boom
perhaps the cancer starts the second that we leave the womb
it seems the more we’re extricated from the food chain,
the more creative time we have
but the less we have to say
it’s all

Doom
it follows me around
it drips into my shoes
I feel like I'm the only one who sees the future as a noose
I got them future blues

I understand it now
how a man finds himself on a water tower
raining down helter skelter
sell the whole house for the underground shelter
feel the storm comin
I can’t stand still enough to
stop my mind running
I see it play out
this song is a bread crumb, a toast to the empire
enjoy the smell of meat while my feet in the fire
I know I’m not preaching to the choir
whatever

I know you’d rather dance than understand the wiring
truth is overrated, reality is tiresome
cling to the twos and the fours
dance like I’m talking about how young we are
sounding like Fun.-loving folklore
ignore what I’m saying while I desecrate the #blessed dance floor
hard to articulate the great white fate
the end coming nearer
the writing on the mirror
says

Doom
it follows me around
it drips into my shoes
I feel like I'm the only one who sees the future as a noose
I got them future blues

[repeat ad nauseam]