An Impromptu Album Review

maxresdefault

My brother, Will, texted me during class today and simply told me to listen to Relient K’s latest album, Air for Free.

Before I go any further, if you haven’t heard of or listened to Relient K… give “Mood Rings” or the Mmhmm album in its entirety a listen—my early teenaged self appreciates your hesitant compliance.

Anyway, I was confused because Will’s text wasn’t the usual, “Hey, check out this new album, it’s great!” comment. It was as if I was doing him a favour by listening to the album. Sure enough, I asked if he thought it was good, but he clarified that he hadn’t listened to it at all. He was wanting me to listen for him.

Will read that Relient K’s Air for Free was surprisingly good (considering their previous album, Collapsible Lung‘s poor reception) and knew I had easy access to it via Spotify. I was to perform the litmus test for his purchasing decision. Or maybe he was just being painfully frugal and wouldn’t buy it before knowing its quality… *grimacing face emoji.* I didn’t dwell on it.

I was interested in where the group’s sound stood anyway, so I accepted the task and listened to the album on my bus ride home.

True to Relient K form, the first four songs are lyrically light, humorous, and musically fun. This continues throughout for the most part, but the album does take a more meaningful turn. Eventually, it got beneath the bubbly surface and revealed a theme of relationship, belief, and love.

The group went back to what made them successful in the first place: An honest and emotional writing approach about personal belief and ‘everyday’ observation.

Stepping off the bus, I walked home toward the eye level sun, still listening to the album. I thought of our family road trips back in the day when we listened to Relient K endlessly. My brother and I would belt it and harmonize to their slowed down, melodic bridges.

It dawned on me that Will didn’t tell me to listen to this album because of a frugal purchasing decision. He was hoping Air for Free would evoke the same feelings and memories we had all those years ago. Music like smell brings out memories, and oh can it ever be good for the soul. Music mixed with a pinch of nostalgia is a powerful thing, people. Reminisce on special music memories and rejoice.

Now I’m on a Relient K binge…

Thanks, Will. Much love.

Here’s the album for my Spotify kin.

Air for Free was released in July of this year and is Relient K’s eighth LP.

~

This blog post was inspired by Woods Fines’ heartfelt post on his relationship with his brother. If you want a touching read on brotherly love, head on over and read his blog—What If He Didn’t.

(Blog Challenge: Free week)

Advertisements

A Traveller’s Harvest (So Serene)

 

img_4966

Antico Podere di Olena’s vineyard in Barberino Val d’Elsa, Tuscany, Italy.

 

Two falls ago I headed over to Europe and backpacked, visiting friends I had met from a previous trip. I planned it as I went. I’d get to a friend’s place and barely plan the next leg before I left his or her home. Stressful, but very rewarding (if everything goes somewhat smoothly and you don’t get mugged, stranded, or lose your passport).

Let’s focus in on one particular travel leg though…

I was sitting at a desk in a cold Swedish guest room, firing off emails to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) in Italy. Luckily, within a few days, I got a response from a young couple needing help with their olive harvest. Perfect, I had a place to stay and volunteer for two weeks.

My time in Italy had come and I found myself swerving through the Tuscany hills on a night bus. I almost never reached my hosts because for one, it was pitch black out; two, stops weren’t being announced in any way; and three, the only Italian I knew was ciao, grazie, prego and scusi. As my anxiety rose, I began asking everyone around me whether or not each stop was the town I needed to get off at. Blank faces stared back at me.

Thankfully, an elderly man resembling the Dos Equis icon looked at me, nodded, and motioned for me to get off when he did. I followed suit and almost accepted his invitation for a drink when a tiny, two-door Fiat whipped around the town square. A man-bunned blond jumped out and yelled, “You Manny?!”

Long story short, I will never forget my experience with that family. I planted beans, chopped wood, spent a lot of time avoiding a bloodthirsty rooster named Geronimo, ate Italian homemade cuisine every day, scooped a large bucket of harvested honey into jars, maintained an old vineyard with the most beautiful Tuscan landscape as a backdrop, played inline/roller hockey for the first time in Empoli (the last place I thought I’d play), and more.

I could go on and on describing my experience with these amazing people but the reality is… I have more schoolwork to get to.

Seriously though, I wish I would’ve stayed longer. I decided to head home after my two weeks because I had little money left and I found a relatively cheap flight.

But what if I asked to stay on for as long as they’d have me?

What if I was still there today? … I hope I’d have learned a bit of Italian by this point, speaking sloppily in the cobblestone alleys of Florence every weekend–debating which vino to get with my sandwich at the hole-in-the-wall deli.

After my grunt work in the vineyard, maybe the family would’ve trusted me to help with its next commercial batch, making me a connoisseur of wine. I’m no sommelier, but being around Italians makes me want to be, badly. By the way, I brought home and still have the family’s Antico Podere Di Olena L’ATTESO 2003 red as a token of my time there.

Perhaps I could have stayed longer and my life would’ve still snapped back into place by the time I theoretically came home next. Maybe my life would’ve drastically changed… Nonetheless, I am where I am, and I’m grateful!

~

p.s. The title of this blog, “A Traveller’s Harvest (So Serene),” is a song I wrote while staying with this Italian family.

I think it’d be fun to sporadically introduce track titles from my upcoming album through stories like this one…

Stay tuned.

Ciao ciao ciao.

(Blog Challenge #3: Rewrite one important moment of your life and theorize where you might be today based on the change you make)

Q&A with EventLight.ca’s Cameron Friesen

img_0074

Cameron Friesen is the Co-President of EventLight.ca. He is also a local musician in Winnipeg’s music scene. I admire his balance of the two and got a chance to sit down with him and about it.

MG: What is your business and what kind of events do you do?

CF: We do lighting for various events. I would say we’re unlike most businesses in the event production industry because we do lighting specifically. There’s not a ton of companies that just focus on lighting. And the second portion of that is we kind of cross boundaries, in terms of we do lighting for the larger production side, like concerts and festivals. Larger events that way. But we also do lots of weddings, corporate events, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, Halloween parties, and music videos from time to time. We take specializing in lighting in its truest form. We do lighting in all aspects, for the most part. We don’t do home-installs or stuff like that, but in terms of event lighting, truly it is event lighting. Any kind of event.

MG: Have you always wanted to own a business?

CF: So I was working in a bank, desk job for a long time, and I was totally fine with that. But in the back of my head it was always like, I want to own a business. But it was more so just kind of waiting or, you know, if an opportunity comes up I won’t take that for granted kind of thing.

Kyle (Heinrichs) [the other Co-President] and I have been friends for a long time. [We] played in bands together, and gone to school together. In his spare time, he really enjoyed doing lighting. It was more of like small concerts and stuff, not weddings. So he would tech local events at Park Theatre. We already had a relationship built with Park Theatre from when we were in a band, so that’s kind of where he got started… Then he did it more and more and more.

In the Spring of 2013, I kept on hearing more and more about how he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m doing lights all the time on the side.’ I was like, ‘Oh that’s cool, that’s interesting.’ The more I heard about it, the more I was like, ‘Oh that’s interesting,’ you know, ‘Don’t people do lighting for other events and stuff to?’ So we’d catch up on coffee, and over a couple coffees it sort of turned into, hey is there actually something here?

So it transformed from some casual conversations, into brainstorming, coming up with some ideas, and into I guess this is happening. Let’s try it out. And it picked up pretty quickly.

MG: Is there a type of event that’s your favourite? And why?

CF: It’ll always be concerts, concert production, and festival production. That’s the reason why we started the company. But you can’t get there overnight, not even close. To get into the concert world… Not talking about small concerts here or there, which are great. I love supporting local musicians. I’ve been there, I still play music locally and love being there… But the end goal is to be able to work with large concert productions consistently. I would speak for me and Kyle in terms of that’s where we absolutely love doing lighting. It can be a lot of work at times and high pressure, high stress, but the end result is awesome.

You can put a lot of your own personal touch into there as well with the design of just where the lights are, to also how you run the lights all over the programming, and all that stuff.

Any business you might run, there’s always something you might not enjoy. I enjoy everything, and it’s fun because we do so many different types of events. But concerts is really where we’re shooting to be, it just takes a lot of time to be there.

MG: Have you had to muscle your way in to be consistently booked for events?

CF: I would say the muscling portion was definitely more on the concert production side. Because you can’t really market in that world so much. It’s a lot about relationships. It’s a lot about getting to know people, getting to know bands, getting to know tour managers, or just people who run venues like the Burton Cummings [Theatre], which sees a lot of larger acts all the time. And it’s a lot about getting respect in that community; people having confidence in you. Because there are a lot of people [who] come and go and don’t know what the heck they’re doing.

You have to earn your way in there. To some extent, ‘muscle’ might be aggressive. It’s more so in terms of networking. Being a little bit patient, while still being upfront and trying to get your way in there with the opportunities that are presented to you. But at the end of the day it’s really just being a little bit patient, along with doing good work, and respecting people.

MG: What’s a major challenge of owning a lighting business?

CF: I feel like our biggest challenge, specifically on the wedding side, is really just education to clients and potential clients, in terms of what is lighting. A lot of people don’t really know that it is a possibility or a thing. What it is, what it looks like, what it can do, how it can transform a room.

We have people who totally get it and that’s awesome, and I see the progression of people accepting it and getting to understand it. But it’s definitely still a luxury item, which I’m totally fine with. But I feel like our biggest competition, on the wedding side specifically, is just education for clients about what lighting is and what it can do.

MG: Does being a musician help with the way you set up and program your lights?

CF: I think it helps a lot. I think there’s a large benefit there, mainly because me and Kyle have been in the music world to some extent. We understand how it is to be on a stage. How to operate with audio techs, how to operate with venue people, how to operate with other people who are in a stage setting or band setting.

Second of all, speaking for myself, is running the lighting. I’m a drummer, so for me I see lighting as a very rhythmic thing along with being artistic for sure too. But I feel knowing music helps with lighting in terms of rhythm.

When you’re running lights, it’s called busking, so you pre-program a bunch of cues and effects, and as the set is happening you’re running it on the fly essentially. Unless someone is paying you to pre-program their whole show, which doesn’t happen a lot around here…. It’s Winnipeg.

Being a musician helps a ton with [busking] because you understand music, you understand the flow, and can anticipate what’s going to happen to a certain extent. You understand what needs to happen at certain points in different songs, like dynamics-wise that lighting can help with.

MG: Do you think your mindset has shifted to a total lighting buff? Or are you still a drummer buff at heart?

CF: I would say I’m more of a drummer buff still a little bit more, mainly because of how me and Kyle operate. I’m more of the business strength and he was the lighting strength to begin with. And as time goes on, we’ve learned each of our strengths from each other, which is really what you want in a partnership if you’re dealing with someone else. To build a strong business, you don’t want to be stepping on each other’s toes all the time. It still happens from time to time, you have to understand how to deal with it, that’s fine; it’s going to happen. But the fact that we each carry our own strengths helps a lot.

I’ve been learning a lot about lighting, I mean, I know a ton about lighting more than I did three years ago because I literally knew nothing about it three years ago. So we’ve learned from each other. But in terms of the time that I spend on things, I am a lighting buff. At this point it’s about 80:20, in terms of 80 percent lighting and 20 percent music/drumming. I want to get that ratio back and a little closer at some point but right now, where we’re at, that’s where it needs to be, and I’m okay with that. I still get to enjoy music when I can and still do it and pursue it for sure.

In terms of expertise at this point, I’d give it a little bit to the drumming side. In terms of time and focus, lighting side for sure.

MG: If you were given the opportunity to do any band’s lighting (past or present), who would it be and why?

CF: Okay, so I have two answers for that. It’s going to sound really random, but I would say Mutemath right now. I feel like they’re a band that haven’t gotten enough attention for how good they are. Their latest album is super solid, and I think it would be really interesting to run with lighting on that. [There’s] a little bit of an electronic feel [compared] to what they’ve done before, but they’re still Mutemath, it’s still their sound. I think there’s a lot of potential for a lot of different options lighting wise and a lot of different designs, so I feel like it would be really interesting creative.

But I mean, financially I would want to pick Coldplay or someone like that. So the artistic side of me would pick a Mutemath, but the actual business side of me (because that’s who I am in the business) would pick Coldplay or someone like that, because you’d still get a lot of artistic options. That’s the dream job.

Actually, I think some of our lights have been used on a Coldplay tour. I can’t corroborate that, but that is what I’ve heard. The lights were just from a company in the states that did all the tours for Coldplay and those large bands. So there’s a chance. And our lighting console that we have has apparently been used on Linkin Park tours. I actually believe the Linkin Park thing about 98-99 percent. I think we actually bought it from their lighting tech.

MG: Who would be in your dream jam session if you were playing the drums?

CF: This is going to sound super lame I feel like, but John Mayer.

MG: Oh, no that’s not lame.

CF: It depends on who you’re talking to though. Some people are like, ‘Oh… John Mayer, of course you’re going to say John Mayer.’

If you’re looking at him musically, he’s phenomenal. So I think I would have to say John Mayer because that’s the style I’ve been playing a lot anyway. I feel like it would be a dream, because it would be super chill, super groovy, and he’s just so talented. And he’d be able to jam on anything he could ever want.

MG: What is your favourite warehouse jam to work and listen to?

CF: Again, it’d go back to Mutemath, but a lot of Donovan Woods is great. Royal Canoe, The Bros. Landreth. Local guys and stuff, just chiller stuff to work to.

MG: What is your favourite warehouse jam to program lights to?

CF: Sometimes it’s just fun to set up a few lights and fool around with it. Because you do learn a lot from it. I tend to do a lot of EDM, nothing specific though. It’s always on and going, you can just turn it to 12, and it is fun. But I have done a lot of Coldplay stuff too just dynamics-wise.

MG: Last question, Spotify or Apple Music or other, and why?

CF: I’m an Apple Music guy. I don’t know if I have a super solid reason, but my reason is it’s really easy and accessible for me. I can access anything I want at any time. And yeah, it’s integrated with everything, so I’ve just gone with it.

img_4879

Facebook: EventLight.ca

Instagram: @eventlight

Pinterest: EventLight.ca

Twitter: @eventlightwpg