What We Talk About When We Talk About Music #7

When the idea for this feature was born, we imagined that getting musicians to talk about musicians would be enlightening and interesting, to say the least. Quite a few months later, this has not only proved us right, but with every submission comes a little heart pang when we realise the beauty that is allowing someone to write and talk freely about music that not only inspired them, but also took them where they are today. This month’s very personal texts come from UK-based instrumentalist and video artist Freddie Lloyd and transatlantic indie musician Kevin Peckham. Read on.


Freddie Lloyd (Ursine Vulpine)
Eulogy for Evolution by Ólafur Arnalds

It was difficult to decide on my favourite record because I have so many, so I decided to pick one of my favourite records of recent times. I discovered Ólafur Arnalds about November 2009 (probably through my love for a lot of  European bands and composers such as Efterklang, Peter Broderick, etc..) and since then he has become one of my favourite musicians. His music is absolutely stunning and Eulogy for Evolution is a perfect example of his incredible talent. The first song I heard from him was 3055 and I think I listened to it on repeat for about 2 days afterwards. The slow build of soft piano that builds to this crescendo of orchestral strings and drums was just awe inspiring for me. It is such a powerful song and there is so many emotions you can feel listening to it. I got the album and was blown away. It’s heartwrenchingly beautiful and stunningly emotional and a huge inspiration for me in terms of my own music and also in my film-making. The album seems to be based around a similar harmony that echoes through every track but, despite this, every track is completely individual and unique and just the most incredible thing to listen to; a record hasn’t affected me in the same way since.

Kevin Peckham (Ghost Ghost)
Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven

My favorite album of all time is Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven; it’s easy  for me to quantify because I’ve bought this same album at least seven times in my life:
* twice on cassette in the 90s; I wore them both out. 
* three times on CD (…I’m pretty hard on the CDs I love the most)
* I downloaded it on iTunes (sometimes it’s just easier than finding the CD)
* though it’s long out of print on vinyl, I found it in a used record store recently and had to buy it.

I was just a kid when I first heard the Camper Van Beethoven  cover of the obscure 60s song “Pictures of Matchstick Men” . It was late 1989 or early 1990; I was in elementary school.  My family and I lived in a beat up old wooden house – white with flaking green painted shutters – backed up against the train tracks (close enough for the dishes to rattle and the kitchen table to shake when the train went by) on one side and a wood-burning electrical power plant with a giant smokestack on the other, in a very small town on  the edge of the mountains region of northern New Hampshire.

I can picture me sitting on the hard wooden floor in the TV room with my older brother (of course he got the couch). We had just gotten cable TV  not so long before that, so most of my memories of this house involve the TV room.

When I first saw the video for  “Images of Matchstick Men” the week of its debut on MTV, something took form inside of me that is hard to describe. I heard David Lowery’s voice and was instantly, almost fanatically, smitten with the sound.  There was something about the song, the delivery, even the imagery of the video that resonated with me. I immediately wanted more, needed more.

But no one could tell me more about them.  My friends had never heard of Camper Van Beethoven, the local radio station didn’t have it when I called to request it, there was no local music store, and even my older brother who was the source of all of my knowledge about music at the time didn’t know a thing about them.

It was probably a year or more before I was finally able to track down and purchase the album. I found it in a a little record shop in Montreal on a class field trip. I don’t remember how my friend and I were able to slip away from the group, but I think we convinced one of the younger chaperones – someone’s older sister, or maybe it was the art teacher who was obsessed with the Talking Heads -  to ditch the tour of the Olympic Tower and take us downtown to find a music shop.

I still get unreasonably excited thinking about it.  I spent my money that was supposed to be for my lunches and dinners for the next two days on this amazing lime green cassette tape; the liner notes were written in a spiraling circle so you had to keep turning the cover over and to read what they said, mostly thank yous and something about losing a red converse sneaker in the middle of the desert if anyone could please return it.

And the music – especially the lyrics – were brilliant. I was in love.  I even had that weird empty ache in the bottom of my stomach – the one you get when you’re so enraptured with something beautiful that you wish it could somehow consume you.

I might have missed some meals that trip after spending the money – but probably my friends took care of me -  I just know I had my head in earphones for the rest of the trip repeatedly listening to that tape on a Sony walkman, the one I had traded my bike for the previous summer.

This album is important to me, because it marks the moment when music moved from an appreciation to a passion: a need in my life.  And the fact that it happened at all is still surprising and astonishing to me.

I still count David Lowery and his work as one of the biggest inspirations and influences on my approach to songwriting – call it wordy, poetic, or what you will.  He writes in a tradition I would string back through Morissey and Elvis Costello to Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie or forward through John Darnielle, Bill Callahan and Conor Oberst.  It’s really just a tiny piece of something greater – the modern English / Irish / American lyrical tradition, itself the complicated result of the conjunction of countless varying traditions.  Perhaps we can call it the human tradition.  But all of that is part of another conversation that we’ve all had with friends late at night with some wine and a record on.  And I hope we’ll have them again.

But to cap off this story: Camper Van Beethoven played a show just last month in New York.  And they played this album – Key Lime Pie – in its entirety.  I’d never had the chance to see the band before and Karl Ward, my songwriting partner from Ghost Ghost, brought me to see the show. One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. It was an amazing experience for me, as I felt my musical life come full circle.  I’m grown up now.  Living in New York.  in a band just starting to get a little buzz, just starting to hear from fans who have in one way or another been moved by one of ours songs.  It is the strangest and warmest feeling.  The calmest excitement I might say, if I thought that could adequately express it.

Standing there at the show, watching Camper Van play the album note for note precisely as it is on the record, watching David Lowery deliver those haunting phrases whose words have been so deeply imprinted into who I am, standing alongside members of my own band, knowing that I couldn’t be here doing what I’m doing today if it weren’t for this other band doing the same thing, trying to make a go of it over 20 years ago, despite the challenges of long hours, grueling schedules, dubious income, I realized I’m doing exactly what I should be doing, exactly what I want to do, and that the results don’t matter.  And I felt like a 12 year old kid again.  So much to discover.  So much to be absorbed.  So much that is possible.

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