After two to three years of over-ambitiousness and self-doubt, the third full-length album by The Society Of Poor Academics is here: Vi overlever uten Eivind Kirkeby – or “We’ll survive without Eivind Kirkeby” as it roughly translates to. But can you survive without this album? Most likely yes! But the question is, are you willing to take that chance?
With more guest appearances than an average episode of The Simpsons, the album features over a dozen contributing artists, coming together to offer a plethora of different soundscapes in this corpulent collection of music, from pseudo electronica to quasi folk-rock, while (mostly) keeping true to the spirit of home made low-fi do-it-yourself naïve minimalist music.
This is definitely the most ambitious album I’ve put together to date, playing around more with layered recordings and increasingly complex (well, by my standards) arrangements rather than just going for the record everything at once in one take approach I’ve been most fond of in the past. This opens up new possibilities, as well as creating many new challenges (like how to make the vocals sound natural, how to avoid computer noise, and how to resist the temptation of adding reverb to everything).
I was also very happy to get to work with some musicians who’s work I’ve really enjoyed and admired, as well as lesser known but no less skilled musicians, all of whom are far more talented than myself. To those who contributed: thanks again.
As a treat (or as a clever ploy to lure you to buy an actual copy), I offer one of my favourite tracks off the album for free download. It’s called “There’s A Tiger Underneath My Bed”, featuring Dennis Driscoll on the vocals, Jack Hayter on viola and Korg, with MIDI strings by Carl Schlachte. Oh, and a Casio PT-80 backing track by me.
In addition, here are two cover songs of the do it all at once in one take variety: “Beast For Thee” by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (aka. Will Oldham), and “Then The Letting Go” by The Mountain Goats (aka. John Darnielle).
The album is currently available through bandcamp both digitally and as physical home made CD-Rs, and it will eventually be available digitally through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other such venues.
For the album’s press release, I asked all who’d contributed to the album a unique question. Some of the questions were a bit on the random side, while some were based off of something I knew about them, or maybe something I was genuinely curious about knowing myself. The idea was to let the reader get to know the contributors a bit better, and to make for some potentially interesting and varied reading. You’ll find their answers below (minus two contributors). Enjoy! And apologies for the poor formating.
Why the fascination for glitch art?
Because it involves the world of underground art, which I’ve always held in the highest regard, validating something I’ve always felt: that the world has the wrong idea about perfection in art. The Society Of Poor Academics is an excellent example, in that his humanity shines through not despite but because of his glitches. You wouldn’t catch U2 giggling in the middle of a song.
What is your favourite video game?
It’s hard to say what’s my definite favourite game, but there are several games I remember with delight and nostalgia. Super Mario World is maybe the first great game I played, and probably the first I played through. Donkey Kong Country had unprecedented graphics, but the music was great too. Resident Evil scared the hell out of me, but Silent Hill was more psychologically disturbing. Final Fantasy 7 was the most epic (and time consuming) game. Games aren’t the same these days…
How did you get into farming?
I became an oyster farmer because my maternal grandfather started to farm oysters in the late 1930’s or so. The oyster business was handed down to my mother and her sisters. My father took up oyster farming when he was very young. He and my brother still work in the oysters, as do I. It is very scenic but a bit lonely out there in Oysterville, Washington. It is near the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River.
What has been your most memorable live performance to date?
The stage was tiny, and with a low ceiling that you could probably scoop a hefty DNA sample of my scalp tissue from. The crowd was generally unresponsive, the sound man bellicose. This time though, everything just came together. It was the first time I’d ever heard a bunch of strangers singing along to the chorus of one of my songs, and the only time I’ve had a clown in the crowd come to front of stage and interpretive dance his way through our whole set. That memory is what I cling to when I’m overcome by self-doubt.
Why the fascination for industrial music?
I think it’s the idea of taking harsh, mechanical sounds and turning them into music. What other genre gives you the excuse to record yourself kicking your washing machine to use as a drum sample? While pure industrial isn’t really something I delve into, so many genres have evolved from it such as EBM, Aggro-tech, and Goth industrial. The mechanical and synthetic mashed into raw human emotion is a beautiful thing! I anticipate I’ll continue to delve further into it as my life progresses, and find new ways to push the musical evolution of its respective sub-genres.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a school teacher?
The best part about being a schoolteacher is working indoors in the winter. Before I was a teacher I rode motorbikes for a living and got very very cold. I bet you thought I’d say something about teaching being my vocation… or how great the long summer holidays are. Sorry to disappoint you!
What is your favourite GameBoy game?
Hmm, it’s been a while since I’ve played a game boy game, but if I recall from the long car rides of my youth, Kirby’s Dreamland was a favourite of mine until I lost it. To tie into a somewhat more relevant point, I really remember loving the music, I liked the music to a lot of games, but that soundtrack was probably one of my favourites; I actually remember liking video game music before I really cared about music on the radio or on tape, etc. I’ve always found it interesting and a little sad that though some incredible music was composed and programmed into these games, because of the medium it isn’t exactly seen as “real” music, though many pieces of video game music are some of the most memorable pieces of music composed in the last 30 years and are very emotionally tied to the people who played the games in their youth or otherwise. But anywho… yeah, probably that Kirby game, even though you couldn’t steal the enemies’ powers yet.
What are your top three anime soundtracks?
- Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai – Character CD4 – Shiomiya Shiori OST
I’m a big fan of Kana Hanazawa. She has the kind of voice that would sound lovely singing the phone book, but this particular single is among my most favourite of her work. The harmonies in “Kuchibue Jet” are just heavenly, and the chorus and “la la la” fade out of “Koi no Shirushi” always makes me smile. Both songs avoid the pitfalls of being excessively sappy sad or crazy intense… it’s just the right amount of cute and bitter-sweet.
- K-ON! Gekichuka Shu Album: Ho-kago Tea Time
K-ON! revolves around the antics of an all-girl high school pop music club. This album is a compilation of the four main songs that the group writes and performs together at their school during the first season of the show. Though obviously the show is very successful and commercial, the spirit of the story and characters is DIY fun and the songs are pure bouncy power-pop.
- Amagami SS Character Image Songs “For You…”
I flat-out loved pretty much every song from this show. “For you” is an 8-song mini album with one song sung by each of the characters, and the final song, “stories,” sung in chorus by all of them. Rihoko’s song, “Sweet Message” has a surprising noise-pop feel and “Stories” is probably my favourite among all the great songs from the show. Hearing all the talented voice actresses singing together in harmony back and forth in Japanese and English is kawaii heaven. Also from Amagami, I recommend the equally good “ending song compilation” album and the opening song singles, sung by Azusa.
What is your favourite Christmas song?
On Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, the last track is their version of “Silent Night,” performed over a clip from the news that gradually rises in volume as the song progresses. The newscaster is talking about discrimination legislation, a drug overdose death, civil rights activism, a murder trial, anti-war protests, and the ongoing Vietnam war. The two lines are so at odds–the straight delivery and troubling subject matter of the news contrasting starkly with the beautifully delivered traditional Christmas carol, and yet in their combination the beauty of the performance proves more powerful than the grim realities of the world. That’s why it’s my favorite Christmas song.
Why did you pursue a career in music?
I have always been very fascinated by music production. When I was listening to my favorite albums before starting my education, I tried to imagine how they made the sounds so distinctive on each one, and what kind of musical and technical details were combined to make a certain mood or promote a message. I always felt like I had a lot of thoughts and ideas I wanted to bring into life, and music is my preferred way of doing this.
What is your favourite the Mountain Goats’ album?
Well it’s hard to play favorites, and there are so many ways to make that determination. But, gun to my head, I’ve got to go with All Hail West Texas, for a few reasons. First, on top of just being full of fantastic songs, it was the album that got me into the band. Third (since “first” was really two reasons), my disposition towards songs yelling about Satan. But also, finally, given the musical direction of my host, Herr Kirkeby, I thought it would be appropriate to pick an album with at least one Casio song.
~ BONUS RANT ~
Now, as for the future plans of The Society Of Poor Academics…
I’m looking into the possibility of going on a short tour through the UK together with friend, musician, and album contributor Tom Butlin (see above). But this all depends on funding. I have so far applied for one grant here in Norway that you can apply for to get touring expenses covered, and am planning on applying for a couple more. Yes, we have grants here in Norway for that! And many other things. You just need to know about them, and be skilled at doing paper work. If I can get any of those grants, then the tour is a reality. If not, then probably not. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Trying to get more gigs here in Norway too, but it’s not easy. There are very few venues here specializing in indie low-fi Casio pop-folk music. Audiences here seem to have enjoyed my music and my performances so far, but I don’t have many contacts in the local music scene so gigs are few and far between. Which is a shame.
As for future releases, I’m hoping to have a tie-in album EP available sometime this spring, complete with a new music video. I’m also speculating maybe doing a series of digital pay-what-you-want EPs rather than focusing on doing another LP. I’ve always loved EPs. They allow artists to focus more on a smaller collection of songs, making it a less daunting task for them, while also allowing them to explore certain concepts and sounds without having to stretch it over an entire album. They’re often also better listening experiences, giving listeners a more focused experience while not rudely demanding their attention for 30+ minutes. For each EP I could try a different approach, a different sound, maybe collaborating with a different musician (or “producer”) on each EP. Maybe trying approaches that allow me to focus more on lyrics and composing. I think I’m far better at those (especially lyrics) than I am at recording, playing, or mixing music.
I also have a decent backlog of unfinished and unreleased songs, maybe even enough to make up an entire new album. Here are the songs that didn’t make it for various reasons: “Occupy My Heart” (finished demo, a musician cancelled so the proper arrangement for it was never done), “Autumn Sky Indignation” (finished demo), “I Hope It Won’t Be Like Yesterday” (pretty much completely finished, recorded on my own), “Tanker Går Dit Tanker Vil” (finished demo), “Let’s Go To Germany” (mostly finished, need to figure out a functional melody for the song’s bridge), “Ser Meg Nå” (piano backing done as well as vocals by Jack Hayter), and “Manners” (finished lyrics, two potential melodies), “I Don’t Want To Be / Fall In Love” (in development, melody and most of the lyrics done), “If At First You Don’t Succeed You Will Die Miserable And Alone” (in early development, chorus melody done, chorus lyrics mostly done), unnamed song #1 (first verse and melody done), and “I’ll Be Big When I’m Dead” (in very early development). I’m listing them in part so I won’t forget about them myself! Plus, might be of interest to my, ahem, mostly non-existing fans.
There is also the long awaited Lonely Boy follow-up EP. Hopefully there will be some progress on that this year, too. We have some really good demos done and I think it features some of my best lyrics so far.