Head East, Young Spilken Family

image

This is going to be a long one…

The night before my Aunt Simma’s funeral in West Palm Beach, I sat in a room with my surviving Aunts, Uncle and every one of my first cousins. We laughed, cried, looked at a slideshow of classic family pictures from Uncle Terry’s laptop, and noshed (of course). It was that night, while winding down before sleeping on a couch that had been in my family’s possession since way back in the day, that I decided I would ask Annaliese if she would consider leaving our home and our friends, and moving our family to New York. It’s not a question anyone could ask, or consider, lightly.

The funeral was lovely, poignant, and often pretty funny. Throughout it, one major theme was apparent: the Spilken family* is strong because we’re committed to maintaining relationships through good times and bad. So many great stories from Aunt Simma’s life were accentuated by the role her family played in them. Many of my own positive memories of life before Springfield are solely based on Spilken family events. Because of my parents divorce and my subsequent move, I missed a lot of these. I was never out of touch for long and saw the family for big events, but I was very much a satellite to the regular and informal; cookouts, outings, and general familiarity that exists from being within a ~2.5 hour radius of each other and invested in the strength of our familial bonds. The pictures of multi-generational cousins at Mets games always made me more than a bit nostalgic for this sort of interaction (#lgm).

Returning home I was emotionally worn. Seeing Margo playing with her sisters I broke, and asked my girls if they would upend their lives to be in a new place, with family they only knew through very occasional interactions. Annaliese has spent time with them on three occasions, and Stella and Greta only two. Margo was only a few weeks old when my cousin Paul and his girlfriend Emily came to visit, and she hasn’t met anyone else yet. They’ve agreed, and we’re moving to New York at the end of August. Aunt Simma never got to meet Margo and that’s something that I can never change, but I’d like all three girls to grow up (or go through the rest of their adolescence) around the loving, supportive, intelligent, and frankly incredible people that are a large part of making me who I am today.

Leaving the people we care about in Springfield isn’t going to be a walk in the park. When I came here I was a complete mess of a boy with no social skills or any kind of grasp on how to maintain friendships or anything else, really. My experiences in SGF and the friendships so many have offered have truly changed and enhanced my life. The music community has been so good to me, and I have no idea how to repay that. For the local businesses that either employed me, hooked me up with sweet deals on the regular, or let one of my acts perform in your establishment, thank you forever, and sorry about the mess. And to my friends, I can’t even. There are so many individuals that it’s impossible to talk about them all here, but know that I’m grateful to you and am only a text or FaceTime visit away. I’d love to see all of you before we go.

Leaving the City of Springfield, now that’s another story. I’ve been frustrated on so many occasions by members of a voting block whose names I don’t know and have never met. I seethe when driving down Glenstone passing truck after truck, Confederate flag waving. It’s hurtful to watch a large portion of the community vote down equal rights protections for the LGBTQ amongst us. How can we be the epicenter of one of the largest churches in the world and have unchecked numbers of poverty and child abuse? Recently, we chose to give KISS the keys to our city. What does that say to girls and people of color? And then there’s Billy Long. Oy. These complaints are not you, my friends, but they are a facet of Missouri life I won’t miss one bit. I hope that you continue to fight these forces, I’ll always have your back.

We’ll certainly have some sort of party to say goodbye, and I’ll let everyone know when we get that worked out. I do have a few more shows on the books before we depart, so if you’d like to swing by and kick it I’d be thrilled to see you. The first one is solo on July 30 at Copper Run, and the second at Patton Alley Pub on August 20 featuring a solo set with friends and a set from the band I hate to leave, The Nova Heat. If you or someone you know would like to take my spot in the Heat, please get in touch. *EDIT* I’ve got a Happy Hour gig at the Order in the Hotel Vandivort Downtown Wednesday, July 27 as well! It’s a beautiful venue, come check it out!

I will miss my friends and the places that have made Springfield my home for the past 23 years. Thank you for what you’ve given me. If any of you head to NY (even the city, which we won’t be too far from) please let me know so we can visit / play shows / eat bagels (or pizza, Chinese food, Jewish deli sandwiches, etc…) You’ll always have a place in our home

Today (July 25, 2016) marks the 11th anniversary of my father’s death. It’s strange to reflect on the changes that have gone on in my world that’s lead me to this point, but I’m pretty sure my father would be quite pleased with this latest development. Some of his favorite people in the world were his siblings and nieces and nephews. I wish more than anything I could share this news with him.

Thanks for reading and thanks for everything. Catch you around, SGF.

*Including and not limited to Spilken, Sulzer, Brody, Bakst, Strohl, Rose, Perella, etc…

Vote Margo!

#margo2016

Hi everyone, we need your help!

We’re not typically into online contests, but this is one we couldn’t pass up. Aldi is running a promotion to celebrate the launch of their new baby product line, Little Journey. To spread the word they’re rewarding one lucky baby with a 30,000 dollar scholarship! Not only that, the winning baby will also become the face of Little Journey. As you may know, we’re big Aldi fans and this would be a huge boon for Margo’s future.

If you’d like to pitch in via Facebook, you can vote once a day until June 29th right here.

If you don’t want to go through Facebook, you can head directly to the contest site here: Little Journey Contest

Remember, you can vote once a day. If you’re so inclined, please share the link or this post, whatever works. Thanks everyone, and remember: A vote for Margo is a vote for.. uhhh… well… It’s a vote for a really cute baby. Cheers!

USE THIS LINK TO VOTE!!!

My Wonderful Aunt Simma

Aunt Simma is seen here standing on the far right. This picture of a large portion of my family together in my backyard makes me so happy. These people are the best.

A woman who helped shape me into the person I am today passed away on Thursday, and tomorrow I head to Florida to say goodbye. So many happy memories from my childhood were set in Aunt Simma’s home. Hours spent playing the family game with my father, uncles, aunts, and cousins galore. Flopping about in her swimming pool for as long as I wanted to (which would often be an entire afternoon). Attending the wonderful “Christmas” parties she threw, replete with lavish hors d’oeuvres like miniature quiches and exotic dips. Meeting her unique and colorful friends. Eating the incredible meals she would prepare with her and my father in the small nook next to her kitchen. Reading books in the loft above her bedroom, sitting on the floor in a nest of borrowed pillows as she would relax below, likely watching a BBC mystery from bed. She especially enjoyed Poirot, if memory serves. No one could rock the kinds of glasses (sun and regular) that she did and get away with it, trust me.

Aunt Simma taught me some important life lessons too: a solid decade and a half before the Incredibles, she taught me that if everything was superlative, nothing was. Also, pasta should never, ever be overcooked. That was important.

She reinforced the value of the arts in my life in a major way as well. Aunt Simma was a lifelong patron of the arts in her community and took me to several plays and concerts. On numerous occasions, she went to great lengths to ensure that I could make music when I would come for visits, renting trombones and guitars and then patiently listening and encouraging me while I tried to make them work. I remember one instance where I picked up a book called “Jazz Duets for Trombone”. I learned both of the parts to “Misty” and “The Shadow of Your Smile”, and then recorded the second part of each song on a portable cassette deck she provided. While she made dinner I gave an informal rundown of the tunes. In retrospect, I don’t think she was all that impressed with my “radical idea to accompany myself”, but her response would have never let that on.

She was also a stalwart in my roughest times. When I was suffering through a period of heartache after an early relationship breakup, she helped me realize that in the long run “Liking someone is more important than loving them. You’ve got to like someone enough to put in the work it takes to sustain the warm and fuzzy feelings that are likely to dull over time, after the initial blush.” I’ve found that there’s so much truth to this statement. One summer when I was between 11-13, I went to visit her and my father, and my mother decided she didn’t want me to come back to live with her in New York. Aunt Simma didn’t even hesitate a second to tell me that I’d never have to worry, as long as she had a home I would always have one as well. My mother eventually reconsidered, but Aunt Simma wasn’t so convinced that I should go back. She was probably right.

Aunt Simma’s love and devotion to the family was incredible. Because of my father’s proximity to her in birth order, she always looked after him like he was her own child. I’m convinced that if not for Simma’s perseverance he would have passed away long before he did. She loved him so much and never hesitated to help in any way she could. Maybe in the long run this hampered his ability to handle his own life, but her love and concern was so genuine and well meaning. After he passed, when we spoke she would always tell me how much she missed and loved him. It broke my heart.

Every single time I would visit Florida, she would be adamant that I contacted and spent time with my mother’s parents. The lived close to an hour away, but she gladly drove me to their condo whenever they agreed to see me. When these grandparents brought me down for a visit, that courtesy was never returned. Aunt Simma never let on that she was miffed about this, but knowing her I imagine she had some choice words for the situation.

At family affairs like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings, evenings would end in a hotel room packed surrounding her and her siblings & their spouses; Aunt Feige & Uncle Barry, Uncle Terry & Aunt Barbara, and my father. There were so many laughs and smiles shared in these times. I loved seeing them all together. I’ve often joked that when the four of them were in a room, my aunts would be speaking english while my father and uncle spoke “Brooklyn-ese”. There are photos of the four of them together over the years (typically taken at these shindigs). After my father passed, I took his place in these pictures. The first time I was asked to do this I completely broke down; I didn’t feel like I could ever be a suitable fill in for him in their lives. It was a great honor, but tinged with a sadness that has yet to really subside. What my Aunts and Uncle are feeling now is beyond me, and thinking about it gets me severely choked up.

For my cousins Laurie, Ira, and Mary (and their awesome boys) my heart is heavy. Laurie, living so close to Aunt Simma, worked so hard to make her last years comfortable and has been through a lot in the process. The kind of decisions that she and Ira had to make in regards to her care I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Hopefully, the boys will always remember that they had the coolest grandmother in the world, and she loved them so much. I heard a lot of stories about them from her, and they were all told with massive pride. Though on the outside Aunt Simma could come across as one tough cookie, she was absolutely putty for those boys. It speaks volumes to Aunt Simma’s character that Mary would boast of how incredible her mother-in-law was. Perhaps there was some joking there, but I’d always marveled at their relationship.

Aunt Simma meant a lot to a great many people. She was so smart, generous, kind, funny, insightful, steadfast, and supportive. She was a mensch and a maven. Our family and her friends have lost a pillar in their lives, but I’m forever grateful that she was a part of mine. I love you Aunt Simma, rest in peace.

 

The Rockies

It was fun taking some full family pictures so that everyone was in on the memories.

I truly have a wonderful full time gig. I’ve got to go some cool places, and this week has brought me on a quick jaunt to the Rocky Mountains. This park is stunning (duh.) When we went to the Smokies a few months ago I was very impressed and really enjoyed the scenery, but the Rockies have just been overwhelming. Perhaps it’s from the lack of oxygen, or maybe it’s because Annaliese and the girls weren’t there to share this with me. I’ll be lobbying hard to get back here asap with the whole mishpacha. I hope you enjoy a few of the snaps I took along the way.

Moosemon

Moose straight chilling on the road. DNGAF.

Is statue still statue?

Spot the difference

#throughthewindowpane

Literally making ape noises and slapping my thighs over breathtaking vista

you know what I want.

I wanna talk to Gandalf

Shoulda duckfaced

Generally I’m opposed to this sort of thing, but I wanted to keep a record of my presence in the sheer majesty of this park. Guh

See caption

Filtered.

I mean, it's still nice to look at.

I know, I know…

Thoseshadowstho

Volumes

Option 1. Mind Control, Option 2. Psyops, Option 3. Aliens

Chemtrail Society

Paprika Recipe Manager

Paprika

An essential part of our budget is managing food costs. The tool we use to handle this task is the Paprika Recipe Manager; it’s fantastic for keeping recipes organized, creating meal plans, and laying out grocery lists. Combining this tool with high-quality, low priced food from Aldi, Food 4 Less, and the Asian Market, we’re able to feed a family of 4.5 three meals a day (with snacks and treats of course) for typically less than $450 a month. From what I understand, this is pretty good.

I learned of Paprika years ago, when my good friend (and mercurial guitarist) Chris Chernesky suggested it after I got an first generation iPad (wow, it’s been awhile). Upon recognizing it’s utility, I soon purchased versions for both my phone and desktop (the sync is virtually flawless). In total, all three versions came to $25, and considering that A) it’s saved me literally 1000’s of dollars over the years and B) If you’ve ever bought a highly anticipated cartridge based video game like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 you’ve already spent >50 dollars on a piece of software in your life, it is totally worth it so why not pay for something useful! Also, the people that make tools for a living need to eat, y’know?

So sure, the initial set-up of adding recipes took some time. It was time worth investing though, and I enjoyed the process. I cleaned out two GIANT folders of recipes from my browser’s bookmarks, and separated a lot of the wheat from the chaff, as it were. Paprika’s built in Browser feature made that process really easy; there’s a Create Recipe function that captures the essentials of a recipe from website and gets everything in its right place. You can build categories as you see fit as well, and it’s got built in “Top Rated”, “Favorites”, and “Most Recent” lists. I had some fun creating my categories, and gave them feel good titles like “Dip, Baby, Dip”, and “Hang on, Soupy!”. “Sides, Sides, Slipitty Sides” is also a personal favorite. These make it easy for me to add recipes to the calendar. Generally, I only actually plan for dinner, as that’s the meal where we can really all eat together on a regular basis. Once on the calendar, I send the entire week (or month when we’re industrious) to the Grocery List. There’s a step in-between where we can “uncheck” any item that we already have, and that’s way useful. We use a few “Utility” recipes as a one stop weekly bundle that gets added to the grocery list directly, and this is where we include supplies for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. “Taco Tuesday” is actually its own Utility Recipe, as it is far too important to be amongst the common goods.

There are several other really nice features built in such as timers, menu planning, etc… The essentials that I’ve described above make Paprika one of our most valuable apps, and now that it’s available on nearly every relevant platform, I would highly recommend that you check it out. Sharing recipes through it is a breeze, so if you decide to download it I’ll gladly hook you up with some of our favorites!

Paprika Recipe Manager (Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook, OSX, Windows)

Happy Birthday G!

We've got a lot of nicknames for Greta; my favorite might be "Ol' Stumpy G".

A rare sighting of the wild Greta in her natural habitat. I suspect her face may freeze like that someday…

Today is Greta’s 12th birthday, and it’s awesome. She’s requested a feast of Ramen and a sleepover with her friends, both of which are coming soon. Greta is smart, sweet, and a wonderful daughter and sister. Happy birthday G!

Go Vote! (Again!)

image via Grinning Planet

It’s really cool to take part in party primaries and national elections (especially when you’re rooting for the anti-establishment candidate) but I’m convinced that nothing will ever change on a grand scale until we collectively get the vote out to local elections. We have to make our municipalities the kind of places we want to see our larger world become, or some other pie eyed, optimistic statement like that.

The big attraction in tomorrow’s election is two seats on the School Board. I’d like to see a progressive, populist presence make its way in, so I’ll vote for the candidates that I think meet those criteria best. The News Leader has a fairly decent review of the candidates for School Board, so read for a minute, make a note of your faves and take that to the booth! Knowledge is power!

I’m also all for the two tax continuations to extend improvements on our transportation infrastructure. Note that these are continuations of a .375% tax (HEFTY, WHEW) that we’re already paying, so let’s keep it going to make SGF easier to get around for everyone. For more information about these questions, check out this article.

Tomorrow is an important one in Springfield, so please go out and cast your vote. I’ll see you at the polls!

Artist’s Statement: Beloved Villain

BV-Header-Bandcamp

This collection of songs coalesced around my attempt to create an “audio autobiography”, and therein it wrestles with the inevitable decisions that lead us into being the “bad guy” in someone else’s story. It also investigates, through sonic and visual aesthetics, the encroaching digital presence in modern life and the potential consequences in the real world when the digital one goes awry.

An observation anyone can easily make is how pervasive digital technology has become. I’m fascinated / apprehensive about how facets of tech (like automation or social media) have changed the world. By participating in experimental noise music creation and following the Glitch Art movement, I found a channel in which to process these emotions.

Though Beloved Villain is ostensibly a pop album, experimental music informs each song. Through sonic manipulation, stretches in my songwriting, and sometimes by flat out abrasive noise, I attempted to bring some of the cracked beauty and raw emotive quality of experimental sound art to this endeavor. For the accompanying visual art, glitch had to be the featured element. My understanding of the form can be summed up thusly: glitches are the manifestation of errors in the underlying framework of digital products. When a glitch occurs, through intentional disruption or flaws in design, there is a warping/tearing of a certain kind of reality. I love the distortion and random boxes that result from these glitches. Happening upon unintentional A/V glitches in public space, like information screens going haywire in transit terminals or public address systems spouting abrasive noise, always causes me to contemplate further the nature of our relationship with technology.

I don’t find myself drawn to the narrative approach to lyricism, so to communicate the biography aspect of the album I abstracted pieces of my world into each song. You can think of each one as a chapter from my life, if it pleases you. Through the process of assembling these songs and putting them in context, I gleaned some perspective on the journey I’ve been on to this point. I’ve had some wonderful successes and some stinging defeats. I’ve seen the world change, and I’ve watched my own world transform on the crux of my decisions. I’ve wondered where the time’s gone. I’ve made and lost magnificent friends.

Everyone, at one point or another, has had to make some pragmatic choices that ended up hurting people we cared about. These experiences never sit well with me, sometimes keeping my thoughts company for years. Can we make those wrongs right? Should we even try? Was the action truly necessary? Life and relationships endure complications, and nothing is quite so stark as wrong or right, but how can a person justify harm to another? I still haven’t figured it out. Maybe that perspective will come with the passage of time. I am fairly certain, however, that the “Beloved Villain” is someone we’ve all been at one point or another.

Though this statement sums up the impetus and direction of the album, I would not have been able to complete the record without the musicians, artists, and financial contributors whose efforts cannot be overlooked in any discussion of the work. If anyone is interested in the specifics of a particular song or sound, email me at ryanspilken@gmail.com.

Please enjoy Beloved Villain.

To purchase your copy of Beloved Villain on Vinyl or via Digital Download, click here.

Cover Me, Springfield! (The Prodigal Bassist Returns)

10357766_829573662346_6121441827326499770_o

[EDIT: Big ups to Brett Miller of Brother Wiley for making this whole shebang possible. He’s put a ton of work into organizing this event for charity, and it’s rad.]

For the second edition of Cover Me, Springfield (an event where Springfield songwriters cover other Springfield Songwriters) I’ve chosen to play songs from New Monsters Collective and Osage Orange (no public record of this band exists I guess, which is sort of a bummer). At one point in my life, I played bass for both of these bands. I was the full time bassist in Osage Orange for a spell, and filled in for NMC several times while the wonderful wily William K. was away with his other gig. I got to play the compositions of two fantastic songwriters in these groups, and I’d like to take a moment or two to reminisce before tonights celebration of our town’s writing talent.

The Verbs at Randy Bacon's studio and gallery.

Osage Orange (then still The Verbs l to r: me, Josh Millard, Mike Moody, Justin Kingery) at Randy Bacon’s Studio and Gallery. Damn this band was good.

I’d seen the band that would become Osage Orange several times while they went under the name  The Verbs, and was always really impressed with them. I had heard that the original bassist (lead singer/songwriter Mike Moody’s brother, Ben) was leaving the band to move home, and I thought that I should probably seek them out and play bass with them immediately. Mike’s songs consistently evoked comparisons and feelings from me that were very positive, and I wanted to sit at the feet of the master awhile and play some rock and roll. I got the gig through a chance run-in with Mike on a golf course, of all places. My mannerisms and mindset didn’t exactly mesh with the boys long term, but my departure from the group was very amicable and I was grateful to have gotten to play songs like the one I’ll be singing tonight: “The Passerby.” Tinges of Neil Young, The Kinks, and Ozarkian traditional music are hallmarks of Mike’s songwriting voice (IMO), and his lyrics have always been just about as good as anyone can write. Deft turns of phrase, striking imagery, and cutting satire could be found all over his catalogue. Mike’s chordal arrangements and melodic sensibility are also a rare find in this world. He’s also a wizard at the guitar, certainly one of the best I’ve ever had the chance to play with. Mike is a brilliant dude, and though his path in life lead to becoming a pharmacist instead of professional musician, I’m certain he could do anything with equal aplomb. I regret not having a public link of Osage Orange’s music to share, because both Mike and Josh Millard wrote some fantastic songs and I was very lucky to have gotten to spend some time playing them.

And here's NMC standing in front of my old van on a wrecker after a tire blowout somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania.

NMC (l to r: me, Robert Bailey, Sharon Bowie, and Erin Crowe) standing in front of my old van on a wrecker after a tire blowout somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania. I didn’t bring a spare. On a related note, I really miss that t-shirt.

My playing with New Monsters Collective was borne out of necessity on their end, but I loved subbing for that group. Sharon’s songs are so much fun to listen to and play, and learning Will’s unique bass parts really helped expand my palette as a musician. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember exactly how I was drafted to cover for Will, but it might have been for a gig where NMC was doing an outdoor concert at MSU and Will was scheduled to galavant about Europe or some other exotic locale. One of the things I loved about playing with NMC was that the instrumentation was far from traditional: Piano, Cello, Bass and Drums. The whole group are fine, unique players in their own right, and the compositions relied on the give and take between all four instruments. It was always an invigorating challenge to groove with Rob’s drums while still playing the melodic baselines, and attempting to leave some space in the arrangement wherever I could. Sharon’s songwriting is sublime, and incorporates a lot of influences that don’t always appear in pop music. Her lyrics are also great; sweet and sardonic at once and always sang with a lot of heart. Her voice is really unique, and I love all of the melodies she crafted. My favorite was their album closer, “Nomad“, which I’ll attempt tonight. Some of the sources behind the songs would surprise you as well, but I’ll leave that to you to ask her about. I had the pleasure of touring with NMC through the East Coast for their album release, and have some memories from that trip that I smile about regularly.

Springfield’s got some impressive songwriting talent, and it’s going to be on full display tonight. At the last Cover Me, Springfield! I played Eric Weiler’s “Ghosts in your Graveyard”, which is a powerhouse roots ballad, and The Nova Heat’s “Stone” which is a gem of a pop song from a band that leans towards spacey jams. Jason’s returning the favor by running down my song “Oh Noah” tonight, and am super excited to hear his take on it. Kevin Cott is also going to do SSLYBY’s “Back in the Saddle” and for that alone this show is worth the price of admission. See you tonight at Cover Me, Springfield!