In the stillness of quarantine I have found it increasingly difficult to control daily bouts of lunacy ranging anywhere from Action Bronson blissfully eying slow-cooked brisket to full blown scenes from The Shining. So when Albon first greeted me on FaceTime rocking a million dollar smile, wife beater and untamed curls, I knew that I needed his therapist’s contact info.
He was somehow emitting this genuine, almost tangible, warmth through the gaudy glare of the iPhone’s LED screen, like he had somehow evaded Corona-panic by hiding out on a sun soaked imagination island within his head. As we gabbed like long lost sisters, I realized that Albon’s aura of delightfulness was simply rooted in some of the most basic, fundamental truths of life. Keeping the conversation perpetually light, Albon sprinkled notes of wisdom between gut-busting dad jokes and nonsensical anecdotes about life at sea. The shamanistic effect of his conversation holds the same of his music, pure, unadulterated ease.
Let’s start with the presently unavoidable issue of Quarantine. How are you maintaining in this strange time?
ALBON: “It’s interesting because I think in a really honest way, I’ve realized how impacted I am by others affirmations and my own vulnerabilities of being societally in some sort of norm which sucks! I hate that about myself but it exists and has become extremely evident through quarantine as I realize how much I have actually loosened up about my ability to write. Also accepting that [music] is now a full-time job. I think that before, it was always kind of 50/50, half in half out. Then doubts like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ spiral and you start thinking that your task is too large or significant. But now feel like I could probably do this for the rest of my life, be a musician full-time. So [quarantine] has allowed me to further sink into the process and actually enjoy it. Taking time and doing it without feeling any judgment for taking that time because it’s so important when you’re writing. Even just to explore avenues you’ll never use. I’ve been making weird noise music lately with heavy distorted guitar and fake drums that sound like you’re in a stadium, and it’s just loosened up other things for me. Even though I might not apply it directly, it’s like, I’m making time for the process and in little ways, the process is revealing itself for me.”
Since moving from New York to LA a couple of years ago, the Chicago-born songbird has been letting his imagination run wild in the studio. His first wave of momentum came in late 2019 after releasing his debut album, Dream Weaver//Bee Keeper, featuring the percussionary skills of former Porches drummer, Cameron Wisch. It didn’t take long for Albon to secure the attention of underground music blogs across the nation. His esoteric, easy-listening indie bangers are not only lyrically dense and melodically gentle, but more importantly, they are painstakingly derived from the heart. Albon creates this by employing a rigorous production process that goes beyond cathartic regurgitation. But before we delve into his acclaimed work, Albon treats us to the exclusive release of his new cover “Strong Enough” from Sheryl Crow’s debut Tuesday Night Music Club. And before you highbrow taste kids scoff at the mention of a Billboard Top 100 starlette, take a moment to understand this seemingly unconventional choice.
What inspired you to cover “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow, an artist that seems so far outside of your genre?
ALBON: “I don’t know why I chose it but I guess it goes back to that intuition thing. The song is off her first EP and it’s just really striking. It’s kind of overdone with that super 90’s style of production and recording which is like the worst but then her voice and the chords break through in such an honest way. I have spent so much of my time in California cruising alone listening to Sheryl Crow and I find it to be the perfect collision of bliss and melancholy. For probably the past two years I wanted to cover it but I never really knew how to tap into the vulnerability thing until this past year.”
If Sheryl Crow were on this call, what would you say to her?
ALBON: “Sheryl, girl, I am so proud of you and everything you have done. Thank you for soundtracking [my life], sweet angel of music.”
I must admit that the shiesty, aforementioned comment about music snobbery was in reference to myself. But even as a punk-privy eternal cynic, I must admit, there is something undeniable about this sweet, simple ballad. It is clear that the heartbreak Crow is expressing in “Strong Enough” is genuine, and to that, we can all relate. It is in the likes of this surprisingly profound early Crow, that Albon’s music places it’s principal reliance on honesty. However, this authenticity-based formula that demands absolute presence and passion in all points of production is more easily said than done.
So how do you bring 100% to the table when you are creating?
ALBON: “A big part of it is vulnerability. You just feel it and you get chills or you pick up on it intuitively. It doesn’t take anything outside of yourself, it simply exists within you… I’ve realized that following your excitement and that intuition brings you something, whatever that is. It’s a greater rule to life. It’s funny that truth is something people often cheat themselves of, but if you’re not following your excitement then basically, you’re just getting ready to die. If you can’t step into the inspiration and excitement, then go drive for a little bit, and make sure that [when you return], you’re really feeling it… Technically speaking though, I have no idea what I’m doing. Im hyper-dyslexic and have no idea how to be ‘mechanically good’. And I feel like it’s taken a lifetime of feeling-around, using my intuition and also my literal ability to touch things and feel things and see things with more curiosity. So I think that mostly informs my ability to make music. It’s really full-circle. I make the music [in the same way] I comprehend things, I guess to make sense of an experience as opposed to some people that may write about it. My writing I sometimes don’t even like.”
It’s (unusual) for an artist to admit they don’t like songwriting. Can you elaborate on this?
ALBON: “Yea, I don’t always like writing lyrics, it’s the part I have to work at. Lyrics and lyricism I am constantly working on, whereas music, for me, is more tangible. I’m like, ‘ok this is coming out of me in this very holistic way’, sometimes words do it for me but mostly, it’s melodies. As far as the songwriting goes, I’ve had a couple of different approaches. At first I started just looping things, kind of making ambient music. I used to put sounds in a loop machine. There was an on button, a record button and a pause button and I would sit there [around 7th grade-ish] with a bunch of reverb and delay. I got my friend’s electric guitar and electric amp and then the loop station, which I bought because I was curious about how to make things with guitar. I never liked classic rock. My parents never played The Beatles or any of that shit. It’s funny, I feel like my sound is probably far more 60’s-informed than not but I didn’t grow up on it and I still don’t really listen to it. To be honest I fucking hate Led Zeppelin. I think they are talented but I don’t pursue or chase that. I am, however, always fucking with The Beach Boys!”
What music or sounds then, inspired the sound of Albon that we hear today?
ALBON: “One of the most inspiring sounds for me growing up was the 1926 Disney Peter Pan soundtrack. It’s next level beautiful. It has always stayed with me as a reference point of where cognition meets intuition because it’s so well-crafted. Also observing others. I have to mention my buddy Petey. He’s a natural talent and has always influenced me growing up. I learned from simply watching him when we were in a pop-punk band together called Ben Mackenzie. We would jam even though he hates jamming and I learned through proximity. Despite being a classically trained jazz musician, he’s like, ‘whatever guys, I love Drake!’ and makes these cool, kind of linear songs and I just really respect that duality and his ability to dress something up so well. He’s a total visionary, carving his own path.”
How do you combat writer’s block and stay inspired?
ALBON: “I definitely have a process to help loosen me up but the goal is always just to remove myself from the here and now. I think when you step back, and are just like, ‘ok cool, If I die tomorrow, is it really gonna be that important?’ And the answer is no. It won’t be that important in the grand scheme so why not try to go off on some shit and just make something awesome? And also, recognize the process and know that you’re not going to get to the top of whatever you’re doing right away. Even if you did, that would suck. Potential is everything and that’s the excitement, feeling you can almost get it, but not quite get it and that’s great. Really, that’s everything.”
How has living in LA taken your musical aspirations to the next level?
ALBON: “Well, geographically of course and certainly the weather. I go to the ocean all the time which is the most magical f’ing place in the world. I see dolphins and whales and shrimps and you look at that stuff and you’re just blown away because it is literal magic in front of your eyes. I think California has definitely informed me as a person. I spend so much time looking around and trying things. I definitely feel like it makes sense for me. It feels like its own weird country.”
What’s your favorite song on Dream Weaver//Bee Keeper?
ALBON: “Big Sur Theme” for sure, it’s so epic. It’s so weird and it’s even cooler acoustic, which is how you know it’s good. The studio version is cool but the song, when I play it I’m like wow, I can’t believe I wrote that. I feel lucky to have written that song in my life. Yea, I’m just really down with it.”
Tell us about your process in creating Dream Weaver//Bee Keeper. Was there an overriding theme?
ALBON: “I recorded all of [those songs] within a week sometime last June. All of the best songs on that record I wrote, probably, the week before I went into the studio. I was going through a breakup. I ate some mushrooms and saw Orcas for the first time at Big Sur and stayed up there for seven days. When I returned I just exploded with this music. I was so excited and energized. It felt real and it felt like art. And then I was able to maintain the excitement. And hmmm… a theme? What I can say is that there is stuff that comes together after the fact. I’ll look back and say, “Oh, this is how this made sense to me then.” The reason I named it Dream Weaver//Bee Keeper and the reason I saw it as that was because it had this consistent theme of personal maintenance in order to pursue your dreams. The beekeeper is constantly tending to the bees but they are always making this beautiful, delicious honey that’s not necessarily guaranteed. And the dream weaver thing is a bit more obvious, just weaving dreams together in order to make something. So I guess the theme is just embracing space and letting that help steer where the theme is going to go.”
Ok then dream weaver, tell us, what’s the coolest dream you’ve had lately?
ALBON: “I have dreams almost nightly. Mostly about dungeons but honestly my life is basically an epic dream.”
Now then, how do we pull usable tactics from this macroscopic conversation and apply them in our own life? I think it starts with Albon’s frequent mention of the idea of process reigning paramount over result. Instead of reminiscing on the conveniences of your old life, use this quiet time to tap into the unexplored corners of your brain. Try out new hobbies and interests. Even if you suck, it’s not like anyone else will know. Never again will you have this free time to explore without the distractions and judgments of the outside world. 2020 and the future are going to be different so you might as well adapt and enjoy it.
Turning on, tuning in, and dropping out is no longer just for hippies. Dr. Leary’s famous adage is not to be mistaken though, with tuning into your Instagram account or the news. Desperately grasping at familiar forms of reassurance from your digital community will do nothing for you now. You have to look inward, all of the answers are there. Fortunately or unfortunately, the hushed distractions and judgments of the outside world will not stay quiet for long. But why simply tell you when we can show you? See below for Albon’s own quarantine schedule to find out how he’s turned his own COVID crisis anxieties from a headwind to a tailwind.
Quarantine Like An Albon: A Day in the Life
Photo credit: Willow Greene
- I rise every morning at 4:30 AM to sit silently for 1 hour. I try to not focus on anything at all, but just simply sit in preparation for my day. Furthermore, I like to do this in order to greet the morning and vise versa…
- After feeding my fish, I run approximately 7 to 10 miles between the hours of 5 and 6 a.m. I love to run because it excites me and makes me feel invincible. However, running also has the power to bring me to tears if I go too long! Regardless, I enter a very cathartic state! It checks all the boxes for me 🙂
3. After I shower and clean up, I go out to my lush and abundant garden (all organic). As the morning light hits, I lightly spritz all my fresh and growing veggies. I give individual care and love to each plant, making sure to groom, talk to, and of course weed. (Kisses to all my plants!)
4. I usually make music from 9am to 12pm. If I’m feeling uninspired, I sit and tap my thighs and make sounds with my mouth. That includes beats, bops, whistles, whirls, swirly sounds, and sometimes your classic beatbox routine. It really just depends…
5. I eat lunch with my neighbor boys from about 12 P.M. to 2 P.M. Since the boys have been off from school, I make them a bird or something sufficient for lunch. We all chow on the porch and talk shop. Just to clarify, these aren’t my kids, they’re my neighbors but I love them dearly (hence the reason I feed them SO good).
6. After cleaning up lunch, I go out to my two fruit trees. One is a peach and the other a nectarine… stone fruits if I may. I prune, pick, and give whatever general care is needed. This usually takes me till about 3 p.m.
7. From 3 p.m. to bed time, I leave open… It’s my adventure time. I love to look for my neighborhood cat Pepito or go on nature walks. Sometimes I paint other times I dance, whatever strikes me as appropriate in the moment. More or less, this is my time to play and use my intuition. It’s truly the real work… I think without it, I can fall into a real pit of mediocrity.
*Bonus tip: I clean my house meticulously once a week along with daily upkeep! I feel that it’s so important to treat your space as you want to be treated. I envision my house as a beautiful old Japanese woman in a green robe… I hope that’s not too racey or anything but I mean it with the utmost respect. I give to her and she gives to me, it’s simple symbiosis. To sum it up I’ll include a beautiful poem I once read, “Love is true, Love is free, Love is good and walks with me” – Boonie Spritzer