NERFA

November 15, 2011

Just got back from our first North East Regional Folk Alliance conference in upstate New York, and it was a truly inspiring and life affirming experience.  So many extraordinarily talented folk artists in one place – with performances throughout the day and into the wee hours of the morning – in big theatres and tiny hotel rooms.  Every morning I would wake up after four hours of sleep, and not because of my alarm, but because I had folk songs writing themselves in my head, and not Whispering Tree – style folk, but straight-up FOLK.  Very interesting, and very cool.  Thinking about songwriting in this style seems to have opened up a whole lot of new possibilities as far as subject matter and lyrics go.  I still haven’t taken the plunge and followed the many song trails to completion, but I feel like it’s still all working itself out in my head.

One of these folky songs which seems to be writing itself is about a story my aunt told me a few years ago, which I had never considered writing a song about before.  She was on a cruise ship with my grandfather, a Polish Jew who fled Poland during the war and joined the Royal Air Force when he was 17.  Anyway, they’re on this cruise ship eating dinner with a group of people they’d just met.  Somehow in conversation it comes out that one of the women at the table was from Germany and was in Dresden when the bombs were dropped, and my grandfather says something to the effect of, “I dropped the bombs on Dresden.”

My aunt said everyone else at the table was kind of stunned, but my grandfather and this woman were all very matter-of-fact about the whole thing…and there’s something so poignant about that scene for me.  Can’t quite wrap my mind around it, but hopefully I will be able to communicate it in song-form far more eloquently than I can with words alone.

Something about how the past really means nothing, no matter how traumatic, wide-spread or life altering it was.  Something about people of that generation reaching the end of their lives and how beautiful it is that they can look back without hatred or sadness.  Something about how so much falls under the blanket of “war,” about how no one is held responsible for what they do – because it’s WAR…and how, in a way, they really aren’t responsible for what they do, because THEY aren’t really  there.

I’m not sure if I’m conveying exactly what I’m trying to – let’s hope the song turns out better!

Another side effect of NERFA is that I’m dying to get into the studio again and put out some new(er) material.  We’ve got enough finished songs for an amazing EP – so I’m not sure of the logistics just yet, but I’m going to make that happen ASAP.

 

 


Eleanor

Week 2

October 7, 2011

Well, week 2 has seen some drastic improvements.

We found a great airstream service place in Greensboro, NC and dropped our trailer there for a few days.  Good thing we found the leak, because it turns out the shocks were thirty years old and basically useless.  So they replaced the rotten flooring, the shocks, plugged up the leaks and holes in the frame, changed the leaky pipes AND we splurged and had an air conditioner installed.  So now we’re super fancy and can go to Florida and Texas without the risk of heat stroke associated with living in a large aluminum oven.  We burnt through most of our money way ahead of schedule, but it was money well spent.

Right now we’re parked at an RV/trailer park near the Carborro/Chapel Hill area in North Carolina.  We had a chance to chat with the trailer park owner, and it was really fascinating.  First, I had never heard an Asian immigrant with a mix of an Asian and Southern US accent – and it’s really awesome.  He’s from Vietnam, used to tour around the US with a band.  He fought in the Vietnam war against the US, his entire family was killed, they wanted to cut off his head but he managed to escape and spent three weeks on a boat without food or water.  In order to survive he ate dogs, cats, insects and eventually humans.  He says this all very casually and without a trace of self pity.  Sometimes I really wish I had a video camera strapped to my forehead, I’m sorry you missed it.

Right now we’re in a coffee shop in Carrboro waiting for our show tonight at Open Eye Cafe.  Really good coffee and vegan goodies.

In other news, we’ve got some new full-band live videos up.  One of our newer songs, “Better off” and our minor, gypsy-jazz take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  Check ’em out!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Better Off

 

 


Eleanor

So…

October 2, 2011

Apologies for the dead silence this past week…its been crazy.  Living in a 30 year old trailer has its challenges, as we’ve been discovering.  I was envisioning a relaxed, care-free lifestyle – lazily meandering down the highways and byways (what are those anyway?) of this crazy, beautiful country.  Needless to say, it’s been a kind of rude awakening.  It’s neither relaxing nor care-free…and we have a closer relationship with our sewage than I ever cared to imagine.

There’s a patch of rotten wood, a few pipe leaks and no power inverter (which means boondocking would be tough).  Oh yes, and Elie’s allergic to the trailer.  I’ve suddenly become aware of just how many things can go terribly wrong when you’re carrying your house on your back at 65 miles an hour.  Who knew this would all be so complicated?

So after our show today in Norfolk, VA we’re driving to Winston-Salem, NC to bring our trailer to an Airstream repair place.  We’ve got four shows in North Carolina and then on October 10th we head to Knoxville…so hopefully the trailer will be fixed by that time (at minimal cost!)  Until then, we’ll be homeless in North Carolina.

All in all, I can’t say yet whether I like this new lifestyle or not.  I don’t regret it, which is a good sign.  But I’m trying to withhold judgement for another few weeks.  We’re still adjusting.

On the upside, we got to spend some time in Richmond, VA, which is a place I would actually consider moving to.  It’s a really nice city; small enough and green enough to not feel overwhelming, but with tons of culture and arts.  Of course my main criteria for loving a place mostly depends on how vegan-friendly they are and how good the coffee is…and Richmond went above and beyond.  We played a show at a coffee shop called Globehopper-  BEST COFFEE EVER! I mean subtle, perfectly roasted, perfectly brewed, PERFECTION!  The only down side is that I had managed to lower my coffee expectations to the point that any old Starbucks could be, not good, but at least semi-palatable…well Globehopper has ruined all that.  The owner, Kimmy, is super nice and gave us these massive vegan chocolate cookie-concoctions stuffed full of peanut butter.  Oh Richmond, how I love you.  If you’re ever in the area, do yourself a favor and get a cappuccino at Globehopper and thank me later.

After shows in Charlottesville and Williamsburg, we’re now chilling at a Starbucks (damn you, Globehopper!) in Norfolk, awaiting our show tonight.

Then we’ve got to high tail it back to our campsite, dump (really not fun), and start driving to North Carolina.  We’ll probably spend our first night in a Walmart parking lot tonight – is it weird that I’m kind of excited about that?

——————-

Next stop: Norfolk, VA

Gigs so far: 5

Miles so far: 1319

 


Eleanor

And we’re mobile!

September 26, 2011

We made it! We finally left our apartment 3 days ago and moved into our argosy trailer. The last 4 days have been absolutely crazy! I wanted to blog earlier but I couldn’t find any time to do so.

So here I am, sitting on the couch while Eleanor ‘s still sleeping, enjoying the quiet of the morning in a Pennsylvania campground in East Stroudsburg. We survived a crazy car crash on our first day driving (a truck rammed into a car and blew it to pieces because of a tree that had fallen on the road – right in front of me!); the holding tanks of our trailer started overflowing and dirty water came out of the shower hole; the trailer makes my allergies go on red alert and I must have used 3 packs of tissues a day for the last three days; we had forgotten some of our clothes and had to backtrack 200 miles to go get them; and we managed to play the first 2 gigs of our ‘No Plan B Tour’!

This has been the most adventure I’ve had in this last year, and i’m loving it! We’re still getting used to our change of quarters and I’m sure it’ll take us a while longer to get comfortable with our new lifestyle, but so far, even though it’s been hectic, we’re having a fun time (though Eleanor might disagree with my use of ‘fun’ 🙂 )

——————-

Next stop: Philapdelphia

Gigs so far: 2

Miles so far: 531


Elie

The No Plan B Tour, aka Living in a Trailer

September 9, 2011

Fourteen days to go until we’ll be living full time in a  trailer!!! So I wanted to take this time to write down our mission statement of sorts, to explain why we’re taking this drastic action (besides the obvious “because its awesome” reason) and what we hope to get out of it.

Short version:  Life is far too short to spend it doing anything other than what you love to do.

Long version:

We’ve been living in and around New York City for four and a half years now, and I’ve been here the majority of my life.  Maybe it’s just that we’ve been stationary for so long, but those four and a half years have all kind of blended into a big mushy ball…they really just flew by in a blur of relative same-ness, and I’d like the rest of my years on earth to be punctuated by more diversity and memorable experiences.

Now New York City might appear to be a really happening place in which to be an artist, and maybe it is for some…but not for me.  It’s taken me awhile to admit that I’m more of a tree/grass/river/mountain person than a concrete/traffic/rat person.  Living in the city, I would literally go outside my apartment building for a walk, get to the end of the block and turn back around (I swear concrete leeches energy from me), so I ended up spending  most of my free time holed up inside my apartment.   I find that the city tends to make me ultra self conscious… maybe its all the people.  People, people everywhere.  I do enjoy dipping my toes into the human pond, but on the whole I prefer a little more species diversity.  The city makes me feel like I’m living in a large insect colony of some kind (I’m not talking about the cockroaches) – like there’s a whole forest out there and I’m hanging out in the termite mound.

Then there’s the whole having to work a day job to pay your rent thing, it seems like it would make more sense to pursue an artistic career in a less expensive city.  The one and only underpriced thing in NYC is talent; no where else in the western world can you find such talented people willing to work for so little, if anything at all.  If I were a public policy maker I would come up with some kind of program to make life a little easier for artists here, and I would do it quickly before they all leave for greener pastures…because without artists New York City would just be a concrete wasteland full of hipsters, tourist attractions and Broadway adaptations of Disney movies.

Also, New Yorkers are a jaded bunch on the whole…its not our fault, it’s just that there is SO much happening everywhere, all the time, that you really start to tune it all out…that goes for everything; art, music, people you pass in the street.

When we went on tour, we would feel so free, happy and inspired.  The thought of returning to the city would leave us both with this heavy, uncomfortable feeling.  It was tangible; as soon as we’d enter New Jersey our moods would take a turn for the worse (insert New Jersey joke).  I think most people would agree that when the thought of returning home makes you bitchy, depressed and anxious, its a pretty clear indication that you’re not in the right place!

We’d talked about the idea of living some sort of mobile existence, but never very seriously .  Then during one of our annual camping trips in Montauk, these two gorgeous airstreams pulled up to the spot next to ours, and we spent the night gazing longingly at them.  I think that’s when the seed was planted.  We love travelling, we feel most alive when we’re exploring new places, and we hate feeling weighed down with belongings, jobs, rent, etc.  so I’m really surprised that it took us this long to go the nomadic route.

We started to realize that we didn’t want to “pursue” a career anymore…we didn’t want to spend our day-to- day lives working jobs that didn’t satisfy us,  in the hopes that one day we’d “make it” and be able to make a living off of our music.  So, what?  So, we cut our expenses as much as possible, make touring as economic as possible, and play as much as we can…basically, like the best slogan in the world says, we JUST DO IT!  I have no idea whether this will be a viable solution (not that there’s really anything to solve), or where it will take us…but I do know that at the very least it will be an adventure – and it feels like a life style which is far more in alignment with who we are and what we want our lives to look like!

 


Eleanor

Airstream Pre-flight – PART II

September 6, 2011

If you haven’t heard about hurricane Irene and live in the USA, you’re probably living under a rock. It’s one of the biggest hurricanes to hit the East-North East coast in a great many years. And it decided to happen right when our beautiful trailer had a gaping hole on its port side. Now we could just have boarded the hole with cardboard and tape, or covered the whole trailer with a tarp, except the very center of Irene was supposed to be going right through where we live (Pelham, NY) – and there’s quite a few trees around here! So we had to move the trailer to a safer place (it’s not insured yet… we tried to insure it but the insurance companies wouldn’t insure it before after the storm had passed). It was actually not a bad thing as we wanted to take it out and test most of the systems before setting sail in September. If it hadn’t been for the hole in the frame, it would have been no problem.

The only way we could think of securing that hole for the time being was to put a piece of cardboard in the frame where the heater is supposed to be and cover the whole area with a trash bag taped to the side (very ghetto). So a few hours later, with our seal of fortune, we’re then on our way: West it is! We drove to Binghamton, NY which seemed to be far enough to be on the safe side (rain but no storm conditions). We hooked the trailer up for the first time in an RV campground and everything was working (except of course the water heater… you can (re)read part I if you don’t know why…)

Now it’s Sunday evening, we’re on our way back to Pelham, the trash bag didn’t hold so we’ve already stopped twice to add duct tape and stick a towel behind the bag to absorb as much water as possible (it’s still raining), and we’re hungry! But, the trailer is safe, and so are we!

Stay tuned for the next part in our pre-flight series!


Elie