Coming up in a little under a month on Saturday, December 13, 2014, Handmade Holiday is a fundraiser held in the courtyard of the new San Diego Central Library (330 Park Boulevard) between 9:30am-4pm. They’ll be featuring over 30 local artists, designers, and vendors “to get a jumpstart on the holiday shopping.”
But why are we talking about it? Because of the afternoon entertainment!
Starting at noon, four local musicians — hand-picked by Villains friend Roy Silverstein of North Park’s Rarefied Recording — will hit the auditorium stage.
The four artists are lounge singer and pianist Normandie Wilson, banjo-and-ukulele shoegrass band Kalashnikov My Wife, indie rockers The Gift Machine, and solo artist Erik Canzona of The Heavy Guilt.
Below, you can read a little about Roy’s thought process in choosing these musicians and his thoughts on the music and art communities.
(And if you want to read more about the musicians, I’ll be posting interviews from each on the Handmade Holiday blog in the coming weeks.)
Click to read the interview below.
Why did you join as the sponsor and music curator of Handmade Holiday?
Well, first of all, I’ve known Susie Ghahremani (one of the coordinators) for a long time. So when she asked me to be a sponsor and curate the music it was an easy decision.
But I do have experience with this sort of thing. From about 2006 to 2010 I ran a house show venue called The Habitat. It was a complete labor of love. All shows were put on at this lovely old craftsman in Golden Hill that I used to rent. I organized them, picked the bands, did promotions, set up, ran sound, cleaned up, etc. etc.
One year I even did an all day festival (The Golden Hill Pop Luck) with something like 14 bands all in one day. In its day The Habitat was widely adored by musicians and music fans alike. So I guess I was doing something right and although I don’t host house shows anymore, I still enjoy doing this sort of thing when the opportunity arises.
Describe how you chose the 4 artists. What drew you to them? What ties these bands together?
So, the venue at the Central Library is a seated auditorium. It’s quite lovely and has this beautiful acoustic wall made of books. I was looking for artists that are contemplative, have something to say, and would fit in with the vibe of this auditorium. Being a seated venue and a family event, loud rock bands didn’t seem right. So I steered for mellower artists.
There’s not really something for EVERYone here, but there is a range of styles that I think are complementary.
I was looking for artists that are contemplative, have something to say, and would fit in with the vibe of this auditorium.
What makes these artists unique?
Normandie Wilson does this great loungey/vibey piano thing. She channels a bygone era with her chord and melody choices and has a really lovely, smoky voice and dramatic presentation in her wardrobe and stage persona. Her songs are very personal and honest too. Plus, the library has a 1920’s Steinway and I couldn’t resist having someone use it!
The Gift Machine have this loose/jangly indie-rock vibe with these killer dual lead guitar solos that sound so sweet. They are from North County San Diego and just exude this laid back attitude in such a perfect fuzzed out, sun-soaked, Southern California way. Dave Matthies and his wife Andrea Gruber basically sing together the whole time. His voice is super low and hers is much higher (as you might expect), but they blend together perfectly somehow. Really catchy songs too.
Kalashnikov My Wife have this mysterious thing to them. I ran sound for them awhile back at a show at Luce Loft and was really enamored by their sound. They have an unusual instrumentation and are kind of spooky.
Erik Canzona is a member of this band called The Heavy Guilt that has gotten a fair amount of acclaim here in San Diego. He decided to do a solo record and holed up in his apartment and recorded himself with his roommate Al Howard who is in a lot of other great San Diego bands. When I came across Erik I was impressed by what he set out to do with his solo music. It sounds like it started off simple, but just got more and more layered as he went, to the point where at the end of it all he had to bring in a drummer (the great Jake Najor) to tie it all together.
Music is going through this transitional period where suddenly the bottom has dropped out… Musicians need to become more like artists and artisans. They need be prepared to wear all the hats and to produce a product that people will pay for… It’s a tough world out there right now, but I think musicians can take a page from the artists and get back on their feet.
What can the San Diego music community learn from the arts community? Or vice versa?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I’m totally qualified to answer, but I’ll tell you what I think. It would seem to me that the arts community has been dealing with a rough market for their work for a long time. There just aren’t that many art collectors and it has been that way for a long time. So the type of art that we see at galleries, hung on walls, and adored purely for its beauty has been the playground to a few privileged artists that somehow broke through to that level. The rest of the artists didn’t go away, though. They found other ways to continue doing their art and many of them do make a living at it. Whether they work for someone else and produce visuals for businesses or they become artisans and produce goods and crafts of their own, they have found a way to make it work as a living. They’ve adapted along the way to new mediums and economies and figured out how to market themselves and everything.
Music is going through this transitional period where suddenly the bottom has dropped out. You used to do your music and if you were good, you got picked up by a label, and then the label kind of took care of a bunch of stuff for you, paid for your recording time, pressing records, promotions, touring, etc. That’s nearly gone now. Musicians basically have to do everything themselves if they want to make music their livelihood. As a recording engineer, it’s really sad to see what was the product (the record) become so undervalued that most people expect to get it for free or nearly free. But that’s the world we live in right now. So musicians need to become more like artists and artisans. They need be prepared to wear all the hats and to produce a product that people will pay for. Beyond the status-quo download, CD, or vinyl, they may need to put together unique packages that make people want to own a physical copy of their work. They might have to write some music for commercials, TV, or movies. Or they may need to hustle and find a job that is flexible enough to allow them time to do their music still. It’s a tough world out there right now, but I think musicians can take a page from the artists and get back on their feet.
What can we learn from any or all of the 4 bands that we should apply to the music community?
Normandie Wilson is someone that has come through the school of hard knocks and is still standing. In fact, she felt so passionate about her experiences that she wrote an e-book called “Mistakes, Misadventures, and Miscalculations in Independent Music” which you can purchase from her here.
This is a true cautionary tale of what not to do as an independent musician. How not to get screwed over by a so-called musical partner, how not to lose your shirt making a record or going on tour, and in her case, how to handle yourself as a woman in a still male-dominated industry. It’s a fun read where she invites you to laugh along with her at her prior mis-steps and learn a thing or two.
Any exciting projects coming up from you or Rarefied that you’d like to talk about?
Quite a few!
- Right now I’m finishing up an EP for Carmen Caserta. Some really dark piano/vocal tunes.
- Some friends from college who now live in LA have been using the studio for their project formerly known as Feathers. There are too many other Feathers now so they are going to change their name. But they just brought in this mix engineer from Chicago, Tim Iseler, to mix 4 songs off their upcoming record that was partially tracked at Rarefied. It sounds amazing. They’ll be coming back to have local engineer Chris Hobson (who does all the Tree Ring stuff) mix 2 other songs. And then John McEntire (of Tortoise) is going to mix the other tunes at his place in Chicago.
- On December 7th, Rarefied is hosting an episode of this thing called Pro Studio Live. Check out www.prostudiolive.com to find out more. Basically, what they do is live stream a recording session at a professional studio with a professional engineer explaining what they’re doing along they way. It’s like being a virtual fly on the virtual wall and the idea is you can learn a lot by seeing what the pros do in a pro studio.