TS5Q: Matt Holliman of Sleepy Sun

Posted: November 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: More Than 100 | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Was tempted to start out this piece on some riff about walking into a show, not really knowing the artist, then finding myself absolutely falling in  love with them, based on a single show. But I wrote that the last time.  Hmm. This fact makes me feel really ignorant about contemporary music; or I’m far-too-easily impressed by every act I stumble across.

In reality, Sleepy Sun did blow me away, and I couldn’t believe the intense gorgeousness that the group shared with a too-small cadre of fans at a show at Saint Louis’ Off Broadway nightclub, earlier in 2010. That night, I purchased one piece of vinyl, “Embrace,” and completed my Sleepy collection within the week with “Fever.”  They’re only two albums in, but you can tell this group’s got the chops to do nothing but impress a wider and wider circle of fans. And, as someone who missed the golden age of heavy psych, I’m thankful for groups that let me do a bit of time traveling.

Don’t know the members of Sleepy Sun from the men on the moon, but in an age of publicists and helpful labels, it’s easier than ever to reach around the world for some personal contact. And it appears that Matt Holliman, half of Sleepy Sun’s devastating guitar attack, penned the following notes from Europe. That he zings question three is even sweeter. Thanks, sir.

One. Which of the seven deadliest sins make for the best art?
That depends on the art– I’ve been getting a lot out of authors/artists that embody Gluttony for the time being. The far side of extremes can bring out the worst in people and it can make for an interesting read.

Two. For what are you going to need a little more evidence?
What are we talking about here? The game of Clue? I’m not any good at that thing.

Three. For personal creativity (or productivity), are you better served by contentment or restlessness?

There isn’t generally a set rule for this, but for myself, restlessness seems to breed more creation. It’s usually an issue of being unhappy with a certain aspect of life and needing an outlet to express change or simply tell a story.

Four. Likeliest occurrence within your lifetime: true peace, total war, or the arrival of spacemen/spacewomen?
Unfortunately, (near) total war seems the likeliest. Spacemen/women are probably a few hundred years off.

Five. Select/discuss any one of the following options.
Five-b: You are concerned about your food and its origins.

Last time we were in Mexico City our friend took us out to some local food: tripe, crickets, shrimp head soup and pickled pigs feet. He declined to tell us the ingredients of a few of the dishes before we tried them. Two of three of us that ate the pigs feet got sick. Coincidence?


TS5Q: Shelley Short

Posted: November 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: More Than 100 | Tags: , , | Comments Off

Occasionally a little venue springs up in your town, puts some magic into the world, then disappears. So it was in Saint Louis during the past couple years, as Dana Smith’s City Art Supply served a commercial purpose during the day, then came alive as a truly authentic, artistic venue at night. But only for shows personally curated and desired by Smith. This wasn’t a bar where any band with a draw could roll through. This was a tiny, sonic temple, where every band meant something, or else they wouldn’t have been given the space by Smith to create memories for 45-minutes at a time.

On the shop’s last night of operation, Shelley Short gave one of those performances that stop you in your tracks. The kind that make you go right over after the show, with wallet open.  Her live set is spare and fantastic, which is evident when you listen to the generous Daytrotter Sessions posted on her homepage. And her recordings have the same special, emotional qualities of that live set, adding in touches of backing vocals and extra instrumentation, but without any unnecessary studio gloss. If songs existing in only the best space of neo-folk are something that interest you, her lovely, acoustic-based albums are a must.

She’s also from Portland, OR, which counts for something.

Shelley was kind enough to tackle our questions, before heading out on a European tour.

One. Which of the seven deadliest sins make for the best art?
Once I refreshed my knowledge of the deadliest sins, they didn’t seem all that deadly. They seemed quite common. A person might not seem so real without a couple of doubts and longings floating around up there. And although I can see how some of these sins could lead someone into a place where they would need or want to create something, i don’t think they necessarily make for the best art. Id’ like to think it comes from somewhere else. An outside place not to be found within the seven, but for sure to be found in the ever questioning mysteries of out sweet old brains.

Two. For what are you going to need a little more evidence?
unfortunately, i believe everything i hear. no evidence needed.

Three. For personal creativity (or productivity), are you better served by contentment or restlessness?
Being content is a good place to be, but it is a hard place to truly get to sometimes. If I ever do feel restless, i might busy myself doing or making something, but i’d guess its a tool i use to make my way to a place where i can feel content.

Four. Likeliest occurrence within your lifetime: true peace, total war, or the arrival of spacemen/spacewomen?
Hopefully the first and the third. One can only hope.

Five. Select/discuss any one of the following options.
Five-e: Do you have a question for me? (What is it?) Yes. two. If you could be any animal what would you choose? What is your very first memory?
Ah! Always surprised when these come back to me. Okay. Animals, first. As I’m fond of the race track, I should probably come back as a low-level race horse, to test karma’s power. Maybe I’m way off on this “as horses, they’re living an okay life” riff that I’ve convinced myself to be true. As for a memory, I recall sitting underneath a table in my grandparents’ kitchen, on a blanket, watching the nightly news. Specifically, I recall imagery about the Vietnam War. That vision of a young me is quite fixed. But enough about me, back to our subject…

(The following is a video directed by Shelley Short, “Time Machine/Submarine.”)


TS5Q No-No: Penelope Spheeris

Posted: November 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The List of 100 | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

As the only person in my general age bracket to have never seen “Wayne’s World,” it may’ve been audacious to expect a positive response from longtime documentary, feature and music video director Penelope Spheeris. But you gotta have dreams. And if Spheeris had only lensed “The Decline of Western Civilization,” and nothing else, she would’ve been a sure, first-ballot pick for TS5Q.

But it’s not to be.

There’s something good that can come of the rejection letter, which hits upon all the chords you could possibly pack into a few, choice sentences. This is something I can actually use in writing classes, as it deftly never says “no.”

Wrote Ms. Spheeris’ assistant, “I work with Penelope. She thought your questions were fascinating, and she wishes she had the time to answer them properly. At the moment, she’s under a tremendous time crunch finishing her latest film, Balls to the Wall, and would not have time to do them justice. Thank you very much for your request, and best of luck with your project.”

Complimentary to the idea. Short, but not curt. Citation of industry pressures as reason to decline. This note is good at what it does. Very, very good. And I mean that.

Also very good is that I dipped into the director’s website and learned that she’s not only worked with Keel, but with George Benson, which makes me oddly happy.


TS5Q: Kristeen Young

Posted: November 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: More Than 100 | Tags: , | 5 Comments »

Kristeen Young is a New York-based songwriter and touring musician.

We also went to school together.

She now holds the distinction of Fastest Turnaround Time in the brief, inglorious history of TS5Q: less than six-hours.

One. Which of the seven deadliest sins make for the best art?
Lust is the reason for everything. It’s why we even exist. It’s at the heart, or groin, of every action. Art is boring without SOME sexual element…..because sex is the essence of life. You can SAY you were motivated or inspired by pride or greed…..but, why do you want so much? Why do you need to be so respected? Peel back enough layers and lust is always at the bottom of it all. The best songs are songs that make you want to either kill yourself or have uninhibited, dangerous sex. It’s just so.

Two. For what are you going to need a little more evidence?
Karma.

Three. For personal creativity (or productivity), are you better served by contentment or restlessness?
Restlessness with a dash of contentment. At least a LITTLE bit of contentment has to be present because it’s difficult to create without basic tools. Even if you are in the middle of Sahara…..it would be to your advantage to have the contentment of a stick with which to write in the dirt or hit something.

Four. Likeliest occurrence within your lifetime: true peace, total war, or the arrival of spacemen/spacewomen?
Total war……unfortunately, it’s not even a stretch to imagine it. I feel like I’ve been imagining it and preparing for it my whole life.

Five-A. What I lost as a child and want back.
My entire self. No need to truly discuss… but I’ve been searching for and slowly (re)collecting the pieces ever since I was able to escape.


TS5Q: Aaron Belz

Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: More Than 100 | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

There was once a Saint Louis poet, Aaron Belz.

Now he’s the California poet, Aaron Belz.

His work is as funny and thoughtful as anything you’ll read today. If you don’t believe me, sample it.

For example, here. Or here. Perhaps here.

He’s also written books. Like this one. And this other one.

Aaron Belz is the best, man.

One. Which of the seven deadliest sins make for the best art?
“Tristitia” or despair. Art is despair, and these be-bop kids who run around the Loop acting all “what’s good for you is good for me” and going to shows and smoking weed at their friends’ apartments and so forth are not near enough to the death head. I think you have to watch a box lid shut on the still form of your college roommate, or your mom, before you get it. This is human art. It’s not okay.  It’s not good.  And you can’t walk away from it and pretend it never happened. Positive thinking? There’s comedy, beauty, and death. As Blake wrote, “O Rose, thou art sick!” Art is lethal. But I guess it’s also funny and thought-provoking, if you let it be.

Two. For what are you going to need a little more evidence?
For much of my life I’ve walked around in a haze, sort of.  I thought I wanted to get to the root of the mystery of being, of myself, of love, and life.  I felt that I, as a poet, was like a priest finding words that would serve as touchstones for others to contemplate the mystery beyond them. But about two years ago I realized that the haze was self-imposed—self-produced, in fact: it was a cloud of my own narcissistic fartings. I had become a beast.  Screw searching!  I am now searched.  I’ve learned, painfully, not to “need a little more evidence.” I’m happy (and busy) enough trying to be nice to people.  Writing poetry, now, is more akin to joy, joy in the face of death.

Three. For personal creativity (or productivity), are you better served by contentment or restlessness?
Are those the only two options? I think just being alive, content or restless, is so problematic that sometimes it’s best viewed through the keyhole of drunkenness.  And I would add, with the humility of a person who has largely failed in his life, that if you just feel generally elated or even “content” you’re missing something. There should always be a missing piece.  You’re missing a piece. Despair is natural, therefore, and art (and I don’t mean “design”) means something.

Four. Likeliest occurrence within your lifetime: true peace, total war, or the arrival of spacemen/spacewomen?
Total war.

Five. An important text?
I refer you to the Bible, to Hebrews 11, a chapter I learned to love while a graduate student at Saint Louis University. It’s the famous description of people of faith and how they walked forward through life. Impossible miracles happen to them, they themselves are perpetrators of terrible acts, and their one source of hope is that this (earth) is not their country. They live as “aliens and strangers.”  I believe this feeling is native to all of us, and we express it in many ways, and then we also repress it by buying into the American Dream at different levels.  You know: house in Wildwood, GMC Yukon, country club membership, a little shopping at Macy’s in the afternoon, how much of an alien can you be?  Again, though, this is not a matter of mere restlessness: it’s about being radically unsettled, uprooted to death, until you’re forced to walk by faith. Hebrews 11 means something whether you’re a Christian or not.  It’s a true picture.