La Language

The latest in our series of authors writing about the place of our music in their life and times:

Francis Lam is an editor at Gilt Taste, writer,
and bon vivant who keeps an eye on culture, cooks and community.


A lot of music is important enough for you remember when you first
discovered it, when its sounds first hit you. But it’s hard for me to
say when I first discovered Rebecca Gates’s music, because I keep
discovering it over and over.

Maybe I could say it was the first time I saw her play, probably 15
years ago, opening for someone at a small club decked out like a
living room in Pontiac, Michigan. I was there to see the headliner,
but Rebecca’s voice carried words so strong I pulled little slips of
paper from my pockets to write snatches of them down. “Out ’til 3 am,
pillaging the drinks of friends”: so many right words, gorgeous
choices, language that says much packed into a perfect number of
syllables. After the show, standing by the bar, I asked her why she
looked familiar — did she live in my dorm? “Well, I’m in a band
called the Spinanes,” she said, graciously. Oh, right. Seen your

Or maybe I should say it was the night, a few years later, on my couch
after a hilariously depressing Christmas Eve I spent drinking
screwdrivers by myself and passing out reading old letters from
friends. I was still in a melancholy mood, and without really knowing
why, I drew the curtains, clicked off the lamps, and realized I needed
music for when the lights are out. I put on the first record I could
find that was “mellow,” which happened to be Strand. The waves came
slowly in, the first soft taps on the drums, and I started to feel
that calm stillness that only comes when a dark room takes your mind
off of your loneliness. I was winding down into a wash of soft
melodrama, mood music and everything. But then something happened: I
started listening. Not just hearing the music, but really listening,
with intention, as stories about the songs formed in my head. The
sounds, the chords, the jangle and jar and her voice, sugar-rimmed
liquor. I put on the record looking really for nothing more than a
dramatic soundtrack, and discovered, instead, glorious art.

From then on, I carried that album, and then the others—Arches and
Aisles, Manos, Imp Years, Ruby Series—with me everywhere I went, for
so long the print on the discs started to peel off and stick to the CD
wallet that became their home. I walked around New York with
headphones in, and I marveled at how they always changed the city I
saw—and how they changed, themselves. I knew every note of them by
heart, but something would still happen when they hummed in my ears. I
could still hear them differently; new words would appear that I
didn’t realize were there, melodies that were hidden would pop out and
carry me down the sidewalk. I would hear and then mishear lyrics, and
even the wrong words sounded right—“The small of your back taste,”
once became “the smell of your bad taste”—and every time it sent me
straight to my pen and notebook. Each of these were moments of

It’s funny and flattering that Rebecca asked me to write something
about her music, because in the time between then and now, I somehow
began making my living as a writer. It’s funny because now that she’s
asked me to think about it, I realize that, for years, her work has
made me want to be a better writer. It makes me love language more,
reminds me to live, really live, in language. It makes me want to see
more in the world, to always look closer. It makes me want to

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Magnet Magazine stole my desk

I was fortunate enough to be invited to be “guest editor” at Magnet Magazine this past week. It offered an opportunity to mention various points of inspiration. Mitch Hedberg, SOUL!, Saipua, Pot-lucks, Switzerland, 50m swimming pools and Elaine May are but a few of the topics I side-swiped…..

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5 Firsts

Another in our series of short posts by authors writing about the place of our music in their life and times:

Presenting: Mr. Will Allison! author of What You Have Left and Long Drive Home


Five Firsts with RG

1. The first time I heard Rebecca Gates: 1996, on a promo copy of Strand, lent to me by and subsequently stolen from Meredith Melragon, to whom I’ll always be grateful for introducing me to many fine bands—but especially to RG.

2. The first time I saw RG play live: 1998, Cincinnati, at Sudsy Malone’s, a bar with a laundromat in back. RG was touring solo for Arches and Aisles. No one has ever sounded so good in a laundromat. Nerd alert: after the show, I asked for the set list.

3. The first song I ever played for my daughter, Hazel, when she was still in her crib: “Madding,” the opening track on Strand. “Hey, baby. . . I know you’re tired.”

4. The first person I ever met who’d rehearsed with RG: A friend of a friend in Chicago. This was around the time of Ruby Series. “What’s it like to play with Rebecca?” I asked. “Fun,” she said, “but hard. Rebecca’s songs aren’t like anyone else’s.”

5. The first time I met RG in person: January 2006, New York, after a show at The Knitting Factory. As you’d expect, she was gracious, kind, approachable—not at all a Rock Star. I didn’t want to gush, but what I meant to tell her was: thanks for the great records, thanks for the great shows, please don’t stop making music, can’t wait for more.

Previous entries: Peter Terzian on June 7, 2012

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r ‘n’ r ≠ rock ‘n’ roll

Not all the time.
The question comes up, why so long between records? And there are many answers, all true. One of them is “I wanted to try to find a way to work hard on music and be healthy, be rested and not have every cycle end in depletion, with each cycle ending lower than the previous one.” which makes life sound quite dark and dire, which, at times it was, but mostly it was not. Still, it was important I learn new skills and when I finally felt a certain whimsy, command, relaxation, it seemed safe to put the pedal to the metal, if I might borrow the phrase…
The last few months have been amazing and full and difficult. Right now I’m between finishing the album production, setting it out into the world and taking care of it there. I could fill 56 hours a day.
BUT yesterday and today, I went to the beach with friends, no computer, minor phone use. We celebrated starting jobs, quitting jobs, and a rock ‘n’ roll album.

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The first in a series of short posts by authors writing about the place of our music in their life and times:

Peter Terzian is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He is the editor of Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives.

Click photo for Peter’s essay.

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Our new album (really my new album I suppose, but it is a collective of sorts, the Consortium), will be released in the next weeks.


Starring : (click on name for pix) : Joe Adamik, Thierry Amar, Jim Becker, Steve Berlin, Joanna Bolme, Rebecca Cole, Rebecca Foon, Mark Greenberg, Gary Jarman, Ben Massarella, Doug McCombs, John McEntire, Jessica Moss, Sonja Myklebust, Nate Query, Tim Rutili, Ji Tanzer and me.


Vinyl and digital are available June 12. CDs June 19.
Vinyl via 12XU. All other formats via Parcematone Presents.


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Los Angeles May 21

Today I went on a secret mission to Burbank. More on that later. Swansea hung with The Youngs in Silver Lake, while Joanna and I ate at Flore on Sunset (mmmm). I was at Intelligentsia twice (mmmm). Tired = coffee crutch. We finished out daylight hours lying around our friend’s apartment listening to the Lakers game on my iphone. Joanna knows a lot about basketball. So does Ji. I cover the cycling. Night off.

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This Guy

Love having woodpeckers in the neighborhood, making noise rain or shine.

listen: front yard

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The Float

After months, nay years, of talking about this record, it is in the final stages and due for release in two months.

We are previewing a track here.

I am handling all aspects of the release except promo to print/web and radio, which DIY aside, is still a huge (and, unfortunately, expensive) part of putting out a record. It’s all very exciting and very overwhelming. I still have a lot to do.

The one thing I am not doing is covering the manufacture, release and distribution of the vinyl LP. The marvelous 12XU ( has stepped in to manage that format. Gerard’s involvement means a tremendous amount to me. He’s run amazing record labels releasing great records I’ve admired and enjoyed for years. (Homestead, Matador).

Though we are in this late stage, after putting everything I can into the process, and trying to avoid online fund-raising, I will be kicking off a Kickstarter campaign next week. 2012!

In the meantime, enjoy “& & &” .


The new record was recorded in Wakefield, Chicago, Montreal, Portland, Townsend and Dallas. Engineered by Howard Bilerman, John McEntire, Ethan Rose, Kendra Lynn, Mark Greenberg, Stuart Sikes, John Askew, Adam Selzer, Jim Brunberg, Graeme Gibson, and Rebecca Gates.
Players include : Joe Adamik, Thierry Amar, James Becker, Steve Berlin, Joanna Bolme, Rebecca Cole, Becky Foon, Mark Greenberg, Gary Jarman, Benny Massarella, Doug McCombs, John McEntire, Jessica Moss, Sonja Myklebust, Nate Query, Tim Rutili, and Ji Tanzer.

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Young Blood

Confluence of activities: unpacking boxes; artwork for The Float; gathering photos, sounds and videos for the Kickstarter campaign. It’s a strange combo of surfing memory lane and slamming into the current moment as wall of water, asking how does this past relate to what needs to happen now? Albums become markers for time, both in the making and in listening. This Heat’s first album is forever linked to a certain room, a group of people, as is Rush’s “Hemispheres” (boyfriend) and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” (solo). Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” conjures up a moment standing in the Tower Records store on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, talking with a friend about…hearing records for the first time. Why albums? Why not singles?
When I first met my friend Ben Walker (who does the amazing Too Much Information podcast on WFMU) it was 2004 and we were talking about Ipods, which were just entering the marketplace.
I said, “It’s the same as an old Victrola. You listen to one song at a time. Or maybe it’s like the way 45s are stacked on a turntable and drop down to play…”
He stared at me and asked “Why didn’t you say that when I was recording?”.
All formats at all times. It’s about listening, what a musician wants to make and what suits a user best. I grew up listening to singles. I listened to “Young Blood” by The Coasters over and over. “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett (Pt. 1…never getting around to flipping it for Pt. 2) was another favourite. But I make albums, I love the length, the format, the arc. I also make sounds and music and songs that aren’t albums, which I adore, but it’s only the albums that each have their own notebook, their related photos, movies and tours, working titles and cassettes. I have so many cassettes. They’ve been shipped across the US twice, waiting for this moment, of 2012 digitization opportunities, for culling, posting, selling and tossing.

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