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Getting To Know: Small Town Sci-Fi

Q1. Reflecting on your personal journey over the past six years, how has the fusion of personal pain and acceptance shaped your approach to creating music, and what lessons have you learned through this transformative period?

A1) I used to wish that I could make my voice sound like Jeff Mangum or sometimes Dallas Green, I don’t really think like that now. I want you to hear it like it is. I’m not trying to fool people into liking me or thinking that I’m deep anymore.  I was also trying to fool myself. I was living in bad faith. I’ve come to a new personal definition for what it means to be honest, I’m not sure I even had one before. I give what I have now, not an altered version. Over the past 6 years I’ve learned that reality is real and everything else is not. The process of seeing myself as I really was without the cocoon of a protective personal narrative rocked me to my core.  I learned that I could only start to grow if I chose growth over comfort. 

Q2. The inception of Small Town Sci-Fi emerged from the challenging aftermath of a long-term relationship and the loss of a close family member. How did these experiences influence the musical direction of Small Town Sci-Fi, and how has the project evolved since its beginnings in solo bedroom lofi recording to its current state?

A2) I’m not sure I understand my mind enough to make an exact connection between those events and music, I’ll give it a try. I do know that I picked up some bad things in childhood that seemed necessary or advantageous for my survival but were truly harmful. For instance, I couldn’t have realized how emotionally numb I’d become.  From my teen years to my early twenties I had almost zero ability to express anything except anger, I had very little, if any, access to true empathy, and I was physically unable to cry or to be vulnerable.  I think I had a block and maybe it couldn’t withstand whatever was happening for me at the time of these changes around 6 years ago. All of a sudden everything was different; the way I observed myself and my surroundings, the way I interacted with people and other animals, the way I listened to music. I heard things I hadn’t before. Those things became important to me. Maybe important enough for me to want to start recording projects using garageband, an acoustic guitar, and a built-in laptop microphone. I put some songs on Soundcloud.  Some people reached out with encouragement (they also told me to record on a better setup), so I picked up a decent microphone and a mixing board and went to work. Kind words from friends, strangers, and bloggers would continue to help to provide the fuel.  

I did a collaboration song called ‘Mastodon’ with a professional mix engineer from Nashville, I think this was an early piece of motivation to eventually take the recordings out of the lofi bedroom.  Small Town Sci-Fi was started by me and my friend Kim. We did some practice recordings at her house which was a lot of fun and helped to flesh out a sound, but soon I decided it was time to get into the studio. I recorded Psycho at tiny telephone in Oakland, CA. Then in the Fall of 2022 I moved to Portland to record Make it Over at Jackpot! Throughout all this, I’ve tried to remain open and experimental while also holding on tightly to those Important things I mentioned.

Q3. Your latest album, "Make it Over," was recorded in Portland, Oregon, and features the collaboration with Joe Mengis on drums. How did the change in location impact the creative process, and what role did Joe play in shaping the sound of the album?

A3) I’ve been more open to taking risks out here in Portland. I believe this is owed in large part to the people I’ve worked with, I hope that it’s also a personal change. I went for things on Make it Over that I would have shied away from on Psycho. Joe played the drums on Make it Over. He became a creative partner after the album was released. Still, to say he just played the drums on that album feels a little off. Two of the songs (‘In My Head’ and ‘Hatchet’) were recorded live in one take, Joe made up his parts on the spot. It’s hard to describe the energy in the room when you’re working with someone like Joe, I know it affected the record, it’d be impossible to list the ways.

Q4. The upcoming EP is eagerly anticipated. Can you provide any insights into what listeners can expect in terms of themes, sounds, or musical direction, and how it may differ from your previous works like "Psycho" and "Make it Over"?

A4) Thank you for saying that, I know my grandmother’s been waiting on this one for months! A lot has changed for me between projects. I learn so much every day and I hope this comes through. On the other hand, I think my reasons for doing this have remained constant. I’m looking for new ways to say this one thing. I’ll say it as best I can this time then it’ll be time to start again. But anyway, while there is a lot of newness on this EP, you can expect us to be up to some of our old pop punk antics, and the resurrection of some emotional/lyrical themes to boot. 

Q5. As a musician, how do you navigate the balance between vulnerability and obstinacy in your songwriting? How do you approach translating personal experiences into a form that resonates with a broader audience while maintaining authenticity?

A5)These days I’m either at war with my obstinance or marveling at it. It takes pain to teach me lessons. I guess I’ve come to see vulnerability and obstinacy as two parts of the same dance that I’m always doing. I visualize a vulnerable heart and an obstinate brain and the damage they inflict on each other. It might be oddly entertaining if I wasn’t the one experiencing it. In ‘Methadone’ I talk about using substances that help me to avoid being vulnerable with myself (and anyone else), this has always backfired, eventually inflicting enough pain to break through the stubbornness and making me understand that vulnerability might be worth another try. It can and does cycle back the other way. Vulnerability is of course never painless.  As for translating personal experiences, I’m still working on figuring all that out. For now I do my best to hand over what I have worked out, and, what’s always been the hardest step for me, to trust you with it. 


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