Strung Out, Part 2
How a guitar guy goes off the grid with a musical project using no guitars
The flu hit me just in time to really mess with my writing. With little to no energy or drive to do anything by recover from the illness, the process was inevitably going to be delayed - again. Pushing through with the help of some natural remedies (and yes a lot of dayquill) the acoustic guitar started calling to me from the corner of the room once again.
With a stuffy nose and gravelly voice I attacked singing and playing a song for the first time in I can’t remember how long. Using my voice-memo app on my phone I went at it. Each day for a little more than a week I started recording a bunch of re-organized and streamlined ideas from the massive pile of sketches that accompanied me on my journey to the midwest and back. I shared these with only one of my closest friends as they were recorded, and his reaction was a beaming bode of confidence to my newfound push.
As the songs cemented themselves further, the project began to take form. I really wanted to assemble a 2 man band - just bass/vocals and drums, and for the latter I was hoping to enlist my Dust of Days/Paper Jets bandmate Frank. Fearing his already busy schedule being a hinderance to my selfish delusions, I started to search elsewhere. But the goal remained: record this thing that has become a prospective record sooner than later.
Album art designed and everything pretty much in place, the search for a studio commenced.A lot of places seemed excited about recording what I described as a “Local-H” or “Royal Bloods” style outfit, but I still didn’t have a band member yet other than myself.
It was early November when I got the call from my friend Jaime (of Alpha Rabbit and Meeko Brando). “Hey Mikey, would you be interested in working on the song-writing challenge with me?” Of course I said yes - and I asked Frank to come in as well. I just bought an electric drum-kit and was eager to start making music at the new house.
We ended up cranking out a song (written and recorded in a few hours). Jaime brought her vocals and lyrics accompanied by a simple old Casio keyboard, Frank brought his drumming expertise to the Alesis drum kit, and I brought some crude distorted bass playing to the mix. We made something that seemed worth exploring further. As we left the basement “studio” that evening we dubbed the song “Thoughts”, and loosely placed it under the band name the Soft Teeth. I t was too different from my previous material though, and a mere 2 days later I uttered to Jaime “Hey, maybe we should call this thing Beta Rat since you already have Alpha Rabbit.” And with that small suggestion, Beta Rat was technically born.
It ended up being more of a stillbirth in the beginning. Our recording of “Thoughts” ended up on the Speak Into My Good Eye compilation for 2017, and a review published on You Don’t Know Jersey critiqued the track as being a sort of dance party song for the apocalypse - a fitting and awesome review I must admit! But after that initial writing/recording session the 3 of us would never really make it back together to work on more material.
While still practicing bass lines for the looming “Dust of Days” debut show I began to mess around with a guitar-driven project that involved a lot of odd tunings and cut & paste editing. Song after song started to pile up, and soon I found myself (yet again) thrown into another musical project of my own creation. This material was again different than previous material, so it needed both a name and a purpose. I hit the dictionary and found an obscure word list, and in the middle of this collection of forgotten words was the term “Nameling”. It resonated with me, and I named the new venture thusly.
The more time went by, the more songs seemed to pile up. Beta Rat was forgotten; the Soft Teeth songs were collecting dust; Nameling was becoming a good problem. When I hit about 30 songs into writing/recording, my friend Jim made a small comment in response to a few tracks I sent to him for reaction: “Cool it, Prince”.
Cool it. Cool it I did. It was time to relax the musical muscles a tad, wasn’t it? I mean, how much music can one person create before things start to get repeated or stale? I put down the guitar for a short stretch (exactly one week) and let the Nameling project take it’s form. I started to organize the songs I had into groups, eventually creating a long-term project out of it that will span multiple EPs over a long time span, giving the material time to grow and develop in their on microcosms.
But I felt like I needed to drive a nail in the proverbial coffin. Here I was trying to put a cap on a project that hadn’t officially begun outside of my basement.
Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen…