Really pumped to be hosting/curating a new concert series at my job at Lincoln Center. The first show is Thursday, the 23rd! Should be a wonderful and weird night of music.

Buy tickets here.

Whoa, cool - stoked to play with these dudes next month. More well-known for their mindblowing classical guitar chops, Mobius Trio can also apparently make brutal doom metal walls of sound with the best of ‘em.

Nov 6 at Shapeshifter Lab

This is the album art for “Costa Mesa Plays Itself,” a piece I’m including as bonus material on the tape edition of “Ben Seretan.” Fifty three glorious minutes of organ drones.

The art is by super-talented comic book artist MJ Robinson (website).

Pre-order the cassette tape from Hope for the Tape Deck, right effing here.

Here are the liner notes:

These sounds are dedicated to the great city of Costa Mesa, California. Crown jewel of Orange County and Venus-in-the-clam shell of the Pacific. May your cheap motels, plentiful and varied types of malls, dive bars, Del Tacos, and lack of crosswalks live forever.

Fifty three glorious minutes of subtly changing synthesized organ, duplicated to tape and re-digitized for that sweet, sweet tape hiss and compression.

Inspiration due to Thom Andersen and his wonderful film “Los Angeles Plays Itself”

http://youtu.be/Ifii8LvR-ss

Early in high school some friends of mine and I went out for dollar bowling at Kona Lanes (my Mom dropped me off - dollar games, dollar shoe rental). I was in a bowling league there when I was a kid, they served terrible food, and the lanes were vaguely South Pacific-themed, kinda like Tiki Bar Lite. A relic from the days when all advertising in that area was done from roadside signs. And later that night we ran into my brother doing karaoke in the bar. He was stoned and singing Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” He hopped around on the stage, throwing his skinny fist in the air.

Later on, my high school band got a chance to play at the Galaxy theater, a black-carpeted rock venue that inexplicably served dinner. It was the first time I ever played a show with a dressing room, or even a backstage. And we were all pretty impressed to find what was obviously puke stuck to the ceiling. We harassed the promoters endlessly to let us play and filled the room with 16 year olds.

There is no place on Earth quite like the movie theater at Triangle Square in the world, where I saw the Mortal Kombat movie when I was very young.

And the moment I turned 21, I walked 3 blocks to a 7-11 to buy a six pack of beer and drank it in the dark in my mother’s living room.

My friends and I used to go to Norm’s all the time - a 24 hour diner on Harbor Blvd. We went there for breakfast after partying all night before our last night of high school. We went there a few times on New Year’s Eve, and the wait staff let me and my buddies do the countdown over the loudspeaker. They gave us tiny glasses of champagne, winking at us. The great thing about Norm’s is that they never close. In fact, a while ago a car hopped the median and crashed through the walls, taking out a good section of booth seating. No one was hurt, so they threw up some tarps and kept serving tuna melts during construction. They never closed.

Got the first “Ben Seretan” tape in the mail - looking good, bb! Pre-order at http://hopeforthetapedeck.limitedrun.com/products/532415-dude-021-ben-seretan-ben-seretan-pre-order

Some very beautiful music that’s out today, with a video accompaniment lovingly documenting the sunrise in Brooklyn.

Bing and Ruth is making some of the best music I know of today. Grab their new record here.

Listen/purchase: Live At Cat’s Cradle, September 25th, 2007 by Magnolia Electric Co.

Hadn’t heard this live record before. It sounds like the bottom of Saturday night. *lovely*

This is a detail of a watercolor by my bud and super talent Lena Hawkins.

She’s graciously agreed to let me use this image as the album art for a piece of music called “The Windmill Sings,” an improvisation for sampling keyboard and electronics recorded to cassette tape on the back patio of Flux Factory while I was living there earlier this year. 

"The Windmill Sings" is included as a bonus track on the LP version of "Ben Seretan" and will be available for download on October 28th. Heck yes.

"Ben Seretan" Press Release

“Ben Seretan” out October 28th

Self-released

Double LP, cassette, and digital

Big release show at Shea Stadium, October 29th

Pre-order LPs and Digital here, cassette tapes here.

 

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“Ben Seretan” is an album that was made with a wide coalition of friends, recorded in chunks partly in Greenpoint, partly at home, and partly in my mother’s condo in a senior living community. Essentially we’ve been working on it for two years, although one of the songs was written back in 2011. It’s a cup overflowing with guitars, buddies, noise, tenderness, feedback, songs, joy, crashing cymbals, dreams, lullabies, choirs, cellos, jangling bells, at one point even flugelhorn, and my grandmother’s instruments. It is mostly self-released, in collaboration with Hope for the Tape Deck. An earnest attempt at synthesizing everything I love and fear into 53ish minutes.

 

Here’s the deal with editions:

There’s a double LP with two differently colored discs (edition of 250), a cassette tape released by Hope for the Tape Deck (edition of 100 - first 22 feature a hand-made slipcover), and obviously digital versions. The LP version includes a bonus track on side D called “The Windmill Sings.” The tape version is all of “Ben Seretan” on side A, and a 53-minute organ drone called “Costa Mesa Plays Itself” on side B. Both “The Windmill Sings” and “Costa Mesa Plays Itself” will also be released digitally on October 28th with their own album art.

 

BUT WHO ARE YOU?

I’m a California fella who moved to the East coast to go to school and then moved to New York. I grew up going to church, playing the cello, and swimming in the ocean. I don’t go to church anymore. I went to Wesleyan University. I’ve organized a series of concerts at sunrise. I have a tattoo that says “Ecstatic Joy” on my chest. What else?

I’ve been playing music and releasing things at a crazy pace since 2011 - three full-length recordings for solo electric guitar and voice, a collaborative LP with the Early, a cassette tape, an hour long nature film/ambient guitar record, a 90+ minute continuously performed opera/song cycle, a tour-only CD-R, a couple of home recordings of what I call “long music,” plus some YouTube vids and recordings and releases with other bands and probably some other stuff that I’m forgetting to mention. Here I’m trying to pull all the threads together.

 

BUT WHAT IS THIS RECORD “ALL ABOUT?”

 

The answer to that is elusive. Here’s a large amount of speculation/theories:

 

MOVING AROUND:

Just out of town, across the Missouri river, there’s a small hill that rises with a monument to Lewis and Clark at its peak. Nothing else is elevated out on the plains, so you look out and see all of Omaha - the freightliner train tracks, then the river, then the airport, then the scattered skyscrapers, then the endless fields. I thought that maybe I could see California from there. I thought about two things - first, the time that Alex and I drove up Mount Royal in Montreal and had two tourists take our picture, and second, how amazing it was that we had come to Omaha and played music there. I was huge into the Saddle Creek Records message boards when I was in jr. high and this was something of a dream come true. And me and Nico and Alex had driven out here of our own volition, to sing and to get stoned on a goat farm in early spring. The sun set.

 

THE VERY SAD BREAKUP:

 

A lot of musicians and a lot of press surrounding the whole music thing involves people talking about the Important Life Events that went into making something. Especially for people who aren’t super well known. Like, she was Sad about Something when she made these songs, he was Angry about Circumstances, or they Went Off and Did a Thing. And while these kinds of things are helpful for understanding the thrust of a piece of music, or maybe it’s “vibe,” I think it can often cheapen the experience - turn it into a byline. Make it an emotional “riff.” I dunno.

 

It’s obvious if you listen to this record that there was a Very Sad Breakup. It’s true. It was very sad. But I’m not going to go into the details in a public way. We felt what we felt and went through the things, and these are the sounds and words that I later made. We’re good now, probably better and more profoundly well than if we hadn’t done the thing.

 

There were other things that I don’t want to publicize. Memorial services, bad dates, and unfortunate coincidences all come to mind.

 

There are lots of Things for everyone. You might be going through a Thing right now. I am, for sure. But making music isn’t about those things, exactly. Not for me, at least. It’s about me and my loved ones planting a flag - brilliant, billowing, as wide as a city block and covered in pink and yellow sequins - and letting it unfurl on the stone face of the outcrop. It reads:

 

LIFE OOZES DILIGENTLY ON

HAVE FUN AND TOUCH SOMEBODY

WHENEVER YOU ARE ABLE

 

GUITAR:

 

I’m not a graceful man. I mean, just yesterday I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and totally ate shit on my way to a concert I was seeing at a semi-fancy space. I say the wrong thing or - even worse - I don’t know what to say and I say nothing. I snore and roll around a lot in my sleep. My lack of grace is evident to me. But I don’t feel that way when I play guitar.

 

FRIENDSHIP:

 

Alex Tatusian and I met in high school while we were both waiting for our parents to pick us up after school. He asked me if I liked Led Zeppelin. I said yes. And really soon we were playing music together. We’ve been playing music together for 12 years, and the fact that we finally made a beautiful recording where he plays drums makes my heart sing.

Before I went off to college, our high school band played a final show in our friend’s backyard. There was one song in particular that didn’t have an ending - we would just play it until we could no longer play it, and this performance involved taking our clothes off, being wrapped in Christmas lights, Alex sweating so much he was steaming, and everyone there jumping in the pool. Things came loose after that - I remember being in a shower with 5 other people and eating sundaes at the diner at 5 in the morning. It was an immense and nearly painful joy that I’ve been chasing since.

During one of our shows at Shea Stadium, Dave Lackner was taking a particularly rad sax solo and Alex and I turned to each other - nearly at the same time - to yell “I love you!” over the music.

 

MY GRANDMA:

My whole life, my grandma lived near the beach in Los Angeles. But she grew up in Queens, and later lived on a small island in the East River called North Brother Island (there’s a good Radiolab episode about that very island - amazing that she lived there). She used to work in the Flatiron building folding sheets in the linen section of a department store. We came here together when I was a kid (my first time in NYC) and she warned me not to buy the knockoff watches from the dudes on the street. I did anyway, and it broke within the week - a total waste of 20 dollars. I think about her a lot walking around the city.

She had this off-white chord organ plugged in next to a rotary telephone in the upstairs living room of her house. She’d play me “On top of Old Smokey” on the organ with me on her lap, and out the window we could see the Pacific and the weird oil-drilling islands they have off of Long Beach. Then we’d play cards, usually.

Her chord organ is the first sound you hear on this record. A little later on, you hear me playing her beat-up classical guitar and singing in my mom’s condo.

 

FRIENDSHIP PART II:

In 2011 I went out to Portland, OR to make a record with my friend’s band. It was great - one of those things you just decide to do and then do.

While I was there, Alex Lewis and I played music together for the first time. The other dudes had places to be the morning we started working, so Alex and I workshopped some guitar stuff. And realized within minutes that our guitar playing was similar and astoundingly complimentary. We played our first show together as a duo that week and we’ve been doing it pretty regularly ever since.

Alex has seen me at my worst. I mean, there was this one time when we were looking for a shipment of some CD-R inserts we made…UPS had some issues delivering to his building, so we went and tried to pick up the thing at the local branch. We were leaving for a good stretch of tour the next day, so it was time sensitive. And of course - like obviously - they didn’t have the thing for us to pick up. Normally, I would have been chill about it (I hope), but I was really upset about other things in my life and I really lost my cool. I was like angry-crying about this stupid thing and Alex talked me down gently and gracefully. He was just straight-up nice to me, which should be and is a common thing but isn’t valued enough. And all the way down to Charlottesville, I explained what was going on and drove in the rain. Finally, we got to where we were going and slept beautifully on a pull-out couch in an actual log cabin. In the morning, we walked slowly down the dirt road and went to the field where you could see the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Alex’s guitar playing on this record is nice and gentle and graceful and so, so lovely. And all the times I play something pretty, I’m halfway trying to play something that sounds like him.

 

MOVING AROUND PART II:

Going somewhere is a reliable way to turn the passing of days in your life into a sequence of small, wonderful films. Anecdotes and observations that you can’t help but share at length after a couple of beers.

A partial list of small, wonderful films:

The first time I hiked all the way to the Indian River waterfall my first summer in Alaska and screaming for joy until my voice went hoarse and the momentary terror of losing the trail twice on the way back, swimming in Barton Springs twice in 24 hours, meeting up with Jake across the border at a Thai restaurant in Montreal, that time Alex and I got invited to a secret Toro y Moi show in North Carolina, watching cars drive up and down the sand on a beach totally illuminated by illegal fireworks in Washington state, playing during a snowstorm in a bookstore in Hudson, NY, making out with a friend I rarely get to see next to a man-made park when we happened to cross paths while traveling and drinking spicy ginger ale in the backseat of her car, watching wild ponies run in the salt marsh in Virginia, swimming naked after midnight and under a yellow moon in the summer in Vermont, my brother and I riding broken bicycles during the World Cup drunk on absinthe in Germany, riding a ferry to a small island in Maine, my brother’s wedding near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, riding the Staten Island Ferry with a long list of friends and family, going to the top of the Tower of Learning and looking out over all of Pittsburgh, even our weird and painfully awkward night in St. Louis.

 

MY MOM:

I was kissing someone for the first time just outside the Astor Place subway stop in broad daylight when I got a call from my sister. It went to voicemail.

My mom was not doing well. A surgery she was having took a turn for the worst and by the time of my sister’s phone call, she was in a medically-induced coma. I made plans to fly home to California.

By the time I got west, the doctors had revived her and she was beginning to recover. She was awake and in care at home, so I spent my time there helping out however I could, but mostly talking quietly and buying groceries. I thought it might be important to document everything that was going on, so I brought a little field recorder with me and interviewed a few people. During one of these interviews, my Mom told me about the experiences she had while she was in a coma - the passage of time, muffled voices, buildings filled with light, warmth, deep happiness, and a sense of loss upon leaving. That’s really stuck with me, and has become a recurring theme in music - the feeling and experience of a blissful coma and being taken out of it.

When I was very little, my Mom used to sing me to sleep. She sang this one song about Babar the Elephant, and “Away in the Manger,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a version of which is the final track. It fades slowly into a humongous wall of feedback.

 

FRIENDSHIP PART III:

I first saw Nico and Michele from across the living room after I played a show at a venue that was just an apartment where people lived. No stage, ratty PA system, and a dude headlining that was beloved but trying way too hard. It was cramped, I wasn’t into it, and my attention wandered. I scrutinized the faces in the crowd. These two seemed nice - Michele with a septum piercing and a bored look, Nico tall and stooped in a leather jacket.

Right after that, it felt like all the structure in my life was coming out from under me. Like gravity had suddenly been suspended, or that somehow the floorboards of my room were vanishing. Less and less to stand on.

I later officially met Nico and Michele on the sidewalk outside of a different show (people lived in that venue, too, actually). They were smoking cigarettes and I was drinking a tomato juice. Michele and I made plans to work together in her studio space, and that weekend I carried my amp up three flights of stairs and played while she painted. They were kind and we’ve been friends ever since, playing music together and enjoying an endless parade of coffee in plain, white cups. Once Nico and I talked a couple other people into going with us to watch the sunrise in Coney Island in February. We bought 40s at a bodega through bullet proof plastic and Nico held my clothes while I ran into the water.

 

CONCLUDING NOTE:

 

So much living went into making these sounds

And there’s still so much for us to do

 

I Saw Jealousy Mountain Duo Last Night

I realized very quickly that everything I had ever thought about this band I had 100% assumed based on their name and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I assumed there would be acoustic guitars involved, and definitely singing. But instead it was like 35ish minutes of VERY LOUD open tuning electric guitar and Don Caballero plus Jack DeJohnette drumming. They fucking rule.

Instrumental music is occasionally very, very image-based for me, and I kept “seeing” certain things - the rolling country side from a train, the leviathan-like nature of a murmuration of birds and how they would look devouring a mountain of dried corn, and a certain passage of Moby Dick.

Listen here:

https://jealousymountainduo.bandcamp.com

http://www.newsweek.com/cassettes-273066

My dude Zach Schonfeld wrote a meditation on tapes - are they actually a viable thing? Or something else?

I was happy to provide the “experimental musician” perspective. Here’s an excerpt:

Plus, for experimental musicians, lo-fi techniques are often a welcome respite from the harsh digital sheen that swallows modern recordings. As Brooklyn musician Ben Seretan explains it, “A zoom recorder or someone’s mic built into their computer sounds ‘sharp’ and ‘digital’ to me. But with a cassette deck you can kind of just throw it on and the magic world emerges naturally.”

“Tape has the effect of rendering things more mysterious,” Seretan adds. “More bleary. More unearthly. In short, more beautiful.”

If you wanna hear some of my shit on tape…

https://benseretan.bandcamp.com/track/39-31

https://benseretan.bandcamp.com/track/life-with-you-is-like-everything-la-mode

https://benseretan.bandcamp.com/track/in-the-sweet-by-by

And pre-order my new record on cassette here!

Live video of me covering the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” at a music festival in Alaska.

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"And then came one of those moments. I remember living through one when I was eighteen and spending the afternoon in bed with my first wife, before we were married. Our naked bodies started glowing, and the air turned such a strange color I thought my life must be leaving me, and with every young fiber and cell I wanted to hold on to it for another breath. A clattering sound was tearing up my head as I staged upright and opened the door on a vision I will never see again: Where are my women now, with their sweet wet words and ways, and the miraculous balls of hail popping in a green translucence in the yards?

We put on our clothes, she and I, and walked into a town flooded ankle-deep with white, buoyant stones. Birth should have been like that.”

-Denis Johnson, from Jesus’ Son

An incredibly beautiful book of short stories. Bukowski’s drunken loser kingdom with staggering grace.

That’s a photo of Benedict at Fort Tryon Park this past weekend. The best hangover I’ve had in years.