I don’t tend to feel all that comfortable in my daily existence and I think that’s why I’m sitting on the floor of a timeshare condominium in Georgia. The floor is comfortable enough but the area where the timeshare is located is, to be certain, a few degrees outside of my standard zone of cultural resonance. This place is a golf resort filled with retirees in bermuda shorts. A Mennonite couple walks the golf course at dusk every evening holding hands. Melissa and I have been coming to places like this for the past several years to work on our recordings. The rig that we use to play music is the same one we use to record, so we can set it up and work from anywhere and that’s what we’ve been doing, in a series of vacation resorts around the eastern seaboard. It occurred to me recently that something about the sense of not belonging here actually draws us to these places. Coming to a location where we don’t immediately feel at home forces us to create a space for ourselves inside of the architecture of the temporary accommodations. We have to actively cast a spell of safety and freedom around ourselves to be able to function productively. At home the degree of freedom I do or don’t feel is less clear to see, it’s daily and it’s murky and impossible to measure. Here in this golf resort I start from nothing and have to fight for comfort, I push the boundaries outward inch by inch and the practice makes me good at it.
What is there to feel uncomfortable about, in the surroundings of one’s life, aside from everything? When we started producing our own songs several years ago we did not begin with a feeling of confidence or power about our abilities, and this is easy to understand as the world wasn’t necessarily screaming with encouragement for us to believe that we might be good at it. Even well meaning friends made comments to the effect that they were a little worried for us and wouldn’t it be good to have some young dude with a laptop help us out a little? This is a limitation that we have dismantled from the inside with the force of our own belief. We didn’t want some young dude’s aesthetic, we wanted sounds that sound like us. A recorded song is a bubble of atmosphere, it is literally a sphere of sonic information with measurable dimensions and spatial features. The size of the sphere will expand or contract depending on the volume it’s played at, but all the elements will remain in the same location, the drums will typically feel like they’re underneath you, vocals or synths higher up front. You can live inside of the space of a song. I believe that the awe of the “producer” is that a producer is a world maker, someone who creates spaces and controls all the elements that go into them. Or they simply get the credit for making worlds, while possibly they’ve hired or stolen a bunch of young talent and given the product their own name and proceeded to rule like a king over their new dominion. We need spaces we can live in so we tend to honor the kings and accept their terms. You’re at the mercy of other people’s spaces until you make your own.
We are better at condos than we used to be, maybe to the same degree that we are better at making beats. I think I can judge how much stronger we are at production, and the increase in our confidence that we are good at this, by the fact that the oddness of these places doesn’t rattle me anymore. In the first couple years of recording in weird resorts I was hypersensitive to all the tiny spatial details of whatever unit we had been placed in. I’d spend quite a lot of energy jockeying to get us moved to one with more light or a better view; these details felt vital to my well being. I could mourn a lost battle for a room with southern light for several days, staring through the windows of other units in the complex, imagining how much brighter and more inspiring their atmospheres must be. The factors of the physical space seemed to me like matters of life and death. Our vibe is significantly stronger now, it really broke through this summer. At a certain point I started to feel so delighted by what we are making that the spaces we were in didn’t affect me as much, I could sleep in a room with a view of a parking lot and not obsess over it every morning for forty-five minutes after waking up. I think what happened was a sort of eclipse, the brightness and power of the atmosphere that Melissa and I have created between us supersedes whatever physical confines we place ourselves in. It glows beyond the walls, or maybe illuminates them from within, changing the appearance and the emotional quality of the architecture. We made a space. I didn’t know if we could do it and I wasn’t certain if it would be good, but we’ve lived with it long enough now that I have no doubt, and this is a revolution.