Lifetime Learning Curves

By Miles Erickson

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Lifetime Learning Curves
Being an adult is like an endless parade, except instead of floats it’s things I don’t wanna do. When I was a kid I did things solely because they made me happy. I played Mario-Kart because it was fun. I ran around in the woods because I like to explore. When I went to the doctor it was so they could tell me how strong and brave I was and that I was developing well and then give me a lollipop. Now I have to call a doctor to make an appointment for 8 a.m. on a Wednesday because my head always hurts and I need to know that my left nipple twitching isn’t a sign of cancer. I know people jokingly refer to the sweet release of death, but it genuinely sounds like an inconvenience. I’m not even good at making conversation during Thanksgiving dinner. Can you imagine the endless procession of extended family members you’d have to talk to while on your death bed? “Okay, next up is Aunt Judith” “Who is Aunt Judith?” “She knew you when you were a baby.” “Oh yes, I’m sure we were really close when I was an infant.” “Just talk to her for a minute and be nice.” Enter Aunt Judith “Hello! I knew you when you were just a baby.” “……?” “So, are you in school?” “Well I was getting my degree in art history but now I’m on my death bed, so no.” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “I’m 90 years old, I have a wife. She’s the soon-to-be widow wearing a black veil, standing in the corner, crying, and clutching my adult children.” Recently, I started reaching out to some of the artists who have been the unknowing alumni of this playlist. You may recognize Sunflower Bean from their cover of “Harvest Moon” that appeared in VOL. 2, as well as their cover of “Life’s a Gas,” and their song, “In Flight,” both of which appeared in VOL. 9. Their new album, Headful of Sugar, was recently released to extraordinary critical acclaim and has skyrocketed them to just under a million monthly listeners on Spotify. Below is an excerpt from my interview with Julia Cumming, bassist and lead singer of Sunflower Bean. Miles Erickson: In 2016, you guys put out From the Basement, an EP that puts a sort of Mazzy Star, Faye Webster-ey, twangy chill pop vibe on some classic songs by Neil Young and Marc Bolan (among others). Your cover of “Harvest Moon” ended up being your most popular song (up until it was recently de-throned by “Moment In The Sun”). Since then there’s been a pretty drastic shift in genre, from 2019’s King of the Dudes (which has a very late ’90s post grunge sound), to Headful of Sugar (which totally embraces this sort of ethereal, electronic rock, synth pop aesthetic). Has this shift been intentional? Has it been motivated by anything specific or was it just inspired by whatever you’d been listening to at the time? Julia Cumming: We have been releasing music into the world together since we were late teenagers, so we always allowed ourselves to go through phases. Our band was never manufactured; it came out of a love for DIY music and venues, each other, and seeing live music. I think we always did what we wanted, and we felt the through line with our songwriting was strong enough that our fans would see it and move with us. We wanted to surprise them and we didn’t want to be in anyone’s box of who we were. ME: You’ve explained in the past that “Moment in the Sun” was written during quarantine, and is to some extent about being separated from the outside world and away from the ones close to you. Headful of Sugar was released just recently, in a time where the world has tried to move on from the pandemic. Here in LA, for example, we’re no longer even required to wear masks when we go into the market. Do you trust that the song is going to resonate with people in the same way it did for you guys during lockdown? Do you think it may be interpreted differently now? JC: “Moment in the Sun” is truly a song that comes from a place of happiness, and truly beginning to understand what matters to you. I think after all of this time, while we’re still in the pandemic (even though it doesn’t always feel that way), people are more in tune than ever with what matters. My favorite thing about this song is that it does seem to bring people actual joy, and that was always my dream for it. ME: Previously, publications like Oh My Rockness have called you “the hardest working band in New York,” which is nice but it sort of implies that you don’t get the recognition you deserve. How do you feel about that label? I can imagine that the label hits differently now that your Spotify listeners have doubled this month. JC: That was one of the first and most important pieces about our band that put us on the map. At the time it meant so much to us and ,meanwhile, we didn’t even know we had played the most shows out of any band in New York that year. We’ve always been proud of working hard. Long Distance Listening Party Vol 10 This playlist is available on Spotify. Search “Long Distance Listening Party” or my user name, Mileserickson-354. Kismet Kill, Haley Bonar The Caption, The Phoenix Foundation Daydream In Blue, I Monster Le Pénitencier, Johnny Hallyday Only One, Kanye West Get Got, Death Grips That’s Entertainment, Morrissey Rock N’ Roll Suicide, David Bowie (Live ’72) Red Vines, Aimee Mann Only One, Kanye West. The tragedy of Kanye West is that he produces amazing music that’s impossible to discuss without clowning him. The man is a memetic reservoir of both genius songs and comedic material. A great example of this duality is in the fact that his most recent album, Donda, is named after his mother, who passed in 2007. That’s really sweet. Then he removed the album from all digital stores and re-released it as Donda 2. The implication here is that his mom had a sequel. Like she’s The Empire Strikes Back. Get Got, Death Grips. I’m sure including Get Got and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide in the same playlist is some kind of musical blasphemy. Death Grips is the ultimate acquired taste. A musical iceberg that has driven music critics to madness when they try to explain why they like it. It says something that Death Grips’ biggest fans are generally unable to attend their concerts due to being in a Ketamine-induced coma. Miles Erickson is a recent graduate of CalArts, a published author, and is currently enrolled in a prestigious, four-year student loan repayment program. Long Distance Listening Party’s vague intention is to discuss topics framed in the context of what I’m currently listening to.

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JUNE 10, 2022

Topanga Days 2022