Kickstart My Heart / Andy Alvarez

by Joel A. Machiela

Sitting here in quarantine land I wonder at the folks who have been productive, as I have done basically nothing. I see folks on social media trying to put together virtual shows, talking about practicing in different settings than they’re used to, shifting gears and working on completely different projects altogether. It gives me hope that we’ll be able to pick things up where we left off—maybe it won’t look exactly the same, but different doesn’t have to be worse. Silver linings and all that jazz.

Sitting here in quarantine land I start to pay attention to the music that’s in my own head. It’s a mix of the children’s music that is the main soundtrack in my house these days, the new stuff that I’ve managed to pick up on those Bandcamp Fridays, and a few of the current favorites that have drilled their way into my brain’s Greatest Hits Playlist. Most of those songs are from bands that I’m friends with, bands that I’ve helped produce in one way or another, but I think the band that I’m hearing in my head the most these days is Sadgasm. These chaps have hooks and I curse them with mild jealousy.

Sitting here in quarantine land I remember that I have access to a web site devoted to local music. I recall that I used to want to be a columnist. I took a j-school course and my used-to-be-an-editor-at-Mother Jones professor pretty much told me I wasn’t very good. She was probably right, but that year I was on Prozac which had the effect of making me not give a shit about anything—not the thirty pounds I had gained, not the fact that I was falling asleep in my Comp Lit class every day, not even that I was skipping Rock and Roll History with Glenn Gass, which was absurd since that was undoubtedly the best class on campus. Twenty five some odd years later I’m starting to whittle away at that extra thirty pounds, so maybe I can give this columnist thing a try again.

Sitting here in quarantine land a song pops in my head. It’s “Cum On” by Sadgasm, and I recall that Andy (singer/songwriter/guitar) mentioned that they were re-recording the Ramen record and I wanted to know what that was all about. He and I work at the library, but it being the end times and all, we don’t run into each other as often, so I thought I’d email him a few questions to see that he’s been up to. Enjoy, y’all.

You recently re-recorded and re-released the Ramen album. Tell me about that. What prompted that decision?

We recorded the first version of Ramen after only being a band for two months. A lot of the recordings on the first version of Ramen felt more like demos to us, but we were just really eager to put stuff out and play as many shows as possible. After we released our EP a lot of people started to tell us our songs from Ramen sounded way different live compared to what was recorded. It was at that point we realized we wanted to re-record those songs and get them as close as we could to what they sound like live. We wanted just better recordings of those songs anyway.

You also recently released a new Postrich Bear album. What’s the main difference between those projects? How do you tell what’s going to be a Sadgasm song and a Postrich Bear song?

Yeah, I’ve put out two different Postrich Bear releases so far this year, but both releases have been collections of songs that weren’t going to be on the next “actual album.” I just feel bad when songs collect dust in my music folder and never see the light of day. The original point of Postrich Bear when I found it was to just dump my solo music somewhere for others to listen to if they liked it. 
The main difference between the two projects is Sadgasm has more of a concrete sound I guess compared to Postrich Bear. When I write a song I can tell if it’s going to be a Sadgasm song, I write with intent usually to create something that is similar to the foundation of songs already written for Sadgasm. Everything else I write pretty much becomes a Postrich Bear song otherwise. 

Do you approach the projects differently when you record?

Oh yes they are approached extremely differently! First of all Sadgasm is an actual band of four people so we all go in separately to record our tracks, and the instrumentation is just guitar, bass, drums, and vox. Postrich bear on the other hand is just me. I record everything by myself except for trumpet which is done by my cousin Matthew.  I also incorporate way more instruments in Postrich Bear because I have that freedom knowing  I won’t have to play a lot of those songs live so I can go crazy with the layering. Postrich Bear I can record at my leisure while Sadgasm usually has time constraints we are working under.

I notice some similarities in the sound, in terms of effects and doubled vocals and things like that. Do you have a sound in your head when you start, or do you come to each song as an empty canvas, where you build it up as it goes?

I always like to layer my vocals because my voice by itself isn’t very powerful or really brings much. I feel like layering my vocals gives more texture overall. I do use a lot of similar effects for my own guitar playing, but what’s incorporated is very different between the two groups. For Sadgasm I have a sound in my head when I start, for Postrich Bear I just write things around something I find fun to play and there is much more building and playing around involved. 

The pandemic has obviously altered how we approach music, with practicing and playing live. Has it opened up any doors, though, creatively for you? Anything you’ve done differently that you might keep doing?

It hasn’t really done much for me. I did one livestream concert and it felt really awkward to be honest, but that might have just been me feeling that way. I have been working on more Postrich Bear stuff though since it’s just me while Sadgsam requires the four of us to unite for practice. 

What’s the last song you heard where you said, “man, I wish I could write a song like that!” ??

Hmmmm that’s tough there has been so much good music coming out and being “re-discovered” during this whole pandemic.  It’s probably a dead tie for Little Wings “No Suicide” or John Prince’s “I Remember Everything.”

Anything coming up that you’re excited about, musically or otherwise?

Yeah! I’ve been working on the next Postrich Bear album Memento Mori for a long time now!  It’s done recording wise it just has to be mixed and mastered now. Hopefully I can figure something out to release it before the world ends.

You can find Sadgasm and Postrich bear on Bandcamp. Buy their shit.

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