Monday, January 11, 2016

PT006 - John Bellows, l o n g [EP]

Well hey there, and welcome back to Planted Tapes! As always: Long time, no see. And ho! 2016 -- new year, new experiences, new lives... for as big a year that 2015 was, what with the many changes for team Planted (new move to Chicago, new jobs, new life), we actually felt it was time for a little more of the same, something familiar, something we already knew we loved: Making tapes.

So here we are! Another tape. Number 6 this time, and it's a very special one from an old favorite. We're very proud to present the new album from John Bellows.

l o n g is the first John Bellows collection since the high-flying long-player Fast Hits, and the release presents an about-face in tone, mood, and composition for the songwriter. Ditching the light-hearted humor of previous efforts, the songs of l o n g are conversely solemn, careful, and methodic, while also displaying the sort of playfully haphazard style that makes Bellows such a charm and an uncommonly pleasant listen. The content here highlights the struggles of a certain generation - the 25-35'ers finding themselves within the turmoil of having no real clue what they're doing, who they're doing it with, or why, circling themes of love, relationships, dreams, desires, drives, all through measured metaphor. Some of the songs have an almost battle-march vibe to them, an anguish that is assured and confident, yet misguided, maybe even a little misdirected. Musically, Bellows is also at his most-daring in terms of composition -- the assertive lyrical challenges goading the songs into surprisingly complex developments with thoughtful arrangements of drums, cello, and guitar that emphasize his poetry's sweeping grandeur. More than an album or a collection of songs, l o n g is also a state of mind and a place to find yourself if you're feeling a little lost.

This EP release is presented as a lovingly pro-dubbed cassette edition, and we'll ship them basically anywhere, as usual! Check out the first track "No Memory" streaming below, and read an interview with Mr. Bellows conducted by team-planted a little further down. We've got a pre-order link up just below, order away!

Also: Catch John on tour January and February! Dates listed below the interview.

 • Edition of 200
 • Tapes ship 1/15/2016
 • $8 shipped postage paid in the US & Canada

***International customers: Get in touch for shipping rates to your area!


Tell me the story of the last year of your life. Where have you been living, with whom have you been living, and why?

John Bellows: My partner Glenn and I live on San Juan Island, which is an hour and a half ferry ride off Anacortes, Washington. We’ve been here a couple years and moved residencies five times since our arrival… a horse whisperer’s ranch, a raw milk dairy farm, a moldy townhouse, a bare bones cabin in the woods, and now a bedroom above a carpenter’s shop. It was a crapshoot moving here, but has been an important development. Where I was DIY in a musical sense, living in Chicago prior to San Juan, people here are DIY in a practical sense, whether it be growing food, working on cars, hunting and fishing, or building their own boats, barns, and houses. People have a hands-on approach to self sufficiency here. I felt so dependent in a city. The way of life here is helping me become more of a confident, empowered individual. Perhaps we’ll apply what we’ve learned on San Juan back into a city context someday.  

One thing that has always drawn me to your work is your sense of humor, and when we talk, you’re always laughing so much. Do you think there is any of that left on l o n g ? If so, where can you find it?
I like to use humor in songwriting, although it seems to be a very uncool thing to do these days. But there are lots of “cool” old bands that use humor... Velvet Underground, Mike Rep, The Kinks! I laugh all the time either out of nervous habit or general enthusiasm. It’s not something to which I am aware of until I hear it or see embarrassing footage of myself giggling uncontrollably. That being said, there is absolutely zero humor in l o n g. That may have been an extreme thing for me to do!  

I really connected with the song “Nothing More,” and I think it has something to do with the ideas about big changes in your life, and questioning whether or not they mean what they mean, or deliver on their presumed promise. What are the biggest changes you’re facing right now?
I am, in all honesty, struggling with the relevance of being a musician, when I could be spending all my energy starting non-profits that help children save the world! How important is it for me to play house shows to a small number of people that are a similar demographic as myself? Why must my perspective always be tainted by low self-esteem? Why can I not embrace musicianship, the thing that I am innately good at? Why does becoming a musician mean that I have to give up everything else in this world to suffer being a musician? Why am I whining when so many people have no choice who they want to be?

Can you tell me a little bit about the cover art for the tape?
It’s a mandala by Glenn. It’s made of poppies. Yes, the opium kind. She pressed them in books, wheat pasted them into a design, painted around it in gouache, framed it for her mother, and gave it to her on her birthday. 

I sense that a lot of the songs are very personal love songs/stories that underscore how difficult it can be to be so closely connected with someone for a long time. Is there a happy ending to l o n g ?
That’s true! Most of these songs reference a relationship or an internal struggle of mine. Although personal, I like to think that I’ve captured an essence on l o n g to which people can relate. With newer songs I’m starting to reference things beyond me, the absurdity of the world. So yeah, the evolution of content might be me leaving my bubble and building an awareness and perspective of humanity’s shortcomings. If I ever reached a happy ending then my music probably wouldn’t be worth listening!

Do you have a favorite poet?
I don’t read much poetry, but I write songs in poetic form. In my teens I developed via Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, et al.  Like any poet I want my words to describe things words can’t describe. I want my words to be like the lectures of Ram Dass, the poems of Rumi, the myths told by Joseph Campbell, and I when I perform I want to be an illumination of that spirit gushing through me. But usually I feel like a total shlub.  

Favorite plant?
I like plants that are food. And I like when I grow them well. I finally grew some decent cauliflower. Maybe next year I’ll try to grow the ones shaped like fractals!  

Catch John on tour!

1/20 - Seattle, WA @ The Future
1/21 - Tacoma, WA @ 1120 Creative Space 8pm
1/22 - Portland, OR @ John's House
1/23 - Eugene, OR @ Gen's house 
1/28 - Palo Alto, CA @ KFJC 
1/30 - Oakland, CA @ Purple House 
1/31 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Dan and Amy's House
2/4 - Santa Barbara, CA @ 5432Fun 
2/5 - Pomona, CA @ DA Center for the Arts 
2/7 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Smell
2/11 - Flagstaff, AZ @ Firecreek Coffee
2/13 - Santa Fe, NM @ Zephyr