RECORDING

It's official. We are recording a new album.

Photograph by Stephen Stonestreet, 2015.

Photograph by Stephen Stonestreet, 2015.

Greetings.

**Spelling and grammatical errors are waiting just around the corner if you care to keep reading. Also, grab a snack pack and a diaper because this will most likely be longer than any of us care for it to be.**

One week from today CIVILIAN goes into the studio to start our sophomore album (that means our second album, lest any of you think I'm in 10th grade). May marks three years since the release of our first record, “Should This Noose Unloosen”. THREE YEARS. 

There are a few reasons for this…

    1.    I have been doing almost nothing but reading. Lame excuse, huh? I didn’t read much as a kid. To be honest, I thought reading was useless, but mostly because I wasn’t good at it. This all changed for me about 7 or 8 years ago. (For fans of the band, this was around the time that I met James Kent- the one I wrote the song about it.) Reading does a few things that almost nothing else can do. When you buy a $12 book, you get an insight into an entire world that was, previously, completely unavailable to you. Rob Bell once said, “Words create worlds.” For me, reading has offered me an insight into how I write and what I collection of my thoughts are worth penning.

    2.    People are still hearing STNU for the first time. To me, it still feels like the record came out last year because people still seem to be surprised they haven’t heard the record. Don’t get me wrong, STNU isn’t a groundbreaking album by any stretch, but I know that it is different in its nature than a lot of albums. I know for myself that there are certain things that I think all the time, but I don’t have a way of explaining those things to other people. Every once in a while an author or thinker crosses my path and I think “AHA! That’s what I’m talking about!”. From more than a handful of people, STNU has been that for them.

    3.    I was always hoping STNU would do more. If you have ever gotten to (also read: "had to") sit down with me for a chat, you know that I very rarely leave any cards off the table, so to speak. You shouldn’t expect to hear anything new or profound, but what you can expect is that if we START a conversation talking about the pros and cons of center console fishing boats we will most likely END the conversation discussing the pros and cons of chaos in predictive sciences. So, if this little letter you’re reading is me being transparent, and I’m putting all of my cards in the table, I thought that the last album would have “done more” more than it did. A record deal? Maybe. A cultural waypoint? Probably not. Album of the year? Definitely not. But… I DID know that when me and the guys who worked on that album were doing our thing that there were very few things like it. In the moments wherein which we were plotting, writing, recording and listening back to that record, we knew what we made was something special- regardless of whether or not it took.

    4.    I wondered if I could better than STNU. I often wonder how in the hell I was able to come up with some of the things on that album. Some of the lyrics were more “me” than anything I’ll ever compose. Some of the guitar parts are a combination of the first thing that fell out of my fingers and blind luck. “Sometimes the sheep don’t come back” was where the thing that I felt and thought met words I didn’t have to invent (someone else has done the hard work of creating our beautiful English language). I took the foundation someone else developed: words… and then I put them in a phrase that ran from my face as effortlessly as the truth the idea itself conveys. I have been nothing less than terrified of failing to recreate what felt like magic to me at the time. I didn’t know if I had the stuff it took to follow up what was the most concise version of myself that I had ever encountered. In short: I have reason to believe that the what people have come to appreciate about the way in which I write and think has either lost its shine or has been raptured from my creative process.

So. Good news/ bad news.

THE GOOD NEWS: I have been writing a new album. I have been writing about love: something I know very little about, but which has a cheek which I have come close to kissing a time or two in my day. I have been writing about politics: a topic which polarizes perfectly normal people and forces us all to ask the inevitable question posed by Florence Reece, "Whose side are you on, man?” I have been writing about religion: the only topic which is treaded upon on more lightly than politics because who (even partially) truly knows what to make of the numinous experiences human beings have. I have also been writing about the fact that most of us, regardless of what our past says, are doing alright- however… 

We can do better.

This is the crux of what I have been writing about. It is the cog which is needed to turn the wheel. I have been writing an album for anyone who has ever been hesitant to lead the charge. It’s an album for the wonder-struck. It’s for anyone stuck somewhere in between THIS or THAT. It’s an album for anyone who finds themselves encountering foreign ideas and sees this new information as something worth sorting through- not as a threat to what they already think. 

Every once in a while we need to be reminded love is as much an unrelenting feeling as it is a mystery. We forget that someone has to pay the price for the shortsightedness of partisan politics. We forget that no one can really say for sure what happens when we die. What should we make of the mess that we’ve made of love, of wonder and of doubt?

THE BAD NEWS: I have found more question than answers. I imagine this puts you and in a similar camp. I am unable to strengthen your allegiance in any other arena than the resolve to keep working at it. When talking with a friend a few months ago about what I have been writing, I told him that I had noticed something about myself and my friends: we beat ourselves up incessantly when it comes to areas of our lives which we hoped to outgrow. We hoped to outgrow our doubts and our vices, and when we take stock of our lives, we often see that we still have them. This frequently leads us to think that there must be something wrong with us.

This new album I have been writing tries to take a look at my value and my failures in a different light: You’re not a total psycho. You’re doing alright. You can do better. It’s important to remember that we aren’t the only ones thinking and doing what we are doing. We, humans, are experiencing triumph and failure in the same breath. And when we find ourselves submerged in life’s deep end, we need to be reminded that we aren’t drowning… we’re learning to swim (forcibly, albeit). When we find ourselves short of breath and losing our resolve, we have the option to let go or to refuse the part of you that tries to do so. But then… every once in a while, someone takes our hand. Sometimes we are lucky enough to encounter someone who has been in the same spot.

All that to say this. I have been fortunate enough to come to a place in my life where I have been able to act on a simple, inconvenient reality:

I can do better.

I don’t have to stay the same way. I don’t have to surrender. I get to look in the mirror and stare back at someone who is mostly lost. I see a pair of eyes trying to process love and life and death and the Madlebrot set. And, at the risk of sounding like I think I’ve arrived (I haven’t), I can honestly say that I love the challenge of trying to do better. 

Sorry this was so damn long. Sorry I haven’t written this album sooner. Thank you for support and for your patience. I think I’m on to something. It’s no Drake record (but what is?). Both Dan and I are excited to have my great friend and wonder-boy drummer Jonathan Thomas joining us on the album. These songs aren't going to be another Should This Noose Unloosen. I can't tell you what to expect it to because that would imply that I know what to expect. The only thing I know is that this is CIVILIAN and whatever it ends up sounding like is sure to shake some things up.

Stay tuned,

Ryan Alexander