Posts Tagged 'sea water bliss'

Sea Water Bliss voted off The Duo; other competitors somehow find the will to keep going.

Last night Andrew and I wrapped up our unsuccessful run in a battle-of-the-bands competition called The Duo, at Saskatoon’s Staqatto Lounge. I predicted in advance that we would be undone by the ’60s theme of Week Two, and that’s how it turned out.

We did Adelaide for Week One. We were pretty shaky, but good enough to get into the next round. (Actually, if we hadn’t entered into an ethically-dubious vote-sharing pact with another duo, we mightn’t have made it even that far.)

For Week Two we settled on the “Alabama Song” from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s opera Mahogonny – not strictly a ’60s song, but it was covered by the Doors.

We had six days to learn the song and come up with an original arrangement, and it never quite came together. We might have crept through to the next round if we’d made another pact, or if we’d goaded a few more friends and relations to come out and vote for us. But if the 19 supporters we managed to corral for Week Two weren’t enough to save us from elimination, it’s not like we had some untapped reservoir of fans who might have buoyed us through subsequent weeks.

So it’s okay. These battle-of-the-bands and open-mike gigs are kind of a pain anyway. First you have to pester all your friends to schlep out and pay the $5 cover charge to support you. Then you sit around forever waiting for your turn to play. Then you lug your equipment onstage, set up, and do a hasty soundcheck, all for the chance to do one or two songs.

I’m not saying we deserve better. But there’s a reason Andrew and I have spent most of the last decade playing in his empty basement. We’ve never cared much for hanging around bars, making small-talk with fellow musicians.

Given the dearth of alternative venues in Saskatoon, we’re probably stuck in the basement for a while. Hopefully we can come up with a new project to keep us busy. My girlfriend Liz has been joining us on keyboards on a couple numbers; the expanded lineup debuted at a friend’s wedding party last weekend, to modest acclaim from the half-dozen small children in attendance. Now we just have to put together a whole set and find someplace that will let us play. Suggestions?


PS. Now that we’re out of the running, I’m pulling for Jody and Kiera in The Duo. They’ve got the chops, and the good taste not to abuse them. Good luck, guys.

UPDATE: Not too depressing after all.

Okay, I spoke too soon. Here’s the interview with Tiempo Real that I was afraid would be too melancholy to publish.

Sea Water Bliss on Tiempo RealLa música pasa la página

Or, if you don’t want to listen to me jabberin’, you can watch the original music video.

This interview is too depressing for Colombian web TV.

I’ve been waiting for the video to appear online. But it’s been three weeks now and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to show up, so I may as well tell the story before I forget.

Last month I was contacted by a reporter from El Tiempo, the national newspaper in Colombia. The El Tiempo website has a section called Tiempo Real that spotlights interesting web videos from around the world, and this reporter wanted to interview me about my band’s binder-flipping music video for our song Clowns.

This all occurred during my recent trip to Palm Springs with my father. The night before the interview, I asked my dad to mock-interview me so I would have some idea what kind of questions to expect. Then I practiced my answers in front of the bathroom mirror for an hour or so. Maybe this was excessive preparation for a five-minute web interview that would never be seen outside the Spanish-speaking world, but I’ve come to realise that I can’t trust myself to say anything intelligent off the top of my head. I’m very slow-witted. Even when I memorize a script, my recollection is shaky enough that I stammer and get lost and come across like an averagely dumb person speaking off-the-cuff.

The interview took place over Skype. I can’t remember exactly how it went. I think the reporter started with the obvious question – how did you make the video? And I came out with my canned answer. Then he asked me a couple less obvious questions, and I twisted some of my memorized responses so that they would seem vaguely apropos.

Then he asked me a question I hadn’t anticipated at all. I guess he’d done a little research, visiting our website and such, so he knew we weren’t a “real” rock-n-roll band, with tour dates and a press kit and all that stuff. We’re just a couple small-town guys who hang out in the basement and occasionally put our songs on the internet. “Why,” he asked, “do you make music?”

I didn’t have anything prepared for this. I must have stared into the webcam slack-jawed for thirty or forty seconds. Finally, I said, “I guess because it gives me an excuse to hang out with friends.” Which is really what it comes down to. If I lived in Los Angeles or New York, rather than here in Saskatoon, I would never schlep my guitar down to the local coffeehouse to sit on a stage alone and sing to an indifferent crowd. My dislike of strangers is too great, my thirst for fame too slight. I make music (and rock operas, and music videos, and history-themed rock-n-roll puppet shows) because I don’t go to pub crawls or barbecue parties, because I don’t join soccer teams or take pottery classes, because I don’t go on dates. I make music because I don’t know how to make small talk. Because otherwise when I called up my friends I would have nothing else to suggest except, “Hey, you wanna hang out?” – and when I just “hang out” with my friends, I often feel like I’m bringing everyone down, it would be better if I went home, better if I made room for someone else with more to contribute to the conversation.

I make music, in other words, out of insecurity.

So that’s what I tried to explain to the reporter from El Tiempo. But because I hadn’t prepared my answer in advance, I’m pretty sure it didn’t make a goddamn word of sense to him. So I’m not surprised that a few weeks have passed and the interview hasn’t turned up on the website. No-one wants to hear about that stuff.


The lost “Sea Captain” video.

This Sunday I’m heading down to California for a few weeks of barely-earned vacation, which means – sorry, rock-n-roll history enthusiasts – it’ll be at least a month before I get the video from our performance at the Mendel onto YouTube.

Meanwhile, here’s something else you can watch. On a visit to Vancouver back in 2008 I spent a couple days hanging out with an old friend, artist Ray Statham. I should also mention that at the time, I had a beard that I was thinking of shaving off. Naturally we thought – let’s shave Michael and make a music video!

Big beard, little beard, no beard.

So I spent a couple days peg-legging around the North Shore while Ray followed me with a camera, chortling. I returned to Saskatoon; time passed; enough for me to grow an entirely new and even handsomer beard. Meanwhile I thought the video had been lost forever. But not long ago Ray turned up a copy and mailed it my way…

More about that Mendel gig.

Panic time! We’re just two weeks away from our performance at the Mendel Art Gallery and we’re frantically assembling our set.

Here’s what’s happening. On January 16 a bunch of musicians, dancers, actors, and other flaky characters (under the non-flaky leadership of Carrie Catherine) will be taking over the Mendel for a pageant of wonder and whatzitry which we’re calling (for reasons still mysterious) LUGO.

It will be a jumble. Each performer will bring his or her own drum, metaphorical or in some cases literal, and at 8:30 PM we’ll all start banging away at once. At times it will be a riot of spontaneous creative expression. At other times it will get quiet and everyone will be encouraged to focus their attention on one thing for a few minutes at a time.

The band known as Sea Water Bliss will occupy one of those quiet interludes. We’ll be performing our Song of Syracuse, the story of the Athenian siege of Syracuse during the Peloponnesian War. As some context is necessary, we’ll be using reversible cardboard panels and cutouts (manipulated by longtime Sea Water Bliss associates Troy Mamer and Steve Barss) to help move the story along. We’ll try our damnedest to keep the whole shebang down to eight or nine minutes.

Right now Troy and Steve and I are deep in cutting-and-pasting mode. Steve’s basement looks like a bomb went off in a box factory, and between us we’ve inhaled several tumours worth of spray adhesive. Meanwhile Andrew and I are figuring out how to shift smoothly between 4/4 and 3/4 time. Luckily I’m taking the next couple weeks off, so I expect I’ll have time to get everything wrapped up, and maybe finally get my hair cut, too.

Anyway, if you’re in Saskatoon on the 16th, you should come to the show. If Thucydides isn’t your bag there’ll be lots of other entertainment on display, some of it bound to suit you. Seeya at the Mendel, art goons and history nerds!


Truth at 0.25 frames per second.

Here’s the recipe. You film a bunch of footage of your band playing a song. Then you edit that footage into a music video – actually, several overlapping music videos. Convert the videos to a series of still images (3500 in all), print them, and collect them in a dozen binders.

Cajole a bunch of your friends into driving to a bar in a nearby small town for a “birthday party”. Prop the binders up in front of a camera and, with some help from your friends, flip through the pages at the steady rate of four seconds per page. This will take approximately two hours and forty minutes, assuming everything goes perfectly; if it doesn’t, more like four hours. (After a couple hours, most of your friends will leave.)

Speed up the video and synch it to the song. Voila! You’ve got…well, uh, something like…


Update, Mar 24 2010: A guy from the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo interviewed me about this video for the paper’s website. I’m pretty sure I explained our process far less clearly in the interview than I did in the above blog post, but anyway you can watch it here.

Flipapalooza & LUGO.

FlipapaloozaHere’s what’s happening with the band. A few days ago Andrew and I filmed some footage for our upcoming time-lapse binder video shoot. I’m in the process of breaking the video into thousands of still black-and-white images like the one on the left, which will be printed and assembled into binders. This Saturday we’ll prop the binders in front of a camera and flip through the pages at the rate of four seconds per page. Then when the video is sped up, if I’ve done my math correctly, the flipping pages will synch up with our song Clowns.

The flipapalooza will kick off at around 8 PM on Saturday Nov. 28th in the back room at Sig’s Place in Vonda, forty minutes east of Saskatoon. If you’re in the area, please feel free to drop by. If you ask nicely we might even let you flip a binder for us.

LUGO! (…whatever that means.)

I’ve also signed us up for an “arts happening” in January at the Mendel Art Gallery. Local folksy girl Carrie Catherine is organizing this shindig, which is called LUGO.

The provenance of the word “lugo” has not been explained to us, but it seems to summon images of an Italian street festival, which isn’t too far off the mark. In addition to music, Lugo will include video, drama, dance, and all things artsy and fartsy. I’m not sure yet exactly what kind of casserole Andrew and I will be bringing to this pot-luck, but you can be sure that it will be lumpy.


Michael A. Charles is a writer, animator, and musician currently living in the Vancouver area. He used to be the singer and guitarist for the band known as Sea Water Bliss.

You can find a selection of his cartoons, music videos, and ads on the Gallery page.

Michael isn't on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter and won't be on whatever comes along next. If you need to reach him here's his contact info.

Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker