Monday, May 14th, 2012 | 17 Comments

The Blot – Part 1

The Blot

a series of interviews with the musicians and illustrators collaborating to bring us the story of the blot in sound and images. Check it out at: theblot.tumblr.com and theblot.bandcamp.com

Intro What is the blot

Squidface & the Meddler to the organizers, Ryan Carley and Casey Mecija:

SF&M – How did this project get started? What inspired the initial story of The Blot?

Ryan Carley

Ryan Carley

Late one snowy night this past November Casey and I were working away on a track intended for a Christmas collection by a blog in the UK. We had begun the session with the idea of making something dirty. Casey played through some ideas on guitar and gave us the feel. I followed it with some sputtery chords on my Juno. We intended to take it pretty far out of the holiday realm then bring it back in a jokey way by calling it “How the Grunge Stole Christmas.” By design it was a black hole carol, describing a monstrous antithesis to joy, with no move toward remittance at the close. Totally intense.

We hadn’t come up with any lyrics as yet and were fishing around for the heart of the song, a single image that would start us off. The Dr. Seuss story was on our brains, and we were excited by the image of a thief in the night, stealing some integral part of the spirit of a household. Next to my synthesizers is a shelf of my favourite books and they stared at us as we sat and pondered what this creature may be wanting to take from us. We both think and write a lot about words and the creative power of knowledge transference and myth-making held within them.

The blot Begins by Jake Pauls

The Blot Begins by Jake Pauls

It was Casey who first suggested that what could be stolen from us is the stories we hold dear. I liked the idea of something unstoppable coming from afar and stripping the very ink out of our books. All of a sudden we had this monster that would get bigger, stronger, and smarter with every word it ate. A few minutes later Casey had written the first verse, describing the creation of our creature, and giving it a name. The Blot had begun.

Before we were halfway done the song we had happily given up the notion of meeting the deadline for the Christmas song compilation and were tossing around the idea of writing a rock opera with The Blot as the central character. It seemed like a wicked idea but something that would take forever if we mounted it on our own. I had been thinking for a while about starting a monthly digital single series that would pair two different composers or producers per track.

It seemed like a very natural move to merge this series structure with The Blot, knowing that in the hands of a number of talented creative partnerships, our creature could become something much richer than either Casey or I could imagine working alone. This allowed us to take on the roles of curators, simultaneously guiding and staying out of the way of the fantastic brains of our favourite musicians.

As we were discussing all this, our old friend Jake Pauls (with whom I shared a studio space at the time) offered to illustrate and add further depth to the ideas we were presenting in our song. This was a nice vote of confidence and spurred the idea that each song or chapter of the project should be interpreted by an illustrator. Jake had introduced me to the work of so many great artists in the year previous and I was excited for Casey and I to enter into that world.

“It seemed like a very natural move to merge this series structure with The Blot, knowing that in the hands of a number of talented creative partnerships”

SF&M – How are the visual artists paired with the musicians? Are they matched for compatible styles, or were you hoping to accidentally happen upon strange and exciting combinations?

Casey Mecija

Casey Mecija

This project is very much about the surprises that emerge from the visual and musical collaborations between strangers. Many of the artists paired up thus far have not known each other and I think because of this, there is a creative freedom in that uncertainty. When you are familiar with an artist then perhaps you might try and write or draw with their aesthetic in mind.

Ryan and I are trying to create unexpected surprises with each song and each illustration so starting each chapter with a new collaboration of strangers is really exciting for us.

At the end of each month we get to see how different musical and visual aesthetics collide to create a sensory narrative for our character The Blot. We see the character come to life in different shapes, colours, chord progressions and lyrics…it’s the best way to tell this particular story.

Casey Mecija of Ohbijou. © F Yang 2011 www.chromewaves.net

Casey Mecija of Ohbijou. The Great Hall in Toronto – December 21, 2011
© F Yang 2011 www.chromewaves.net

Ryan and I are trying to create unexpected surprises with each song and each illustration so starting each chapter with a new collaboration of strangers is really
exciting for us.

SF&M – Strangely enough, the story of the Blot seems to start with the creative potential of books and words, a medium not explicitly included in the project (apart from song lyrics). Any plans to bring in a written element to the story, maybe as part of the final songbook edition?

Ryan Carley

Ryan Carley

Well, we originally we conceived of The Blot as a storybook of sorts. We imagined song lyrics accompanied by an illustration for each chapter, and a pocket in the back with a download card for the music. It’s possible that we could write short transitions to fill in any gaps and help the reader from one chapter to the next, but I like the imperfect nature of the project. It is a hairy, wild beast, and I don’t think we’ll try to comb it or style it beyond what our teams accomplish month by month. The illustrations and music do so much to propel the story, and leave so much room for interpretation, which lets The Blot grow further and go farther in the minds of its readers.

Ryan Carley via http://cdn.thelineofbestfit.com/wp-content/media/2010/11/kite-hill.jpg

Ryan Carley (image via thelineofbestfit.com )

Chapter 1 the blot begins

Squidface & the Meddler to the composers and artist, Casey Mecija, Ryan Carley & Jake Pauls:

SF&M – How did it feel composing words and music that would serve as the start of an ongoing story that other artists would pick up on? Was your process different knowing you were part of a larger collaboration?

Casey Mecija

Casey Mecija

When writing lyrics for the first chapter I definitely had it in mind that the song and words were a part of a larger collaboration. I wanted to start the story by laying out that the Blot was an ink blot and that it grew larger as it stole ink from books. To me the character is sinister, tenacious and mischeivious.

I wanted to create this personality through the words for the first song by writing phrases like: “Give me all your stories. I will show persistence. Getting so much bigger”. I definitely wanted to avoid telling too much of the story so as not to prevent the narrative from growing. The first song is an introduction to the character and in the next eleven chapters who knows how the character will evolve.

SF&M – We loved the lyrics for The Blot Begins! The Blot seems to have an insatiable hunger for words and ideas, but we had a hard time telling if he’s a sinister or benevolent character. Is he the hero or villain of this story?

Ryan Carley

Ryan Carley

This is a tough one, and something we’re still trying to figure out ourselves! At first I was sure that The Blot was nefarious in itself, or at least had sinister motives. We’re not quite sure it’s a creature acting on its own accord, or if it’s the puppet of some external force. The body of the ink is now the vehicle for something, but I feel as though it might have come from nothing. I think that it’s simply a force; neither hero nor villain. It may do things which we consider good or evil, but it likely doesn’t see the world in that way. So it might be difficult to call it a hero or villain.

I believe that there’s a potential for it to go one way or the other, but its consciousness is still forming. At this point it’s only feasted once, on one bookshelf. Who knows what those books contained, or how that information was interpreted. It could be looking at millions of words with no apparent connection to one another. Perhaps it hasn’t reached the critical mass of information necessary to bring it to an understanding of who it is or what it wants to do here besides eat our beloved books. But perhaps it’s more together than any of us know. It seems to realize that it exists, and is wondering at it all, which is a magnificent first step. I’m excited to see where it goes.

SF&M – How did you get involved with this project?

Jake Pauls

Jake Pauls

I’ve been friends with Casey and Ryan for a long time. Ryan and I were sharing a studio when he and Casey were first writing the song, so I was listening to it all happen while I was doing other drawings. When the idea started getting bigger, like as a project rather than just one song, they invited me to be a part. I love doing art for music projects and working with friends so it was a great fit. We’ve talked about bookending the project with another song/art collaboration between the three of us, so we’ll see if that happens. For now it is just nice to watch the project become something.

Illustrator Jake Pauls www.jakepauls.com

Illustrator Jake Pauls www.jakepauls.com

SF&M – Your illustration for the first installment The Blot Begins is pretty epic! Were you conscious of setting the tone for the rest of the series?

Jake Pauls

Jake Pauls

I wasn’t, which I think is good. I guess I am hoping that the rest of the series doesn’t have a specific tone. It would be cool if each new artist didn’t look at any of the work that came before. I’d like to see what people come up with completely out of their own heads, which is what I got to do. The blot is such an abstract character that it could be visually described in endless ways. I other ideas that were pretty abstract and flowy but I ended up giving it a shape and “body.” I wanted a striking image, with large areas of black…that isn’t how I normally draw but I wanted to try something new.

The blot Begins by Jake Pauls

The Blot Begins by Jake Pauls

SF&M – What was it like working to Ryan Carley & Casey Mecija music and lyrics? What elements of the song resonated the most with you?

Jake Pauls

Jake Pauls

It was great. These are two people who I have always considered to be really talented musicians. There are a lot of things in the song that resonate with me. The tone of the song treads a really nice line between somber and uplifting. It has a dark edge that I appreciate. And the story itself is right up my alley…a being that builds itself out of words and ideas, so nice! It is fun to watch other people continue the story, but I sometimes wish that we had just keep it all to ourselves. I’d like the chance to interpret the character more.

Chapter 2 Winter Bloom

Ryan Carley & Casey Mecija to the composers, Dan Goldman & Daniela Gesundheit:

Ryan Carley

RC&CM – We learned in the first chapter that The Blot not only feeds and grows from the ink contained in books, but from the ideas as well. So it seems to follow that The Blot would have a lot to say after the feeding frenzy of the first chapter. What informed your decision to create an instrumental portrait of our character at this stage in the story?

Jake Pauls

Dan Goldman & Daniela Gesundheit

We wanted it to feel as though The Blot was out in the world for thefirst time post information-feeding-frenzy; in a state of gestation, like a python slowly digesting its prey. The initial moment of rapture, of ingesting all that information is done, and now, alone outside, it realizes its form. In this swell of awareness, The Blot is gathering its senses.

RC&CM – There seems to be a number of different elements at play in this piece. What sorts of compositional tools or techniques did you employ in the writing of Winter Bloom?

Dan treated it like a string quartet written for voices. We started with the vocal arrangement and worked backwards from there. We liked the idea of it sounding like a chorus from other peoples’ dreams, perhaps the sounds of the ancestors from The Blot’s original home speaking in tongues. We also aimed at having some thematic echoes of the first song written into the arrangement in order to give it a sense of continuity.

Dan Goldman & Daniela Gesundheit

Dan Goldman & Daniela Gesundheit. luxurypond.com

RC&CM – What do you hope the listener will take away from your composition?

A sense of space, a moment of repose and introspection before the long journey ahead.

RC&CM – Do you tend to think in visuals while composing? What did you think when you first saw Juliana Neufeld’s visual response to your music?

Not really. We loved Juliana’s rendition. We felt it captured an electric stillness we were aiming at in the music.

Jake Pauls to the artist, Juliana Neufeld:

JP – How did you get involved with the project?

Juliana Neufeld

Juliana Neufeld

I was contacted by Casey Mecija of Obijou. I’m a fan of their music and love any chance to collaborate with musicians so it was an easy yes on my part.

JP – Were you familiar with the musicians you were working with, or were they totally new to you?

I hadn’t heard of SnowBlink in particular, but I was familiar with some of their previous work with other bands. The Toronto Indie music scene is pretty tight so I knew a bunch of bands they are associated with.

JP – I had lyrics to work from, but you were working with wordless music. Did that make it easier or harder for you?

I guess it was a bit harder in the beginning, when I was figuring out where I was going to take the story, but it ended up being a blessing. The track was so dreamy and open to interpretation that it let me feel free to indulge my imagination. It became more about a feeling than a narrative.

Illustration by Juliana Neufeld

Illustration by Juliana Neufeld

“The song felt 100% outdoors at dawn, so I kind of went with that.”

JP – That’s interesting because you got to direct the story. You continued the narrative by putting the Blot out in the woods, rather than in the city or where-ever. Was that conscious? Did you imagine the progression of the story, or just a single image?

The song felt 100% outdoors at dawn, so I kind of went with that. I kept the city in the background so there was a reference to where the Blot could have come from and where it could go back to, but as soon as I had found a location it became all about the single image.

JP – Did you listen to the song while you worked? Where did your ideas start from?

Yep! I listened to it a few times each drawing session to get into the right frame of mind. The Blot’s character in my portion of the story is still very new to the world and SnowBlink’s track is light, mysterious and enchanting…everything together inspired the scene in the woods at dawn. A time when everything is quiet and the world feels like it is being born again each day.

JP – Your work is full of monsters/creatures, so this project seems like a good fit. What moves you to draw those things?

There are no specifics requirements when you draw a monster. I’m not confined to a particular human or animal feature. complete weirdo art freedom I guess. I can let my inner brain do the talking.

JP – If you could “feed” The Blot one book, what would it be and why?

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Cause it’s absurd but still kind. I like that combination.

S&TM: Our sincerest thanks to Jake Pauls, Casey Mecija, Ryan Carley, Dan Goldman,
Daniela Gesundheit, and Juliana Neufeld for taking the time to do this elaborate game of interview tag!

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