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Soundbender

Robert Franklin

Posted on September 27, 2019 21:02

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Too often is music about trendy, easy-to-absorb notes and structures. When I played music professionally, I didn't buy into that. Music should be challenging, and unwinnable; as challenging and unwinnable as the baggage that comes with creating it.

In some ways, it's a curse.

Being a songwriter comes with baggage, and often that baggage can weigh more than one is capable of carrying. Time; time is baggage. There's never enough of it, so your creative pursuits and the myriad of responsibilities you may have to others, or even to yourself, are constantly in conflict. Space; space is baggage. Songwriters often live in close quarters with other people who may, at times, lack appreciation for living near, or even with, someone who spends time manipulating noise. Desire; desire is baggage. While there are some who write music purely for intimate reflection, more write it with the express purpose of putting it into the world, or who even pursue fame and fortune.

Perfection; perfection is baggage. It was the heaviest baggage I had.

While I had a knack for writing songs that, when stripped down, followed pop structures, I was never satisfied with writing something easily digestible. That's an interesting mindset for someone who could barely play a first position blues scale. While I knew people who were obsessed with their technical abilities, I was more concerned with a particular approach that skirted the mainstream at a time when I could barely string together an articulate statement.

I didn't want to write music, in the traditional sense. I wanted to manipulate and sound itself.

If everything I had learned about music were molded into a glass vase, my first listen to My Bloody Valentine's album Loveless shattered it. I was enamored, completely struck. For forty-five minutes I was caught in a sonic hurricane, intoxicated by tremolo-infused ether while wave after wave of atmospheric texture, timbre, and tintinnabulation washed away any preconceived notions about what a song should be.

It colored my approach to musicianship. My old pedalboard, ninety percent analog, was designed to allow access to Loveless' moods whenever I needed them. I looked at Strats and Les Pauls as boring, opting instead for Fender off-body guitar styles -- Mustangs, Jaguars, and Jazzmasters -- and other "atypical" guitars. My songwriting was less about crafting a piece of music that would catch on with a wide audience, and more about bending the very will of the sounds I was producing.

It was as if music were clay, and I were a sculptor.

The drawback to this approach, at least in my case, was that there was always something else that could be done to the sound. A change in pitch. A swell where there didn't used to be one. Additional bricks placed into the wall of sound that never, unfortunately, seemed to be reinforced enough. To compose music in the vain of heroes from a "scene that celebrates itself," meant it was never really done. Perfection would never be achieved.

Music, to me, is about that perfection, that damn albatross hanging around my neck. The pursuit of it never yields reward, traditionally anyway, but I suppose that's never the point. The journey in pursuit of it is the reward.

Robert Franklin

Posted on September 27, 2019 21:02

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"Easy, breezy and summery. Like João Gilberto playing shoegazer music," Guy Sigsworth says of new song

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