New mobile gadgets and technology have been advancing at lightning speeds, but artists continue to hold tight to the yesterday's favorite models as both mediums and subjects. The current longstanding independent strongholds of cassette-bound believers have taken a comfort in the magnetic manipulations and distortion that the analog medium provides—the Fruity-Loops/Audacity recorded masterpieces made on a PC/laptop standing on their last legs.
From sunny Southern California's Ventura County town of Ojai, Charlie Bird takes those out-dated portable devices and revives their aging modern machinery with fresh Casio penned vignettes. Beginning her iPhone-recorded Cactus Milk EP with “Horizontal Flipphone”, those old school cellular signals hum porta-piano tones around notebook scrawled cares and concerns. The rhymic breath of keys bounce against the built-in percussive metronome with echo electric utterances like compact chamber pipes from old churches, like on the vintage Italo-classico of “Strangolarmi”. The Halogen remix of “Telekinesis Is Real” keeps Bird's vocals sung in the muffled “inside voice” while all keyboard components and contributions are blazed up big in high definition-hi-fi. The home made organ trails slowly coast out on “Suonatore ambulante”, concluding with the slow door chime choral drift of “Cherry Pie”, that keep the Casio chamber pop notes cascading in your mind.
We talked about the art of lo-fi recordings made via “Voicememos” with Charlie Bird in the following interview.
There is something spontaneous that you capture on “Horizontal Flipphone”, what was the situation and circumstances that inspired this song?
That song originated as this perpetual inside joke (about my outdated flip-phone) between me and someone I really cared/care about. When things went 'downhill' with them I didn't really know what to do about it, so during my classes at school I started writing little things down about it in my notebook. I'd heard a lot of people say making music is a great outlet for feeling the way I felt and people had liked my previous song “Strangolarmi”, so I decided, 'maybe I can actually do this.' I just sat in my bed alone in my room and a few hours later I recorded it on my iPhone. The fact that it's recorded on my phone gives it a double meaning in a sense. It's recorded on a phone, it's about a phone, but it's not really about a phone.
Do you feel the art and act of singing into a phone receiver elicits a more personal delivery? Flip-phones versus smartphones, the pros and cons in your opinion?
Something about it is more 'personal”. It sounds extremely 'real' in a way a lot of studio recordings don't. Mostly because studio recordings happen generally a while after the songs been written, but this way the recording you hear is one of the first time's it was ever played and the emotions sensed are unsettlingly[sic] fresh.
What other home/phone recordings are in the works?
Yeah! I am always trying to write something new. I don't want it to be forced but I'm currently trying to expand myself and be less repetitive. I feel like everything I've done has a certain sound-alike-ness and I want to do something different with more variety of notes. It's difficult because I don't know how to really play any instrument well, but I'm wildly jazzed to experiment with it all. Currently I'm working on something for a movie. Crossing my fingers. There is going to be a lot more music from me coming soon. I put everything on my Soundcloud.
Are there any other DIY devices that you recommend or enjoy for spontaneous, on-the-go recording?
My biggest piece of advice is to realize you seriously don't have to even know what you are doing. I wasn't trained to make music it was just something I realized I “could do if I had ears,” so I gave it a shot. You can still make something people want to listen to even if it's just on your phone/computer, and I recommend taking advantage of that tool. Be creative with your materials and don't give into the trap of “functional fixedness.” Just keep writing things/ideas down and know you don't have to spend money to record songs. You can use your phone as a recording device, and your bedroom as a “studio” if you want and make something that sounds good. So far all I use is a cheap/old Casio keyboard I bought on Ebay a few months ago and “voicememos” to record and I am sort of in love with it's sound. If not having a good enough mic, or equipment id holding you back I recommend recording this way and you might be pleasantly surprised.
The drum machines and keys you use seem so rudimentary, but your song and lo-fi recordings add a dimension of heart. What is the perfect Charlie Bird recipe for recording the most cherished and sincere track?
Ha ha, that is so true, it is soooo basic. Like, wildly basic. It's so funny because I play on this old Casio and I usually just play it on my bed and wait till I hear some chord that I think sounds good. Once I find something that I think sounds nice/pretty I'll start improvising and singing on it. I always record it on Voicememos as I go so I don't forget how to play it later. It's cool that way because I get to see it's progression from the first chord to the full song. I guess the “recipe” for a Charlie Bird song is to first 'feel severely depressed,' just kidding, ha ha, I think the recipe is to write something simple and meaningful with a basic/repetitious melody in the background, and if you record that on your phone and give it that 'dreamlike' blurriness you basically have a Charlie Bird song. One of my favorite 'genres' of music is 1960s/70s organ music and I've been incredibly inspired by that. I almost always record my songs on the pipe organ setting. I'd say that that sound in particular is becoming a signature of my songs.
Charlie Bird's Cactus Milk EP is available via Soundcloud.