NYC by way of Seattle visionary Carter Prince and cohorts are Basement Surfers who share with us the world premiere listen to their upcoming album Human Music available April 28 from Halfshell Records, followed by an insightful interview session. Carter’s own creative craft adheres to the praxis of experimental profundity similarly found in the works from fellow NYC x Pacific Northwest talents like Zach Burba, Erin Birgy & acts like iji, Mega Bog & more; Human Music is something that everyone from the OSR Tapes obsessed crowd to the casual listener will enjoy in a shared experience that basks in the ever-expanding & inherent joy that glows within the existential spark that together we experience in humanity. This is the anecdote for the never-ending stream of downer headlines that limit what wonders can be accomplished & enjoyed in generative fashions & manners.
Carter & friends breathe the album Human Music to life with “Dr. Boogierama’s Intro To Humanity” that provides something of a sci-fi late night cinema setting of the scenes to follow. With a black box recorder style introduction through an array of samples & effects, you are brought to “Sweet Stella” that is a creative romp where surprises await & delight at every corner, then is underscored further on “Fine Art To Be Appreciated from a Toadstool” that then explodes into a monster-mash of distorted blurs of sound cast to winds & more of the Basement Surfers’ own break-neck quick-changes of sections to the soundtrack score of “What a Lovely Celebration” that throws one lavish party for the ages, setting the table for “Lovely Celebration” that is the soundtrack of the most eccentric & amazing beach happening. The sound & feeling of being castaway to a far away isle on “Beyond” that stretches out toward remote regions of foreign waters & lands. Cruise the galaxies of “Cosmo Plunderer” that takes off toward new clusters of planets from the outer dimensions that resonate even deeper on the wondrous weird realms of “Friend Vicodin (feeling human)”, that warp you then into the altered-zones of the unknown undertow pull of “Hellosong” that deals in well arranged abstract collages that descend into the conventional time dissolving ether of the show-stopping grand finale “Long Ago” that is time-out-of-body/out-of-mind experience where the world(s) we know & understand can be seen from an objective point of view. Carter Prince & his fellow Basement Surfers talked to us in the interview immediately after the following debut of Human Music:
Describe what a regular Basement Surfers practice session is like.
Some of our members go to Cornish and so previously we held our biweekly practices in a room otherwise strictly dedicated to holding classes for acting students learning how to sword fight. Sword fighting season came however and we were evicted from our space as we couldn’t defend it from people wielding swords. Our practices for the last couple months now start with a scramble to find a room somewhere across the campus and a process of being kicked out a couple times before finally settling on one. Continually moving and setting up our gear takes up chunks of time but when planted the stress of finding a place to play wears off and we goof off and talk or all play and contribute to cacophony before someone, the productive leader of the group changes from practice to practice, finally gets us to start. We then tend to get two plus hours of surprisingly focused rehearsal time that we try to spend mostly on working out new music.
Give us the story on the human elements that informed “Human Music”.
The story of Human Music follows a space alien as he falls down onto new earth. In this world, contrary to other alien tales depicting them trying to assimilate or blend in with society, our cosmic spacer is being sucked into becoming human by other humans against his control and we experience his internal struggle alongside as he gives in and lets himself make the transition into human abandoning his spacer uniquities[sic]. The question of how bad is being human anyways is thusly explored and promptly answered with a pretty bad. sometimes. but also pretty good? Despite a theme of galactic importance, it takes place close to home and its intended to hit just as close to home as the arc doubles as a confessional from our lyricist Carter as he too struggles with the pains and beauty of being human. The most beautiful irrelevance of all this is that despite all this confusion that we all share—that our spaceboy character shares as well—we all make the conscious effort to continue to go on living and being human regardless and the reasoning and logic behind it doesn’t truly exist and doesn’t need to exist because we can just as easily put off thinking about any of this until we are eventually dead and have no reason to ponder why we live in the first place.
What sorts of discoveries were made along this journey?
Carter: For writing this album, as in all the writing I do, I make discoveries on a song-to-song basis. I stream-of-consciously throw down words that I feel in response to a certain topic that I subconsciously choose and then proceed to rewrite and reword as I ponder it more and more and change my mindset on it. I can start off confused and gain some understanding or start out with an understanding of a question and end more confused or start off mad at someone and find my own faults through it or start off self deprecating and decide, Hey Carter! Everything maybe isn’t always my fault—that can often be the hardest conclusion to come to. For Human Music specifically I realized largely how greatly you can impact and affect someone with actions, that obviously would and ones that you don’t always think would, and the importance of accepting and staying aware of that responsibility but also the importance of self forgiveness and allowing yourself to move on—with the obligation that you hurt less and less people over time of course—despite how hard that can be.
Tell us what the Basement Surfers secret is to achieving these high-flying subterranean sounds.
The sounds we achieve on this album come from guitarists Jon and Carter’s pedal boards, synth player Alex’s creative sound synthesis through use of analog equipment, and from meticulous sampling sound bits from the depths of YouTube and from the city of Seattle warped and distorted and layered deeply within the mixes.
Describe both your NYC by way of Seattle experiences have continued to inform your own creative path.
Carter: The east coast was competitive and felt less like a collaborative environment—or rather those collaborative scenes are more exclusive and harder to integrate yourself in—so I was set on finding a new home to foster a more permanent community. Moving back to the PNW felt like the room because I already have a lot of family and friends from when I was younger out here so it was less intimidating. Before my music was made by myself and almost exclusively for myself as I felt I had little opportunity to share it but now in Seattle I am surrounded by so many wonderfully creative and supportive friends that push me musically and inspire me to try and bring something to the community. I still very much feel like an outsider artist as social anxieties make it very hard to connect to so many of the musicians I look up to around me but everyday I feel a little more apart of something being lucky to play in many of my friends’s bands and being lucky enough to have people excited to help make music with me. While the east coast forged my initial passions in music, Seattle certainly inspired me to push it to be more creative and interesting… and just plain better.
Fellow local Seattle x NYC x everywhere artists that you want to recognize?
Carter: I have been inspired largely to push my writing, playing and singing to be better by my buddy and fellow local musician Jason McCue. you probably already know his music but if you don’t please check it out and be amazed. I would also like to recognize and thank Grant McGilberry (Masculinity Crisis, Moon Human, Hotdog Volume) for being the first musician upon my arrival in Seattle to make music with me.
All of us: we would also like to recognize our friends in the groups Tiny Room and Pablo’s Legs as they have been super supportive to us helping us get shows and immersing us more and inspiring us to make wacky music.
Basement Surfers also penned the following artist statement on Human Music:
Our goals as a band is to relentlessly create records and improve, build more and more friendships within our community to create an un-intimidating place of acceptance, support and positivity to whoever is looking for one, to try to shine a spotlight on the works of the talented people in our growing community, and to dismantle the notion of “cool”.
Human Music is a 50 minute surrealist cosmodrama following the story of a loosely fictional being from space who crashes onto Earth. The being quickly learns the wonders of humanity- experiencing love, beauty, creativity and curiosity, but soon after they learn the pains and confusions of being human as well as discovering greed, lust, selfishness and vice. The album tracks the space being’s downfall as they come to terms with the mistakes they have made and the people they hurt and it depicts the space being’s inner questionings on how, and if they even have the right, to earn forgiveness and redemption. The story ultimately praises humanity despite its flaws but also stresses that our beauty comes from community and selflessness which is often misplaced. The story also serves as a self-deprecating reflection by our writer on a series of personal events from the last year paralleling events within the album but while the record certainly stands as a means of processing for our writer it is more so intended as a platform to address the listener directly. Everyone thinks of them self as the protagonist of every story and bend thought to fit that rhetoric but that is frequently not the case and coming to full terms with a situation and looking at it with a detached less biased lens and with more awareness of how you affect people is more difficult but far more valuable for everyone. We all make mistakes but working through them, instead of ignoring them and moving on, and finding solace in the people around you is the only way to make less mistakes over time- and living should be about making less mistakes and affecting people more positively over time and then you’re dead.
Our record started as a solo demo project for Carter Prince, who wrote the songs and played most of the instruments on the album, but it quickly turned into a large collaborative effort and live band as he recruited more and more friends to the effort. And since Basement Surfers has evolved more into a collective- with musical and artistic ideas and contributions coming from a larger array of sources and carrying a more eclectic group vision. The album also serves as a departure from Carter’s previous ways of creating music which is writing and recording and releasing and repeating (before his last release he essentially put out an album every couple of months for the last two years which takes a clear toll on production) to a more mindful practice of creating a record. Carter spent months producing and mixing Human Music to make it as good as he could with the limited gear Basement Surfers has between us but managed to create a work he deemed “professional” and “polished” while adhering to the DIY and independent local narrative we wish to contribute to.
Human Music will be available April 28 from Halfshell Records.