Dolorous

by How Scandinavian

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about

The convenience and flimsy illusion of stability in being a teenager was wearing off quickly. At the age of 18 acting like a total fool was not nearly as acceptable as it seems to be now, and the disillusionment of 2011’s summer, with once close friends and barely there acquaintances moving away to their second or third, rarely first, choice universities was pivotal.

Sensing a vague dread in the impending absence of being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted (which was overblown), I spent a week or two switching between moping around or hanging out with the sort of ilk that is only good at amplifying those feelings. But even at my worst impulses I always felt there was an unspoken higher standard to adhere to. After all, dignity is what mattered, and the last place for dignity to remain in my mind was in my own music and education. So with education being months away, I got to work on finishing tracks I first began in late 2010/early 2011 and recording newly written ones to make up the rest of the album.

Simultaneously I was still writing the bulk of the material for Ghost Time, and in hindsight, the album may not have its layered and dense sound if not for that. At the time I figured that Ghost Time was a simple live act in nature, and to have the band perform any complex chords or varying rhythms was probably too much effort and a bit self-indulgent. So off went all the catchy and bass driven songs to the GT factory, while the downtrodden complex material stayed with me. Perhaps the closest to an alternate future is heard in a rehearsal recording where I asked the band to try out “Teenage Hand Models”, a slow, melancholic, and romantic piano ballad with the very title inspired by a comment our singer made that day. Needless to say, it was not very good or coherent but, if anything, I knew the direction in which to take the music.

The past 12 months of intensive music listening had left a pretty great impression on my songwriting. Red House Painters’ Down Colorful Hill, Unwound’s Repetition, Have a Nice Life’s Deathconsciousness were just some of the many things that educated my approach to recording and writing songs. The alternation between slow burning atmospheres and concentrated dissonant sonics of these records inspired me to try and emulate what I could with a pair of guitars, Valvetronix amp, an off-brand short scale bass I borrowed from my friend Sean, which he named “Jess” (ornamented with black tape letters), Sunlite drum kit, two keyboards, and my trusty USB microphone.

I felt that with almost 3 years of recording my own music at home, I was finally able to really live up to the task of creating something that had a sustained atmosphere. If there was always a sense of melancholy and subconscious disgust in my music, then this was the culmination of those themes now fully informed by the experience of an incoming reality check. But as much as I would want to say that these themes were lyrically planned from the onset, the music itself needed to be formed first.

Among the earliest songs I wrote, dating from between 2008-2010, were “Belong Here”, “Results of a Suspicion”, and the first half of “This Heaven”. “Results” was an attempt to musically re-create some of the moody and vague noir (in my imagination) of the cityscape. It should not be much of a surprise to reveal that the bass playing was typical of what I would write for Ghost Time at the time (if not much slower), and informed by early post-punk records and the like. Lyrically, this song is in the long tradition of put down songs in my repetitive canon. An attention seeker seeks attention, wishes to utilize yet another person for personal gain, but the narrator knows better, and the battle begins.


In the repeat dissatisfaction I felt at the time as a witness to friends resorting to base desires or ignorant optimism, phrases like “I found myself against your true volition” and “wasting lines like this for spirits too weak to come true” were simple enough to write. Although the entire lyric would not come until a couple months later after starting college; as it is safe to say that I would not have been able to name drop “Touch of Evil” by Orson Welles or Bernard Hermann’s last name if it wasn’t for a film music class. Yes, I know Henry Mancini was the composer, but Hermann’s name fit better.

The repeating first section (verses/choruses) of “This Heaven” was taken from an out-of-tune acoustic sketch from 2008 called “Three and One”. In trying to capture that slight flatness of the acoustic demo I decided to transpose the song to E flat, and I think it was success in making the song that much wearier sounding. The second instrumental half of the song was a separate experiment in tracking the drums first and then adding instruments on top of it to create a dynamic movement with drums as lead instrument. Using the first and only take of those drums I didn’t know what would come of it, but realizing “This Heaven” needed a proper ending, I tacked on the drum track at the end, wrote an extension of the verse chord progression to fit the beat, and off I went. It would take some months closer to the album’s completion to coerce a vocal melody and lyric to appear, but I used the backdrop of a recent funeral in order to have a contrast between what are ultimately small problems and the real finality of it all. With an ambiguously uplifting instrumental outro, no doubt, this was destined to be the album closer.

“Belong Here” began life as a sketch called “10 Guitar” and was initially inspired by the main intro riff in the song “Popular” by Nada Surf one late night. But “Belong Here” would evolve into something quite different in the coming months (more on that in a bit).

Suddenly in the middle of this beginning surge of recording and writing, my duties in Ghost Time took a bit of a priority for about a month in order to rehearse and, inevitably, write more material onto our already overflowing pile. Somehow, despite the craziness, in this short time I wrote embryonic versions of “Teenage Hand Models” and “Forgotten Season”. The quick pace of creativity left me feeling pretty confident that I would be able to at least have most of the songs partially tracked before school began in late August.

Of course, I was totally wrong.

In early July, a week after making an important guitar amp purchase, the band disintegrated in what felt like an instant. To this day, I really do not remember what happened, but I suppose it came down to a member not wanting to take it seriously while the rest either did or were game to at least try. Looking back, it was pretty foolish to not simply take a break and reform later on, but the finality and presence of incoming adulthood likely influenced us to simply move on. Who knows if it would have worked, but by the end of July, GT was fatigued and demoralized. Of course, no one ever really moves on, at least not initially, and this partially informed the mood of the remaining recording sessions.

Quickly, I had to accept that I would not have a method of performing live for the time being, and focused on making up what time I used for a band that no longer existed. I set out to get a decent recording of “Teenage Hand Models” first. With its repeating amateurish piano figure and slammed chords, this was the latest attempt at playing an instrument I clearly was out of my depth with. But overall, I think despite the rough-handedness, it’s a very ornate and thoughtful song with its layers of delayed guitar, shoddy “dynamic” drumming, and, impressively to me, no synth. If anything, it has the one of the most affected vocal takes on the album, and a pretty melody that does reflect how I felt at the time on the thought of growing old.

I then moved onto “Forgotten Season”, another burning lament of people and time passing by, which was a pretty evident feeling by now. Switching between a downtrodden mid tempo verse that suddenly shifts into a raw and ambiguously noisy chord progression with some reverberated backing vocals, I now believe that this song was one of the best songs I had written at that point. The quiet break with the defeated sounding vocals before the one-chord outro is one of my favorite moments on this record.

“Intent” was initially a scrap of the verse bassline, my idea of something Stone Roses-esque, and then trying to “shoegaze” it up (its demo was called “Shoesss”) by adding tremendous amounts of reverberated tremolo to the rhythm guitar. The choruses were the most difficult part to find out how to sing, but after having a bit of lead guitar overtaking all space, the shouting approach seemed a simple counterpoint. With that backdrop, the attempt was to channel further frustrations with how some people either leave themselves stranded in the past or would rather forget it. In this case, how one particular girl was used and discarded, but while the narrator could do something, they just watch and sneer at the absurdity of the whole situation.

Around five in the morning on the 14 freeway in late August, the first day of the semester of college had arrived. Despite all the time I made use of, there was really no way to finish up the album, and my priority was diverted. While I attempted optimism for the first couple weeks, soon enough I began to feel stagnant at the prospect of going to school; I had failed an entrance exam to the music program months prior and was essentially in state of academic limbo. With that prospect it was pretty easy to begin to feel a bit downtrodden and to question what exactly I was doing. To add to that, it was common to arrive several hours early to class, and the early morning hours led to either wandering around campus aimlessly, having repetitive introspection inside a McDonald’s, or listening to music befitting the mood. I cannot really say how differently my life would have gone if I had taken things more seriously and gotten into the music program, and in all reality, if I would have simply been happier as a result. But my relationship to my college had always been one of respect, and despite how much I would wish to complain (and I did anyways), I knew that the proper thing to do was to keep moving forward and concentrate.

As the general malaise of September began to creep in, the novelty of being an aimless college student wearing off, I made the final push to finish off what was left of the album’s songs. It is impossible for to think of a glacial pace song like “Once again, waiting…” to have ever been completed in another time period. With its simplistic repeating guitar figures, I felt the song was destined to have bass, keyboards, and lyrics, but these things felt unnecessary once the primitive snare and hi-hat parts were added. A miniscule fanfare suited for the brief ceasefires in the morning before the melancholy and apathy of campus life and classes marched forward.

In those crestfallen moods I thought it would be appropriate to add a song I had tracked a year or more before, and although it had little to nothing to do with any of the current reasons for my disenchantment, it fit thematically with being unable to entirely let go of potential futures. Recorded with vocals and guitar onto a single take and track, “Carson” was as autobiographical a song I could allow myself to release at the time, and perhaps I knew that the only way to keep it from becoming maudlin was to utilize the raw recording. Using that single track provided some unique challenges in attempting to keep time with a shaky acoustic rhythm, and eventually felt that the best method of keeping things fluid was to slowly layer on the drums and then bass. The muddy synth elements were informed by the sounds I heard on The Dismemberment Plan’s “Spider in the Snow”, a much more optimistic look at time’s shift.

“Set Sails” was an attempt at homage to the post-hardcore and noise rock influenced records I was quickly turning to in those autumnal days and, listening again, it was an honest swing at presenting some darker moods in a more berserk fashion. Already have done a pretty poor imitation of Mark E. Smith’s lyrical and vocal approach on the last record (“You Say You Know”) I did not see the problem in trying out a spoken word approach for this one. Hearing it again now, I can see how one might conclude that I was aping something by Slint, but this was truly not the case and I would hope that miniscule amount of melody in the refrains of “We’re stranded without a book…”, and eventual climax when drums and bass kick in is enough to dispel that. If there is a direct rhythmical and structural ancestor to this song, then it was the track “The Flesh” by Peace Burial at Sea, a relatively obscure band from Glasgow.

Nearing the end of the sessions, I went on a small afternoon trip with family to Chinatown, and I randomly decided to walk off myself and head into a barely occupied plaza. Taking the escalator up to the second floor, populated with empty offices and a chiropractor’s old front, I felt a vague sense of nostalgia for a place I never had been to before. They were familiar feelings for an alien place, but perhaps not that alien since Torrance had similar locations. Feeling of the moment, I took a pause to take a bland picture of the plaza on my flip phone to reminder me of it. Soon enough, I had the workings of “The Moment Ends” in place. Perhaps the song that best encapsulates the bleak and subconscious romanticism in the album, I attempted to provide a long and heavy sonic background of guitars, feedback, and pitched up synth strings. In evoking a dreamed up lost nineties I tuned the E string to E flat (E flat just seems nineties to me even now) and did my best impressions of heavier sludge music that I had no hope of actually emulating correctly. Lyrically I quite self-aware that these ideas of nostalgia were always temporary, at times banal, and offered short-term fulfillment, so it was natural the song end with the repeating of “It’s over.”

By now, the album was nearing completion but the work on “Belong Here” had not really progressed much further than back in late summer. At that point I was changing my outlook on whatever melancholic bleakness I had felt since the summer. I could not fully justify a bleak record without some sense of self-awareness and dignity in understanding that things change, and that moving forward and reflection are the methods of success. This thinking was what eventually found its way in the lyrics of many of the songs (“This Heaven”, “Intent”, “Carson”, “The Moment Ends”, and “Teenage Hand Models”, come to mind) but none was more concentrated in that sense of acceptance than “Belong Here”.

In the beginning that wasn’t the plan, as the second title that the song would have before morphing into what it is, was “The Interminable”, which if you could not guess, was a bit against the final intention of the song. After scrapping the original chorus vocal melody and playing that as a counter melody with my organ’s synth setting, I came up with a set of lyrics that I felt clearly stated sensation of finding yourself alone in a new environment and talking yourself into working through it. Perhaps this segment of the lyrics says it best: “So turn away some doubt for once, and we’ll be at the top of all the fronts without a sense of lonely hypocrisy”.

Over the years of performing this song live I had been told that it is a particularly sad song. While I can see where people are coming from, and that anyone is free to feel what they want, I could not help but think that the uplifting and self-aware nature of the lyrics are not fully understood, and that the overall feel is more akin to tough love than anything to be taken at face value. But I suppose there are moments such as these where I just shut up, be thankful for anyone taking some form of enjoyment, and move on.

Not too long after I had completed “Belong Here”, the album was mixed and wrapped up in a couple of days. Once it was totally finished, I immediately released it online… to no real fanfare or genuine feedback. I suppose this being the era right before the full grasp of social networking, and how it influenced why people should care about things, along with just being some teenager with no local music scene reputation, it was to be expected. The writing was likely on the wall after a popular peer from high school was nice enough to post a link to the album for her followers on Facebook. While the gesture was more than “real” friends would do for me, and I was grateful for that alone, I can only imagine now with a perverse smile how teenage girls used to listening only to Top 40 reacted with disgust to my resentful cadence.

Still, I recall a deal of great fun being had with my friend Starlon when we spammed the university advert boards with flyers promoting the LP as “the highly anticipated debut album by How Scandinavian featuring the hit songs “Belong Here” and “Intent”. During those activities, he had mentioned that Henry Rollins would post flyers for Black Flag on surfaces with a clear liquid adhesive with a brush, so that people who would try to remove them would tear only a portion and a mess would remain. While I thought that was a genius idea, I was a loyal student with some dignity and did not want to risk getting expelled for an album no one cared about. I had no idea that the relationship between music and school would only grow more entangled and reactive in the next four years.

credits

released October 27, 2011

Bryan Santizo - Everything

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How Scandinavian Palmdale, California

Alias of Bryan Santizo, founded in 2008.

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Track Name: Belong Here
Living with the spare thoughts
knowing this has grown apart
conscious guilt slowly caught
how willing to run and forget?
to run and forget
to run and forget
to run and forget...

why do you look lost?
cause you belong here
I wish I never woke up
why did i come here?
remember what you once said
nothing that's correct
why do you look lost?
cause you belong here
I wish I never woke up
why did i come here?
leaving something already left
that long disappeared

it's hard to say how long it's been
since i've last felt so certain
cause my memories will outlast
yours
so turn away some doubt for once
and we'll be at the top of all the fronts
without a sense of lonely
hypocrisy

but

i'm going about my way again
i'm going about my way
i'm going about my way again
i'm going about my way

why do you look lost?
cause you belong here
I wish I never woke up
why did i come here?
remember what you once said
nothing that's correct
why do you look lost?
cause you belong here
I wish I never woke up
why did i come here?
leaving something already left
that long disappeared
Track Name: Results of a Suspicion
wow, did you think I wouldn't suspect a thing?
lagging on every single word that you seem to bring
with cotton in your mouth, I bet it must've taken a long time
you know it wasn't right
I never expected better from you
but I guess I surely know right?

I didn't want to take it
but now i have to save this
cause I found myself
against (the) repeating tides

I didn't want to say it
but now I have to take it,
wasting lines like this
for spirits too weak to come true

something without taste
it's just another chase
you seem to enjoy
being lower than dirt
it's true
around here I found my own way

You're charming but forever without class
wearing this like you got something to show (it's wrong)
find us another way, find me another way to stay interested, interested...
in your complicated web
(of throwing everyone down the way)

whatever is the matter and once again
you all stick and I'm not running for it
I was gone and we're still gone
in every single way
closer to the truth that everyone loves to fake

I didn't want to take it
but now I have to save this
cause I found myself
against your true volition

I didn't want to say it
but now I have to take it,
wasting lines like this
for spirits too weak to come true

so what are you hiding
in that empty head
something without taste
something to display
shouldn't have taken you
that long to fucking to say
(to say) the words that spill around and round for more

the paint is drying up
with all my limbs falling asleep
then winter comes
and I'm sure it's a terrible treat
to find out
I think I never saw you
in a situation
quite like this
care to inform me?
I bet not
so here's a 'Touch of Evil'
Herman is waiting with the score
I'll see you outside
I'll see you outside

i didn't want to say it but now I'm saying it
it's never been better for nobody but me
Track Name: Teenage Hand Models
Lost simplicities
that I would see you
stealing all those words
we had about you

thinking we had time...
but I guess it's true

we're no longer young after all
no wonders, we've spent it all
no false step to fall on
send it all away
sent away

treading in the sea's maze
just to pass the time
only memories can anchor meaning for us
despite minutes of pace
nothing is clearly defined
then I remember that

We're no longer young after all
all wonders come from a heart
know that those feelings were true
it's come to that
so now

I know
I know you've known best
and turning around
realizing that there's more
to living than this

farewell to my aging youth
you've been great to me till now
I can face this alone
goodbye I won't forget you
Track Name: The Moment Ends
Giving myself up back then
seemed so much easier to swallow whole
But I think about the times I wouldn't reach out
to anyone but my single self detached imagination

oh, I think about the simple degenerations
but I would reach out to anyone but you
anyone who had an interest
but I don't blame myself for you
or anyone at all

because it wasn't meant to be
and nothing would change that
for you or me
for you or me, no.

nothing could change that either way

looking around, thinking about what's been going down
to your reflect-tations of simple desires
that were never fulfilled

and what do you want from this?
what do you want from this?
cause nothing ever seemed to matter to you,
to you,
to you
nothing seemed to matter at all

but I think about all the times
that we spent alone
running, waiting
for a moment to end
even though there are only five minutes left
to really grasp
those changes that we have forsaken
for a better life
i left it then
so what do you want now?
cause I can't decide anymore for, anymore for you
it's over.
Track Name: Carson
running to the gates
running to the gate with my friends
I didn't want to leave class
I didn't want to leave my class
But there was so much to
But there was so much to look forward to
Next year too, again
I would have spent it
I would have spent it with them, with them

sometimes the clouds remind me overhead
sometimes I think about faded memories
sometimes I think above my head, above my head
remind me of all the times I would've wished you were there
sometimes the plane overhead, over my head
sometimes everything reminds me of another place instead
I never said goodbye
I never said goodbye...

I picked it up for you
I picked it up for you
and I never saw you again, never saw you again
I came back rushing
I came back rushing just to say
that I wasn't coming back
that I wasn't coming back

I expected to see your face one last time
but she told me no, class had ended two hours ago
and I felt the tears coming for the first time in months
because I kinda accepted it, that I was gone from your life
for the next five years or more

Sometimes I think about whatever could have happened
sometimes I think about nothing
and if I get corrupted by the present beings
I wouldn't stop because I knew it was the most important thing
and sometimes I think about what could have been
but it's just something that's more close to me, than you could ever imagine
and sometimes I think about what I left, what I left
sometimes I think about the planes over my head
that make that sound that remind me of the whole place I used to live, I used to live!
But now I'm dead, killing time, just to return to another place that doesn't exist anymore

(it's) taken away
taken away
it's taken away
taken away

sometimes I think about... Carson, more than anything else
no one will relate to this because I was all by myself
and sometimes it's the only thing stopping me from being completely happy
it's not no one's fault, it's not anyone's fault, I think
cause sometimes life works in interesting ways I'll never understand

and I don't mean to dwell on the past
I just want to honor it for myself and all of my old friends
and people I knew and the memories of being there
were so important to me
because nobody else could have been there
I don't think so
except my old faded memories
and I said I would come back
but I never came back
never said goodbye
and it's tearing me apart
more than anything else
anything else in my life