I don't remember much, but I remember this one thing with clarity.
I was in the backyard looking up at my father; he was bent over raking leaves, explaining to me over his shoulder what it meant to be a good man–to keep your word and do the work you set out to do. I was a child then and the words were a mystery, having little conception of what kind of man I would be, what sort of work I would do or how I would set about doing it. A few years later, as all my friends were entering adolescence, I got sick. Mine was puberty with a vengeance.
In my last letter I made mention of my illness. Since then I have been asked about it often and feel I should elaborate on its significance. The illness itself offers a tempting narrative hook, but while it is romantic to dwell on the individual suffering, what matters is the universal implication: Once on the other side one finds that there are no sides, that there exists no great partition between sickness and health, only various stages of dying and various ways of surviving that death.
This discovery had on me the effect of leveling all logical binaries to be replaced by ambivalence–not only could I not tell the difference between sickness and heath, but had further difficulty telling friends from enemies, progress from regress, love from resentment, sometimes even women from men. I realized that if I were to accomplish anything it would be to recover some kind of meaning in what my friend Zach Schomburg called the Wild Meaninglessness. You can consider it one very bewildered man's attempt to explain the universe, to himself, in the language of bewilderment.
I had a lot of help. Without my friends in typhoon this music would have never reached your ears. It is thanks to them that these songs are songs and not just a bunch of quasi-apocalyptic ramblings. We recorded them on a farm in Happy Valley, OR while we lived there for a short, utopian six weeks in the spring and summer of 2012. The record is a collection of seminal life moments, in more or less chronological order, glimpsed backwards in the pale light of certain death, brought to life by a remarkable group of people who hold as I do that the work is somehow important.
When we started working on White Lighter, I had reason to believe that it would be the last thing I ever did.
It is now six months since we finished. I'm still here and there's still work to be done.
In late 2012, Wild Ones was on the verge of collapse. Guitarist Clayton Knapp had blown out an eardrum, the band's original drummer left the group and his replacement, Seve Sheldon, was in the hospital with a punctured lung, practicing songs on a drum pad with a tube sticking out of his chest. The band's members had funneled all of their money into a debut record, Keep It Safe, that had taken a year to write and nine months to record and mix. Fans and followers began to wonder if that record would ever see the light of day. It was make-or-break time. Wild Ones made. Instead of folding in the face of financial drama, injuries and personnel changes, Wild Ones took a deep breath and adjusted to its new surroundings. This band is used to adjusting. Since its formation in 2010, Wild Ones has insisted on operating as a DIY collective. The band recorded and mixed its debut as a group (with help from engineer David Pollock). Sometimes considering each members' opinion meant endless revisits and tweaks to the album's tracks. The process was time-consuming, but it was also worth it. "That was a reaction to the bands we had been in before," says lead vocalist Danielle Sullivan. "This band was born out of our desire to have a democratic, all-inclusive music-making process." Going it alone—even the artwork on Keep It Safe was created by Wild Ones keyboardist Thomas Himes—comes with its fair share of challenges. Most of Wild Ones' debut was recorded in a two-story East Portland warehouse rehearsal space, where the band was surrounded on all sides by rock acts like Quasi and the Thermals. Wild Ones would get to their practice space around 8 am to record, often grabbing quick takes between thunderous drum solos from down the hall. "Somewhere on the record, if you listen close enough, you can probably hear the metal band next door," Himes says. "When we went in that room in March, it was raining," says Knapp. "When we finished recording in October, it was raining." Keep It Safe, the album that finally emerged after well over a year of gestation, is bigger than the sum of its meticulously gathered parts. Even now, the band's sound continues to evolve. Wild Ones' members come from vastly disparate musical backgrounds—guitarist Nick Vicario was a Portland punk icon long before he turned 18; bassist Max Stein is a classical composer—and all of their experiences inform pop music that is influenced by everything from german techno to American R&B. These are sounds that don't usually come packaged together, but in the able hands of Wild Ones, they seem like a perfectly natural fit.