My sneeze echoed off the funeral home, reminding me I was still alive on the night Lou Reed died. Recently I’ve been given to checking out the heavens. Kicking the tyres on the sky. Sometimes when I see that white-hot sun burning through fast moving cloud in a cold sky, I wonder what would happen if my life’s console was compromised, deleting all you NPCs and leaving just me.
Me and that accusative-looking cyclopic sun.
Supposedly meaningful scenes shot at dusk or dawn just don’t cut it anymore, and you get to thinking Hotel bibles are only ubiquitous as the management’s selfish attempt to stem the inconvenience of a suicide clean up. Someone who knows a thing or two about peering into the void, and finding it too indifferent to humour you in a stare-out competition, and the malevolent limbo of Midwestern Hotels is Poison Control Center and Gloom Balloon’s Patrick Tape Fleming, who, when faced with an apathetic sky, decided to Fix the Sunshine.
“YOUR NERVOUS BREAKDOWN DOESN’T DESERVE SOUND,
BUT IF YOU WANT A SOUNDTRACK, I GOT YOUR BACK…”
Chester Whelks: Patrick, under the auspices of your ‘Gloom Balloon’ moniker you’ve released a sumptuous debut LP called ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Disaster/Fix The Sunshine Pts 1- 7 (An Ode For Bill Doss)‘ which showered a flourish of candy coloured kisses onto my auditory cortex when I discovered it last week. It’s a difficult thing to make such ambitious, independently recorded music sound so Technicolour. Was the recording process as painstaking as it sounds, or is that just the serendipitous end product of the muddied love that went into the conception of the record?
Patrick Tape Fleming: Well Gloom Balloon started as a painting, and we went about recording the record much like painting a picture. We just kept throwing colors onto the canvas, and seeing which ones worked well together and which ones we thought we should paint over. Home recording gives you the freedom to do that, without anybody really looking over your shoulder, telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something. I’m not a good painter so when I started to dabble in it, it felt like what I felt, recording on a 4-track for the first time. I have no clue what I’m doing, but it’s exciting and you get hooked.
CW: I find alot of modern music angering me due to its superficiality. This record delivers that rare combination of immediately accessbile melodies with a solid emotional core, the integrity of which is simply undebatable. Obviously Bill (Doss of The Olivia Tremor Control) was an enormous influence on you. I don’t need to probe you on what his passing meant to you – that’s evident enough in your art – I know that you managed to grind him down and play ‘Jumping Fences’ live with you. How was the Bill you met compared to your expectations of him, and what does it mean to you to know that ‘The Same Place’ is on it’s way next year?
PTF: Bill was the kindest most humble person I have ever met. I think he could tell that I was a rabid fan of his music and instead of scooting himself away from the conversation he gave me time to ask him questions and gush about how his music changed my life. He didn’t have to be so kind. I got the opportunity to give Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel a 30 minute ride to an airport last year and we talked about the new music Olivia Tremor Control was making when Bill passed and he was so excited about it. When I met Jeff, I told him that OTC was my all time favorite band and he said to me, “they are mine too.” that was a pretty special moment. When I dropped him off, I said to him “promise me you will make those OTC boys finish that record…” He promised.
CW: I know you went through a hard time which culminated in the inflation of the Gloom Balloon. I think when you wind up *there*, in that particular place, it’s hard to take seriously the notion that anyone else you know has ever been there, feeling as bad as the bad in which you stabbed your flag. How did you transform what should have been a greater blow to your mental state, Bill’s passing, into a catalyst for living, and not only living, but creating so exuberantly again?
PTF: Wow thanks for this question. For me I was in the worst place in my life, I had a job that I could not stand, that I thought was unethical, which put me in hotels in small Iowa towns and let me tell you there is not much difference between a jail cell and a small town hotel. The only thing you can really accomplish there is thinking, and when you are already in a pretty bad state, thinking might not be your best option. I had written about 2 albums worth of songs, for what would become Gloom Balloon when Bill passed. I was in shock that morning, I have never lost someone who had such an impact on my life, who I knew personally. The first thing I did was cry, the second thing I did was call my friend Jason NeSmith from the band Casper and the Cookies who is a great friend of mine and he was good friends with Bill. He really comforted me and he said, “I just wish I could have told him, I loved him.” So later that day I wrote the song, Fix The Sunshine where I say… “Don’t forget to tell your friends, you love them every time, one of your meetings end.” I then decided I needed to make something for Bill, to give him and honor him, because I felt he had given me so much in my life. And now him passing had giving me reason to get my shit together, even if it just meant to get it together so I could make some music to dedicate to him. He saved me. And I do try to tell my friends, I love em all the time, and it gives me life.
CW: Probably overthinking it, but is the line “I’m not a seagull I’m a brokenhearted black crow…” a reference to Chekov’s ’The Seagull’?
PTF: You can never overthink song lyrics, but it’s actually a reference to the Poison Control Center song, “Seagull.” but I’m glad you got Chekov out of it. The song, “Some Place to Land,” is all about the Poison Control Center.. And probably best represents how I felt in the months after our 13 month tour ended.
CW: The album is ultimately a testament to the love of music. It’s a concept that has been made fun of as a laughable Fanboy conceit, but I’ve experienced greater feelings of love for albums or artists than I have people I was meant to care about! It’s clear from your stage presence that you live for music, has your mind ever been so diseased as to conceive a world without it? Do you think even the greatest Sci-Fi minds of all time could envision such a dystopia?
PTF: Music takes my body and mind over, every time I hear it. It’s the most powerful and moving thing in the universe and if it did not exist, I wouldn’t see much point in existing either.
CW: Your album manages the enviable task of reconciling the worst of human emotion and experience with the greatest of them, while being a celebration of music itself both via the inspiration you got from Bill, and the resultant creation of this particular music. There have been albums that explore lost love, a lost love of life, and lost loved ones, but this album does all those things successfully simultaneously, while managing to come out the other side as ultimately uplifting, and doing so in less than half an hour! Was the conception of the record as deftly balanced as the end product, or is that more result of putting the pieces of the whole picture together in post production?
PTF: Amazing question, Side one.. You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster was actually going to be a 7inch record, but then Bill passed and I wanted to do something so badly for him. So I thought to myself I would make an experimental track that had all these parts in it, but would be one big song. And that’s how Fix the Sunshine pts 1-7 came about. I wanted to use pieces of the stuff we recorded for the You Make Me Feel side, so I Incorporated pieces of it, much like the Olivia Tremor Control’s concept on Black Foliage. That’s why there are recurring sounds and themes on both sides. At first we were just going to give away the Fix the Sunshine piece for free with the 7inch as an mp3, but then I started thinking, why don’t we just make an LP of it. And try to tell the full story, of when I was really down, and you get that on side one, and then this happened and it made me realize that life is pretty special and I want to feel alive again and hopefully that comes across on side 2. Originally I didn’t know if I wanted to release it, because it is so personal, but I think the fact that I wanted to make something for Bill made me put it out there.
CW: Finally, are there any better pleasures in life than sitting on a floor and recording into a Four Track?
PTF: None, that you can do by yourself. Putting on headphones and stepping through the portal of your imagination is something everyone needs in their life, it’s magical.
‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Disaster/Fix The Sunshine Pts 1-7 (An Ode For Bill Doss)’ is available for download from Gloom Balloon’s Bandcamp https://gloomballoon.bandcamp.com/album/you-make-me-feel-like-a-natural-disaster-fix-the-sunshine-an-ode-for-bill-doss-pts-1-7, or in the physical object of your choosing over at the Maximum Ames Store http://maximumamesrecords.com/2013/09/gloom-balloon-you-make-me-feel/. (Physical object of your choice limited to shiny rainbow disc, or larger, black disc with small hole in it’s center, and surrounded by soundwaves engraved into it’s very face. If you cannot afford any of the aforementioned formats, I will buy it for you. It’s that damn good.