NEWS ︎:      

Open Call for Submissions for Print                 Rituals: Interview with Leeny Sack                  

Shedding: Spurge Carter

 

  











The
Quarterless
Review 
︎



An experimental arts journal and monthly review, harvested from the fields of isolation. 
Learn more...


          

︎   ︎   ︎



Featured Artists:









April 2nd, 2021


On Love and Practice: a Conversation with Musician Spurge Carter


By Addison Bale

︎: Figure Ground


Author’s note: I met Spurge at his home studio where we talked for an hour and twenty minutes on record. As we dug into questions about how writing informs his practice and how his music bleeds into educational initiatives, he played guitar and even shared some songs in progress with me. These songs are linked into the article where they appear in the conversation and can be played as you read through.

The original transcript of my conversation with Spurge was 27 pages long. Once I filtered out all the filler words such as “um,” “you know,” “I mean,” and “like,” the transcript had shed 10 full pages. It took several more read-throughs to bring the written conversation down to 4000 words of focused dialogue. What follows is a distillation.


0:00

ADDISON   
What are you working on?

SPURGE       
I have a bunch of stuff that's just sitting in various stages and I'm starting to try to go back and finish things. Mostly working on my vocal performance. I’m figuring out how I want to sing. I'm also writing lyrics—I do a lot of free flow, just to get context for how I'm feeling emotionally. Words come out about whatever I’m trying to say but rarely do I try and start a song idea with lyrics.

ADDISON  
So you write lyrics to the music, not music to the lyrics?

SPURGE
Yes. Usually, I hear a word I like or maybe there's a catalyst, like a friend says something interesting that I write down in my notes, or if there's a sentence that I think of I write it down, and then maybe it’ll come up later. For example: this person I’ve been seeing, we quickly connected very strongly, pretty carnally. I jokingly said it felt like we were trying to fuck into oblivion, you know, to the point where your body starts to hurt from it. Those words kept repeating for me. Separately, I’ve had this guitar riff for a long time, just playing it, never really recorded it. I put two and two together for whatever reason and then I started this song with this riff in mind. I was kind of waiting for something to connect that would make me want to sit down and record it. I had been working on something else and then, for whatever reason I got inspired by this drum loop.



I have so many melodic ideas in my voice recordings that I had forgotten about and I just never got back to because then they pile up. But with some riffs, I’ll play or hum without recording it for a long time and I'll just see if I keep remembering it and then every time I pick up the guitar, play the riff. The more I do that, the more I’m like, Alright, if I'm choosing to remember this, that means that it must be pretty solid, you know?

ADDISON  
Can I hear that guitar riff?



SPURGE
Yes. I've been playing this for a while...Just like that: rhythmic, funky...I had been trying to write about stubbornness and other themes for a year or so too it. But that line, fuck into oblivion, became a catalyst for me to explore this concept of physicality and intensity and words began to flow out.

ADDISON  
Most of your music, as far as I can tell, and definitely with your tracks on Bandcamp, is published with significant passages of writing. “Walking While Black” is maybe the longest example, but also Fever Pitch, as a project has a paragraph of text that introduces the EP. And these are pretty essential for understanding the work, especially in the case of “Walking While Black,” which as a song is—I mean, calling it a song is almost reductive. It's more like a listening experience, it’s an audio experience, it's musical and it's a composition...But it's also kind of uncomfortable, kind of jarring—it’s an evocative sound piece. But without the text there, it’s noise could represent anything.

SPURGE
Yeah. Fair.

ADDISON  
So where does that writing come for you? Was that before the song? Or did the song happen and the writing was a part of its genesis, or did the writing come after?

SPURGE
The text that I wrote to accompany the song describes an experience I had just had. I went home and then I made that piece—and not necessarily in response to the experience. I didn’t know I was making it for that moment. I remember because I had this loop of some feedback to work with. I was starting something different and then that feedback started happening. “Walking While Black” is a one-take recording of me processing and manipulating that feedback loop. It wasn't until after the fact that I was like… The expression happened through “Walking While Black” and then I was able to understand more clearly after the fact.

Fever Pitch was kind of similar. It happened back in October, extremely fatigued over this pandemic. I like making beats, but I haven't really dedicated myself to a lot of beat music and that was supposed to be a beat-based project. I was just tired of words, I just wanted something to fucking dissociate to. So much of what I do involves trying to stay super informed, things like my ambient event or the government infographic; doing these things that require processing a lot of information and trying to distill it in a way that feels accessible. With the beat thing, I was like, I'm just trying to make beats and not think too much.

ADDISON  
Fever Pitch seems like a pretty clear distillation of this time, down to the formatting of the songs, each song being  named for the month, starting at March, ending in November. The second song, “April,” is when you really introduced the listeners to the album with the vast majority of the words that are in the album.

SPURGE
Yeah, the skit thing.

ADDISON  
And the kind of rapid fire quoting that you pull from the common sentiment of today. So words still play a pretty crucial role for contextualizing what the album is.

SPURGE
Yeah, across the board for my work. But some of the work I'm going to show you lives in these other more pop-oriented projects, where I'm trying to get better at being concise, but, obviously, I’m a person that likes to speak and has a lot to say. Going back to electronic music—and with most releases under that sspurgee moniker—what’s great is that form is so much more malleable. It's important, but you can obviously have an eight minute drone track and to the listeners who are open to that, you know they'll accept that. So one can also insert a paragraph of companion text that contextualizes the ethos of a song, you know?

ADDISON  
So in that way, electronic music presents or functions as a medium that is very open to mixed expression and a multitude of possibilities for what form it can take and what other media it can incorporate.

SPURGE
Yes! Exactly. For me, it's unadulterated expression. I could speak a passage from the bell hooks’s Salvation, which was a companion piece to Walking While Black, and it could have a place in the music. And I love that about electronic music. I was thinking about this other book on dub music culture, they talk about how music is about making spaces. Less about form, more about creating space, these intangible spaces.

ADDISON  
It’s a kind of double entendre of space there because it seems like you're talking about musical space—like sound space, or maybe audio space—

SPURGE
Or just even world space, dimensional space—

ADDISON  
—which has been so much the function of jazz historically as a refuge of music and a refuge of location, to go to a place and to listen. Maybe in more recent memory especially, how powerful electronic and club music was for so long—that it provided a space for marginalized folks, queer folks, and anybody who needed a refuge. 


16:30



23:00

ADDISON  
Have you listened to Fever Pitch, played it back through since you released it?

SPURGE
No.

ADDISON  
Do you ever do that with your old songs?

SPURGE
Not really. Usually if I'm listening to music, it's stuff in various demo stages, because I'm trying to sit with it, live with it, see how to advance it. But in terms of stuff that I've put out, less so.

ADDISON  
How do you feel about Fever Pitch now? Fever Pitch is conceptually born of this moment, cut from a communal psyche that you talk through in the short skits between songs and then, more abstractly, in the soundscape, which, perhaps you can talk about. I'm curious, how do you feel about the project now that we're in January and we're still just going through COVID-19? Does this Fever Pitch go on? Do you continue to think in terms of making music that voices the pandemic?

SPURGE
I haven't really thought about it, to be honest. I think that's partially because we're still living in the pandemic. Fever Pitch was just me making something that was supposed to mark this period in time. I made it in like, a week, and put it out. It's like a journal entry in that way. Once it's out, I don't go back for a while.

You know, in music there's this frustrating part when you're trying to deal with marketing for projects and that sort of ties up the art that you might have written a year ago. In terms of an album, if you're gonna really go through the album cycle of getting it produced and pressed on vinyl, that takes like, six months. Obviously, marketing it, doing it all, you might be talking about something that’s already passed through your body like a year or two ago, and you have to talk about it now. That's what I like about Bandcamp—I made Fever Pitch, I made the artwork and literally, within the week, put it up, and got it out. And that is such a good feeling to be able to be like, it's outside of me and I was able to express this.


26:58



29:48

ADDISON  
On Eto Ano’s website, you say it's a record label and an education initiative.

SPURGE
Yes.

ADDISON  
When I asked you last time if you see yourself being an educator ever in your life, you said no. I was surprised just because you’ve put a lot of time put into talking with educators, creating a stage for them, and likewise developing small educational info-artworks to share through instagram and the Eto Ano site. The Baby’s event stressed the importance of education, maybe now more than ever during the pandemic.

SPURGE
There might have been some rejection of academia when you asked me if I would be an educator, as opposed to sharing and teaching through alternative methods, because academia is a system that I know I don’t want to participate in. But obviously, I think education is really important. So I do like to educate through the platforms that I use within music and writing, like the Resident Advisor article, for example. There's a lot of things I don't like about the institutions of academic education and I think I was probably responding to that when you asked if I would get into education.

ADDISON  
The Baby’s All Right event and the other examples of how you've been able to educate in certain ways—the government infographics and the RA story—these things feel to me like they have a tone of a communal, grassroots initiative to disseminate information that is very accessible. It's all based on accessibility. They're also fun and unorthodox. In that way, it feels like—not to fetishize it by calling it radical—but it feels like you are educating in a way that actually subverts the typical modalities of education, because it's completely free, non-exclusive, and intersectional with your music.

SPURGE
Yeah, I would agree with that, and it’s something that I want to continue to do.

ADDISON  
Last time we spoke, you mentioned these magazines you receive from the National Education Association that are all about the teaching and teacher’s stories. Anything you learned that you can share from the magazine?

SPURGE
One of the most impactful stories was about a school in Washington (or somewhere in the Northwest) and how one day this kid came in with a gun, wanting to shoot up the school. There was a counselor who saw this, peeped this happening, realized that this kid had a gun and he went up to the kid, managed to disarm him, and then hugged the kid before they were able to get in and actually do any harm. And that image— I remember reading that and just crying, thinking about this person who literally put his life on the line and responded to this troubled but confused kid, with love. It really hit me with how important the image of love is. Love is responding with an embrace because the counselor knew that is what this kid needed. I really think  that's something that is coming up more and more in my music—the power of love, as hippy dippy or corny as that is. That's what always stuck with me from these magazines though: seeing teachers work so hard in the face of everything because they're so passionate about showing children that they're loved and that they're cared for. And that to me is so simple. That should really be the fucking manual for society and how we treat each other, you know?


36:53



39:40

ADDISON  
What do you hope for the future Eto Ano?

SPURGE
It lives on as an educational experiment. Apart from me just uploading stuff onto Bandcamp, I haven’t done much with Eto Ano because this year hasn’t really been a great time to take risks, but it’s supposed to be this way that I document how to run a music label. So the whole educational component is that I want to do quarterly reports where I show all the money I’m putting into it and all of the money that I’m making out of it— making that public. Also, just doing write-ups in the same way that I did with the government infographic or the one I did about the police commissioner. I wanna put up PDFs that map out what I’ve done the past couple of months, to create serial documents of what it’s like to develop a record label.

ADDISON  
Wow, so again you’re creating through a vector of education and transparency. This is a record label and also an auto journalistic opportunity for you.

SPURGE
Yeah, it's documenting what's going on in the music and the business of a label. Hopefully in a way that provides insight.

ADDISON  
Are you currently using the label as a space to invite artists in to collaborate with?

SPURGE
That's definitely the idea. Like I said, I'm producing my brother, Cam,  under it. And ideally, I want it to be a space where I could release friends’ music. I just signed my first record for fall 2021. Doing a rebrand of the label at the moment too. My current job as an A&R at OMG (Captured Tracks/Sinderlyn/2MR) has really helped me build confidence for that.

ADDISON  
I'm curious also about the future of your music. Are you seeing or are you considering any conceptual links between your interests and operations into these educational modes and the sound of music? Are these projects informing one another? Is music taking shape somehow within and around considerations of education?

SPURGE
Absolutely, but it feels like two different worlds. I have this pop music project that I'm working on, for example, that’s less about me trying to intellectualize things and more about what I'm feeling, what's happening with me romantically, you know? Then, I come to electronic or experimental projects as sspurgee, where I’m like, let me study the different aspects of the society that I exist in, or let me look at the different communities that I'm in. It's a lot more about investigating the external, whereas the pop music projects are usually more of an internal investigation. There's intermingling of both, of course, but so far, a lot of the pop is about love.

When I’m investigating some facet of society—like on one electronic EP, I'm linking blackness and electronic music specifically. I have one song called “Nina's Hair” that I wrote a couple years ago that's poking fun at Nina Kraviz, that Russian DJ. There was a lot of talk about how she co-opts blackness and what is, of course, an originally black genre of music: techno. She has a song called “Ghetto Kraviz”, which came out a couple years ago, and I don't think many people initially batted much of an eye at it. But then, I think two years ago now, she was wearing cornrows and another black female DJ, Ash Lauryn, was like, you really shouldn’t be doing that. And then, in wonderful fashion, Nina got really defensive. Then other people brought up that song “Ghetto Kravitz” and how she's a prominent DJ, getting the big festival bill stuff and obviously making a lot of money, profiting off of it, but hasn't really acknowledged her place or the history of techno music. Of course, the thing with whiteness is the issue of defining what is white culture. So this track, “Nina’s Hair” is me poking fun—it’s supposed to be polka music with electronic elements.



Like, what the fuck is whiteness in electronic music? I have a whole project that examines various, recent incidents within the electronic music community, generally around how we've gentrified this music. This is something that in the first quarter of this year I'm gonna probably release, and I plan on doing a lot of long form writing also to provide context for this body of work.

ADDISON  
There's a lot of concept behind the music and there’s a thesis to what you're doing by blending these musical influences to poke fun at whiteness and the gentrification of techno…and then at the end of the day people are gonna dance to this! This is what we’re gonna dance to!

This song is pretty fun! But what that was leading me to ask you is, what are you investigating about love right now? Because the last thing I saw you make about love is called “Love is simple, really.” But is it?

SPURGE
Oh, yeah, yeah, well that was a song that I put that out in response to the crisis in Lebanon. I put it up for donations. For me, it's more of that love that I was talking about as a collective love, the same crucial love of a school counselor hugging this kid that's going to shoot up the school. That song is about that interpersonal, human-to-human love. How simple that could be, and seeing people's response to the Lebanese situation. It feels hard to think about...I think the decaying ship had been there for like a year or something, some dramatically long time. It should have been taken care of. If you just love your fellow man, and especially if it’s your fucking job as a government official, that explosion should have never happened. It should have been simple.

ADDISON  
Is romantic love coming into your music right now?

SPURGE
Yeah! I mean, it's always in my music, for sure.

ADDISON  
How is it? How has it changed? How has your perspective on love and its role in your music changed? Does love sound different now than it did a couple years ago?

SPURGE
I think so. I mean, now, having been through a longer relationship and seen the commitment and effort that goes into it. I understand now that you can love somebody but things just might not be right for both people and the complexity and the turmoil of that. So I've been writing about the nuances of love. But there's this one song that I've been working with for a while and it’s about choice. indecision can be such a killer, no matter how you feel towards somebody or the situation, you can still be indecisive and that can be something that kills. Not just romantically, but also with my last situation with the band I was in, that's what killed it. Indecision ended up being a thing that killed the arrangement. They were indecisive to a fault about the band’s future. It had gotten past the point where it was okay to then change your mind. Then you either commit, because you've involved other people or...People make mistakes, you make a mistake and you also own up to it. In the case of that situation, there wasn't a lot of owning up.

This is one of the first songs that I wrote and I've been reworking it, rebuilding from the ground up. I had initial lyrics written but now I'm trying to figure out a way to express that concept very simply.



ADDISON  
That is hot.

SPURGE
[laughing] Thank you.

1:01:23



1:02:52

ADDISON  
I want to ask some closing questions. I feel like you kind of brought us full circle by taking us back to the construction of the songs that you're working on, which is what we opened with. And I also think ending with love is really nice, because that seems to be kind of the theme tonight. So, what are your favorite love songs? You can name as many as you want.

SPURGE
“Sara Smile.” That's just such a good song all around. Such a fucking sick song.

This next song, I think is really good. This is a bit of what—a song I’ll show you in a second—I modeled off of. Trying to go for this sort of like a D’Angelo sound. Or not really D’Angelo, just going for Prince.

ADDISON  
I actually think the best love song of all time—which is maybe a hot take—is “Really Love” by D’Angelo. You know it?

SPURGE
I can't recall offhand. I remember listening to Black Messiah though. I think “Betray My Heart” is one of the more perfect songs. It’s such a pleasing song. What stands out about the song? What makes the song special for you? Based on your body right now I’d say it's the rhythm.

ADDISON  
The rhythm is pretty hypnotic, there’s no doubt about that. Somehow this song—there's so many delicate, interwoven layers that bring this complex sound to a seemingly simple meridian. It feels like something you listened to every time you were in love somehow, like it was already playing in your ears...And then it’s the repetition, the lyrics that repeat.

ADDISON  
My last question is: can you walk me through either a typical day or an ideal day of making music and work for you? What's your routine?

SPURGE
There's a lot of structure, especially this year, being in my apartment and being here all the time. So I might wake up, maybe I'll play piano, play guitar for a little bit, aimlessly. Maybe I'm working on a song or learning something. Sometimes I might switch between instruments and go from one to the other. And that could be a couple hours.

ADDISON  
Would you describe it as fun?

SPURGE
I don't think about that way right now. It’s work; there's certain things I need to accomplish because I want to get better. But I think I’m coming to the point where I'm wanting to let myself do the things that are fun. I’m always advancing my goals with instrumental work and putting myself through like, rhythm bootcamp, doing scale work, reading a lot. These things will be my whole day normally, and it's so regimented. They’re important, and obviously I enjoy building my musicianship, but like, days and days of that, make me feel like, what the fuck am I doing?


Spurge’s first track under his Aliese project, “all good? (demo)” is released today on the album “A Lot of Love,” via The Lot Radio. Listen to the track here:







Spurge Carter:

Spurge is a musician and creative thinker/producer based in Brooklyn, NY. He co-founded international touring/recording band Barrie, helped build community fixture The Lot Radio, and once drove palm trees across America for his former boss P-Thugg of Chromeo. He cites his Electric Lady Studios internship as his worst music industry experience but he still very much appreciates the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. He currently is working as an A&R for Omnian Music Group (Captured Tracks, 2MR, Sinderlyn) and is the creative editor for Hii Magazine, a new online magazine focused on sound and sound culture. Finally, and most importantly, he’s building his own record label, Eto Ano, and personal solo music to coincide.

Addison Bale:

is a writer and artist from NYC. His work is viewable online: https://adi-bale.com





NEW YORK, NEW YORK
EST 2020
︎

© THE QUARTERLESS REVIEW ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

︎THE REVIEW ︎         ︎SIGN UP ︎         ︎ABOUT ︎         ︎CONTACT︎         ︎SUBMIT ︎






NEW YORK, NEW YORK
EST 2020 
︎

© THE QUARTERLESS REVIEW ALL RIGHTS RESERVED