The record, which dropped last Friday (November 3) via Exploding in Sound Records, presents a new direction for the Boston songwriter after (kind of) parting ways with drummer Mark Fede. “If the last album was a Tragedy and the previous one was a Comedy, this one is a Self-Help Book,” Bean says comically in the press release for the album.
That very gospel comes to Cambridge this Wednesday (November 8) at the Cambridge Elks Lodge alongside Pile, Ovlov, and Longface, along with a batch of additional New England dates in Portland, Maine, Camden, Connecticut, and Burlington, Vermont.
“These songs are about helping yourself feel better about being alive by using your imagination to: Envision and experience your own inevitable death; attempt to fathom the meaning-destroying vastness of time and space; embrace the resulting joy, freedom, and empathy that arise from the knowledge that it’s all meaningless,” Bean adds in the presser.
He elaborates: “When I started writing these songs I knew surprisingly few dead people. In the course of the last three years, I lost three more people who were very close to me. It doesn’t change my mind. I don’t feel bad saying ‘Dead and Loving It,’ because it’s not about laughing at or diminishing the pain and terror of mortality. By encouraging an outlook of ‘Dead and Loving It’ I’m attempting to flip the horrors of existence and nonexistence into a light hearted Buddha Jesus-y forgiveness of ourselves and the rest of the sad lunatics destroying the world one breath at a time.”
The vinyl copy of the album goes the extra mile, pairing the record with a 28-page booklet that includes a “lengthy introduction/explanation/preemptive defense against potential offense of the recently bereaved, lyrics, and a sheepishly proffered suggested reading list.”
Looking back, Bean says the “self help book” comment was more of a silly observation than anything, yet the album still feels like it revolves around the uncomfortable and inevitable “what’s the meaning of life?” crisis that everyone’s forced to grapple with at some point in their lives.
We reached out to him to go further on the topic.
“My own experience of it as a Self-Help book was just figuring out how to get past the mental and emotional and skill level obstacles to recording that seemed pretty hopelessly impenetrable for a while,” Bean tells Vanyaland. “I feel pretty swell having finished it. I think Mark and I learned a fair amount in the process about how to work with my crybaby inner child.”
As for developing his own method for solo-producing and recording, Bean enlisted Fede to help, along with a slew of friends, to achieve the sound he was looking for. The result is eight grainy, space-y tracks that simmer on a constant downtrodden beat — on purpose, of course.
“It took a while to figure out how to do it, I ended up working with a bunch of different friends playing or being present on different songs and then added a bunch of other cool sounds and chopped and screwed everything after the fact,” Bean says. “Mark from Fat History Month recorded most of it, which was also new since Fat History Month usually recorded with other people, but added some familiarity. [It] ended up being a lot looser and weirder sounding on some songs which was what wanted it to do, [it] just took a while to figure out how to get there.”
Figuring out the sound of the album was only half the battle, however; there’s still plenty of mental work and scholarly hypotheticals on death and what comes after for listeners to contemplate and decode as they press play and inevitably rewind a couple times.
“I guess for other people, hopefully it cracks their minds a little, like the music and literature that made me have this psychedelic belated mortality realization I had four years ago that inspired the songs,” he tells us. “If anyone has a similar sudden realization experience, hopefully it will allow them some relief from worldly concerns, seeing as life is meaningless aside from whatever love and joy you get to give and receive while you’re breathing. Hopefully it inspires the ability to let go of unnecessary hangups and anxieties and feel empathy and gratitude, at least temporarily. In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, ‘Keep pluckin’ that chicken.’”
BAD HISTORY MONTH + PILE + OVLOV + LONGFACE :: Wednesday, November 8 at the Cambridge Elks Lodge, 55 Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge, MA :: 7 p.m., all ages, $13 in advance and $15 at the door :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page :: Featured photo by Adric Giles