Monthly Archives: June 2014

The anxiety that arises from subjectivity in relation to one’s faith is aggravated by two juxtaposed, not necessarily opposing, forces, so to speak.

There is a humility, and I would call it a wise or productive humility, evoked in the midst of certain moments, often during a sermon, often while reading related texts (scriptural, devotional, theological, philosophical), that challenges one’s own understanding of his or her faith. Last Sunday, I was inclined to believe that I was indeed not a Christian because there wasn’t enough conflict in my life. This idea is of course scripturally supported in Matthew (10:37-38). (I’ve written a blog before which expressed my view that I can not consider myself a Christian because there are very basic and straight forward scriptural teachings which I repeatedly betray, or even worse, don’t really think about.) This sermon in particular was frustrating because the preacher attempted to lay out a kind of objective schema (albeit brief) against which to judge one’s own status of faith. I was left with the unscrutinized understanding that I was not a Christian because there wasn’t that type of struggle in my that seemed worthy, or indicative of Christ’s presence. The sermon reminded me that I’m not a Christian..well according to what this expert was teaching (we all, in good faith, assume our preachers knows more about certain matters of faith than we, the general congregation, do). Regardless of an authentic proclamation of belief..the conscious decision to believe in Christ and God, it turns out that I’m still not a disciple because substantial conflict is absent from my life. I must be avoiding God’s will. While I can concede that the decision to “follow Christ” is one that necessitates (“necessitate” is a term that reflects a misguided attitude towards love) a qualitative change in one’s life, that the decision is not one that can be monitored by another according to infrequent admonishments which do not seek to understand one’s psychology and circumstance in any intimate way.

And this last bit can belong at the other end of the above defeatist mentality that runs on bad faith in the Sartrean sense. While one might be inclined to accept defeat, his or her friends may come to the rescue, as all good friends do. They reassure me of this common problem, one that is counter productive to attempts to exist as a Christian. That is, “we all struggle with what you’re struggling with.” The good friend presumes to help me along by identifying with me, with my thought process. Indeed, it is because I assume defeat that ultimately reveals an authentic faith, a faith which can’t exist without some form, or some frequency, of doubt. Therefore, my shortcomings are bolstered as positive signs of my humanity, one that Christ recognizes and is patient with (Meanwhile, Hebrews 10:26 hangs oppressively over me…but maybe I’m misunderstanding it). While there is perhaps a comfort that comes from realizing your thoughts aren’t yours alone, that is, that others “struggle” with the same ideas and recurring behaviors, there is also something unsettling about it. If the world is full of people like me, then that means no one is being honest about the depths of their thoughts…not that we should be required to confess in detail via an itemized list…but, in the more general sense, the unsettling depths of skepticism, desire, hate, dismissal, prejudice, resentment. Of course, if I am so fortunate as to truly be unique, then I am alone in my thinking, and my self-reflection becomes something more acute. Either way, it’s unsettling.

So, we are left to our own minds and hearts in relation to our perceived authenticity…and I think we knew this all along. But isolation is disconcerting, there is no support. In relation to God, we are alone. While we may surround ourselves with supportive networks, we are nevertheless alone before God, or perhaps more charitably, alone with God.

I’m frustrated by the back and forth. My friend had a discussion with his pastor once, and he ruminated on similar problems/questions to which the preacher responded with some brevity, if I recall correctly. Essentially, he emphasized the need to make a decision regardless of these unanswered/unanswerable questions. This type of response is both understandable and dismissive. Doubt is encouraged, or “allowed”, but ultimately dismissed as a childish phase that usually occurs in college when we all (ideally) learn how big the world to speak. Doubt when one is 22 is admirable and attractive, doubt when one is 33 is silly and immature..or worse, boring. I’m not saying that we should embrace a Cartesian method of doubt…and I fully agree with Kierkegaard’s warnings about doubt (De omnibus dubitandum est). 

It’s just…all these voices are so loud. It’s all so important.


I recently wrote a somewhat lengthy blog post (lengthy by blog standards) about our record Singularity. It received a lot of traction. The other day someone asked me if I was going to write another one. I thought…why not. I feel it might be something that is worth doing, especially in leu of the recent announcement that Mae will be doing some shows in 2015 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of our second release The Everglow. So..ya know, I thought I’d write about The Everglow

Where to begin? The Everglow was definitely a fan favorite. Ever since, people have compared all subsequent releases to that record. There is no need to discuss the conceptual aspects of the release, as they have been talked about in interviews ad nauseam. Also, in as much as the record was released almost 10 years ago, the task of recalling particular anecdotes is somewhat challenging. I am a big idiot now, and I was an even bigger idiot when I was 23. What is even worth mentioning? 

I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes asking myself…what is even worth mentioning?

My previous post on Singularity recalled the fact that after the release of that record..things for Mae became difficult. Shows were getting smaller, fans were moving on, and relations in the band were struggling. Our experience during the recording and release of The Everglow was the opposite of that. Surely, that dichotomy of experience was difficult to make any sense of. 

My first tour with the band was in 2003 with Elliott..from there it never slowed down. For me, The Everglow was the first creative venture I had with the guys in Mae. Also, it was the first collection of songs that were arranged collectively. While a few of the song had been left over from the DB sessions, many of them were tediously structured by the 5 of us. So, it was a combination of ideas Dave was very familiar with, along side an uncharted process of creative collaboration. For myself, I was trying to find my place within the band. Well, more accurately, I was trying to find my creative identity within a group of four very talented dudes. What’s strange is that I knew Dave could do everything on guitar I could, I also knew that his sense of melody was better than mine. I had to figure out how to be a meaningful addition to the band. One that both played by the rules, but also brought something of value to the table. Dave taught me a lot and the whole band was entirely encouraging. The first show we played was one that we did not rehearse for. I listened to DB songs in my room and figured out the parts, Dave confirmed or corrected me via telephone conversations. The fact that they allowed this show to happen sans rehearsals shows both a confidence in me, but more so..a confidence in the group to manage a newcomer. Being on tour constantly over the next couple of years, our writing sessions were pretty scattered. I remember working out Suspension in an apartment in Texas. I remember This Is the Countdown being worked out during a soundcheck in Iowa. I remember working out guitar parts to Cover Me in some apartment in Kansas while on tour with The Starting Line..I think. I remember trying to find out lead melody lines to Someone Else’s Arms back stage in Lancaster, PA. I remember Dave showing me a skeleton of The Ocean backstage in San Diego…I loved it immediately. A lot of the record was written on the road. While we were on tour with Simple Plan, Mark set up a studio in the back lounge of our tour bus. We would sit in the front lounge and map out songs in tedious detail, even down to the placement of percussive afterthoughts such as the shaker. I mention this to mark a distinction in the creation of The Everglow which counters narratives I’ve heard about a band’s second record. Often times it is said that a band spends their whole life writing the first record, and the 2nd record has to be written rather quickly which presents new challenges to navigate. This wasn’t the case for Mae. The Everglow did not feel like a forced record, or one that was rushed..or perhaps not thought out. The Everglow presented us with new opportunities to explore in an environment that encouraged our creativity, and a producer who nurtured us in the right way. 

I forget when we made the decision to go with Ken Andrews, I’m not sure we really had a complied list to choose from..maybe we did..but I can’t remember. I just remember Ken being who we wanted and who we were able to get..and I don’t even know how. I wasn’t too familiar with Failure before I met the Mae guys, but they were all smitten with the idea of Ken Andrews being our producer. I was still new in the band at this time and on cloud 9. Our shows were great and we were so anxious about the next album. Our team at Tooth and Nail were so really excited and unquestionably supportive. Our A&R John Frazier was (and still is) one of our best friends and he knew the band like no one else. Our booking agent Eva, also a very close friend by this time, was attentive, focused, and knowledgable about the “scene” (so to speak) and knew how we were to fit in and excel. I think that a very important we made early on was to book a headline tour with Copeland, The Working Title, and Slow Coming Day. It is very appealing for a band to continue taking support slots with bigger acts with the very justifiable plan to gain more fans. Although, it is very easy to get into that habit and then never really break that identity of “support band.” I’m really thankful we took that plunge. The headline tour was beautiful and I have so many fond memories of it. From 2003 to 2005, everything was a green light. It might seem odd to think about a band like Mae taking a support slot for Sugarcult (who were awesome guys by the way), or one with Simple Plan…but I think that it ultimately was a good play. We could tour with anyone from Elliott to Vendetta Red, from Sugarcult to Hot Rod Circuit and Something Corporate…our sound was very accommodating and it allowed us to learn how to be who we wanted to be, and it taught us how to play to different audiences. As confident as Mae perhaps became over the years, we always wanted to experience new things and learn as much as we could. 

After the Simple Plan tour, the bus dropped us off at the back door to NRG studios in North Hollywood. By kizmit, we ended up with the main live room for those sessions. We walked in and swooned at Ken’s road cases lined up against the wall in the hallway. We all shared an apartment right down the road. I don’t remember much of the recording process in detail. I do remember using Ken’s guitar a lot. I remember Rob tracking We’re So Far Away. It was done without a click track I think. At one point Ken suggesting some changes we didn’t like. It was funny because for us it was such a crisis..saying no to him. We literally had a meeting outside to make sure we were all on the same page. Ken suggested we really flip around Breakdown and make the verse really dark, like E minor to C rather than a play between D major and G major. I’m glad we didn’t capitulate. Months later while in Orlando, I was listening to some rough mixes of the songs and it was during the bridge on Breakdown that I remember feeling chills for the first time despite the fact that it wasn’t even in its final form. Another victory was Painless. Mark wrote that intro riff years prior and it’s really friggin’ weird. It’s a dotted 8th note delay over a descending chromatic riff that to this day makes very little sense to me. But that has always been Mark’s strength, of many (The verse on SST from Singularity was built on an idea from Mark, as well as the verse from Waiting. Both initial ideas were genius and difficult to comprehend). The verse from Painless is driven by Rob’s piano line and Mark’s bass underneath it. Dave supplied the ideas for arrangement and the chorus riff which is really cool to me. For Suspension, we initially had so much going on during the verses, a whole slew of layered melodies. Ken wisely suggested we strip it down some. If you have seen the DVD that came along with The Everglow special edition release, there is an interview with Ken. He points out that we had too many ideas…he was right. With Rob and Dave working together, melodies keep coming and the challenge is selecting the most meaningful one. On a personal note, This Is The Countdown was a personal milestone for me as it was the first Mae song built around an idea that was initially mine. 

I was really blown away at what was developing because, in certain ways, it was so much better than the D:B songs..more involved, more intricate, more melodic. Songs like Cover Me and Anything showcased two different sides that all of us both loved..kind of weird and pop respectively. I learned so much during the writing and recording of this record. It was the totality of one expansive first experience. 

One of the joys from that experience was showing up at the studio each day and getting some bagels and cereal and chilling out with Ken for a bit. There was a pool table in the lounge, as well as an Xbox…we would just hang out. Ken’s dogs were running around and he would always have a bottle of wine near by. We all wanted to be there…to be present, even if we weren’t working on our particular parts. That vibe was present again over the week in Nashville when we were rehashing some older songs for the re-release of Destination B-sides. It was wonderful. 

We sold almost 20,000 copies of The Everglow first week. I remember the numbers coming in while were in upstate NY on tour with Armor for Sleep. We were so fortunate to tour with so many great bands while promoting The Everglow. The Starting Line, Mutemath, Circa Survive, The Spill Canvas, The New Amsterdams, Relient K, Vedera, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Lovedrug, The Acadamy Is, Jamison Parker, etc. We traveled to Hawaii and Japan, played beautiful venues across the country. Maybe some bad seeds were being planted between us while were on tour, if so..we were too busy and ambitious to notice. We didn’t want to stop. We truly enjoyed every minute. 

The Everglow, the positivity of those songs, was something we wanted to counter when going into write Singularity. We wanted to keep moving forward, but I think we wanted to move forward too fast. In hindsight, I wish we would’ve stayed with Tooth and Nail and I wish Ken would’ve done the 3rd record. Although, that is only something I can say now. We never wanted to disavow The Everglow..we just wanted to grow, and we did grow..but not together. We did want to be honest with our fans..but that is a hard thing to do..especially if we wished to keep a unified front. In a lot of ways The Everglow eventually ceased to represent who we playing the songs became more isolating. We had different ideas on how to move forward creatively. Personal relations began to be strained which made productive creative conflict difficult. Business issues became problematic as well, differing philosophies, different ethics, new concerns..both phantom and real…this is the bed that Singularity was built upon. Band frustrations are not easy to recognize, nor easy to address because no one wants to admit to being vulnerable. It’s hard to know how to allow differences and manage them. Communication becomes difficult or half hearted, people section off to those who only reinforce their own ideas or concerns. 

As a band, we love The Everglow and we are very proud of it. I can’t wait to play it from beginning to end. Distance is a great buffer, it lets me look back and make sense of things. Listening to The Everglow evokes so many great moments and great creative experiences. I love it and I’m thankful to have been a part of it.