Monday, November 14, 2016

Pheaturing Chris Bierden From Invisible Boy

Hey there, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? On Friday morning, President Obama gave his final Veteran's Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In the wake of a week that has left the country divided, grieving and confused, his words were forward-looking, and urged the American people to search for ways to come together. He expressed his gratitude for the veterans who have served our country, and spoke of them as a living example of Americans from vastly different backgrounds who work together to protect our citizens. "Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you seek true humility and selflessness, look to a veteran." Under the Obama administration, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by 85 percent, veteran homelessness has decreased, and access to mental health support has improved. And while these are impressive statistics, Obama noted that we cannot ever fully repay our veterans for the service they've provided us.
Well, last week has been one hell of a week in America. ICYMI: we elected a deeply divisive reality star to run the country. Drake and Taylor Swift might be dating. And then, on Friday Facebook told a bunch of people they were dead. That's an unnerving message to get, especially when you're alive. If it would of shown up on my Facebook page everyone believed it. It did show up on Jeff Trelewicz's page though...

In a weird ending to the weirdest possible week, around 3:45 p.m., a banner at the top of many Facebook users' profiles showed a message that read, “We hope people who love [your name] will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate [your] life.” Huh. Well, this was either a bug or a reflection on the current state of things in the USA. Turns out, it was a bug... and an unintentional reflection on the current state of things in the USA. In a statement to The Huffington Post, Facebook (the entity! it speaks!) said the mass memorial messages were a “terrible error." “For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was mistakenly posted to other accounts,” said a spokesman. “This was a terrible error that we have now fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it.” So, that solves it. You're not dead, and Facebook is very sorry. You may or may not be.
Single mother of six, Mirza Reulas, is facing a year of jail time for selling an illegal substance after police set up a sting operation to catch her sharing her ceviche. Facebook group "209 Food Spot" is a forum for people in the Stockton area to trade recipes and sometimes swap prepared food. Occasionally, people will buy a plate if they have no food to swap. "Somebody would be like, 'Oh I don't have anything to trade you but I would love to buy a plate," Reulas told Fox. That's what Reulas did last December 3rd, when she unknowingly sold a plate of her ceviche to an undercover cop from San Joaquin County. Now she is facing a year of jail time. It's an event straight out of "Law & Order: Pot Luck Unit." Police say they targeted the group because selling food without permits not only poses a safety risk, but also adversely affects food sellers who legally obtained permits. Reulas wasn't the only one arrested, but she is the only one facing jail time. All the others accepted a plea of 3 years probation, but she refused. According to Reulas, the court battle has been hardest on her youngest son, a six-year-old ironically named Justice.
With women across the nation incensed that we just elected a guy who bragged about his pattern of sexual assaults to the highest office in the land, it was a sure bet that we'd see them fight the power. Indeed, even a month before the election, "pussy grabs back"... an inversion of Donald Trump's stated groping strategy... became a rallying cry for women aligned against him. But the single largest demonstration of female solidarity yet is scheduled for January 21, 2017... the day after Trump is sworn into the presidency at the U.S Capitol. Originally styled as a Million Women March but now being called the Women's March on Washington, the demonstration promises to draw people from every corner of the country. More than 50,000 have already pledged to attend on Facebook, with another 140,000 interested. The event will take place at the Lincoln Memorial. Organizers have noted that the march is inclusive of all genders, races, ages, and orientations, as well as advocates for related causes. An itinerary for the day's agenda is forthcoming, and volunteers are working to create event pages for every single state to plan transportation and other details. The only trouble so far (besides a few trolls) is that January 21st still feels so far off. But it gives you plenty of time to practice your protesting.
Joe and Leela Krummel of Minneapolis were just trying to have a gender reveal party when the company they had entrusted to manage the balloons managed to screw up its only job. For anyone out of the loop, a gender reveal party is where a couple invites all their friends and family over to share the surprise of learning the gender of their baby through some color-coded gimmick. Sometimes they'll cut into a cake containing either blue or pink icing, or hit a baseball containing either blue or pink powder, or dye their hair either blue or pink… the point is that blue and pink are always involved.The Krummels opted for the simple, classic "box full of blue or pink balloons" gag. But apparently, the balloon company didn't get the memo…

Congratulations! It's a rainbow! Thankfully for the Krummels, a proper box was soon provided, revealing the good news of their baby boy the way they'd intended. All's well that ends well… they got their gender reveal moment, and the rest of the world gets to enjoy their WTF expressions caught on video until the end of time.
When you're President of the United States you age quite a bit. This is what Bush looked like when he first became president and when he stopped...

This is Obama when he first became president and what he looks like now...

So, I think I know what Trump will look like in four years...

Yep. That's about right. Someone sent me this pic and I have nothing to say about it...

"The New York Times" had the best headline last week when Trump was elected. It made me laugh.

Speaking the White House he already added something to it.

Ugh. And the wall is already starting to be built on the Mexican border... by one poor person.

Hahahaha. He looks so sad. So, Apple last week came up with some new emoji's but with no explanation on what they mean. Don't worry, I'm here to explain. This one means...

"Now I can creep you out in texts, too." This year is the Phile's 10th anniversary year and I have been occasionally showing you what people look like when they read the Phile. Like these fine women...

I can't tell of they like it or not. Hey, did you see Hillary came out with a new slogan. I have no idea why but here it is...

Awe. Well, you know I live in Florida, right? Some crazy stuff happens in Florida happens no where else in the Universe. That's why I have a pheature called...

Last week, two bald eagles got stuck in a storm drain near Orlando, Florida and I don't know whether to blame Florida or the election results or mercury in retrograde (which may be over but it sure doesn't seem like it). But either way, it's pretty much the perfect metaphor for America right now. Here's a photo of them to prove this is 100% real...

Some people quickly swooped in on social media to point out how symbolic it is for America's national emblem to get wedged in a man-made contraption. In Florida, no less. BTW: The birds have been rescued and are okay! We can only hope the same will be true for the rest of us.

Hahaha. If you spot the Mindphuck please let me know. And now for some sad news...

Leon Russell 
April 2nd, 1942 — November 13th, 2016
A career spanning 5 decades, 430 songs, 31 albums, and wrote and recorded with pretty much ALL of the biggest names in music for the times. Also: he looked like Santa Claus.

Robert Vaughn 
November 22nd, 1932 — November 11th, 2016
Huge Democratic Party supporter all his life. Wonder why he died?

Leonard Cohen 
September 21st, 1934 — November 10th, 2016
Blue Alert!

In an episode of "60 Minutes" with Donald Trump that aired last night, the president-elect told an edgy nation, "Don't be afraid." Afraid? Us? Who's afraid? "Don't be afraid, we are going to bring our country back, but certainly don't be afraid," continued Trump, face to face with Lesley Stahl. "You know we just had an election and it's sort of like, you have to be given a little time." When Stahl asked Trump about incidents of "racial slurs" and "personal threats" against African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community at the hands of his supporters in recent days, Trump responded, "I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, 'Stop it.' If it... if it helps." Then Trump took the opportunity to show off his reality TV chops. Finding the camera and gazing into it with all the confidence of Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino in a confessional booth interview for MTV, Trump continued, "I will say this and I'll say it right to the camera: 'stop it.'" Boy, this is going to be a wild 4 year ride. Buckle up.

The 52nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Jeff will be a guest on the Phile this coming Sunday.

Today's guest is the bass player for the Minneapolis bass band Poliça, who has a new self-titled album out called "Invisible Boy" which is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile from Invisible Boy... Chris Bierden.

Me: Hey there, Chris, welcome to the Phile, man. How are you?

Chris: Hello, thanks for having me. Today I am quite dismayed and unsettled by the results of the election. History moves in a constant state of progress and backlash, today felt like a heavy blow back. But it’s best to keep our heads clear and continue to focus on justice, equality and the health of our dear planet earth and it’s citizens.

Me: So many feel that way. Okay, so, I have to admit I read your bio a few times before I could figure it out. Hahaha. I have a lot on my mind... medical shit. Anyway, you are the bass player for the band Poliça, right?

Chris: I am the bass player and back-up vocalist for the band Poliça, this is correct.

Me: And Invisible Boy is your side project?

Chris: I wouldn’t say that exactly. I’ve been writing and performing as Invisible Boy since 2006. I’ve written and performed in many bands over the years and this is one of them. Musicians will generally resist the term side project as I try give my fullest attention and energy to whatever musical endeavor I am working on.

Me: How did you come up with that name, Chris? Why not just release the new album as Chris Bierden?

Chris: Invisible Boy was a moniker I created to play solo shows 10 years ago. It was taken from the title of a Vampire Hands song I had written around that time. It references the 1957 American science fiction film of the same name.

Me: I heard of Vampire Hands... is that band broke up now?

Chris: Nope. We played a show in January 2016 and hope to record some new material somewhere down the road. Some of the members moved away years ago, but every time we get together the energy feels fresh and exciting. I made so many important musical discoveries with those dudes, the history runs deep there. Alex Rose, the drummer of Vampire Hands, played drums on every Invisible Boy track except one. The guitarist Chris Rose contributed crucial lead guitar parts to a number of songs as well. I see this project as an extension of the work we started together so long ago.

Me: Ahhh. If you had super powers would you want invisibly to be one of them? I'd want to be like Professor X from the X-Men.

Chris: Picking a preferred super power may reveal some of our deepest fantasies. Invisibility is a dubious one as it implies that you might want to get up to some sneaky shit. Some of my favorite dreams are those that include flying and breathing underwater, that combo would rock.

Me: How long has Poliça, been together?

Chris: Poliça has been working together since the summer of 2011.

Me: Okay, things are starting to make sense... I thought Poliça, was the woman singing on the Invisible Boy tracks and Totally Gross National Product was the album title. But that's the label, right?

Chris: The woman singing on the Invisible Boy record is me, Chris Bierden! The name of the band and the name of the record is one in the same: Invisible Boy. The record label is indeed Totally Gross National Product. So we’ve set the record straight there.

Me: Good. Okay, so, now we cleared that up what made you decide to release a kind of solo album apart from Poliça,?

Chris: It was a long time dream of mine to make this record in this particular fashion. The elements it depended on the most were time and money. Over the course of four years I saved up, invested in gear and studio time, and viola! an Invisible Boy album was born. There’s always a little bit of luck involved when making an album, but also a lot of time and pressure.

Me: And you do the singing on the album?

Chris: I am the lone vocalist on the Invisible Boy record. I like to multi-track, so sometimes it’s twelve of me… but it’s all me, Chris Bierden!

Me: You play bass in Poliça,, but do you play other instruments on the Invisible Boy album?

Chris: While I did not play any drums on the record (that was Alex Rose), I played pretty much everything else. I brought in talented guitar players Jeremy Ylvisaker and Chris Rose to add some really beautiful touches here and there… and Drew Christopherson from Poliça played drums on a track and Alex Proctor added a wonderful synth part… but by and large it’s just me twiddling my fingers over everything.

Me: I love the song "All the Kids," it's very 70s sounding which is my decade. Did you grow up on 70s music?

Chris: I did not. I discovered that era of music while in college and it’s been a world that is still ever expanding. That reminds me I should go out and buy a Steely Dan record.

Me: I watched the video for "Strangers" and thought it was very original. What made you decide to film a video on a plane ride?

Chris: The flight to Paris was eight and a half hours long and we were quite bored. I went to experimental film school for college, but hadn’t really made anything since I graduated. So I guess an experimental film degree is the perfect training for making a music video on an airplane.

Me: What did you use to film with? An iPad or iPhone?

Chris: A Go Pro and an iPhone 5c.

Me: You were flying from Minneapolis to Paris, right? Why were you going to Paris? I'm British so always wonder why anybody would wanna travel to there. Hahaha.

Chris: It was actually a lay-over stop on our way to Berlin. Paris has been a hard city to crack over the years. Culturally, it can be a difficult place to navigate for a touring musician… but I really do have great affection for France and its people and the City of Light. Once you have the perfect omelette at a Parisian cafe something reveals itself. How could there be such passion in a plate of eggs?!

Me: I can get that at Keke's. Hahaha. Are you originally from Minneapolis? 

Chris: Indeed, born and raised.

Me: I asked you about 70s music, but I have to ask, coming from Minneapolis are you a fan of The Replacements? I was really into them and Paul Westerberg back in the 90s.

Chris: Oddly I haven’t listened much to The Replacements in my lifetime. But that’s the great thing, so much music is out there left to explore.

Me: How long have you been songwriting and performing, Chris?

Chris: I’ve been playing in bands since 2005. Predating that, I wrote a lot of songs in my college bedroom, but thank goodness I was never able to print any of it. The oldest song on the Invisible Boy record was conceived in 2004 in my college flat by my friend and musical mentor Aaron Cadkin. Long time coming for that one, but I'm glad I waited.

Me: So, I have to ask how you recorded the Invisible Boy album... you recorded it in a odd way, right?

Chris: I recorded most of the basic tracks (drums, piano, rhythm guitars, etc.) conventionally with Neil Weir at Blue Bell Knoll Studio in Minneapolis, MN. Basic sketches of the songs were drawn in the studio with attention given to drums while the finer details were worked out in my sometimes watery basement. I would return to the studio every few months and continue to assemble and refine. I constructed a vocal booth in my basement out of three large couch cushions, two standing vertical upon chairs and one resting over top to create a pillowy square frame with sheets and blankets draped across the back. It stood only 4 feet tall forcing me to kneel while I cooed into an old East German microphone. A lot of the lead guitar and keyboard parts were recorded at top volume in my basement as well, I hope it didn’t drive my neighbors crazy. 

Me: Are you gonna be touring behind this album?

Chris: Only time will tell. It would be nice though, wouldn’t it?

Me: Yeah. So, what's next for you, Chris? More solo stuff or working with other bands?

Chris: I’d like to be working on music in any capacity as much as possible. I have some left over songs from these initial Invisible Boy sessions, I’d like to finish those this winter and move on to new material. Also, the live band that’s been performing this material with me for the last year presents endless possibility.

Me: I have to ask you about the album cover... did you take that pic from the plane?

Chris: The photo was taken by Sarah Nienaber, I think it’s in Joshua Tree. She has an exacting eye for open spaces and unusual, desolate beauty. The moment I saw the image I knew it was the cover. She is also a talented musician who plays in Candace and Web of Sunsets. Here’s a link to her work if you’re interested…

Me: Cool. I'll try and get her on the Phile. Go ahead and mention your website, Chris. I hope this was a fun interview... was it?

Chris:, Instagram: Cbierden Twitter: @ChrisBierden.  I can honestly say this was truly one of the most unique interview experiences I’ve even taken part in. A welcome distraction on this unsettling day.

Me: I'm so glad. Will you come back when your next project comes out?

Chris: It seems clear to me now more than ever that we cannot predict the future. The universe will have it’s way. But sure I will, if you’ll have me. 

Me: Definitely. Thanks for being here on the Phile. Take care.

Chris: Thank you, sir, please take care yourself.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guest Chris Bierden for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Sunday from Clermont Comic Con with author and good friend Jeff Trelewicz. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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