April 26, 2019
When problem solving, the process of trial and error can be effective but frustrating. This has been singer-songwriter Patrick Park’s experience with recording music — exhausting all the sonic possibilities of a song, before finally succumbing to the ebb and flow of the creative process.
After wrapping up the tour for his 2014 album, Love Like Swords, the weight of touring alone in a van for months, partnered with the financial realities of being a musician, began to take its toll. Park turned to writing songs for other artists, but, despite having success, he wasn’t receiving creative fulfillment from the routine.
“We have an idea of the things that will make us happy, if we could just get them. But then we get them, and they're not what we thought they would be. Or we find that they're not enough and we want something else. Or we quickly lose them. And it's just this thing that goes on, and on, and on.”
Instead, Park found solace from the existential dread through meditation and working as a counselor on the suicide hotline. During this time, he began to write music for himself again, and those songs materialized as letters to his soon-to-be-born son and aural reckonings with the brevity of life. Park’s forthcoming album, Here/Gone, encapsulates the incessant urge to chase things in life that only bring the most fleeting sense of fulfillment.
“We live in this world where eventually everybody's going to lose everything that they have,” Park says. “At some point or another, everything is going to fall apart. We go through life spending all of our time trying to build up this facade, in a lot of ways. We put a lot of work into getting people to see us in a way that we think looks good, but it's all very substanceless.”
The songs of Here/Gone, such as “Everything Falls Apart,” draw on this phenomenon, but from a hopeful, as opposed to nihilistic, perspective. As the product of his meditative experiences, Park took a pared down and centered approach to the writing and production of the album. Using his “exhaust all the possibilities” method, Park recorded the album on his own in his studio, but he didn’t feel as though the production properly served the sentiment of the project.
“I feel like sometimes I try to hide a little bit behind the production. Sometimes you just feel so naked out there without it,” Park divulges. “When I play live, I'm always exposed, but I've never made a record with that same feeling. It just seemed like this was the record to do it with, and these were the songs to do it with, and this was the time to do it.”
Stonewalled by his own frame of mind, Park decided to quit overworking the production and turn to Rob Schnapf (Beck, Kurt Vile, Elliott Smith) for a fresh perspective, the first time the pair has worked together since 2007’s acclaimed Everyone’s in Everyone. After months of endless laboring on his own, Park and Schnapf were able to record Here/Gone in simply two days. “It was pretty fast,” Park says. “There wasn't a whole lot of going back and forth, working things out in the studio the way that there are a lot of times, just because I'd already done most of that on my own.”
The songs themselves speak to Park’s musical resilience, such as the earnest persistence of “Five Alarm.” After coming up against wall after wall, Park’s existential contemplations could have easily resulted in driving forbearance, but the songs sprouted into centered solace instead. Distilled to spare classic voice and guitar combinations, with string arrangements by Bobby Halvorson (Van Dyke Parks) and occasional guest vocals from Warpaint’s Emily Kokal, Here/Gone is a reflection upon how much is poured into hurrying time along when sometimes the most substantial form of fulfillment comes from simply letting go.
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