Two years ago a couple of intriguing things happened to me. I decided to go indie, and I met Paul Major, lead vocalist and guitarist from the New York rock-jammers Endless Boogie. The latter occured in Santa Cruz, but not where my husband and I had first seen the band, opening for Yo La Tengo a year before that in a comparatively posh Santa Cruz theater. This was in some divey industrial section of town, where we learned that Boogie, and the other bands, would be restricted to twenty-minutes sets to avoid breaching the local noise ordinance. My husband and I laughed with Major and Boogie’s then bassist, whom I believe is known as Memories of Reno (which I gleaned from the band’s Last.fm page, as it’s hard to come by information) as all four of us stood in the cramped second floor hallway, waiting to use the bathroom. We got to tell them of first seeing them with Yo La Tengo, and it was probably one of the most enjoyable restroom queues of which I’ve been a part.
Now, what does chatting with a Canned Heat-like bunch of rockers have to do with independent publishing? Well, Endless Boogie’s third album was just released, and while previously I wasn’t a big fan, listening to Long Island has turned my head. And made me consider just why people of any age (Major is fifty-eight years old, and guitarist Jesper Eklow looks at least my age) decide to let their hair down and make art, be it musical or written or whatever floats one’s boat.
As Major tells this month’s Uncut Magazine, describing Eklow’s talent: He’d been in bands before, but for the love of music, not with the ambition of ‘we’re gonna make it’.
Major further describes the rhythm guitarist as Danny Witten to Major’s Neil Young front-man status. Now, that’s pretty rock nitty-gritty, but then so is Endless Boogie. The new album is one I can enjoy while editing, endless guitar jams with Major’s growly vocals or just the hypnotic musical wave. And on the new record Major employs his incredible voice more as gong, reciting names from the past in “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as if recalling history in a Ken Burns’ documentary. If I was Robert Christgau, I’d give Long Island an A-. Nine out of ten stars if I was reviewing for Uncut, four and a half out of five if for Rolling Stone.
But this isn’t just about rating an album. It’s about how letting it all hang out changed my writing life. Major and Eklow aren’t looking to be rock and roll superstars, they just love jamming, their guitars as extensions of themselves. Long Island is the band’s third record, but they’ve been playing together since before 2001; in 2001 they performed at the Bowery Ballroom, but their first full album, Focus Level, didn’t come out until 2008, when Major was then fifty-three. Age is irrelevant when it comes to the heart.
The heart of an artist is ageless, just waiting for the right time to do its thing.
I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Endless Boogie over the last week, since Long Island was mailed to our house, along with a bonus EP, what my husband was trying to record onto the laptop recently. Right now “Coming Down The Stairs” from their first album is pouring through my computer speakers. It’s never too early in the morning to rock, although I do need time to warm up for the writing. But once I was ready to start letting my own hair down, boy, there was no time like the present.
Everyone has their own reasons for how and what and why they write; the same can be said for publishing. Maybe it’s the performance artist in me, as if I was Paul Major on a stage, letting those long brown locks fall where they may as a guitar conveys my pounding heart. Except it’s a pen in my hand, fingers on the keyboard, a cuppa close to provide sustenance. Size of the stage matters not; Endless played with just as much tenacity for hundreds as well as in that tiny space where maybe a dozen people wandered. Yes, the second time we saw Endless Boogie there were probably twelve others wafting through the room.
Sometimes the crowds are big, sometimes not so much. But the rock and roll emerged without regard to capacity, except for obeying the noise ordinance.
Two years ago I cut myself loose from queries, baggage much heavier than I had imagined. A blessed lightness graced my shoulders, or was it freedom? I have a hard time distinguishing as that seems like a distant past. Now it’s a lively endless riff that weaves in and out of my ears, all in prose. And hard work too; Endless Boogie played their short set, then dissembled their equipment, no roadies or stagehands nearby. An indie author does their own grunt work, but even the most tedious formatting doesn’t feel like backbreaking, soul-crushing, good for nothing drivel. It’s done while celebrating artistic liberty, accomplished from the sheer love for writing.
Now, this is just how I like to publish. Endless Boogie isn’t for everyone; it took time for the guys to grow on me. Or maybe it’s my love for jazz that opened my mind to traveling rock riffs, an appreciation that life moves in unpredictable ways. Did Paul Major think he would be fronting a rock band when in his fifties? Maybe he dreamed about it when younger, but sometimes dreams stay trapped under lock and key.
Sometimes dreams are just simmering for the precise moment when they are fully formed, like butterflies escaping from their chrysalises. Indie publishing freed my inner butterfly, and now listening to “The Montgomery Manuscript”, I’m feeling about ready to close this post, start adding to my own WIP. Music gets made, books are written. If these pieces of art, these parts of our souls are to be shared with others, no longer is that path long and treacherous.
It’s just a matter of unlocking the chest and letting the dreams fly free.