Tuarrah is a project that I started with Christopher Marion. He and I wrote the music for this first album and produced it on nights and weekends over the course of three years. We recorded it in Brooklyn, Nashville, Los Angeles and at a 12th century castle in Fosdinovo, Italy.
We wanted these songs to sound like what you feel when you look at the ocean. The more music we wrote, the more we began to feel like guests on this planet. As a result, many of the lyrics and sonic choices are attempts to translate that feeling.
"Let the earth speak of its travels, fighting all its brazen dwellers.
Let the tide run whirling courses, and wrap them in your corner room."
Vistas was written from the perspective of the land on which a battle has taken place.
“Maybe it’s nobody’s war. Not even yours…”
Yellowstone is another homage to natural beauty.
“Sea air breathes on them
brushing sunlight through
all those silky strands
running through my hands”
The Map was based on D.W. Griffith’s 1910 film ‘The Unchanging Sea.’
“Deeper to the west, as the sun went down to say
strike a deal with our ways
so show me the map you drew,
show me the map you drew”
Le Pont was inspired by a trip that Christopher and I took through France and Italy after college. We layered field recordings from Milan and Paris with Christopher’s gorgeous strings.
Tuarrah exists primarily in the studio and has evolved to include several of our closest friends in a rotating cast. They are Julia Easterlin, Christian Li, Asher Kurtz, Mike Bono and Spencer Stewart.
Produced by: Charlie Van Kirk and Christopher Marion Engineered and Mixed by: Charlie Van Kirk Additional Engineering: Andy Baldwin, Adrian Trujillo Mastered by: Kevin Reeves Photography and Graphic Design: Adam Moskowitz --- Let The Earth Speak - (Van Kirk) Charlie Van Kirk: vocals, drums, percussion, synthesizers Julia Easterlin: vocals Mike Bono: acoustic guitars Christopher Marion: electric guitars, percussion Spencer Stewart: bass Asher Kurz: electric guitars Ben Flocks: saxophones
Horizon’s Brow - (Van Kirk) Charlie Van Kirk: vocals, percussion, synthesizers, bass, electric guitar, tack piano Julia Easterlin: vocals Christopher Marion: acoustic guitars
Vistas - (Marion / Van Kirk) Christopher Marion: vocals, guitars, drums, percussion, keyboards Charlie Van Kirk: drums, percussion, synth bass, wurlitzer Julia Easterlin: vocals
Le Pont - (Marion / Van Kirk) Christopher Marion - strings Charlie Van Kirk - misc. sounds
Put Your Weapons Down - (Marion / Van Kirk) Christopher Marion: vocals, piano, bass, electric guitar, percussion Julia Easterlin: vocals Mike Bono: acoustic guitars Charlie Van Kirk: drums, percussion, ebowed guitars Luisa Marion: girls choir
Yellowstone - (Marion / Van Kirk) Christopher Marion: violins, violas, vocals Julia Easterlin: vocals Alec Spiegelman: bass clarinet Yoed Nir: cello Spencer Stewart: upright bass Charlie Van Kirk: percussion
The Map - (Marion / Van Kirk) Christopher Marion: vocals/choir, guitars, bass, strings Charlie Van Kirk: drums, percussion, vocals Julia Easterlin: vocals
Let The Earth Speak (Reprise) - (Van Kirk) Julia Easterlin: vocals Charlie Van Kirk: vocals, percussion Mike Bono: acoustic guitars Christopher Marion: guitars, percussion
Tuarrah - Listening Party
I have never worked with anyone like Julia Easterlin (aka Hite). We met at summer camp - let's be honest, band camp - when we were 17 years old. In 2014, I asked her to be a part of Tuarrah as our lead vocalist before I had written any music. Once during a Tuarrah vocal session, Julia stopped me as I was about to press record and said something to the effect of:
"I have something that's been on my mind that I need to say."
Julia: "I want you and Christopher (my Tuarrah partner) to help me finish producing my album."
This album became 'Light of A Strange Day.' We only had a few weeks before the label needed mixes and the album was not as far along as it needed to be. I was due to spend a month in Amsterdam starting the following week, so we crammed overdub sessions at my apartment to finish Julia's vocals. The spirit of this mad dash comes across in the outro to "Hattnaru"; Julia and I set up floor toms in my living room and went wild, inspired by her invented language and Christopher's incredible Bollywood-esque strings.
With a limited set of tools, I finished recording percussion for "Eliza Jane" and "If You Begin To Notice" in the kitchen of my Dutch apartment. You'll hear all kinds of pots and pans and prepared sounds from objects that I found laying around. I also manufactured the 'organ' sound in "Old Crow" from samples that I made of an e-bowed acoustic guitar. This was a surreal song to work on, because I first heard a version of it when Julia and I were in college together ten years ago. The original iteration consisted of a single live vocal take (the same take that we ended up using on this album). Julia had recorded it while lying on her back, wrapped in a blanket. I was so mystified when I first heard this recording, that it took me a while to allow myself into the idea of finishing the production all these years later. Christopher had a similar reaction, throwing out days of work on his first attempts at the string arrangement before sending them to us. When he finally did send them, we were floored.
Listening to the album now feels like a tapestry of many different shades from Julia's life, which indeed it is. She didn't hold anything back here, and for that reason alone I find it is worthy of many listens. Shahzad Ismaily helped immensely in the first half of the recording process. It was honor for Christopher and me to step in and help finish the job.
Light of a Strange Day
Hite - "Eliza Jane" Official Video
Hite - "Light" (Official video)
Hannah Read is a dear friend of mine from Edinburgh, Scotland. We have collaborated on all of her recorded music as a bandleader. She was the 'Best Han' at my wedding. Below are my album liner notes from her latest LP, "Way Out I'll Wander."
This is an album made in winter. The core trio was recorded in two sessions, almost a year apart. The first took place in New Hampshire. Brenda Shannon Adam treated us like royalty for several days at her home in the White Mountains; we’ll never forget her energy and hospitality. We brought all of the equipment and set up a studio at the Abbey, a cavernous space normally reserved for house concerts.
The second session was held in the Catskills of upstate New York. Our host Andy Baldwin was stranded in Australia waiting for a visa when we arrived, so he gamely talked us through the setup in the middle of the night after we scrambled up his icy driveway carrying instruments. The next morning, we were greeted with a panoramic view over a valley full of barren trees. Somewhere buried in the noise floor of this record, you can hear Andy’s wood stove crackling.
There is a sense of looking at the past with many of these songs, reflecting on memories of home. Perhaps because of this, it felt important for us to record in quiet places away from the city. There are clear views of Scotland, England and New York in the stories, each examined through a portrait of a specific person or relationship. They form an honest reflection of Hannah in this moment, as someone who remembers her anchor points while spending a great deal of time in motion across the Atlantic.
Enormous credit is due to Jefferson Hamer and Jeff Picker for their musical and personal support in these recordings. They created a strong foundation on which the songs could breathe. The arrangements were worked out live with the band in the studio, which lead to a freshness as the dynamic of each song came together.
The rest of our supporting cast - Alec Spiegelman, Christian Li, Sarah Jarosz, Ben Flocks and Mike Harlan - found their way into the music with grace in the overdubbing stage. Each of them had so much to add with so few notes. It was a delight to work with all of them.
Way Out I'll Wander
Spencer (Eugene) Stewart and Lucy (Marie) Horton are two of my closest friends. They are also a dynamic songwriting & performance duo.
When they first approached me about working on their album, I was struck by two things: the weirdness of the demo sounds, which had been made almost entirely from Spencer's field recordings, and Lucy's enigmatic lyrics with a layered approach to vocal production. The initial ideas were fledglings, but had a crazy youthful spirit about them. I had to take on the project despite not having any idea where the music would end up.
This is my favorite piece that I worked on while at Antfood Music in Brooklyn. It addresses a subject that is extremely difficult to talk about with gentleness and respect.
This film was a huge collaborative effort between BUCK and Antfood. Several of us including Wilson Brown, Sean McGovern, Spencer Casey and Alan Markley spent weeks recording foley, music, sound design and mixing the piece. I was pleased to contribute piano, vocals, analog synthesizers, lots of sound design, and the final mix.
Here are the full credits:
Directed by: BUCK Executive Creative Director: Ryan Honey Executive Producer: Maurie Enochson Producer: Ashley Hsieh Creative Director: Joshua Harvey Associate Creative Director: Joe Mullen Designers: Joshua Harvey, Joe Mullen, Gunnar Pettersson 2D Animators: Laura Yilmaz, Kendra Ryan, Gunnar Pettersson, Claudio Salas, Matt Everton, Thierno Bah, Ege Soyuer, Zach Eastburg, Oliver Dead, Moses Journey 3D Artists: Yates Holley, Alex Dingfelder, Matt Everton Compositors: Claudio Salas, Alex Dingfelder, Oliver Dead Music and Sound Design: Antfood
ChildLine "First Step"
Siv Jakobsen is a terrific songwriter and performer from Norway. We collaborated on this album of her songs in 2015. The music is evocative of her snowy, hometown landscapes. Christian Li's haunting string arrangements helped transport this music into an otherworldly place.
It is worth checking out Jørgen Nordby's incredible videos produced for the singles on this album (see below).
Siv Jakobsen - How We Used To Love (Official Video)
Siv Jakobsen - Dark (Official Video)
Jenika Marion is a supremely talented musician and storyteller who I’m lucky to count as a member of my ‘Nashville family.’ She wrote most of the songs for this EP over a period of several years with no particular hurry.
A theme that emerged while making this album was that the songs often felt like entries in a journal addressed to a young woman, or perhaps to a younger version of Jenika. It’s a nostalgic record and sometimes a melancholic one, which the cover of Sufjan Stevens’ “The Wasp” illustrates clearly.
Jenika’s brother Christopher pulled a lot of weight with some beautiful performances on this album, as did Christian Li, Matt Osowski, Sarah Jarosz, Justin Branum and Luisa Marion. We were also privileged to include a dobro solo on “Cricket” by one of our heroes, Jerry Douglas. I jumped in for percussion, some miscellaneous background vocals, a bit of electric bass, and mixing. Our mastering hero Kevin Reeves brought this one home.
Sufjan Stevens - The Wasp (Jenika Marion cover)
Iris Lune - Mastering
Iris Lune is a terrific band based in Brooklyn. Their creations are theatrical and highly crafted. Their members are Ella Joy-Meir, Asher Kurtz, Aaron Liao and Angelo Spampinato. Each one of them brings enormous skill and energy to the band.
The production and mixing of Dalton Harts also demands your attention on this album. I jumped in at the end of the process and mastered this EP.
Lost in Chatter
Sampling Is Sexy
I spent a year recording one sound every day from my environment. Sometimes these sounds were captured in the studio with high quality microphones and preamps; sometimes I recorded them on my phone.
I spent one day at the end of the year and made this track out of those found sounds. There is chatter from the lobby of the Denver Museum, a train blaring its horn in rural Wisconsin, a water bottle struck with a bit of water inside, and many other similarly random sounds.
Extras In The Opera
Empyrean Atlas - Mastering
Empyrean Atlas is one of my favorite bands. I first heard them at a live show in Williamsburg and was blown away. Their sound is a beautiful combination of influences; it pulls from the contrapuntal guitar-driven music of Ethiopia and Zimbabwe as well as American minimalist composers.
David Crowell writes this music and is a wonderfully skilled, humble guy. We have become friends over time as I attended more of his shows and shared Tuarrah with him. I had the pleasure of mastering this album, which introduces acoustic guitars to the palette alongside EA's traditional 'rock band' electric configuration.
I scored this mini-documentary with Wilson Brown at Antfood Music.
The Garden of Steven
This is a track that I made for a short film about a Christian missionary in Guatemala. I had an incredibly fun time making this, attempting to play the trumpet and make whistling sound badass with distortion and tremolo pedals. I'm pleased with how the song fits in this silly scene in a dark bar with shots of mezcal.
Can you taste the lies in the air?
While your dress threatens to tear?
The chatter might swallow my thoughts
If the tide moves above the line
Your lips move in slow motion
Why don't you just take some more wine?
The Garden of Steven
I wrote this track as part of Antfood's score for this documentary about the Brazilian-Japanese tattoo artist Jun Matsui.
Jun Matsui - a film by Andre Ferezini
This is a fun little piece that I wrote for Facebook while working at Antfood Music. I decided to make a track that sounded like what these animated characters would listen to at a party. I used some fun recording techniques, such as creating the bass sound out of an empty recycling bin that I pitch-shifted in time with the music.
My wife, Kerri Lowe, provided the voiceover (!) and Yuta Endo created the sound design.
Facebook — Moments
The goal of this Lululemon commercial was to convey the melody of the Canadian National Anthem through sound design sourced from scenes across Canada. It required plenty of experimentation and some dramatic mixing maneuvers, but we succeeded and are quite proud of the result.
I contributed sound design and the final mix to this piece along with the team at Antfood Music in Brooklyn.
Lululemon "Om Canada"
I traveled to Jalisco, Mexico with Wilson Brown of Antfood and Firstborn to create this VR experience for Patron. We followed each stage of the tequila making process, from jimadors harvesting agave plants to the distillation and barrel aging of the liquor.
Wilson and I captured the sounds of these processes and mixed the piece for VR with the team at Antfood.
Patrón VR Binaural Experience
I had the pleasure of working with Antfood and esteemed directors Aaron Duffy and Bob Partington on this promo for Brain Games. I composed the music, created the sound design and mixed the piece.
National Geographic, Brain Games
This is a lovely piece that Wilson Brown composed for Antfood Music. I played the percussion, bass and mixed the music.