Back in 2005, when I was but a wee lad, Okkervil River released its third full-length for Jagjaguwar, titled Black Sheep Boy. Although the album came out in April, I'm fairly sure I didn't hear it until the fall, when lead single "For Real" made it into my earwaves and wound up the Vague Space #3 song of the year behind only heavyweights Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. Of course, I didn't know much about Okkervil River then, this was the first time I'd heard of Will Sheff and friends and my mentions of him from a decade ago talk about how "dark" and disturbed the music on Black Sheep Boy is, particularly the striking artwork. And the album only made it to #15 on my album of the year list (I wrote about the album here, with the release of additional tracks in January 2006). But now, ten years later, Okkervil River has marched steadily up my list of favorite bands of all-time, and if you were to ask me today, they would make it into my top 5 favorite artists ever, behind only Superchunk, Pavement, Sunset Rubdown, and Modest Mouse, so now they are one of the heavyweights, on the strength of a catalog of nonstop great records and tracks and several amazing live performances. But Black Sheep Boy is their best album, bar none, and along with the Appendix (the additional tracks recorded at the same time), include fully four (4) songs in the Vague Space Top 100 songs of all-time. So yeah, I guess I underrated it in 2005, but now consider it an all-time great, and it was with much anticipation that I went to the Bowery Ballroom last night to see Will Sheff and friends perform the 18 tracks of Black Sheep Boy and the Appendix, live, in order, for the 10-year anniversary. And it was as perfect as I could have hoped.
This is my new website, the revamped Vague Space, which will host both my blog and my more professional author pages as yes, indeed, I am an author now, or at least my agent considers me one. This weekend I put the finishing touches on the revisions of my novel that I'd been working on for 2 months and my agent plans to send it to editors soon, with the hopes of latching on and getting signed and sometime in the future (which still feels distant), my novel might be available to read by the general public and my faithful blog readers and friends. So yeah. It's all very exciting, but as I've been told repeatedly by those in the business -- the business of publishing is rush, rush, rush then wait, wait, wait, and after an incredibly stressful and arduous two months of revisions (which happened to coincide with an insanely busy and stressful time at work), I am done and can take a breather for now and hope that the novel is good enough to get published.
But it's all very exciting, despite the exhaustion, as I've signed on with agent Veronica Park of Corvisiero Agency, and she's been awesome so far throughout this whole process, particularly at the start when I was deciding whether or not to throw my lot in with her or another agent who offered. In fact the whole process has been stressful but amazing, as my attendance at a Pitch Slam in August as part of the Writer's Digest Annual Conference in Manhattan resulted in seven (7!) agents actually asking for my work and at least three expressing significant interest once I sent sample pages. I won't rehash that process and I'm very happy with Veronica, but I wasn't quite ready to make an agent decision and wasn't sure the novel was ready to go out, but Veronica definitely saw something worth representing in my writing, and with her feedback and the other agents' feedback I tried to make some minor tweaks to punch up secondary characters and rework the ending a bit, but each change resulted in a ripple effect in earlier scenes that ended up requiring more refining until I almost went crazy and killed a man. Wait. No murder, it's not that kind of novel.
Anyway, so the best and final version is going out to editors and I can breathe again and start part 2 of the "Bill as author" phase of my existence which is this website and a "social media presence" which will someday garner me thousands of followers who might want to read said novel when it is released in a year or two. And as my agent (and everyone at the writers conference) implores, it's better to start now and get out there because marketing budgets are not what they used to be so you have to take on a lot yourself if you want your novel to get read. I do have a head start in a small respect in that I was a regular blogger for 8+ years, posting 4 to 5 times a week for many of those years, and at one time I was getting tens of thousands of unique visitors a month. Well, a little more than 10,000 a month. And I still remember my Top 200 list of songs garnered nearly 1,000 hits in a single day. So that was all good. Of course, given how busy I've been in the past couple years, with an intensely stressful job that requires a lot of travel, a move to Hoboken and all the attendant fun of NYC, a significant other for the first lengthy period in my life, and oh yeah, I wrote a novel... (which isn't my first, not even close, but the first I've gotten this far along in the publishing process), so yeah, the blog got closed and my social media presence basically consists of me throwing up 15-second Instagram videos of concerts I attend every once in a while. But now that the novel revisions are done (until I hear back from editors at least), I'm going to start blogging again, probably once a week at the start, and you'll see me Tweeting and Instagramming more to try to get up over 100 followers at least (who admittedly have had little reason to follow me before now). As for Facebook, ugh. Everything I post on this site or the other social media sites will automatically get linked to there which is probably how most of you will find this site, but yeah, I'm still refusing to waste my time on there. But hey, welcome to my blog!
The contents of the blog? Well even though my friends hated most the music focus of Vague Space in its previous incarnation, the fact that my novel's plot has a strong element of hardcore indie rock means this blog will still have a significant musical focus. But otherwise, it may be more stories about what's happening in my life or the publishing process (if I do get much further), maybe some reviews of books I'm currently reading (California, by Edan Lepucki) or books I loved this year (Denton Little's Death Date). Movie reviews are always good, and in fact, I just saw an amazing indie the other night in Brooklyn called Victoria that may be my next blog post but it's definitely not a movie I would want to spoil (or reveal much of anything about at all) so it may be a short post -- which, hey, that's perfect! Anyway, the other "most hated by my friends" posts -- all the political ones -- will not make an appearance here, partly because this is more of a professional space where politics don't play but also because the state of our country politically is so infuriatingly frustrating to a liberal like me that I would rather not dwell on it in verse. And probably no Syracuse posts either. But stay tuned, I'll be back soon. And as always, thanks for reading.
Thanks to all who wished me the best in my (belated) return to blogging. As promised at the old site (which is currently still functioning but will be linked or archived), this is mostly just to get me into practice of writing my blog again. I'm not sure what the format of posts will be but since I'm used to blogging about indie rock and my favorite band of the past two years has just now sent me a press release publicizing their new album, I figure what better place for a post.
The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die are a 7 or 8 piece collective that has released a couple full-lengths, several singles, EPs, and now this, their officially second album ever, Harmlessness, and on my first two listens I'm blown away. Not that I'm surprised. I'm blown away by everything this band does. Yes, it's emo. Yes they are wearing their hearts on their sleeves with an earnestness that any cynic will dismiss before getting through their first song. Yes every show I've been to has been stocked with teenagers who like fake punk bands like (name withheld because who I am to judge) and yet... and yet... I don't know. It's the post-rock flourishes or the fullness of the sound or the chord progressions that fill every song. It's like they make music exactly on my wavelength and I can't help but be amazed. Before Harmlessness, they've probably only written 25 to 30 proper songs and yet I've listened to them over and over and over again for 2 straight years, never tiring, always wanting more. I've taken to following their recommends on Tumblr and following bands they've recommended or are tangentially related to, boasting positive (Be Still, Cody) and negative (name withheld) results. And through it all... just... yeah. I mean look at these quotes, I'm not alone here... sometimes earnestness works.
"Breathtaking." – NPR
"Come on!" -- Gob Bluth
Visit Bandcamp to listen to Harmlessness now:
This blog belongs to Bill Elenbark.
Lover of songs. Writer of wrongs.