A R T I F A C T S R E C O R D 1

Side A Lon Gisland, Transatlantique, O Leãozinho

When the decision came to rerelease this collection I found myself digging through hard drives looking for something extra to add to the compilation. What started as a few extra unreleased tracks from my formative recording years quickly grew into an entire extra records-worth of music from my past, and a larger project of remixing and remastering everything I found for good measure. A brief history leading up to this first EP, as well as my thoughts on the extra three sides of music I‘ve decided to include in this compilation:

From the age of 11 on I had found myself stricken with terrible insomnia and many lonely hours to kill at night. Three years later my older brother moved to New York. He left behind a strict musical education of minimal German electronica, hip hop and mix tapes of Neutral Milk Hotel and other curiosities, as well as an analog 4-track cassette recorder with some rudimentary instructions on how it functioned. I began recording little tunes with a trumpet, a drum machine, a synthesizer and my father’s acoustic guitar. Eventually a piano was moved into the house, and other instruments followed as I opened up to new styles and instrument obsessions. I took to it in the manner of someone completely possessed, having found an inspired alternative to idly passing by the empty hours of sleepless nights. It went on like this, with countless secret albums filled with city names and various musical styles until I was finally convinced to try playing a few concerts, around the age of 17. I would use my computer to play the pre-recorded backing music through the PA systems while I sang and played trumpet, and had my brothers beat djembes and tambourines furiously “over the loud parts”. We managed a concert at the local teen centre, and later, somehow, a warehouse on the edge of town with a few other local acts unknown to me at the time from the local arts college.

It was after one such concert that I met Paul Collins, a student from Pendleton Oregon studying at the College of Santa Fe. He said he was a fan of what he heard and asked if I would ever consider working with some live bass and drums sometime. He mentioned that hearing the somewhat eastern influences of the music made him think of his friend and fellow student Nick Petree (from Taos New Mexico), who had taken a few Middle Eastern percussion classes and knew his way around a Darbuka. I remember wondering if this shaggy-haired stranger and his then-mohawked friend Nick could really play the bass and drums like he claimed they could, or if they were just some guys jamming Sublime tunes on the quad at the College of Santa Fe. I learned quickly that both things were true, and that they were hilarious, talented and fun to be around. Perrin Cloutier was a fellow High school dropout from California I would often see busking with a viola outside of the ice cream store we both worked at on the plaza, who I got to know during our shift changes. We started listening to records and playing Ukulele and Cello together during our time off. In 2005 I found myself signed up for a show in Albuquerque opening for A Hawk and A Hacksaw. I was in awe of their musicianship, and I think we were both pretty surprised at some of the shared musical influences we had in common. After getting to know each other somewhat, members Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost pulled me under their wing and sent off my demo to a record label, and agreed to join me in fleshing out some of the drum, accordion and violin parts when my album was picked up to be released. Before I set off to New York (where I suppose I had been trying to get to all along) to record the final touches on the album, I hastily assembled Nick, Paul and Perrin for a handful of rehearsals and our first two concerts together in Santa Fe and then Austin Texas, for SXSW in 2006.

Upon arrival in New York and being booked for our first gigs, I realised the live band would need more instrumentation to fill out the sounds as they were recorded by myself on the Gulag orkestar. There was no way to replicate the sound of the sometimes twenty-deep layered trumpets and other chaos on the record without a few extra hands on deck. I was lucky to be introduced to musicians like Jon Natchez, Kristin Ferebee, Jason Poranski and Kelly Pratt in New York, who seemed so willing to try something a little different in those times, and were talented enough to improvise things I would not have been able to even imagine playing. They quickly joined our ranks and the first full iteration of the band was formed. We played our first concerts all together (Including Jeremy and Heather from A Hawk And A Hacksaw) in the back of Soundfix records and the now defunct North 6 venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. To this day I can remember the power of what was playing besides me on stage those nights, a universe away from my pre-recorded laptop backing band and my two somewhat bemused and probably confused brothers slamming borrowed Djembes and tambourines at the teen center in Santa Fe.

We got everyone into one room to try out these tunes that I had hastily sketched out in a run-down shared apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn after I had finished the final recordings for Gulag Orkestar. (Our living situation was dire, with a filthy couch off the streets, ash trays, empty polish beer bottles scattered everywhere and sheets hung up on twine and nails to divide our separate rooms, as well as a family of cats and kittens from our back alley being raised by Perrin in the kitchen.) I think I had a near-dissociative experience leading the band through some of these songs in rehearsal for the first time. It was like watching an aircraft made of found objects and scrap metal magically take flight despite all my premonitions of disaster. I shuffled everyone into the studio for the Lon Gisland EP right as the shows started to sell out and before we set out on our first international tour. The music was recorded in only a few days at Seaside Lounge studios in Park slope, Brooklyn. The vocals I did in the privacy of my home back in Santa Fe when I returned soon after a concert in Moscow, Russia. Thus began the band Beirut. I’ve gathered this EP from those years in which everything changed for me, along with the early uke and mandolin-heavy b-side Transatlantique from before The Rip Tide sessions, written in the same dilapidated Greenpoint apartment. I wanted to include as well our rendition of O Leãozinho, a lovely tune that had stuck with me for years, originally by a personal musical hero of mine; Caetano Veloso. I wanted to include more, but I simply ran out of space.

Side B The Misfits

Most of these songs can be traced back to the early days of my recordings, when I had no grand idea what I wanted to do musically, but knew only the compulsion to record. These range from the years 2001-2005, or from my first recordings from about 14 years old and on.

1 Autumn Tall Tales
I can’t really play guitar. (I can‘t claim to fluently play any instrument at all.) I had taken guitar lessons as a kid but became bored quickly when the teacher tried to get me into music theory. I dropped it in favour of the bright, shiny and loud trumpet, which enamoured me as a kid when I would watch the mariachi’s play during Fiestas in Santa Fe. I tried going back to guitar for a bit as a teenager but my wrist injuries and surgery at 16 stopped me from ever really being able to handle the long neck. I had fallen off a bridge I decided to climb into the cold dry bed of an arroyo in February as I was about to turn 14. A few years and some serious skateboarding accidents later (poor impulse control) I found myself with a shortened and somewhat immobilised left wrist. At the time I felt like it was just a sign that I wasn’t meant to be making guitar music anyway, but that didn’t stop me from asking my best friend Alex Gaziano, a talented self-taught guitar player (and later founder of Science Amps), to play some sweet bass and disco riffs with me once in a while as a teenager.

2 Fyodor Dormant
I don’t know if people who hear most of my music would know immediately how much I loved synthesisers as a teenager. I saw them as a welcome escape from the electric-guitar-dominated music of the states. I sneak them in around the corners of most albums, sometimes heavily, sometimes subtly. But back then, I had a barely functioning PC with a pirated copy of Fruity Loops, and I wanted to make music that could make me get off the wall and dance a little, if at least in my imagination. I also owned a giant Oberheim Matrix 6, bought from a friend of Alex’s. He learned I was interested in synthesizers, and introduced me to Jacob who sold me the Oberheim for a price a 15-year-old with a movie theater job could afford. I learned later that the keyboard came from Morton Subotnick, one of the great pioneers of electronic music. Santa Fe is a strange place that way. You can hear the Oberheim in action on my earliest songs, such as Poisoning Claude.

3 Poisoning Claude
This song may have been the fourth or fifth song I ever wrote. I had a manifesto as a teenager, that lyrics weren’t much more than (somewhat overrated) decoration in music, and they ought not be the focal point of any song. I still see lyrics as a sometimes pleasant surprise that I tend to notice only after my initial fascination with all the other elements of a song fades away. Either way, my older brother Ryan took pity on me and my lofty ideas and wrote lyrics for me when he was around in Santa Fe. You can hear his lyrics here, taken from a notebook with his ideas sketched in it, which I would put over the melodies I had written. I could still get him to write a poem or two for some of the later records I released, though it happened increasingly rarely.

4 Bercy
This was one of the first pieces I ever wrote to have more than four chords. I remember I had finally learned how to break open Fruity Loops and create sounds from scratch. I wanted to make something denser and more unique than the presets really allowed for. I would often spend entire nights on the computer shuffling individual notes and sounds around looking to replicate a sound I had envisioned. I wouldn‘t say I nailed it but I certainly got closer than usual. I remember I must not have left my room in days by the time I was done, as the drilling sound you hear at the end of the song is a flanged recording of my father sanding the paint off of my bedroom door, perhaps unaware (or unconcerned) that I was still busy working in there.

5 By The Sea
This was one of the first things I ever wrote and recorded on accordion. My grandmother was a talented musician and may have been my favourite person I knew growing up. She played piano, bagpipes, accordion and sang. She also encouraged me to sing Christmas carols with her and my aunts and uncles, and I can still remember when I first discovered that a piano’s notes repeated over and over again in octaves while I sat riveted at her piano in my grandparent’s home in St. Louis. She walked into the room after listening to what I was playing for a few moments, gave me a knowing smile and shook her head, “fascinating isn’t it?”.
When she passed the accordion lay in a closet until I asked my grandfather to ship it out a few years later when I started writing music. I remember hearing accordion on the records I was listening to from the Balkans in particular (and seeing it in Kusturica‘s films) at the time and had to have one. It was heavy and smelled of mothballs, and once I got it working I could never get enough.

6 Irrlichter
This song is actually a B-side from a recording session I had with Nick and Paul that I never ended up using for anything, though I loved the organ pattern with the bass and drums, and thought the melody was memorable. It just seemed to belong here.

A R T I F A C T S R E C O R D 2

Side A New Directions and Early Works

1 Sicily
Enter the Farfisa. I was around 16 years old when I was able to pick up this glorious instrument from the movie theater I worked at in Santa Fe. When I got home and plugged it in, I noticed the machine barely worked, hissed and crackled and shorted out every few minutes, seemed to be missing half the chromatic scale and had an absolutely otherworldly sound to my ears. Sicily was one of the first tunes I remember writing on it, and I remember feeling like I had turned some invisible corner sonically. Like I was getting closer to reaching a sound I felt was missing in the music that was contemporary at the time. The path had become a bit more clear.

2 Now I’m Gone
I worked on this song for months on end. I became obsessive to a fault, eventually burning myself out and promising more or less to never listen to it again, until very recently. I remember being heart broken that I could not get it to sound as grand and sprawling as what I imagined in my head when I listened to it. I wanted it to sound like it was bleeding. During this time I rarely left the house and rarely saw daylight. My younger brother finally came to tell me to turn the music off after weeks of me playing it louder and louder as it got closer to dawn. I had been trying to recapture a feeling that I felt was always slipping away as I tweaked the sounds and re-sang every part till I had nothing left. It was then I learned that Ross (who had the room next door to mine) had been sleeping with earplugs in for years trying to deal with me as a housemate and a burgeoning musician without complaining. I never realised how poorly the walls blocked all the constant noise from his room, and I suppose he had finally reached his limit that night. Thanks for everything Ross.

3 Napoleon on the Bellerophon
Another piece built around the Farfisa, done in the early morning dark. To break up the use of city names I decided to lift song titles from a book of paintings my mother had. This had a long and flowy melody I loved to play, and I felt like it captured the right shade of loneliness I was going through. I had borrowed a projector from the movie theater I worked at around this time, and would lay my mattress down over the mic cables and detritus and watch films from all over Europe and Turkey on the ceiling and imagine these songs as soundtracks for my eventual escape.

4 Interior of a Dutch House
The opening part of this song was written on my father’s steel-string guitar with a capo, which eventually led me to the idea that I could potentially play the ukulele if not the guitar without wrist pain. I remember being quite proud of my drum machine bass-line programming for the second part of the song. Here I was really trying to teach myself how to play piano and playing with my voice more than I had previously allowed myself to after discovering it. In hindsight it sounds like a pretty upbeat tune coming from someone who had just dropped out of school from exhaustion and frustration and was terrified for the future.

5 Fountains and Tramways
At some point I had gotten it into my head that I ought to become a lounge singer when I grew up. I was listening to a lot of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Burt Bacharach. My voice can’t claim to hold a candle to the likes of Sinatra and Martin, but I did learn some great piano chord voicings around this time trying to emulate Bacharach’s beautiful sounds. I remember being concerned about how often I would watch the sun rise in my bedroom while writing music during this time. I began to feel further and further detached from my peers, from school, and from any predictable reality as well.

6 Hot Air Balloon
This song was written right before my wrist surgery at 16 on an honest-to-goodness electric guitar, an instrument I would rarely if ever call upon again until some B-sides and decorative pieces on No No No played by Paul Collins over a decade later. I thought my voice sounded sweet on this one, and the lines I pulled from my brother Ryan’s notebook seemed to soothe my increasingly ragged nerves from that time.

Side B The B-Sides

1 Fisher Island Sound
This song was written while staying in band member Ben Lanz’s old family cottage on the coast of Connecticut, on the Fisher Island Sound. I played with the lines for years before trying to record versions of it in Brooklyn with the band. Perrin Cloutier had taught himself how to play a new button accordion beautifully, and the band was really sounding their best. I however, struggled in those years to put vocals on the songs and ended up scrapping a lot of the music from that era in this part of the collection due to fear, stress and self-doubt. I’ve come to rediscover some of these old songs in a different light since then, but they do remain a heavy reminder of unsteady times.

2 So Slowly
I had a few years where all I wanted to play was the Wurlitzer. I was particularly proud of the prepared piano and bass melody on this song, and the chorus of Conch shell parts I put together. Nick Petree holds down the percussion section beautifully, and I remember the joy of stacking dueling hand drum parts on this one with him for hours.

3 Die Treue zum Ursprung
This song started during the aforementioned time of writer’s block and self doubt. I heard Nick plucking a pleasant series of descending notes on a baritone uke in our studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I layed out the chord changes and arranged a type of marching drum snare beat for it and eventually took it to a studio, where I fleshed out some arrangements with Ben Lanz for brass and Yuki Numata Reznick leading a string section with Ben Russell and Clarice Jensen. Then Paul Collins pulled out the big guns with an amazing Portuguese Fado-style guitar that he had picked up, and it blew me away played over the main melody. I tried in vain to sing over this song many times before realising that perhaps it was meant to be just as it is; a repeating and distant musical motif that builds slowly but definitively and then quickly dissolves. I had hope that it would eventually make an appearance somewhere.

4 The Crossing
This was a song I did in my own Brooklyn basement studio for my friend, the director Alma Ha’rel. She mentioned she was looking for a piece to end one of her films and reached out to me to see if I had anything. I believe I quite literally turned around from the email and started playing this piece on piano in a bit of the usual trance I existed in back then. I added some accordion and synthesiser to flesh it out a bit, and I loved the way it ended up.

5 Zagora
Another piece from the writer’s block era. Our studio at the time would get so humid in the summer, some of our gear started to rust. For some reason those times felt heavy with decay. Paul played a beautiful electric guitar line. Perrin and I experimented with an odd assembly of cheap amps and reversed cello sounds with trumpet for the main melody. Me, Ben Lanz and Kyle Reznick gave a stirring brass performance and then…nothing. The song sat untouched on a hard drive for years until I stumbled on it again looking for forgotten tunes for this compilation. This song always struck me as a soundtrack for the darker places in my mind and the little moments of inspiration that kept me pushing through.

6 Le Phare Du Cap Bon
From my Wurlitzer obsession era. A somewhat unfinished song that seemed to fit nowhere when I wrote it, but one I always cared fora A lot of these songs came from that dank and dark basement studio, this one during a cold winter in-between seemingly endless tours for The Rip Tide, where I found it hard to pull myself together. This song felt like an entirely different band and time to me. When I would listen to this song, I pictured us as a band playing the dim and sweaty warehouse and loft shows I would go to in Bushwick, Brooklyn when I would visit my brother back in the early 2000‘s, when I was just a wide eyed fifteen or sixteen-year old kid trying to soak it all in and hoping to find my place within it one day.

7 Babylon
An outro for an album that was never used. Paul Collins pulling out the recorder and playing Bass, Nick on the drums and me on a mellotron, right where we belonged in the studio.

– Zachary Condon, Berlin 2021