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In 2007/2008 Maria Teicher and I started the artist collaborative named The Art Is Not Dead. The name we landed on came from lyrics I wrote around 2007, from a song titled “No, It’s Just Different” (Here’s a video of me performing the song in Bruck an der Leitha, Austria in 2008). Around that time we consistently heard how dead art was, and from the vast amount of creative talent from people we’d met in the last few years (as well as from a historical context), we disagreed. We truly desired finding a way to not only bring those people together, but help them any other way we could.

Therefore, The Art Is Not Dead started as a small indie record label and creative exhibition space (in south Philadelphia, which started in 2009 and ran until 2012). We were looking for an artist community within the city we resided, and set forth to find and tie into it (or build it). There’s much more of an expansive history behind all of this, but we’ll save that for another day. Let’s jump forward a few years…

After much planning throughout 2014 and 2015, we decided that in order to scale up and provide a larger impact in Philadelphia and for its exhibiting artists/musicians, we needed to incorporate into a non-profit organization. This confused many of our peers, to which we explain thusly:

Maria and I provide our services for artists for free or at-cost. We also both have our full time creative endeavors, full time jobs, and the typical perils of life. We’d like others to provide similar services to what we provide, but it’s hard to ask someone else to do it for free – nor should they (unless they’re crazy like me and Maria!). For example: If a recording engineer is good at his job, why should he take away time from his schedule that compensates him for his quality work in order to help out a Philadelphia band? Instead, what if we could, as a non-profit, pay that same recording engineer their going rate (or potentially a lower rate if they wanted to donate some of their time), so that the band receives assistance with the recording of their album AND the engineer is justly compensated?

What if we could provide more than just what Maria and I personally could provide?

So with the direction of incorporating as a non-profit, much was done throughout the first half of 2015. Business planning, meetings with small business professionals and lawyers, writing articles of incorporation, writing bylaws of organization, filing other necessary State and Federal paperwork – it was a tremendous undertaking. For us, and the vision of what The Art Is Not Dead could offer artists, musicians, and creatives – it was a task worth tackling.

On May 28, 2015, we received the acceptance of our incorporation within the state of Pennsylvania – the first completed step in the entire process of legitimizing a non-profit. For the purposes of this, I want to reflect on what has happened in the one-year since that moment. In the year since we incorporated with the state of Pennsylvania, The Art Is Not Dead has…

We’ve come a long way over the years. There’s still an exciting road ahead, and we have some wonderful things in store throughout the remainder of 2016 and beyond. Thank you all who have been part of this journey, from encouraging words to sweat-equity. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without your participation and enthusiasm.

The art is not dead, no, it’s just different – at least it is to me

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My wife, Maria Teicher, and I founded and run a 501(c)(3) arts non-profit based in Philadelphia. Among our objectives is one to support emerging and mid-career artists living or exhibiting in the Philadelphia area. As such, our online presence is focused on promoting artists’ work as well as sharing tips and tricks; and at times giving some much needed motivation and encouragement.

Maria recently posted a very famous Kurt Vonnegut quote that speaks to the importance of the arts:

KV

 

After seeing that she posted this I went to our bookshelf to leaf through a specific book: Like Shaking Hands With God – A Conversation About Writing, by Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. The book, published by Seven Stories, is a series of interviews between Vonnegut, a veteran writer of several novels at the time of the interviews, and Stringer, a new novelist who had recently published his first book. Like Shaking Hands With God is a book in which Vonnegut gives honest and razor-sharp insight to Stringer about creativity, life, and humanity. This book was a great one for me, as Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers, and I myself am a member of the creative community (musician, writer, etc).

When I returned the book to the shelf, I saw a book I had recently spoken with a colleague about: Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life by John C Bogle. This book’s introduction starts with the following:

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds “yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.”

All of John Bogle’s books are tied to the financial world. While I am not a financial-book aficionado, this introduction was such a beautiful welcoming to what would become my favorite book by him.

John Bogle is the founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group, the company I have worked for since 2006. Though no longer CEO, he still is the head of the Bogle Financial Market Research Center within Vanguard. He still publishes books, interviews regularly, and continues to make an intimidatingly large impact on the financial arena.

Among the perks of Mr. Bogle continuing to be on Vanguard’s site is occasionally spotting him walking around campus or in the cafeteria, being able to receive copies of his book and to have him autograph it, and to be able to have conversations with him.

On November 24, 2008 I received my copy of Enough. I was able to briefly meet Mr. Bogle to obtain his signature on my copy. In doing so, we struck up an extremely short conversation, in which he asked me what I do outside of work. I said that I was a musician and had recently returned from a tour. I had stated it in a way that I recall feeling somewhat ashamed – akin to the way a teenager might feel if they said to their parents that they “want to be a musician” when they grow up. His response caught me off guard, and stuck with me over these years. He said that being a musician is something I should be very proud of, and that I was contributing to society through culture, and how that was extremely important.

Autograph

 

Our interaction likely only lasted 30-40 seconds, but it stuck with me. For the hours afterward, I wasn’t the business professional who played music on the side – I was a musician who played an important role in culture.

Encouragement goes a long way, whether it’s an empowering quote or meme, or quick conversation in passing. Granted, I understand that I will not be the biggest musician of all time, but the act of creating is immensely rewarding itself; and in a world where creatives are continuously told to ‘grow up and get a job’, hearing Mr. Bogle’s feedback had the same positive and uplifting response as the Kurt Vonnegut quote Maria posted on our page.

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Before I started to take playing music very seriously, I was captivated by a quote I heard (that I later learned was attributed to Paul Stanley of Kiss): “Any song that doesn’t sound good on an acoustic guitar is not a good song“. As I grew into a musician in a day and age of MTV Unplugged, and as music became more of an important role in my life, I thought of that quote and how it works with various styles of music.

I thought that any good song could/should START on an acoustic. I even remember sometime in 2004 watching or listening to an interview with Andre 3000 talking about writing the song Hey Ya on an acoustic, further proving to me the power of writing with an acoustic guitar at the start.

As I progressed in my music career, I always wrote songs on an acoustic. For the 2000s through the early 2010s, any punk or hardcore/metal songs I wrote were on an acoustic. For me, this proved to be an effective writing tool and methodology. Tempo, accompaniment, vocal stylings – THESE are what differentiated the genre; but they could all START on an acoustic. A song wasn’t metal until it was at 220BPM with high gain on the guitar and angry shouted vocals; but take that same song and play it at 120BPM with light palm muting on an un-distorted electric guitar and softer vocals and you have indie rock gold. Of course, neither of those work if you don’t have a good song.

Although I was still playing in my post hardcore band at the time, in 2008 I decided to start to formulate the idea of what music I wanted Proof and Proving to be. In thinking through it, I realized that I wanted the music to be more, I don’t know, “timeless” than say a genre that can by commonly associated with age or period of my life (logic that is not without its flaws, I associated punk and youth; hardcore and young adulthood; indie rock with adults in denial and young adults trying to be double-counter culture; etc). I didn’t want to be any one of those genres, though I didn’t want to be excluded from them either.

Let’s shelf this idea and point-in-the-story to shift gears for a moment.

When I started to take Proof and Proving more seriously, around 2009-2010 – when my post hardcore band stopped playing out and started its still-continuing hiatus, I wanted to keep it as a solo act. I saw the difficulties of trying to coordinate multiple members’ schedules, talents, and lives; and I wanted to avoid all of it. Full disclosure, I did not say this as elegantly when I was in-the-moment of the band slowing down. Here’s a funny interview I did with a Temple University writer in October 2010 (pages 9 and 12): http://temple-news.com/files/2010/10/Oct.-12-Edition.pdf

With all of the above in mind, when I started to write albums and play out, I wanted them to be one-in-the-same. While I could play things like bass and drums on a recording, I wanted the album to sound like how I could perform it live (with the only deviations perhaps being back up vocals). Humility In The First Person was the first album where this was a conscious idea; to keep all of the songs to just an acoustic and vocals.

After some US touring, comps, smaller EPs, EU touring, split 7″, and countless cheeseburgers, it came time to write another full length album. With Proof and Proving still being a solo outfit, I mostly stuck to the same concept as I did with Humility for this next album, The Lineage Of The Recluse. I did decide that, aligning with the concept of the album, I would include others to accompany a song here or there; but for the most part nearly all songs were still acoustic and vocal centric. With two songs in particular, I decided to expand even a bit more. I had played drums, bass, acoustic, electric guitar, vocals, backing vocals, and had my extremely talent friend Michael Anticoli play grand piano. While these songs fit with the storyline of the concept album, they stood out on their own. I enjoyed working with them, but at the same time felt guilty as it broke from the mentality I set into years ago – acoustic and vocals only, since that’s all you can do live.

Fast forward to now. I realize that I was working with flawed logic. Thinking that I should leave a song acoustic-and-vocals-only because it could be perceived as style agnostic – or that I should restrict the outcome of an album by what I can perform live – is stupid. There were ideas for Humility and Lineage that I avoided because I didn’t want to add too much to shape the songs, but it really did a dis-service to the end goal, and the end piece of work.

This is what makes the next phase of Proof and Proving exciting. I give zero fucks whether or not I can perform a song live as I record it. If I record drums but don’t have a drummer at a show, no one will care, so why should I? I want to keep writing-a-good-album and performing as two items that are not mutually exclusive. I am going to use all the tools in my toolbox to make the best piece of work that I can, both with albums and with my live show.

So with all of that in mind, here is a glimpse into what’s in the works for Proof and Proving. No working title (“blah blah blah” was Maria‘s idea). All the songs were recorded on an iPad with the built-in microphone. I initially recorded these as scratch demos, but had too much fun with them and decided to share here. I’ve broke out of the limited tool set of only-acoustic-and-vocals, and in addition now use on this: mandolin, electric guitars, piano, drums, bass, and some effects that I’ve denied myself for years (tremolo, etc). Happy listening!

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Ingenuity and creativity were born out of necessity for me in my youth. Like many, my family did not have much when I was growing up, and whenever we seemingly did run into good times, they were both short lived and squandered. In fact, before my teens, I had learned how to drain the hot water tank in our house when we no longer had running water being supplied to it.

My socioeconomic status growing up was what attracted me to DIY culture, which was finely intertwined with the punk rock music scene in my area. Sure, there may have been times where I had a safety pin that was not absolutely necessary, in terms of utility or functionality, but I was a young teenager still trying to find where he fit in this world. For the most part, though, the times where I had what looked part of a punk rock uniform was actually entirely for purpose: like my blue JanSport backpack hand-me-down from my older sister, which was, indeed, falling apart, and safety pins were the only way I knew to hold it together.

[Disclaimer: This is before pop-punk, bright colored shirt Brian – a time in which the start corresponds to my friends’ and my immersion into the pop-punk/punk-ska scene. This was simultaneous to the fortune of me having my first job, which lead to my choice of thrift store and skate-brand clothing to be purchased with my own earned income. This is an entirely different story altogether. Unfortunately, the term “fruity booter” is also part of that same story.]

This ingenuity has come in handy in the nearly two decades since I first felt sheepish about needing creativity in lieu of spending money. When on tour somewhere near the east coast with my dirt poor punk/hardcore band, our guitarist, Ryan, had a handle break on his guitar case. Sure, a handle could be a $20 part, but finding a music shop that sold it, derailing a planned route and day (this was road-atlas-touring and MapQuest-touring days, not GPS-touring days), and shitting $20 is not something a DIY band member can easily do. We did, however, have a roll of duct tape, so I fashioned a guitar case handle out it. And it was not a sub-par handle, either. I put a great deal of thought into it, and found a way to make it nearly as functional and comfortable as one that could be bought for $20; all while sitting at a venue before a show. That handle finally broke in 2014 in LA: nine years and countless shows through many US tours and three or four Europe tours after my repair job; and four years after our band last played a show together.

RyanCase

Over the years, I have kept the DIY creativity and ingenuity close to me, as well as a keen eye on things like reuse, recycle, up-cycle, and waste. I keep these characteristics close out of both the habit of them as well as the consciousness of my impact on this world (which itself is a byproduct justification of growing up without).

Aside from cathartic release, I mention all of this with purpose.

You know how people attach water bottles to their backpack? The other day I saw a hipster who took a glass Smuckers jam jar and affixed it to his empty-looking messenger bag by intertwined wire. He also fashioned a metal electrical socket into it as a patch on the same bag.

16 year old Brian may have thought this hipster guy in his mid 30s was cool, innovative, and clever. “Fuck the man…AND soap!” is what I would agree with, in thought.

32 year old Brian thought he was an attention-seeking “Oh, look at me and how eco I can be” ass.

It’s slightly unnerving to see something that is born out of necessity turned upside-down into some level of fashion. Case in point: 1) If one can afford an expensive messenger bag they can likely afford a BPA-free water bottle with carabiner from a dollar store; 2) If one were concerned with reuse and not-needed extra expense, why wouldn’t they place their up-cycled jam jar inside of their empty bag?

It’s not the first time I’ve been simultaneously perplexed and angered by fashionable faux thriftiness. I see it in distressed jeans. I see it in “road worn” or “aged” or “distressed” guitars. I see it in fake vintage aged throwback tee shirts. “Pawn Shop Series” guitars. Trucker hats. A culture of pretending to be something it’s not.

Or maybe I’m overanalyzing it, and I need to lighten up. Maybe creativity, ingenuity, thriftiness – maybe it’s over?

At any rate: I can’t wait until Urban Outfitters copies this hipster’s unnecessary fashion; and the shelves of plastic faux mason jar water bottles are replaced by faux repurposed jam jar water bottles.

#UpThePunxJellies

Not Water Bottles
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1) I don’t know how to make lists.

2) I can’t count higher than three.

3) I don’t always finish what I

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