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The best of times are had with friends.
 

In 2012/2013, Proof and Proving performed around Philadelphia as a three piece: Brian (me) on vocals/guitar, Justin Stevenson (One Win Choice, Man About A Horse) on mandolin, and Rene Ropac (Astpai) on bass. Though we had all first met in the early/mid-2000s via our past touring punk/hardcore bands, the three of us – all living in south philly and no longer touring at the time – coalesced over drinks, great conversations, and fun times.

5-18-2006 show with Giving Chase, Metroplex, The Gun Stays, Thru It All, and One Win Choice at Circle Thrift in Fishtown, Philadelphia

5-21-2007 show with Giving Chase, Breaking The Forth Wall, and Astpai at KSet in Zagreb, Croatia

Oct 30-Nov 1, 2009: Fest 8

As that trio, we played some great shows and made some fantastic memories before we all went our different ways – as each eventually moved out of the city.

In that time period, and as a way for us to improve our chops, we live-tracked a practice in my basement. Portions of this album are from that session, while the live tidbits are from one of the shows we played at the legendary Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar.

Last year, as I was moving around files for another recording session, I stumbled across our basement and Ray’s recordings. These recordings, which were never really meant to be an album, were too fun to not share (also, before this album, this lineup of Proof and Proving, with Justin and Rene, only ever had one song released: a cover of Sam Hall, which was on The Philly Rock Comp: Vol 2 put out by 502 South).

I look back on these times fondly, and wanted to share some of the good times I had with such good friends. As a nod to our practice space and caliber of shows, the album is affectionately titled “South Philly Basements“.

And lastly: A special thanks to our boys in Welter for, among many other things, adding gang vocals to the last track on the album!




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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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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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Among the many, many interesting Philadelphia interactions I’ve had in my life, this is one of the more interesting ones – with an unusual Philly music history spin.

Always on the search for broken down cheap Ibanez guitars, there was this pawnshop I would frequent in south Philadelphia – in a somewhat shady area. The owner was a man in his 50s who was undeniably mentally handicapped. He would tell me stories of how people rip him off, and how his family stole millions of dollars from him.

He wasn’t all up there. He tried to sell me a knockoff Chinese Gibson Les Paul that was clearly a fake to anyone who knew anything about guitars, saying that he’d give me a good deal. I asked him if he knew that the guitar was a fake, and he said he was just trying to see if I knew. Right. Mental shortcomings and all, the guy was interesting to me –  as was the prospect of someday coming across a good guitar in his pawnshop.

Amongst the regular junk in his shop, one day he had a pile of sealed mace sprays haphazardly dumped into a display case. I asked him what they were and he told me they were for women who didn’t feel save in the neighborhood, and he gave me two for “my girl and my mom”.

Another time I was in his shop I asked him about this tattered old small piece of luggage that was covered in tour and concert passes from the 1970s. It was obviously from a band member who had toured with O’Jays, Commodores, and some other acts. It was covered in a layer of thick dust. When I asked him about it, he asked if I wanted it for free. I said sure, and left the shop with it. Today that piece of luggage sits in our basement music room.

BlueMagicCase

 

I went to take a look at it a bit more carefully today to see if I could figure out who owned it. After looking at the passes/badges on the luggage itself, and the small amount of contents still left inside, I was able to narrow down the original owner to one of four guys. I was able to figure the band the member was in.

BlueMagicPass75

 

There weren’t many clues inside, but they all made sense once I figured out the band. The band was a 70s Philly R&B/Soul group called Blue Magic [Here’s their Wiki page]. Within that page is the mention of their 42-week world tour, which had a ten-day stint in the Philippines (how serendipitous, considering my bloodline). Within the luggage was contents from that particular 42-week tour, including handbills, luggage claim from the flight home, a pay stub, and a girl’s phone number written on the back of a color film packaging.

BlueMagicInsideCase

 

Crazy people can be crazy. Sometimes they try to get pity from you; or try to sell you a piece of junk. Apparently, other times they give you mace for your family’s safety; and unknowingly (or uncaringly) give you a piece of music history.

BlueMagicPass
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