golden hour

November 10, 2020
Photo of a sunset

In case you’re unaware, “golden hour” (sometimes called “magic hour”) is a photography term that refers to the time in the morning and evening where the sun seems to give everything a beautiful golden sheen. During most of the day, sunlight enters the atmosphere from above, and the particles and gasses in the atmosphere refract the light and make it appear blue. During the golden hour, the light that enters the atmosphere at an angle relative to our position, which bypasses most of those refractive components, making the light appear more red or yellow.

golden hour

If you’re the type of person that prefers to develop your own interpretation to art, don’t read on. I certainly like the idea of having a unique experience with art, without any meddling with preliminary analysis or interpretations. However, as an artist I also enjoy talking about the process and what the songs mean to me.

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the emotional charge behind this song. It seems so happy and dreamy and uplifting and optimistic, but at the same time there’s an air of melancholy to it. Especially towards the end of the song, it feels like a gentle purge of long-suppressed emotion.

Around the time I was writing this song, I experienced the death of three people who were very close to me. My mother and two of my best friends, all within 5 months of each other. With each passing came a new depth of devastation, as I hadn’t fully healed from the previous losses.

First, my friend Zane Halverson died in November 2016. This one hit me hard. We were best friends in high school, and played in several bands together. But in his late 20’s he became addicted to opiates. First it was Hydrocodone, and eventually Heroin.

With everything I have going on, I can’t be around a person self destructing like that. There’s nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries on a friendship when a person’s behavior is toxic to themselves and their loved ones. However, I was needlessly cold about it. I completely cut him off, so much so that I let his last phone call (2 weeks before he died) go to voicemail.

It wasn’t anything personal. I didn’t hate him. I was just so disappointed with his life choices, given his massive potential as a human. He was the type of person who never intentionally did anyone any harm. He was also a magnificent musician, to whom I owe a lot of my early influence and inspiration. When songwriting, he was able to consistently fit tasteful and interesting basslines into our songs, and he always had a way of developing counter melodies that made my guitar parts sound more interesting. To this day his bass riffs are still some of my favorites.

I still have the bass guitar he sold me back in 2007. It’s a cheap OLP 5-string bass which he fitted with a Music Man pickup. The bass plays like shit, but sounds great. This was the bass I used to write and record this song, and the same bass I use on all of the tracks on the Void EP.

Sometimes when I attempt to play bass with a song, it sounds bland and lazy. It can be difficult for me to accompany a song with an interesting bassline that isn’t imposing on the rest of the instruments. As I was writing the bass to this song (in 2018, over a year after his passing), the bassline just fell into place, and reminded me so much of his style. Instead of using the bass to fill up space in the mix, the riffs gave the song a new dimension.

If I were more woo-woo and superstitious, I might think that he helped me write that bassline from beyond the grave. But I can at least be sure that his style had an undeniable and permanent impact on me as a musician, and that influence expressed itself beautifully. Now, the bassline seems more interesting and dynamic to me than any other instruments in this song.

I chatted with him a bit on Facebook Messenger the day before his death. He was venting about a big blowout fight with his mother. I was frustrated with his recurring decision to subject himself to his family’s toxicity. And again, I was cold. But the last thing I told him was something I saw in an internet meme:

“If the flower doesn’t bloom, you don’t change the flower, you change the environment.”

I don’t think he understood what I was trying to say. Or maybe he did—after all he was a very smart guy. Either way, within 24 hours he was dead. And I still can’t forgive myself for being so cold to a person who once was such a close friend.

When I first heard he overdosed, I was angry. I was frustrated that he went so far down that hole that he can never come back. I literally said outloud, “Zane, you stupid son of a bitch.”

Then it hit me, and hit me hard. I always expected him to come back, to clean up and lead a good life. But now I will never see him again. I’ll never hear his voice again. I’ll never play music with him again. I’ll never banter with him again, or tease him for his nerdy obsession of Dave Matthews Band.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is like dealing with a heartbreak that never really goes away. With a romantic heartbreak, usually there comes a day where it no longer brings you pain. However, as I write this almost 4 years after his passing, as I think about it, the same feelings of loss and regret start welling up to the surface.

Just four months later, my mom passed. And two weeks after that, another one of my best friends, Kurt Lowery, was killed in a motorcycle accident. When Kurt died I was emotionally depleted. I couldn’t feel anything. Which was confusing because everyone around me was devastated, but to me it didn’t even seem real. Maybe that was my body’s way of protecting me from that experience, and at least delaying my grieving process until I was in a safer, more stable environment.

Anyway. While this song seems happy on the surface, the end of the song is very, very sad to me. I can almost see their passing every time I hear it. I see Zane’s body being carried down the stairs of his home in a body bag. I see my mother gasping her last breaths. I see the last few moments of Kurt’s life when he collided with an SUV on his motorcycle. Flying through the air like an inanimate object and sliding on the pavement, all in slow motion.

At first this song was titled “In Memoriam”, because in a way it’s a homage to all the good times I had with those three people, and how much they impacted and shaped who I am today with their unconditional love and support.

And the end is my way of saying goodbye. And a prayer that beyond this realm of existence, we may be reunited. I’m not confident that’s the way it goes, but I wish it were true.


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