Sporting seasons of change with Baseball Gregg
Italy by Stockton, California's Baseball Gregg have enraptured the emotions of the entire world with their new forthcoming release Sleep (via Z Tapes / La Barberia Records). The follow up to the lauded Ciao for Now release; Luca Lovisetto and Samuel Charles Regan have achieved what has already been dubbed their most ambitious, emotive, expansive and personal work to date. Spanning the cycles of time from sunrise, sunset, the setting of night to the following regeneration of the new day's sunrise—the courses of time and corresponding wind tides of change are carved into a ballad cycle where arrangements of sound are created through sincere sentimentality.
Like the most revered and larger than life concept albums of musical lore—Sleep is a journey through the passage of day and night that embraces everything from the ennui to understanding personal moments of realization. An elaborate cycle of 13 musical movements that span the entirety of an awakening that runs from the morning, through the evening, the throes of twilight and into the languid lulls of introspection that lie on the other side of midnight. The day breaks with the sweet sunlight burst of "Shine So Bright", into the intrigues and urges of wants and dreams with "Yo Tengo", through the limitless loop bouquet of boundless stimuli that is "Infinite Scrolling", leading to the curtain lifting entrance of dusk-dusted sentiments that resound throughout "Welcome the Night".
The floral patterns collect on the meditative "Always Feel the Same" that steers its music box magic to the day end signals of "Sunset", dealing with notions of couples and doubles on "Gemini" that arrives on the tear-jerking beauty of intimate poignancy of "Together in My Dreams" and into the ambient odyssey of solitude that is "All Alone". Moods of introversion and isolation can be heard on "Subtropical Solitude", tossing and turning on the ambient "Insomnia", falling into the unconscious pools of revitalization and rejuvenation of "Sleep" that leads the audience by the hand toward the commencement of a brand new day that dawns with a cinematic sense of wide-eyed adventure.
We recently had the chance to have a candid chat with Baseball Gregg’s own Sam Regan:
Explain the expansive intentions of turning Sleep into what was supposed to be a potential movie/album, visual album.
Yeah, so the album was coming along and we were working on songs and we didn’t really know how they were going to fit together and in the process of trying to fit them together into an album and we had this idea to like create this sort of narrative arc for the whole thing. At the same time my really good friend Justin Sariana was finishing film school at CSUMB and I actually helped for his senior project, I made part of the score for it and it was really cool and I watched his movie and it was fucking beautiful! And then I kind of asked him if he would be interested in making this video project for [the album Sleep] and I sort of asked him just not thinking that this was some sort of feasible thing and he was like, fuck yeah, I’m going to run with this, I’m going to go with it and all of a sudden it started gaining this momentum really fast and it was really exciting and at the same time we were finishing the album and putting it together as we were constructing the plot for this story and then every song had a part in the plot that progressed it forward and unfortunately just time-lines didn't work out because we planned to finish it way earlier than we did and Justin moved to Canada and we never ended up finishing it.
I hear that the CSUMB film department is supposed to be pretty good.
I can’t say much about it but I did go to a screening of that movie and all the other movies that I saw were all really, really well done and it seemed like a lot of talent was coming out of one graduating class.
Independently of the visual component; what were some of the woke, the awakened as well as the unconscious exercises and experiences and influences that set the groundwork for Sleep?
So sort of like as we were writing the songs, not really sure where we wanted them to go, I noticed that a lot of them referenced night time and I didn't really know why, I was just writing songs and then it was like three of these songs are talking about night time. It was not something that I was intentionally doing, the songs were just all like that, so then that sort of fed into as we finished the album, it sort of has this structure where it starts out in a sunnier atmosphere and the sun sets on the album. There’s a song where the sun sets and it gets continually darker and darker and until it’s just really sparse and sad at the end and then there’s the sunrise at the end that is sort of a redemption for the people involved, because in my mind also there are these characters in the movie/album and they have their plot going on so like in the end the sun rises and it’s a new day; a new chapter in the character’s life where they begin anew.
The feeling I took away was like if you took a variety of music boxes with the pivoting ballerina on the inside and linked them up like servers and they’re all synced up and each one has a different movement that lends to that whole grandiose concept.
Yeah, that’s a really beautiful way of putting it. Like you would open up one box and it would have it’s own world, and then you would open up another box and there would be a different world. At the time I was making songs in my room everyday and most of them are in a folder on my computer, they’re not good, half-finished, I won’t show anybody. But whatever of the ones that would come out good I would be like, I like this song, but because I was working on so much stuff a lot of it didn't really feel very concise because I would go through like 20 songs before I did another one that I was satisfied with. So they have very different feelings and vibes to them. One thing I thought about a lot while putting the record together was how to take these songs that felt very like very different music boxes in a way that made sense so that they could be together as a whole.
Every Baseball Gregg release has its own series of universes that you and Luca mastermind and it is ever-changing. There are like new awakenings and take aways with every release. For Sleep what sorts of discoveries creatively and personally did you discover through the process of sketching it out and arranging the album?
I feel like I learned so much about myself while making this album. Not so much that I learned a lot about myself, but really came to terms with a lot of things about myself and accepted certain facts. In a lot of ways it was about accepting myself as a queer person, this album helped me in a lot of ways just helping be like, yeah, that’s who I am. It’s fine. And accepting past traumas, coming to terms with them and I think any time you're struggling with something in order to really accept it as something, in order to get over something you have to suffer through it, no matter what it is, life is hard and whatever happens is going to be difficult to get over and accept and I wanted the album to be universally applicable to people. Like you have to sink pretty low in order to rise up out of the muck.
Like a breakthrough by way of breakdown.
Yeah, if you never breakdown...it’s a way of…..it’s not something I intentionally went out and was like, I want to get really sad, but I did get really sad. I feel like every time I go through a depressive state of my life I come out of it feeling a little more comfortable with who I am, accepting certain things about myself. And this album is an ode to that as well, the night time represents that depressive state where there is no light anywhere and you’re meditating on yourself and you’re stuck in your own world and everyone else seems asleep and you come out of that and the sun rises and rejuvenates and you’re in a new day, sort of. I tend to think very cyclically about a lot of stuff in my life, sometimes I feel very creative, and other times I don’t. When I feel very low I tend to focus on that as a way to get better. And I think that’s an important message to send out to people.
I feel like with Baseball Gregg people all over the world respond to it in their own way, from cult media outlets to DIY acts looking to Baseball Gregg as something of a band’s band...and the impression I get now is that finally Baseball Gregg is getting its due, your music is being heard, people are responding to it; what are your feelings about the state of Baseball Gregg now, where it’s going, what excites you, what fascinates you, what sorts of challenges and fears do you have now with Sleep out in the world?
I think when we were in the process of working on the album I was in a state of mind that was tuned out from social media stuff, at least in terms of the band. I don’t think it’s something I intentionally did, it was the state of mind I was in, I was like, I don’t care about the internet. I don’t care about going on Facebook or looking at any of that shit, I just fucking didn't even care about it. I didn't even realize it, I just wasn't paying any attention at all, I was just working on the music, I was just in a state of mind, period of my life, where I just cared about making really good music. I’m sure Luca was like that too, it’s so hard to gauge because we’re so far apart. We finished the album and I sort of naturally in my mindset I tuned back in to the world of the internet and then I looked at our Spotify stuff and I was like what the fuck? I don’t think there’s hella people out there following us and listening to us still but I just really didn't realize that anybody was listening—at all. I got kind of stressed out when I learned that people were listening because I put so much of myself into the record and I was like fuck, maybe people are really going to hear this.
Your internet presence with Baseball Gregg and your musings have been incredibly crucial on an activist level for underrepresented voices, progressive politics...done in a way that is not overbearing, but there is an undercurrent of pursuing truths that are universal and always sticking up for fellow artists struggling in the industry, dealing with the machines from Bandcamp to Spotify and so forth. With the internet and social media being such a dumpster fire, what are some of the best ways to generate dialogues that can have an impact and change in communities from artists, minorities, persons of color, the LGBTQ communities, etc...how does one navigate through the chaos of what is essentially one big forum comment section pit, how does one navigate through that chaos?
To be honest I’m not sure. It’s something I've been thinking about a lot in the recent months. I feel like the internet and the social media aspect of social justice, for me it was so important because I was able to connect with all these voices that weren't necessarily people that I would otherwise have contact with, I would just on Twitter or Facebook be following queer people of color that would live in other cities. I live in Stockton and there’s a ton of queer people, a ton of people of color but it’s not necessarily the most progressive place politically, so you don’t hear as much from those voices as you should in like a local sense. So I wouldn't be going somewhere and meeting someone who is going to tell me about these social justice issues because people don’t relate to each other in real life that way. So on one hand I think as an educational tool social media can be fantastic, it helped me learn a lot about other communities of people and to be able to relate to them and empathize with them but at the same time in recent months it feels like I have reached a point where it’s like, what now. Like I’m not going on there and hearing from people or having my eyes opened to new perspectives really, everyone is kind of coming to a point where everyone seems to be on the same page, but…
Yeah, it feels less genuine than it did before.
Perhaps it's because folks are seeing so many other folks being put on blast for public displays of ignorance and intolerance and then again there is that other side of just vitriol, toxic and anti-cultural sentiment…
I think too even the whole call out culture stuff can be toxic as well, I think it’s often done in a way that doesn't feel productive. In the last six months I have had the feeling that people are getting super upset about things that people are doing but it seems like I’m seeing less constructive discussion about stuff and just pure outrage. And that’s something that I understand where those feelings are coming from because a lot of the stuff happening is outrageous and you should be be outraged. But I feel often exhausted by it, not because I think that it’s bad to feel that way but personally it’s hard to feel that much all the time. I think it’s important to be more pragmatic about your actions.
For sure, to piggyback off that too, it’s like that eternal quality that permeates “Infinite Scrolling” which lends to that feeling of just expansive, never-ending dialogues, never ending series of posts, be it Facebook, Twitter, comments, etc. How do these whole quagmires and standoffs and stalemates, exchanges and things that are happening right now in our current era—how did all that inform both “Infinite Scrolling” and the creation of the entire album?
One thing that I think is really interesting about that song “Infinite Scrolling” is like Luca wrote most of the song, I just helped produce it and the way there’s that melody that is repeated so often. A normal song structure for us, the kind of classic Baseball Gregg song structure is like a riff, a verse, a pre-chorus or a chorus, then the riff again, the verse and then a solo or something...but all of them have these riffs that come back like three times but that song just switches up the formula where there is the riff but it is copied and pasted more frequently within the song which is sort of like when you’re scrolling through the feed and the same content is popping up infinitely...like you scroll and you can feel variations of it but the heart of it is the same thing that is scrolling past you, so often and so quick where its hard to process it because it happens so quick.
Another thing too that you touched on in that similar copy and paste style of riffs totally reminds me of the underscoring that happens all throughout this album, where there is this celluloid storyline where the character and the emotions and stair-step progressions have this feeling of walking with one’s thoughts and the way that those progressions are administered appearing and reappearing throughout. I don’t know how conscious this underscoring of themes was on a musical scale, repeating in alliterations of progressions...how much of it was conscious and how much of it was happenstance?
Part of some of it was super intentional and some of it was very subconscious or something. And I think both are fine, both have equal merit, I guess it doesn't matter what I was thinking, whatever I say about it doesn't seem like it’s going to change anything. But certain things, we definitely made a huge effort to make the album feel like one work...I think Wagner has that phrase Gesamtkunstwerk, meaning the concept of the totalizing work of art. For him it was combining music with narrative and dance and whatever. I like to think of how, it sounds super pretentious but we wanted to make something that was more than just songs. I love songs and I listen to so much pop music obsessively but there is something that is really special when an album is more than just a collection of songs. We really wanted to transcend that, I really didn't want anything on there that felt like filler.
And you seem to have succeeded! I was stoked too to see you all finding a home at Z Tapes, who just recently put out that new release from Foliage.
That album is so good!
Such a fitting home [for Baseball Gregg]...it’s interesting how the underground fabrics often inform the big acts. What obvious and less obvious artists and activist collectives have been guiding you right now?
I guess my biggest heroes are like Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys is my all time hero. I also really like XTC a lot, that album Skylarking was really influential to me. Also Todd Rundgren produced that album.
Power pop genius.
Yeah, also I love Donald Fagan a lot. And I really like that Drake album Nothing Was the Same, that album is hella good. But then I love listening to a ton of ambient music….also I listen to a lot of the Scientist, he was really influential when I was making [Sleep]. I hecka like that guy Hiroshi Yoshimura, he makes ambient music I listened to that a ton, or like that guy Tatsuro Yamashita, he’s a pop music guy from Japan, he’s from the 80s, I know Justin [Paul Vallesteros from Craft Spells] hecka likes him. I was listening to hecka exotica music at the time too which is really interesting and sometimes feels kinda racist almost, it’s not intentionally racist but it’s kind of caricatures sometimes of other cultures made by white musicians—but not always. Sometimes I hear albums and just feel shitty but other times it’d be just really beautiful music. I really like that there was an era of hip hop music from the early 2000s where there’s just hella chimes everywhere and I was like damn, chimes are tight! So I put hella chimes in the record. I think it’s hard for me to say because I just hear it all, all the time...I just happen to pick bits and pieces from kind of everywhere, I’ll be like, I like chimes! and there will be chimes and stuff. We live in a time where everything is accessible and it is overwhelming but its all there. This person once told me, his name was Ty, he told me that all day long we’re reading, taking in experiences, media and talking to people, taking all these things in and just how you eat food and digest the food and absorb it in your body and it turns into waste product and your body poops it out...we’re taking all this stimulus in and we digest it and we take the nutrients we need out of it and then we have the waste product left and we have to poop that out, and that’s what you do when you’re creative. You’re pooping out the excess that you had, you absorb this stuff and then there’s something left that you have to get out of you and that’s how you create stuff.
That’s the approach I had to my work during my collegiate days, ha. I guess the last question is any passing wisdom, mantras and insights going forward.
If you’re looking for wisdom from me, my advice is just try to be a good person and do whatever you want as long as you are not hurting someone else.