Apocolypse, Baby! 2 Years Later
A lot of the best things in life start out as an idea. That idea can take years to turn into tangible reality. Then it happens. And then all of a sudden, it’s two years later.
That’s what happened with “Apocalypse, Baby!” I knew from as far back as I can remember that I wanted to make music, and I wanted to use it to connect with people. So I always knew there was recording in my future. And it took me a very long time to realize that you literally can DO IT YOURSELF. I always thought you needed a label, an agent, a this, a that, or the other thing. I even minored in music business in college, and this is what I thought! It was always something I didn’t have access to for whatever reason. Like, an agent was supposed to spot me at an open mic or something. I know that happens, but honestly, if that had happened to me, I probably would have given them the side-eye out of fear that they would swindle me somehow. So of course the universe didn’t bother with that.
Instead, I had to learn from looking around me that, oh, you can just record music and have a company put it on a compact disc, you can work with your friends to make cool art for it, and then you can sell it yourself. I’d heard of big name performers doing this, but somehow until I saw enough of it, I didn’t realize such a thing was available to ME.
Then it took a number of years for me to give myself permission to take the time to make it. Whether it was an inner monolog inspired by the fear of failure, or the idea that I had to take care of other people's’ needs or expectations of me first, I just kept putting it off.
But some time in the year 2016, the idea started to come together. I had enough songs, I had a concept for the visuals and how everything would tie together. I could really see it and hear it, and I WANTED it. Then I sat down with saxophonist extraordinaire, music teacher, promoter, and all-around girlboss Ellen Pieroni, and I told her that this was what I wanted, and she suggested setting a date for an album release party at Nietzsche’s. This way, I’d have a deadline. I agreed, and then it was time to get to work.
Initially, I recorded some of the tracks at the downtown Buffalo library (yes, they have a recording studio and all kinds of other cool shit! Check it out!), but then I sat at home and listened to them and didn’t know what the hell to do from there, or if I even liked them. So that’s when I remembered my friend Tony DeRosa, another talented musician and sound engineer primarily found at Mohawk Place offered to help me with recording and mastering. So I asked what his rate was and if he wanted to get on board. Done.
That was the biggest piece of the puzzle. Having someone you get along with really well and trust to record and master your tracks is huge. I’ve realized in the past couple years just how lucky I was to find that in Tony. We recorded inside Mohawk Place during the day. It was so fucking cold in there in the middle of January and February. We would fire up a space heater between recordings so that I could warm my hands up, but we had to keep it off while recording because those things make a lot of noise.
And I knew I had to make this thing big, and I had to make it look legit and professional. So I needed photos taken, I need album art, and I decided I needed to launch a website at the same time as the album. So I had to bring more friends into the picture. And they had to understand and embrace my kind of weird. While none of the songs on “Apocalypse, Baby!” mentioned menstruation, I had really become interested in breaking the stigma and taboo of mensuration, and I wanted to incorporate that in the album design through photos.
So I reached out to an old colleague of mine, Marie Holt, aka The Make Affair, and I proposed the idea of giving me some glittery red lips that would match the glittery red blood running down the inside of my thighs. To my delight, she was stoked on the idea, and I went to her home studio and we made it happen. And then it was off to City Lights Studio to be photographed by my pal Erica Eichelkraut-Zilbauer. This was a little bit different from the wedding photos she had regularly been capturing, but she has always been a patron, advocate and organizer for the arts, and had done plenty of music promo shoots (I met her when she was curating a series called WAM: Writers- Artists- Musicians), so she was down.
I then talked to my actor/illustrator friend, Eric Mowery about the concept I had in mind for the art that would go on the cover of the album. After a few weeks, I had a giant portrait of myself playing to a crowd of confused, drunk, and rowdy men with a mushroom cloud in the background. You can also see Eric’s trademark ghosts interspersed through the audience.
Then came the really tricky stuff. I had never put a website together, nor had I put together album packaging. Thank the heavens for my bestie, Heather Gring and The Burchfield Penney Art Center, and my buddy of all buddies, Jesse Buerhaus. Heather was able to use equipment at the Burch to take a professional photo of Eric’s illustration and shrink it down to the proper size. Jesse not only got my website up and running, but he burned the midnight oil with me in figuring out just how to crop everything and submit it to CD Baby in the nick of time.
The box of 100 CDS arrived on my doorstep a day or so out from the release party. I’d had a plan B if they didn’t arrive on time, but I wouldn’t have liked it. But thankfully there they were. Something like 100 people must have turned out for the release party at Nietzsche’s. My amazing pianist-singer-songwriter friend Erica Wolfling opened and helped make sure the sound ran smoothly. My kind and also talented friend Jay Aquarious met me at my house and helped me walk with all my stuff and get set up, and even worked the merch booth for much of the time.
When I think about all of this, I can’t help but get a little choked up. I can’t help but feel proud of myself and the tiny team I had that pulled this project off. And I can’t help but feel thankful and astonished by the tight-knit and supportive community I have here in this city.
If I could go back and change one thing, though, it would be not investing SOOO much into the quality of the packaging. I mean, it’s beautiful and was worth the price, and certainly presented the visual work the way that it ought to have been, but I’m sure I could have found an alternative that was less expensive, so I could have paid my team a little more, or invested more into playing out and promoting it. Plus, it wasn’t much, but all my savings were gone.
Still, it was all worth it in the end. All of this is to say that if you have an idea, you should pursue it. If you have the drive and you have supportive folks around you, you can pretty much do anything. If you don’t have the money saved, you can probably crowd-source it. And you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you it’s time or give you permission. It might be a slow process, but just get started. You can go at your own pace, but just don’t stop!