We’re not a band. We don’t do gigs, we don’t think in terms of albums. This is the twenty-first century and music lives and dies on YouTube, and other mediums of that ilk. Online, your music is heard one song at a time. And it’s not just heard. Whether it’s YouTube or social media, the option is always there for video as well. It’s seems daft to put one out there without the other, especially as the images help tell the story of the song.
That’s what all this is about. It started with the words of the romantic poets set to music. What they said a few centuries ago bears repeating and heard anew. Sometimes things just need put into a more modern context to make the point those people were making then. When you hear their thoughts, their words you realize, nothing really ever changes but circumstances.
That we find ourselves meandering into the world of traditional folk songs is no surprise. Those songs filled a purpose to people – they were songs anyone could sing and tell the story. In those days, more people made music than consumed it. This music comes from a rural area … it’s still easier to make your own music than to see someone else perform.
This music is created in a house more than a century old, on street where no one else lives, on the edge of town where on summer nights you can smell the corn fields. And at times the river and that entails. If we were a band, we’re possibly the world’s first agoraphobic rock band, rarely venturing out in public.
Two thirds of Folkswitch grew up in era where music was designed to blow your mind. The remaining member has a father, myself, who indoctrinated him into this kind of music at an early age. His first two favorite songs were Hocus Pocus by Focus, and The Uncle Meat Variations by Frank Zappa. Followed by Riki Tavi by Donovan. He’s still not legal to drink, but he can melt minds with the best of them on a variety of instruments.
Musically speaking, it’s a new world. What do you do when you’re on the other side of fifty, the thought of playing Doobie Brother covers in a local bar holds no appeal, but you’ve got a buzz and the guitar is just staring at you? You don’t do it for the money because there is none. You don’t do it for chicks because you’re too old for that kind of thing. You do it because music is what you do.
And thanks to the internet, and the magic of recording equipment fitting onto a hard drive, we have several hundred people in India over the past couple of months listening to a poem we set to music, and apparently enjoying it. Recorded in a haunted house in a little town they’ve never heard of, in a part of the country almost nobody wants to visit.
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We work in projects, which are available as albums, soundtracks if you will. I grew up in the age of concept albums, so it seems natural to gather songs together that somewhat fit.
The latest projects revolve around traditional folk music, folk songs from prior to the mid nineteenth century … the same era as the romantic poets in fact. Love Was The Cause Of My Ruin: Traditional Folk Songs From The American River Valleys is the first completed project, twelve songs and videos which for the most part deal in tragic themes.
They may be other people’s words, but they’re chosen because they fit the circumstances of my life. As such, they’re more autobiographical than they would be had I written the words myself.
Raising the Dead is a collection of love poems, mostly from the Romantic poets. Which explains why the next batch of songs we finished dealt with heartache and woe.
The Conqueror Worm: The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe deals with exactly that, a project that coincided with writing a series of biographical articles on Poe, as well as visiting sites associated with his life.
Still kicking around, awaiting remixing, overdubs and videos are our first two project. A Pagan Hymnal deals with poems from the romantic poets dealing with nature and the seasons, as well as the seasons of life. Phantasmagoria deals with poems and plays dealing from the romantic era dealing with witches, fairies, ghouls and goblins. Most of the poems are at least two hundred years old … I feel no need to rush to finish them.
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For the most part, you don’t read the romantic poets because you want a little light reading before bed. A folk song with ten verses doesn’t make for good background music. This is music, and video for those who want to be immersed in a story, in another person’s thoughts and feelings. When we find ourselves in another person’s words, the world becomes a smaller place, and when those words are a few hundred years old, time begins to dissolve.
There’s a lot of music here, a lot of it failed experiments, but in the best of times, when the mood is just right, you find time dissolving and the words of someone long dead reaches your heart. If it makes you tap your foot, or better yet, shake your ass, then so much the better.
Folkswitch is …
Teelin Atteberry: Fiddle, Mandolin, Guitar, Drums and Percussion, as well as occasional vocal tidbits
Todd Atteberry: Guitar, Vocals, Drums and Percussion
Todd Lane: Bass, Vocals, Guitar, Percussion and good vibes.
The Conqueror Worm: The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe
LIKE THE TALES THAT MADE HIM FAMOUS, Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry is richly dark, exploring those same themes of love, loss, death and evil. His short stories were his bread and butter, and he was the quintessential craftsman in their writing. But Poe’s poetry was his art, personal and seeping with emotion.
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On Witches, Fairies, Ghouls and Goblins
ON JUNE 16th, 1816, Lord Byron opened a book titled Phantasmagoriana, which he and his house guests took turns reading from. From that night came Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and John Polidori’s The Vampyre, considered the first English vampire novel, and the precursor to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Drawing from that idea, herein lies poems from Shakespeare, Yeats, Spenser, Kipling, Ben Johnson and others, set to music. Musical influences range from British folk and Irish traditional, to Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Jethro Tull.
From the fairies who ride wild in the moonlight, to the danse macabre, it’s a look back at a time when people weren’t so certain, weren’t so brave as to believe that what we see with our eyes is all there is. And told in the words of some of the greatest lyricists of their day.
A Pagan Hymnal
Paganism is quite often a nature religion, following the natural cycle. The seasons that not only divide the year, but life as well. A suite of songs from the romantic poets, based on these quarters of the calendar, a bit of Wordsworth, a plethora of Rossetti, a brace of Shakespeare and others poets, romantic and otherwise.
Folk Tales of Heartache and Woe
A trip down the gutters of the folk tradition. Recorded in a haze of despair and expensive alcohol, fueled by heartbreak, some of the more obscure folk songs out there. And so we present a potpourri of songs and stories, from the tragic to the morbid, disturbingly funny to the heartfelt … all the human emotions tied up in a singly bizarre, folkish package.