March 4, 2016

Creative Nonfiction/Essay By Alex Beckman of Video Grave: "The Making of a Band"

Alex Beckman is a freshman at Ball State University.  He and his band, Video Grave, play shows as much they can in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.  Check them out here:


"Video Grave"

 

The Making of a Band

 

Introduction


Video Grave evolved from a shared passion for music. Alex Beckman and his childhood friend, Patrick Maloney, loved hanging out in Patrick’s basement listening to songs and finding new bands. One day it occurred to them that they could start their own band.  Alex learned to play the guitar and Pat learned to play the guitar and drums.  After a couple months of practice they  asked their good friend Spencer Hartford to join as their lead singer. It was Alex on guitar, Pat on drums, and Spencer singing.  Soon after they stopped covering songs and started to write their own.  Patrick started playing guitar and Reid Markus filled in on drums.  There was a spark. Immediately, they had this connection with one another. It was almost telepathic. Maybe it was from their similar interest in music or just the fact that they were all best friends, but something just felt right and they ran with it. Still, to this day, it is just those four; Spencer on lead vocals, Patrick lead guitar, Reid on drums, and Alex  on rhythm guitar and back-up vocals. They  are currently recording our first full length record and it should be out by Spring of 2016.  Below, Alex speaks to his influences, the creative process and his approach to lyrics.  His lyrics are what resonated with me the most. They are powerful and tell a story  in a way that so many modern songs do not.


Backstory:

I was in second grade when my father took me to my first concert. That was the moment I knew I wanted to make music for the rest of my life. I took guitar lessons right after that show. I only stuck with it for about a year before I quit because it was too hard for my seven-year-old self but I still knew all I wanted to do was make music. Whenever people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would always say, “I don’t know,” but I knew I wanted to play music. I guess it just seemed like a hefty dream and I was kind of embarrassed to say that is what I wanted to do when I was taking none of the needed steps to reach my goal. In my heart I knew one day I would learn an instrument and start to make music.

So that day in the basement, when Patrick and I decided to start a band and learn the instruments, I took it to heart. I spent countless hours in my bedroom trying to teach myself the basic chords or attempting to learn songs that only consisted of three chords. Ever since I have been able to play guitar I have written my own songs; however, it was not until the summer before my freshman year of college that I found myself writing songs that I was actually proud of. I was starting to write songs that had better stories or had more emotional ties than the songs I had written previously.

Present:


When I write my songs, I always take a little different approach. I always strive for my lyrics to be the best part of my songs. As a listener and consumer of music, many of my favorite bands have songs with lyrics that paint a clear picture but still allows my mind to create a story in my head. Artists like John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, Connor Oberst of The Bright Eyes, Brian Sella of the Front Bottoms, Paul Westerberg of The Replacements, Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts, Gareth David of Los Campesinos!, and Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus are writers I strive to be like. I want my songs to have a story that people can relate to, but each song means something different to everyone that hears it. I want my songs to have meaning. I want my songs to make people think and to make people feel for something that doesn’t affect them.

Here are some of my lyrics or “poems.”


Psychopath

I see the tear forming in your eye
You turn your head and look at the sky
I feel your fingers grab my knee
I hear you plead don't do this to me

I am in shock and you say I have no emotion
Like I'm a psychopath searching for destruction
But I feel the things you feel yourself
I’m in my own emotional Hell

I'm not the gravedigger
I'm something so much bigger
I'm the hurricane comes to your house
I'm the wind that blows you down

You gasp for air rapidly
And you can't stand to look at me
I feel your fingers getting tense
You push away for distance

So I sit under a Sunset Tree
And I replay everything
I never meant to be a jerk
I never wanted to make you hurt

I'm not the gravedigger
I'm something so much bigger
I'm the hurricane comes to your house
I'm the wind that blows you down

I am the man you love to hate
I am your soggy socks on rainy days
And when you dream of suicide
I will be your kitchen knife

I wrote this song about leaving a very good and very close friend. I saw a tear form in her eye and that image imprinted itself in my brain and it is an image I cannot shake. The second stanza is me reacting to her lashing out because she is hurt. She made a comment that I had no emotion, which wasn’t true, I just didn’t know what to do with my face or my body. I was frozen. The mention of a sunset tree is actually an allusion to the Mountain Goats record, Sunset Tree. This was not an easy record for John Darnielle to make, but I like to think that it helped bring him peace, so that is where the character in this song went, under a sunset tree. Sitting there represents a place of hurt and pain but hope to work through it. The last stanza of this song is basically saying that the narrator of this song won’t kill the main character, or be the death of her unless she chooses that to be so. So she can now only be hurt by the narrator if she chooses to.


Roadblocks

And there's another man singing a sad song
There's another mother asking honey what's wrong
And there's another bar fight ending in regret
And there's another day that goes by just like this

And there's another drunken man
And there's another family that’s been abandoned
And there's another murderer loose on the street
And there's another kid with no bed when he goes to sleep

So here's to me searching for hope
So here's to me at the end of my rope
So here's to you believing this truth
So here's to us for not giving up

And here's a woman hocking her wedding ring
She still got love but mouths to feed
She works so hard every day and every night
She tells her kids going to be all right

And she's got a million ends to meet at once
She knows the war has just begun
She will do whatever it takes for her kids’ sake
She's a Warrior and she believes in better days

So here's to you doing all you can do
So here's to you pulling through
You got a mountain to climb but I know you'll reach the top
You've got roadblocks but I know you'll never stop

When writing this song, I took a different approach. I envisioned a story in my mind and I tried to bring it to song. The first half of the song is all about some of the horrible but true facts of life. The layout of the song is like two people sharing drinks and maybe reading a newspaper or something of that nature. They are talking about multiple stories or circumstances that are currently happening somewhere in the world. The first chorus is these people kind of shaking off these horrible stories and saying cheers to us for living in this corrupt world. I picture the second half of the song as another person who knows someone that is struggling firsthand. He knows more in depth the problems this person is facing, selling her  wedding ring so she can feed her kids. The end of this song kind of leaves you with hope. I did this because I realized that a lot of my songs had sad endings, so I wanted to give this character in particular hope.


Burnt Up Picture

It's cold outside but the breeze is nice
I'm warm in my bed but there's too many thoughts in my head
And I'm dreaming of angels but I'm seeing demons
writing all the time but I don't understand the meaning

And I know I love you but I'm afraid to miss you
Too many choices in my brain making me go insane
And the fruit is bruised and I am too
What we once were is now a burnt up picture

I know you're scared I know you're afraid
But we can't see tomorrow until we get past today

Well you drop her off at the train station
You let go of her hand and say I'll treat it like a vacation
But it’s been weeks and she ain’t coming back
You check your phone and realize she cut all contact

I know you're scared I know you're afraid
But we can't see tomorrow until we get past today

And I know I love you but I'm afraid to miss you
Too many choices in my brain I'm starting to go insane
And the fruit is bruised and I am too
What we once were is now a burnt up picture

I know you're scared I know you're afraid
But we can't see tomorrow until we get past today

A burnt up picture
Burnt real’ bad
A burnt up picture
When I was mad


What a Surprise

I'm a mastermind of the seventh kind rewriting old stories making my teeth grind
I'm telepathic and electrostatic I searched find what's automatic
I numb the pain only to gain the most cancerous therapy of blame
I light the flame it flickers but never disturbed by the rain or water the circles the drain
I'm looking hard to find the card shuffled in the deck of gluttonous lard
I feel sick in my gut I live on capsules and nut I seem incoherent but

I finally feel life and I don't want to die
I finally feel alive oh what a surprise

Puzzles and mazes in my head I focused very hard until my nose bled
Every picture is a code every sight sound feeling and taste served up alamode
Snippets of Scripture rattle through the back of my mind searching for signals all the of time
Between the humps of a camel rests a man wandering thru the desert with no plan
Lightning strikes the Clock tower at 10. The church doors fly as heaven beckons

I finally feel life and I don't want to die
I finally feel alive oh what a surprise

As the in draws near minds enclosed with fear the revelation is here
Hell freezes over and the pig flies home the fat lady sings and the ruler is known
Everything has no meaning and sound has no volume everything you see will quickly dissolve soon
The creatures of earth crawl in the holes and die away as the sky turns to a dark gray
The sun explodes in a furious crash and the things that we once loved never come back

I finally feel life and I don't want to die
I finally feel alive oh what a surprise
I finally feel life and I don't want to die
I finally feel alive this is no surprise


~Alex Beckman

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Alex and Video Grave! Good luck to you guys as you continue to grow and evolve. Janine

    ReplyDelete

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