Avidya & THE KLESHAS
The feeling is best described as being shaken vigorously and then slowly coming to a realization. But realizing what exactly? It isn't altogether feel good music, and it's not meant to be. The listener is taken to sections of discomfort and tension in order to appreciate the ebb and release that proceed. That represents the natural cycle.
In Tree of Series, tempos change, meters and signatures change. Nevertheless, pinned on each song’s radically syncopated notes are poetic, lyrical observations of the commonality of the human experience.
“Tree of Series is about the natural order of things,” Carlin explains. “My good friend and co-arranger, Dylan Martinsen, coined the phrase.” Carlin elaborates that the “tree” represents the natural state while "series" refers to the order of things.
The title track, the songwriter reveals, is about the journey from loneliness to solitude, and the recognition of the difference between the two. “Loneliness is an empty feeling, a feeling of loss while solitude has a certain fullness to it,” she expounds.
The album’s creation began in 2008. Stephanie Carlin was working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz Performance at Long Island University when she decided to compile some of what she considers her best work. The music, she recalls now, came from loneliness and emptiness. At the time, music was effectively “filling the void.” Barely eighteen-years that year, Stephanie Carlin now describes herself as an “adult who was very unaware of her shortcomings.”
The rest of the record would be written later, documenting through music her own spiritual, emotional and psychological growth.
In retrospect Carlin concludes, “That’s what happens when examining these experiences. (You realize) You’re not the only one who’s terrified, it is engraved in every single one of us. These emotions are so intense, like love, when you fall in love you think that you’re the only one who ever felt this. But we’ve all felt it; you’re not special. Your heartbreak isn’t special. We’ve all felt our hearts being pummeled into the ground. We’ve all felt it. There’s this clinging to that identity. This is me, me alone on my island.”
Buddhism addresses this conundrum, which the songwriter keenly points out. The irony, she believes, is that loneliness is surrendered when one abandons the struggle to set oneself apart. In effect, often we are not lonely because we've been left alone. We are lonely because we've decided to be isolated, to be separated from everyone else.
“Part of the Buddhist mentality is that we are not alone.” By recognizing that we are only as special as everyone else, “we become part of a whole.” Still, she readily agrees, it’s a constant struggle.
Through eastern philosophy Stephanie Carlin found an effective way of dealing with it. After a heart-wrenching break up in 2011, she was faced with two choices: "to stay in bed and never get up again or to try a yoga studio friends have been talking about." Two more weeks of vegetating and wallowing followed before she decided to check out the Jivamukti Yoga School where she still practices today.
However, the transformative effects of yoga and meditation were still at its infancy then. In the same year, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her first album, the recently released Tree of Series. The fundraiser was a success and soon, she had assembled a band of widely respected jazz artist, had a well-known record producer, and was being signed to a prominent international jazz label. But the rosy picture wasn’t without its thorns.
On the relationship of the trinity (Carlin, the band and the audience) during a performance, she opines, “All of this universe is made up of energy, of atoms, of particles. (In) music, you strum the strings of guitar, the vibrations are the cosine wave, or whatever it's called. We come together forming a relationship with each other and sending energy to each other and reshaping energy in a room. Different genres have different energies.”
When performing Tree of Series, the artist notes the phenomenon of shared energy is most intense in This I Know Nothing. Says Carlin, “The ending of the song has this sensational open section, I’m just singing the lyrics: ‘Lie under the sun, cry under the sun, die under the sun.’
“They kind of made my music into what I didn’t want it to be,” Carlin says. “There was this mentality in the group, that I was just a singer/songwriter and that we should simplify the music as much of possible.” On the contrary, Carlin wanted a lot of depth and nuance. Nevertheless, she felt she didn’t have the voice to be firm about what she wanted. “People were leading me to directions I didn’t want to go…and I was just grateful to be working with people whom I admired so much.”
Eventually, the vocalist found her voice and fired the band. She said she realized that “they were amazing players that were just not right for the music.” Concluding that there was only a certain type of musician who can play it, she placed an open call on Craig’s List to find better fitting band members.
Some paths are meant to intertwine. A couple of months later, Stephanie Carlin received separate responses from two people with whom she had worked at a one-of gig playing jazz standards a year before. The two, bass player Russ Flynn and drummer Wes Reid, joined the band and would later bring Xander Naylor (electric guitar) and Javi Santiago (piano/keyboard) to form the original Avidya & The Kleshas that recorded the Tree of Series. In 2013, Carey Clayton became the band’s new guitarist.
Carlin says each play a unique but important role. Of the band she exclaims excitedly, “They are amazing. The band empowers my decisions and my beliefs on the music, gives me full freedom to f--- up, be musically ignorant and still cover me at all cost.”
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