Kickstarter Funds Eco-Conscious Album
Last year, Sam Long ’12 composed an album about the Connecticut River, titled “From Source to Sea,” for his Environmental Studies and Music senior thesis. The music was performed by “Honey and the Sting,” a band which includes Long and four other students. After receiving a fair amount of acclaim for their work, the group created a Kickstarter page in the hopes of receiving funding to professionally record the album. The Argus recently caught up with Long to ask him a few questions about his album and check on the current status of the recording process.
The Argus: Could you go into a bit of detail for the context of your project? Where did the idea come from?
Sam Long: I started seriously thinking about creating a project that combined music and environmentalism after an Earth Day presentation during my sophomore year. The presenters expressed their frustrations with the large percentage of Americans who did not believe in climate change. They attributed this statistic to various factors of communication breakdown between scientists and those who aren’t as savvy with scientific jargon. One panel member was Cassie Meador, a dancer and advocate of an interdisciplinary approach to understanding our environment. She and the other speakers talked
about the benefits of combining art and science. I knew then that I wanted to try to create a project that would pick up on the themes from this talk. It seemed like the perfect type of senior year project for an Environmental Studies and music major.
A: What was the process like to write and perform the songs? Did you write everything on your own or did you seek collaboration on certain areas from professors or other members of the band?
SL: I wrote the album with Honey and the Sting, a band that formed for my senior thesis recital. We are Jessica Best ’14, Melanie Hsu ’13, Gemma Smith ’13, Howe Pearson ’12, and myself. I came up with all of the preliminary song ideas and song “skeletons.” I had all the main melodies, chords, and song structure. We practiced weekly during the spring semester and I would bring in the songs and we would learn them and add harmonies and figure out string parts. Very little of it was actually written down. We all learn better by ear, and I think it actually made it easier to remember the material for the concert because the parts were engrained in our fingers and our vocal chords. I collaborated with many people on the ideas from the album. Of course, I couldn’t create the project without the help of my three advisors: Neely Bruce and Tony Lombardozi on the music side and Barry Chernoff on the Environmental Studies side.
A: Is your intention to record the album and distribute it, or is it more to create a memento of your senior thesis in a higher-quality form?
SL: There are many reasons why we wanted to do a studio recording. I’ve always wanted to do a proper studio album, and this is the first music that I thought deserved that type of quality recording. Jared Paul does a fantastic job and he worked really closely with us during the recording and mixing process. He’s now very close to the songs and it almost feels like he’s part of the band. I also wanted to have a recording that we could share with people who couldn’t make it to the concert. We have a message and a new way of thinking that is expressed in the music, and we want to preserve and share that message with many, many people. Kickstarter allowed us to communicate easily our intentions and our goals for our project.
A: There are obviously some political elements that can be found within the album. What are your thoughts on the current state of the Connecticut River?
SL: We didn’t want to make a political album, per se. There’s no cause or charity we’re fighting for. The album is a celebration and warning. Its intention is to awaken the listener to the environment that they live in everyday. We hope that the music inspires them to appreciate the place that they live, whether they dwell in the Connecticut River valley or not. Maybe the music will inspire others to spend some time on the river, or maybe they’ll go back to where they came from and appreciate their mountains, their deserts, or their city blocks.
A: I noticed that you reached your goal (congratulations!). Where are you in the process? Are you and the band making any changes to the album or adding any more music?
SL: We are incredibly thankful for the generosity of our family, friends, and strangers who found our project worth their attention and deserving of a donation. We reached our goal about 25 days after starting the timer. We have already recorded, and now we’re mixing and mastering the album. We’re considering changing some things around—there’s one song called “Higganum Mucket” that we’re second-guessing if we want to include it in the album, or as a bonus track. It just doesn’t sit well in the flow of the album. We’re scheduled to get the whole thing finished by mid-September with a release on Sept. 18.