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Lullaby's arcane lore (part 1): (by Jason Greenberg)

The saying, “follow your dreams” is usually meant poetically to encourage people to do what makes them happy. Although that still applies in this case, the story of Arcane Lullaby actually did start with a literal dream that carried along with it a fierce will to be brought into the waking world.

I had been playing in a cover band with some friends for several years, mostly playing house parties and bars. It was all about getting people to dance and it was very much a party scene. It was fun but eventually there was a part of me that was unconsciously longing for a more meaningful and original music outlet.

The idea to start a band doing my own original music came to me in a dream I had in Fall 2018. It was one of those dreams where you wake up and start writing things down before you forget. The original idea in the dream was to have an instrumental band, that I would play guitar and come up with melodies for a flute and a clarinet. Thessaly & Nebula would perhaps be the names of the two wind players or maybe the name of the band. This dream quickly transformed from being a literal dream into a figurative dream and aspiration and I started coming up with new music and revisiting older music I had come up with in the past. This dream sparked a fire within me that fueled an intense determination and drive to make the music, start a band, and eventually make an album. Little did I know that it would be a rocky path with many detours, road closures, and unexpected obstacles. And on the other hand I had no idea that a body of work would come out of this that I would become very close to and proud of. At first I was simply being propelled by the storehouse of energy that came with this dream and going along for the ride.

On August 9th, 2019 I took my son to see his first real live concert at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to see the band Living Colour. I have been a fan of them since the 1980s and my mom and aunt took me to see them live in concert in October 1989 at the LA Coliseum when they played with Guns ’n Roses and The Rolling Stones. That was an epic show! I was almost 13 years old at that point and I had been playing guitar for almost a year by then. Fast forward to 2019 and I was very happy to be able to take my own son to see Living Colour live as his first concert. They put on a wonderful show. One of the things that really hit me was how the lead singer, Corey Glover, connected with the audience through his talent and presence with so much heart that you could feel how the audience was touched. Also their songs have meaningful lyrics which made me realize that my new music project needed to have vocals in order to connect with an audience and also to bring another level of meaning to people through lyrics. That show changed my life.

The Living Colour show threw more fuel into the fire of my now figurative dream and I kept on going, coming up with new music and I started writing lyrics. In most cases the lyrics just came to me like they were already there, as was new music, and as cliche as it sounds, it did feel like I was just a medium for this music to be expressed through me. All along I felt like this music that came from a dream had a life of its own and chose me to bring it to life. At times I felt like it was out of my control and I just had to let it happen. But when it came down to forming a band I had to push and push and push some more to make anything happen.

In December 2019 I put out a post on Craigslist for a singer for the project and within 24 hours I took down the ad as I had two interested singers. Both were people I had already played music with in the past; Button and Catkin. I did not think I wanted or needed two singers but I figured I would try them both out. I sent each of them some very rough recordings of me playing guitar and singing a handful of the songs that I had at that point and asked them to choose two to sing when they came over to try out. Neither of them chose the same songs and the songs they did choose were perfectly suited for them. I asked each of them separately if they would be okay with there being two singers in this band and they both agreed. So now this band had a guitar player and two singers.

We still needed a drummer and a bass player. I had a new posting up on craigslist for a drummer and a bassist and got a response from a drummer named Max. He wanted to email first, then chat on the phone, then meet up in person to talk and have lunch before meeting up again to play some music together. I respected his process but felt like it was taking a lot of time. When I did finally get to meet up with him and we played together it was really good and he was extremely creative. I was very excited at the idea of making music with him. However it turned out that he was looking for a paid job as a drummer and I did not have a budget to pay a session musician so that ended up being a dead end.

I already knew Anastasia from work but I did not know that she was a bass player until she came into my office with her laptop which happened to have an Electro Harmonix sticker on it. You know, the EHX ram’s head logo. I noticed the sticker and asked her if she was a musician. She said she played bass and without skipping a beat I asked her if she wanted to join the band I was putting together. She sent me a video of her playing with another band and I sent her some of the rough preliminary recordings I had for my project. We were both down. Soon afterwards we met up to work on bass lines for some of the songs for the first time in early March 2020.

I was having trouble finding a drummer but I remembered that I had done a gig with this guy named Will who filled in for CJ in that cover band I was with before, and Will was a great player so I asked him if he would play with us in this new project I was putting together. Luckily Will agreed to trying it out.

We had our first rehearsal all together (Anastasia, Button, Catkin, Jason, and Will) early March 2020 at the Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studios during a time when mercury was in retrograde. If you do not believe in that stuff you can laugh at me all you want but the rest of the story is a classic example of why you never start a new project during mercury retrograde. Anyone smell doom? Just a few days after our first rehearsal the first COVID lockdown happened and it was not until the end of June that we were able to have a second rehearsal after which Will decided he was not interested in playing with this band. COVID was a big thing for everyone everywhere in the world, especially in the beginning, and my heart goes out to all the families of people who lost loved ones which is much more important than a band, as well as all the businesses that had to close, but the pandemic caused a lot of set backs for this project too. However, I was not prepared to give up regardless of a global pandemic, and regardless of the fact that all the venues closed and the rehearsal studio as well. I was determined to push on through and make it happen somehow.

In the meantime, while looking for a drummer, I met with Anastasia, Button and Catkin individually for masked one on one sessions working on the songs little by little. And I was writing more songs as well that I needed to teach them.

I had put up another post on craigslist for a drummer and again I got a response from someone I had already jammed with in the past, Bob. And he happened to have a little rehearsal space that we could play in too. We had our third rehearsal ever with our third drummer already, Bob, in October 2020 for his first rehearsal with us. He is a good drummer and is fun to play with but he expressed that he was more interested in free jamming than learning and playing set songs with parts so it turned out to not be a good match for this project after all.

At that point I started to work on a demo recording of two of the songs to help us recruit a good drummer. I was able to track guitars up at my friend Frank’s studio. I tracked Button and Catkin’s vocals and Anastasia’s bass line in my apartment and sent the raw tracks to my dear friend Marc in LA who kindly played drums to the songs and mixed them into the two demo tracks, Fickle and Crush. Anastasia played bass on Crush and I played the bass on Fickle. By then we had already settled on our band name, Arcane Lullaby although it was almost Thessaly Nebula. I have a list of several dozens of band names that we had considered. Those two songs (Crush and Fickle) were later released as our first two singles in 2022.

Another craigslist post went up looking for a drummer, this time accompanied with a good reference recording via the demo tracks. From that post I got a response from Gianni who sent me a link to some of his playing with another band and I liked what I heard so we met up on April 11, 2021, just the two of us playing, and it was a good match.

April 15th 2021 we had our fourth rehearsal ever with now our 5th drummer (1.Max, 2.Will, 3.Bob, 4.Marc, 5.Gianni) and it was our first rehearsal at Catkin’s place were we were able to keep rehearsing for the the next year.

Finally, after a year of searching for a group of people to call a band, we had a good membership. Jason on Guitar, Button and Catkin on vocals, Anastasia on Bass and Gianni on drums. After only a few rehearsals we had our first gig at a private party in Felton, CA, on May 22, 2021. We continued to rehearse in order to prepare for our first public gig and played at Shanty Shack Brewery on July 10th 2021.

I was happy that this band had come together, we were rehearsing, I was still writing songs that were still coming to me from wherever, and we had a couple more gigs at the brewery (8/27/2021& 10/30/2021) as well as one at Abbott Square (8/27/2021). However progress was slow as it is difficult to schedule 5 people who have jobs, families, social lives, and other responsibilities. Some of us wanted to rehearse every week and others wanted once or twice per month.

Anastasia realized that even though she loved playing with us, she simply did not have enough time and decided to leave the band. I put up another craigslist post, and texted all my musician friends asking if they knew a bass player. I also contacted all the bass players I knew and one of them was potentially interested. I met up with Devon for two one-on-one sessions to teach him the songs which he picked up quickly. Just before we were set to have our first full band rehearsal with Devon on bass he decided that he did not have time to be in this band. I went back to Anastasia and asked her if she would join again and she kindly accepted. However it was not long before she realized again that she still did not have time to be in a band and had to leave again. At that same time Button realized that she did not have time to be in the band either and she also left.

After a couple of months I finally found another bass player, someone I knew, Pete, and he learned the songs very quickly. Catkin was able to sing all the songs that Button used to sing. We were up and running again, sounding better than ever after some more good rehearsals, and we did a gig at the Shanty Shack on April 23, 2022.

Pete had told me about a recording studio in town that he had taken a tour of and he suggested that we record there. I went down to Pacific Recording Studios and met the owner, Jason, and they had very reasonable rates and a good vibe. After consulting the band I reserved a date for us to do a two day session to record 15 songs.

There were some communication issues that occurred which made the recording date not happen and the details of that seemed to stir things up a bit. I had been attempting to set up a new date to do the recording session when Catkin told me that she needed to take a long break from the band and that she understood if I needed to find a new singer. It was a huge blow to me. I texted Pete and Gianni to let them know the news about Catkin. Upon receiving that message Gianni decided to leave the band too because he felt that there had been too much instability in this band, also expressing frustration about feeling he was in a minority about being a serious dedicated member of the band. I never heard back from Pete.

I was having trouble believing that this band had just completely fallen apart but I also could not accept it and I decided that I would take the side of the songs themselves to make the argument that the songs deserved to be immortalized through recording. So I asked Gianni if he would be willing to go into the studio and just track drums for all the songs and that I would record the rest separately. He agreed. I also asked Catkin if she would be willing to let me record her singing little by little as she had time in short one hour sessions at my apartment. She also agreed. Since I still had not heard from Pete I decided that I could just play the bass parts myself.

July 10th, 2022 Gianni and I did a 12 hour recording session at Pacific Sound Studios in Santa Cruz California with Gianni playing drums and me playing guitar to track the 15 songs. The goal was to focus on getting the drums recorded but I would need to play along so that he would have some reference and we figured that we might as well track the guitar at the same time so we put my amps in an isolation booth. As you can imagine several hours were spent just setting everything up and then we charged through the material after that. For most of the songs we did just two takes. And it turns out we used first takes for the album on a few of the songs accidentally which is another story. Since Gianni always played to a metronome when we rehearsed and played gigs, he was totally prepared for the tracking session and did a phenomenal job. And since we had been rehearsing quite a bit we were able to perform while under the pressure and constraints of a one day session. For the most part it was a great success. Gianni’s performances were stellar.

Most of my guitar parts from that session were used on the album (Innermost Seer) although some parts needed fixing and some I had to record over again in my own apartment. I recorded a few of the guitar solos in my apartment separately as well (Burden, Conjure, and Shine) and I had to record the main guitar for Blessing again as the original performance from the Pacific Sound session had issues. I played and recorded all the bass parts up at my friend Frank’s studio using his glorious Warwick bass and Ampeg tube amp. I recorded Catkin singing in my apartment as well, one hour session at a time, usually getting 2-3 songs done in a session. I also had Button come over to record vocals as well at my place.

Originally Jason from Pacific Sound was going to be the mixing engineer but my close friend and old bandmate Marc offered to co-produce the album with me. Marc was going to be the mixing engineer too but it turned out he had several months of work obligations and would not be able to start mixing until much later. However Marc helped us find the perfect mixing engineer to work with us by the recommendation of our good friend Johnny who recommended Ulrich to be the mixing engineer. I contacted Ulrich directly, sent him some reference tracks to check out, spoke to him on the phone and he agreed to mix this album for us. It was August 26th, 2022 that I started working with Ulrich. It was truly a pleasure to work with Ulrich who made the raw tracks come to life. I feel like he was like a magician or alchemist of sorts. It was also a simply amazing to have Marc co-produce the album and lend his professional ear to each and every mix, coming back with the perfect recommendations to improve each song to get Ulrich to dial in just right. Marc also gave me directions on ways to improve the songs including adding extra layers, keyboard parts, and vocal harmonies. I ended up playing all the keyboards on this album just by way of necessity. If it was not for Marc’s guidance and recommendations this album would have been much less exciting. He also believed in me and the songs themselves which really helped me with the process.

If I had known how much money it was going to cost to make this album I would not have done it at all so it is probably a good thing that I did not know. Originally I was going to do everything at Pacific Sound and it was going to be very affordable. But with Marc’s wish to do this right, make a truly professional record and work with a great mixing engineer, it ended up being way more than I had so I set up a crowd sourcing fundraiser to help fund this. Although I only was able to raise a portion of the actual costs through that, it was very helpful and I am incredibly grateful to each and every benefactor that pitched in.

We were very close to finishing all the mixes and the last song getting its first mix was Bones. Marc said that it needed a vocal harmony but neither Catkin nor Button were available to sing. I believe it was the very next day that Rachel walked into my office at work. I had never met her before but we started talking and became friends instantly. I discovered that as well as being an artist she was also a singer and I asked her right there if she would sing a vocal harmony for the last song I was working on for my album. She graciously accepted and so I recorded her singing a beautiful vocal harmony for Bones at my apartment on October 22nd, 2022 and sent that last file to Ulrich.

Ulrich had finished all the mixes for all 15 songs on October 25th, 2022. Originally Ulrich was going to master the album as well but Marc wanted to spring for a dedicated professional mastering house. There is a whole other long story there which will never be told. However in the end we got 11 of the songs mastered by Brian (delivered November 27, 2022) and Ulrich mastered the 4 remaining songs. It is unusual to have an album with songs mastered by different people but the circumstances made it necessary. We got the final masters for those last four songs on November 29th, 2022 and I submitted the album for digital distribution on the next day. I ordered 300 CDs to be manufactured on December 7th, 2022. The album finally hit the digital world on December 7th, 2022 and the CDs are due to arrive January 2023.

As any artist, I simply wish to share these works with the world. I hope you enjoy the music.

As of January 2023 Jason and Gianni are gearing up for the next incarnation of Arcane Lullaby with a new singer and a new bass player. Stay tuned...


Part 2 - 2023 in most of a nutshell 1/1/23-12/5/23:

Well 2023 ended up being another interesting year for Arcane Lullaby. We started the year off with just me on guitar and Gianni on drums and began searching for a new bass player and a new singer. I was not going to give up and remained hell-bent on making this band come back to life.

My musician friend Mike recommended a singer he knew to me and on 1/9/23 I met with Naomi for the first time. She had a beautiful voice but she let me know that the next day she was to go travel for over a month but that I could contact her when she got back. So back to the bassist search it was.

I had contacted all the bass players I knew in Santa Cruz and none of them were available. And I asked all my local musician friends to spread the word. I know the situation because often times my musician friends call on me to play bass with them when they cant find a bassist for a jam. I got a couple hits from my craigslist ad. One kid came over who did not have a bass or a car, took the bus from Corralitos. He said that he does not know the notes on the instrument but could learn quick. He did have good feel but was not a good match. Nice guy and was really respectful.

On 1/27/23 Billy Reese tried out for the bass position and I could tell that he was going to be a good fit. He knew all his notes and plenty of music theory and although he was mainly a guitar player, he had his own bass and his dad was a bass player too. Billy was dedicated full time to music and was already in a few bands and gigging regularly. He liked the idea of playing bass in a band and so he joined up. February 5th, 2023 he met with Gianni and I for our first rehearsal and it was good chemistry. We could see the potential and he could fill in a lot of space when I was soloing, doing that Jack Bruce type of stuff.

Upon her return from travels, on 2/18/23 we had our first rehearsal with Naomi on vocals. She was good and things were looking up. After a couple of rehearsals we found out that some of the songs were out of Naomi’s range and my girlfriend, Keslie, stepped in to sing some of those. Keslie was not a singer per se but she knew the album really well. We had about 4 full band rehearsals with Naomi and had some gigs set but she was going to travel some more going to Hawaii and then African and couldn’t do the gigs. She ended up leaving the band as her life became too busy.

Since we had a gig coming up and no lead vocalist I started working with Keslie’s singing more as she was struggling with pitch and tone, having never been a singer in a band before. I had to teach her the absolute fundamentals such as the difference between a note, a scale and a chord, what intervals are, and some basic music theory. She was a quick learner but there was a vast amount of catching up to do and training. She was quite good however at our heavy metal song, Anger, and our punk song, Flawed. In the meantime we continued to look for a new singer.

And also in the meantime I was working on writing some new songs, namely Loverlovee and Abandoned book.

We got a hit on the Craigslist singer ad and on 5/5/23 we auditioned Grace. She was amazing and of course Keslie and I had to keep repeating “Amazing Grace”. She was only 18 years old, still in high school, lived in Salinas and shared a car with her mom. But she had a fantastic voice, a great ear, and very fast to learn. I met with her again two days later as we had a gig coming up and we needed to fast track her. She really pulled it together and was down to have her first rehearsal with the band the morning of her first gig with us! So in the morning of May 13th she met Gianni and Billy for the first time and we went through the set as her first rehearsal. She did amazingly well. Then that night she played a gig with us upstairs at the Catalyst. She killed it and we had a great show regardless of the thin audience. That was also Keslie’s first gig with us as she was singing Anger and Flawed which she continued to sing at all our following shows in 2023.

We played Joe’s Bar in Boulder Creek on 6/9/23, a three hour gig where we had to repeat a few songs and I had to take several very long guitar solos to fill in our time slot. We tried Loverlovee for our first time there but did not do Abandoned book as we had never rehearsed it. Again Grace did great singing and we had a lot of fun. The audience loved us.

Then we played upstairs at the Catalyst again on 7/22/23 and had some video taken as well as some professional photos by my dear friend Nick Eyes. It was another great show and we got to play both loverlovee and Abandoned book.

After that show Gianni said that having Keslie dancing in the audience and singing along from the audience was distracting and that she might as well be on stage so I met with her and Grace to work out where Keslie could sing along with Grace so that they could both be on stage the whole time and sing together. Keslie is a natural dancer so having another moving body on stage is a good thing too.

I wanted to go to a studio to record those two new songs and put out some singles with our new singer Grace so I found a studio that I could really dig. We had a date set to record there but Grace got sick and we had to cancel the session.

We had a couple more gigs coming up, one at Shanty Shack and the other at Woodhouse. Gianni wanted us to put on a really professional show for the woodhouse as his friend was the owner and he wanted us to get asked back. So he decided that he did not want us to do our “harder songs” and cut Anger, Flawed and Timetravel out of the set. In order to fill the space Gianni, Billy and Grace each put forth a cover song to learn. It would be a long story to explain my issues with cover songs but suffice it to say that I begrudgingly agreed. We did “Hate Me Harder” by Kesha (Grace’s choice), “Valerie” by the Zutons as made popular by Amy Winehouse (Billy’s choice), and “Eye to Eye” by Tevin Campbell from the Goofy Movie (Gianni’s choice).

Our next gig was at Shanty Shack on 8/24/23 and it was the first time we had both Keslie and Grace do a whole show together. We did most of our originals plus the three covers. We had a lot of fun but it was a little too relaxed. Gianni wanted the Woodhouse gig a few days later to be really professional.

The day before the Woodhouse show Grace let me know that she did not want to be in a professional band, and wanted to sing her own originals in a band with people her own age. She did agree to do the Woodhouse gig though and so that was our last gig with her, 8/27/23. The Woodhouse show was bittersweet. It was a bit heartbreaking to me because I felt like we were finally going strong with a good singer and doing fun gigs and about to record together but it just did not work out to continue with Grace. There must have been a good reason. Right? Right.

So there we were again looking for a new lead singer. I really pounded the pavement and had posters put up all over town and on campus at UCSC and I posted on Craigslist regularly as well as posting on social and messaging friends. I had about half a dozen people who said they were interested but never followed through and that was very frustrating.

Meanwhile I channeled my creative frustration into writing more music and out came these four songs, “A Beautiful Day”, “Kathleen”, “Hype” and “Without a Clue” while I kept looking for a singer.

Also Keslie had been taking singing lessons and making progress in her own vocal journey. Keslie and I auditioned a couple of people who actually did show up in person, Aaliya (9/19/23), and Liz (10/1/23). Aaliya decided the day after the audition that she wanted to focus on her own music. Liz made it to the round two and did a full band audition on 10/8/23. She ended up not being the right fit and I am grateful for that because on 11/25/23 Marie showed up to audition and she was the golden beam of light that I was hoping for.

As I am writing this I have only met with Marie twice and she will be rehearsing with the band for the first time at the end of this week in a few days (12/10/23) but I have nothing but positive feelings about her as our new singer. She is the best singer I have worked with and I am praying to the universe that she will stick around for the long run, be a perfect fit, that we will gig with her and record with her and bring Arcane Lullaby to the next awesome level - inspiring and entertaining with our signature thought provoking positive message and unique music styles. Do you want to dream that with me too? I will report back with updates probably in 2024. We have a gig set for Joe’s Bar 1/26/24 and that will hopefully be our first gig with Marie. So cross your fingers with me and show up to that show if you are around!

I have a feeling that 2024 will be the best year yet for Arcane Lullaby and with most of it being in the year of the dragon, my own birth year, that we will be very lucky indeed.

Stay tuned…