My first Penfriend album “Exotic Monsters” just turned TWO YEARS OLD forcryingoutloud, so I’m celebrating with some vinyl bargains and limited edition rarities INCLUDING this never-before-publicly-shared reworking of three album tracks on vinyl-effect CD, accompanied by a full colour story and photo zine.
Order by midnight on Tuesday 30th May and I will sign your vinyl / CD! Leave me a note at checkout if you’d like me to dedicate it to anyone: https://shop.penfriend.rocks/collections/exotic-monsters-birthday-sale
I’ll also include a FREE monster print in every order, as an extra gift!
3rd April 2020. Four weeks before I launched my new music project “Penfriend” on an unsuspecting world, life felt very different to today.
Do you remember how you felt on 3rd April 2020? It was just the start of it, but none of us could have predicted what would happen next.
That day, I was halfway through recording “Exotic Monsters” and one year into full-time music-making slash whatever-the-heck-this-job-is. With four weeks til liftoff, I was sharing secret weekly blog posts with my members, and I’m so glad to have these stories to look back on now.
As the weeks went by and the lockdowns continued, all logical signs pointed to calling the whole thing off. Who would care about new music at such a serious time, much less choose to support it financially?
With nothing else to do but keep on keeping on, I decided to stick to my deadlines. Half an album is no album, and I was grateful to have something to focus on amidst the uncertainty.
I launched Penfriend and The Correspondent’s Club in May 2020, completed “Exotic Monsters” in October 2020 and released it on May 21st 2021.
On May 28th the album I recorded all by myself in my attic home studio smashed into the Official UK Albums Charts at #24, rendering me speechless with gratitude for independently-minded music fans.
As I clear the decks to record the followup to “Exotic Monsters”, I’m grateful for the opportunity to reflect on its journey.
This collection of songs took me from freelance employment to full-time creativity, gave me a path through a pandemic and is an album I remain immensely proud of.
I hope you’ll give it a listen.
3/4/20 – secret blog post
Midway through my morning run yesterday I saw the words “storms don’t last forever” pasted up in someone’s window. Linking two cheerful rainbows, the phrase both sobered and uplifted me, burrowing into my brain just at the point I would usually be starting to bargain with myself:
“Walking is nice, you should walk”. “Yeah, but you’re doing intervals anyway, and you get to walk soon – look, it’s only another 20 seconds.” “Sure, but it’s an achievement to do any sort of run, it’s not about speed, is it? You’re not training for anything.” “Shut up, only 10 seconds til you get to walk for a whole minute, what’s the problem?” “Nothing – OH LOOK A RAINBOW”.
I’ve always preferred running outside because of the tangible feeling of progress. Putting one foot in front of the other propels you forward in real time, in the real world. You leave the house, go somewhere else, and then return. In a life made up of numerous ethereal projects where I conjure sounds from my imagination in a completely self-propelled bid to make something that I hope will be of use to a small group of people, spending time on anything with a measurable outcome is a relief.
I’m proud to say I’ve taken myself out for a run twice a week for seven weeks in a row now, and not only do I get the pleasure of writing that down in my bullet journal so I can look at my exercise log and feel like I’m getting somewhere, but I can actually feel the progress I’ve made. I’ve started to increase my running intervals by one minute per week (currently 3 mins run, 1 min walk) and the nasty hill at the start of one of my regular routes isn’tbothering me nearly as much any more.
Another benefit to pavement running is getting to see snapshots of my neighbourhood. This is especially welcome at the moment; these two runs per week have become precious time alone with my thoughts outside the house. When I first started medium distance running in 2006 (training for 10Ks then half marathons before a trailing off of energy/interest and then a savagely broken foot) I always listened to music, but later I found I vastly preferred engaging with the sounds of wherever I was running. There’s a meditative quality to the rhythmic slap of trainers on pavement that makes me feel connected to my body and the earth I’m running on, and I don’t think I’d get the quality of contemplation I get on my sporty jaunts if I was distracting myself with music.
With spring springing at the moment, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying dashing past pretty front gardens, seeing nature bounce back after the grey weather and occasionally being surprised and delighted by the things people are sticking in their windows. The rainbows in windows theme may be aimed at kids, giving them something uplifting to spot around their neighbourhoods during this confusing, scary time – but it’s helping me, too.
I’ve been ploughing on with the many moving parts of my fast-approaching new music launch day by day: recording podcast episodes, liaising with my remote drummer on parts for the new song I’m recording, having Skype meetings with my illustrator, picking a WordPress theme for my new website and getting stuck into that, trying not to get too caught up in the news or feeds, trying to stay reasonably cheerful and pragmatic and feel lucky to have the things I have and not dwell on the scary parts (someone in my street has Covid, I’m not eligible for any government grants, I’m scared for my family and friends – you know, the new usual). But, on Tuesday, a storm hit.
I’ve written many songs in the past about feeling sad, and I’m sure I’ll write many more, and occasionally I am able to take my own advice and just give myself a break. So, for most of Tuesday, I lay prone on the sofa and felt my feelings, cuddled my dogs and made no apologies to anyone. Then on Wednesday, I got up and started again, feeling fortunate I was healthy and housed and in a happy relationship and had interesting creative projects to sink my teeth into, and a group of really great people to write an email to.
Yesterday, when I saw those four words connecting rainbows in a neighbour’s window, I felt grateful to whoever printed them out and taped them up. It’s very hard to reduce this big, messy, scary, painful time into short phrases, and not useful to dismiss everything people are feeling and say the equivalent of “cheer up, it might never happen”. It *is* happening, and whatever our situation and location, it’s happening to all of us.
I don’t know what’s next in all of this, and I’ll always be trying to figure out what my place and purpose is in the world, but I know I can believe in these four words: “storms don’t last forever”.