The history of music is full of extraordinary characters desperately trying to get the sounds out of their heads onto paper, tape, and ultimately into your head. Visions of Frank Zappa composing in his underwear eating burnt weenie sandwiches, chain smoking, and drinking pot after pot of black coffee come to mind when thinking of such characters. The same dedication, some would say possibly insane behavior, applies to Beethoven or Phil Spector and their love affair with music.
Austin, Texas native Bill Baird may not have such erratic behavior or at least that we know about, but he has the same love of song making and music as the above noted, a passion that have seen him produce numerous releases with Sunset, Sound Team, and now his solo recordings.
Spring Break of the Soul is his newest album that has you lying on your back, staring up at the bright sky while you float away on your emergency safety raft in a sea of melancholy. Songs like “Lake Eerie” and “World Gone Deaf” put the world in slow motion and quiet the chaos surrounding your survival from a ship going down. You end up in the middle of the ocean alone with nothing but the steady drum beat and haunting string section of “Lake Eerie” as your flair to signal for help.
When listening to the album visions of sea life are not uncommon as Baird explains his interpretation of the song “Lost at Sea” and “Go to Mexico”
“I imagined a musical taking place on-board a becalmed boat wherein the characters sit and wait for wind to arrive in their sails but the wind never arrives. They’re stranded. It’s how I feel about life sometimes. There is no answer. Or if there is an answer, it doesn’t occur to you just sitting around waiting for it to arrive. ‘Go to Mexico’ was me thinking about the existential idiot. In this case, frat boys on the beach at spring break experiencing some sort of epiphany. The ocean, the waves, the sound… they transcend their meat-headed-ness for a brief brilliant moment.”
“These two feelings, being ‘stranded’ and the ‘existential idiot’ looking to buy himself to a higher spiritual plane or just sit around in a pretty place and have life’s answers easily arrive, were the guiding feelings for the record, and for the ‘Career’ record too, actually, although that one also made fun of career musicians, like myself, who are constantly in danger of becoming parodies of themselves.”
Baird is pursuing his Masters at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland, California. The college has quite a reputation with such names as Terry Riley, Joanna Newsom, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich, Fred Frith, Iannis Xenakis, and Pauline Oliveros being apart of the faculty or the student body.
“I took a composition class with Pauline Oliveros and one of my pieces involved pre-recording a whole choir (of myself) and placing it inside all the CD players at Best Buy and letting it run until an employee noticed. The employees never noticed, but I somehow managed to break one of their CD players, so I quickly departed.”
“I feel really inspired by the people I meet at Mills. It’s a refuge for adventurous spirits, amazing creators here. There is an atmosphere of mutual respect. You’re encouraged to go far out then go further. Anything conventional doesn’t feel much welcome here. I still love traditional things though, like verses and choruses and songs. I don’t think Mills could cure me of my addiction to songs.”
Baird has merged the two worlds that he lives in, avant garde and the pop-rock, into an epic 17 song voyage where you lose your mind and regain it during the span of a single song, every song.
Bill Baird is playing the Cobalt on May 17.
By Joe SmiglickiBC, British Columbia