Now a resident of Los Angeles, Berger has continued his streak of pulling from a range of influences, including the immersive words and phrases of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and the country-folk melodies of Townes van Zandt, on his most recent release “The View That Comes With You”, out March 16 via Just For You Records.
The familiar scent of stale beer and cigarettes encompassed the dimly lit room, more closely resembling a cellar than a bar. The brick walls were lined with punk posters and Christmas lights hung haphazardly from the ceiling. From the stage I could see just a few lingering patrons, gently nursing drinks as my voice rang out to their mostly unsuspecting ears. Imagery of a packed audience was never even in the realm of daydream, for what more could one expect late on a Wednesday night in the sleepy Los Angeles offshoot of Pasadena. Despite the mostly empty room, the few who were within earshot of my words heard a story. I sung specifically as melodies bound to descriptions of a patterned dress, the scent of lavender, a fleeting smile on an underground metro, the gentle kiss beneath the covers of a morning sun, among others, floated and festered in the apartment sized venue. My eyes were closed and each phrase evoked a montage of the truthful moments the passages were based off of. The details were crisp, yet the edges were soft, cast in a flattering light, as they played back romantic and cinematic in my head. I opened my eyes, the spell broken, and shifted my gaze to the back corner entrance of the bar. Beneath an illuminated exit sign, for a moment, I saw her. Misty eyed and smiling, denim jacket draped over the same patterned dress, ragged Converse holding up a fragile frame, the sole witness of the events being circumstantiated. But the phantom image was fleeting, and upon further inspection the space beneath the illuminated exit sign remained vacant.
When I first started writing music almost a decade ago, I stumbled across an interview (I can no longer recall the specific musician) in which the songwriter asserted an audience could detect a lie a mile away. From that moment I made the conscious decision to write, no matter how difficult or personal, in unrelenting truth. My songs would be the story of my life. Human emotion is vast but not infinite. At some point we all end up feeling variably close similarities. Not just general “sad” and ‘happy”, but specifics. Fear of moving to a new city, the stinging jealousy of a peer’s success, the battered pride of a love never given the chance. So when you hear a song written about a person you’ve never met in a town you’ve never been to, you can still connect. Because you insert your own reality in the reality of the person who wrote the song. This is how I learned to write music, and it’s all I’ve ever known. The downside, and truly the thesis for this written piece, exists in the burden of the constant visitation of the past. A song is not retired upon the moment of completion. If it sticks it will be released on a record at a future date. It will be sung to strangers and to friends, for months, for years.
The production of art is selfish. If done honestly, the artist will create their vision in their way, with regards to nothing but the inner workings of their deepest marrow. But the reproduction of art, specifically with music, is selfless. It requires revisiting places the artist might want nothing more than to move on from. I do not believe that events or people in your life ever truly leave. But vocalizing them is a tide, washing what was once adrift up to the forefront. On March 16th I will be releasing a record about someone no longer in my life. For us, our story ended in a quiet Northern Los Angeles neighborhood, a whispered mantra of mutual affection, and the feeling of breaking at the sight of someone walking away. But to those who choose to listen, our fate is an ellipsis. Suspended in time and space in waveform, hopeful that the girl in the patterned dress and the boy with a head full of metaphors will find a way to make it. With the thought that if they can, maybe I can too. And when those words and soundscapes are released on magnetic tape and digital bits in early spring, I will release a deep breath I’ve been holding since putting the pen to the page. Because those words will no longer belong to me, but to everyone who chooses to embrace them. The artistic burden of personal intimacy can be a grievance. But a grievance that is shared is a remedy. And we all deserve to heal, even the poets.
FAVORITE RECORD STORE
FAVORITE CONCERT VENUE
The Bishop (Bloomington IN)
Doce Doce (house in Bloomington)
(I’ve played some really fun shows at these places)