When I was little I remember my mother sitting on her bed, propped among her frilly pillows and pink flowered bedspread, drawing pictures. I remember that she handed me a perfectly fleshed out Big Bird and I remember my astonishment, 12 years old and mouth agape. How could the woman who was viewed as a lunch-packer, a dinner-maker, a laundry-doer, draw such a thing? How could she possess this talent, one that I had longed for, and not tell us about it?
I remember later discovering that her father, my grandfather and the man after whom I am named, was an artist. A bona fide painter with easels covered in mixed colors and canvasses stretched tight and slathered in landscapes, left sitting in an out-of-the-way location, invisible to those of us related to him. I remember my mother’s stories of his art studio and I remember listening to such tales, in awe that I had no idea. In awe of the fact that this man I knew had such a talent within him that was apparently of so little worth in his mind that he never thought to make mention of it.
If we ponder it and ruminate on the things that those we love and like might do that we have no idea of, we’d all realize that each of us has that thing. It’s a thing we do for ourselves, perhaps, and do not mention because it is something we’ve always been able to do and something we don’t think much of, no matter how greatly we appreciate whatever gift it is we have.
My mother can draw Big Bird very well. My grandfather could paint you a picture of your childhood home and frame it in 4 pieces of wood he nailed together and stained so beautifully. I can string together a sea of words and form them into a letter that will accomplish any goal I wish it to — I can make you realize that I love you deeply or I can break your heart with it. Gifts, these things, whether we observe and realize or not.
I’ve spoken here of Juniper Tar. I will undoubtedly speak more of Juniper Tar in the coming days, months. Years. And apparently, I will not only speak of said band, I will speak of its members, individually. Through a mess of internet tangents (GLORIOUS INTERNET TANGENTS!) I stumbled upon The Off Key yesterday morning and I’ve sat in awe since. It’s amazing to me what is under our noses. It is amazing to me what we miss because we’re busy. Because we’re human, I suppose. It is amazing what we can discover if we’ll just take a gander.
The Off Key is one Aaron Schleicher, singer and guitarist of Juniper Tar. Considering the impact that band has had on my life at the end of this year, most likely the best of my life, I assumed (and assumed correctly) that any project by a member would be worth my time. Somehow, this man’s experiment in motivation and sound is just as great as what his band does, despite the fact that he gives it the appearance of something he’s easily doing on a random Wednesday. Dammit, I wish the shit I did on random Wednesday’s was this badass.
In reading about The Off Key, I see nothing that denotes that Mr. Schleicher plans to do anything with these jams (which is a shame, trust). He’s like my mother and her Big Birds. He’s like my grandpa and his paints.
The Off Key :: A Bigger Monster [MP3]
The Off Key :: Lion’s Mouth [MP3]
I see the frames made by Grandpa Joe over there on the wall in the living room. They are empty and they are occasionally the crux of jokes made by friends. There are two nailed up there, one sitting quietly inside the other. They are blue and brown, stained many years ago, before he had ever given thought to grandchildren that might appreciate them enough to leave them lumber on a wall, unadorned. They are good enough, by themselves. So is The Off Key.