I've spent the majority of my musical lifetime playing in punk rock bands, and continue to do so to this day. The songs that comprise this record didn't fit in anything else I had going, so other than occasional living-room solo acoustic shows, they didn't exist anywhere except in the form of tinny laptop-microphone demos. After several years of resolving (and then failing) to make a real record every few months, I finally managed to get it together in March of 2012.
"Aging Truths" is a collection of songs that were written from 2008-2011. Most of these songs were initially recorded on an internal laptop microphone perched on a beer-stained table in a cold Cleveland Heights apartment throughout that four-year period. These demo versions of various songs are still floating around online and can be found pretty easily, though I won't link them here because I'm semi-embarrassed of them (and these versions sound about 1000x better).
Initially, 12 songs were tracked at Bad Racket Recording Studio in Ohio City, using an acoustic guitar and an in-ear metronome (which bleeds through on a few songs, keep an ear out for it). One of those songs was scrapped before it got any further. On top of those initial acoustic skeleton tracks, Jake, Steve and I added drums, bass, electric guitar, banjo, keys, piano and whatever else we could find to the other 11, 10 of which ended up making the record.
Vocals were another story altogether. A month prior to recording, I had a pretty serious surgical procedure done, a process which resulted in a gnarly post-surgery sinus infection. When the time came to track vocals, I still really hadn't healed completely...but there were only two days left, and things had to get done. Through what had to have been hundreds of takes, we managed to clip together an album's worth of vocals. Moral of the story: don't get otolaryngological surgery and expect to be a songbird four weeks later.
Some mixing took place at Bad Racket, but mostly in San Francisco, California on Adam's home setup. This was the last record he tracked before he moved out west and I'm so glad to have been able to work with him once more before he took off. Adam, you are a gentleman and a scholar with a golden set of ears.
Huge thanks go out to:
- My brother Jake Stern for agreeing to be part of this project from the get-go. I look forward to making more music with him in the future.
- Adam Wagner for being endlessly patient and dedicated to making my songs sound far better than they actually are
- Steve Gibson for providing a rhythm section that brought some of these songs to life
- Adam Boose for the lighting-fast, kick-ass mastering job
That's the story. This is "Aging Truths". It's free. Go download it, or buy it if you want to. Thanks for listening. -max
released September 25, 2012
Max Stern - vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, bass, keys, percussion
Jake Stern - vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo, piano
Steve Gibson - drums, bass
Recorded by Adam Wagner, March 11-14, 2012 at Bad Racket Recording Studio in Cleveland, OH
Mixed by Adam Wagner, March-September 2012 in Cleveland, OH and San Francisco, CA
Mastered by Adam Boose at Cauliflower Audio in Cleveland, OH
Good morning, my darling. My blood is boiling. I can't do a damn thing that's right or important. You’re coming home late and I just don’t like it, but I cannot help that I get so excited when I see you. There’s booze on your breath but there’s some on mine too. The mud tells a story that’s caked on your shoes. Bruises on your legs and scrapes on your arms, so pardon me, darling, if I seem alarmed when I see you. And I’m sad cause I can’t describe how the words, they get caught in my throat and I just wanna die. And I’m scared that you’re gonna leave and you’ll never see all the good things I want you to see.
Track Name: Love & A Sense Of Belonging
Eye contact in the kitchen. Slurring words and emotions persistent. My hands couldn’t stop flinching. When I told you I was fine I guess it wasn’t convincing. Assign a name and a reference. File it away, do what you can to forget this. Put on your shoes and your sweater. Come on, man, keep it together. Now I’m wandering hospital halls with my brother, looking for the right combination of letters and numbers and it never really gets any better. I hope I never end up here. Chorus: I will turn towards the sun. I will fight and I will overcome and I will grow and I will change. (x2) And we’ll distribute the pressures of living between half-empty glasses and smiles forgiving. For what exactly are we working? Love and a sense of belonging.
Track Name: The Catalyst
I think that I was distracted the day you came home. I was so used to airplanes and cellular phones. We were dead set on making up for lost time. Well, you can seek, but you won’t find. Now the only thing stopping myself is my mind, like a concrete wall stacked a thousand feet high. They said, “You’d better start digging or learn how to fly.” I said, “No thanks, I’ll just walk right on through.” (x2) Chorus: I walk with a weight in my shoes. An invisible cloud around my head. I keep my fears by my side and hope that one day they might serve as a catalyst for something else more positive. I think that I was distracted that night one roof, and when the cops showed up you were tying your shoes. I said, “Come on, we don’t have any time. Can’t you see?” You said, “Time don’t have anything for me.” So I smiled and I laughed as I crawled back inside. Fell drunk on the ground and knocked over the light. I said, “With everyone I love, I leave some pieces behind.” You said, “I know how you feel. It’s alright.” (x2) (chorus) So I wallow and drown. I kick and I flail. Heaving and panting and gasping for air. Sick of the cyclical nature of things and the doubts and regrets and the trees with no leaves. So I walk thru the train yards and run in the streets, but that sinister, smiling cycle repeats. And I climb up the stairs and collapse on the floor. I don’t know what to think anymore (x2). Don’t think I ever did. I think that I’ve been distracted for most of my life in a sea made of pavement and yellow-dashed lines. With everyone you love, you leave some pieces behind. So dry your eyes now, it’s alright.
Track Name: I Will Learn
It was just as the summer was fading to fall and the heat tore the posters right off my walls. I can combat the distance, the lines and the time but not this. At my worst I am limited, feeble and broke. Confined to my narrow and negative scope. I wrote it all down but I think that you already know. Chorus: But I won’t see you for another few days, so I’ve got time to figure out what I should say. Stay quiet tonight. Fumble for words to convince you to stay in attempts to get voice on the same page as brain, but the merging of two institutions is oh-so-complex. Cause I do this thing where I open my mouth but I have no control of the sounds that come out. So set up the microphone, I’d like to take that one again. (chorus) And I won’t let my mind build a wall to hide behind, but I will learn to trust and to forgive. (x2) I squeezed every drop out of summer I could. I took every measure to stifle the flood, and as pressure releases conclusions are left in the wake. So let’s split a bottle of something real strong and spend this semester floating along. I promise to love you if you promise me honesty.
Track Name: What We've Built
Love of mine, I’ve sent you sailing through the sky. When you return to Earth I’ll prove my worth to you. I have watched you grow. We’ve been living in each others’ shadows. And I have learned to take such comfort in words displayed on screens. And when you look at what we’ve built, do you not smile? I've watched you grow out from inside. I was once a child, painfully small in my father’s eyes. And he was right - that one day I would grow to laugh at all the things I held in such regard. And you, you are so brave, diving headfirst into this mess we’ve made. And you said, “The water’s fine. Come on in, we haven’t got all night.” And when you look at what we’ve built, do you not smile? You know I've loved you for a while. Combine all the constructs that we’ve created. Every action felt, each motive stated. Remember that both love and fear are fading, but that’s enough to build upon.
Track Name: Prosthetic Hand
Lately I wonder and worry aloud how the hell my feet are still on the ground. Walking in circles, running in place towards something safe. Safe from the headlights and vending machines and things that I want but I know I don’t need. Lead me away, advertise me a safe and happy existence. Chorus: Oh, but there ain’t nothing new in this world. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the signal. Feels just like I’ve been here before. (x2) Internet messages, long-distance calls. Staying in touch can be so difficult. The truth is we’re all unwilling prisoners of time. But time’s an illusion and age isn’t real. It’s just used as a tool to control how we feel. Well, I’m feeling older and more insecure about my place in this world. (chorus x2) So please take your pictures on your camera phones. Send them to a close friend far from home. Show me your pixelated images of love. And I’ll be connected to you through my soul, not just through computers and cellular phones. There is no substitute for a hand to hold (x2).
Track Name: Wait, Move
Sew up my clothes when they tear from overuse. Be a stronghold when I’m flailing. My hands are wide open, eager to receive a letter that sends my mind sailing out to the ocean, massive and free. This day was bound to come sometime, so gas up the car and check temperature. Attempt at easing my mind. Chorus: I’ll wait for you to return. Wait for you. I’ll dig my feet into the sand. I won’t move. I bend and I break every chance that I get to have someone make my decisions. But I’ve learned that my methods aren’t always best and that logic often trumps opinion. So write me a postcard from your new home. I hope you experience something. I’ll see you on holidays and breaks in the summertime. Return to my arms, still and loving. (chorus)
Track Name: Commuters
There’s a million songs in my head, each one screaming to get out. Each one hoping to become more than a thought trapped in a nerve, and I get overtaken by the overwhelming possibility that they exist. So I power through the work week. Set my goals and write to-do lists. Do the dishes. Pick the clothes up off the floor. Wasting weekdays watching walls and willing them to somehow fall without ever putting my hands to work. Chorus: So stop thinking in absolutes. Do this and I’ll follow suit. I’ve nothing but fond memories of you. I read the messages you sent and memorized those ten digits like they were written on the insides of my eyes. Apologies and punishments. A cold shoulder. The warmest glance. A pause, a curse word and a smile. Photographs and alcohol. The shirt you sent to me last fall - I never wore it, but I lied and said I did. Attempts to be constructive. Don’t know why I’m so reluctant. The first step always was the hardest one. (chorus) The arguments I had with you stayed with me like a bad tattoo you laugh about but secretly regret. And I never did keep a score, but if I had to guess I’m sure you were at least a thousand points ahead. But I loved you cause that didn’t seem to matter. Our aging truths could always coexist in intermittent messages and blurry photographs of friends we still hope that we can call our best.
Track Name: When You See Me
Good evening, my darling. My blood is thinning with people around me maniacally grinning at chances I’ve missed and mistakes that I’ve made, and I worry my image has started to fade when you see me. I’m broken and bastardized, crooked and crossed. Gasping on fumes left by auto exhaust that seep into my lungs on the shoreway back home and footsteps turn to tire treads and I sleep alone until you see me. And I’m sad cause I can’t decide - is the distance or deafening lull the worst part of the fight? And I’m scared that you’re gonna leave and I’ll never see all the good things you want me to see.
Track Name: Six Blocks
Holding onto fears and inhibitions. Paralyzed by the thought that I’m getting old. Home doesn’t feel the same way that it used to. Foolish to think that some things never change. At my great-aunt’s house we would run in fields and never worry about the time spent sleeping in. Simple, familiar. Qualities of another time. Foolish to think that July would never end. I moved out in August against my mother’s wishes and on the piano my brother played the saddest song. I watched his fingers, thought back to when I was fourteen and all of my cares in the world were contained in a six-block radius. Truth be told, I don’t long for those times, but they represent warmth and security. Search for people to share that feeling with, but always remember how you found it in the first place.