Food Pyramid's Chris Farstad: My side project 555 is a kind of new age punk rock

Categories: Local Music
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It'd probably be best advised to not pop the new solo cassette from Food Pyramid's Chris Farstad into your deck while driving around town any time soon. While not exactly the banger of the summer, Chris' new project, simply called 555 involves a more enveloping sound that bubbles, throbs and repeats the most ambient impulses on his new cassette on Moon Glyph, Solar Express. It catapults the conscious into a relaxed state of being that is more suited for night swimming than for bumpin' the jams around the lakes.

The manifesto on 555's Bandcamp page attempts to best describe Farstad's efforts as "Exploring the tension between new age escapism and kinetic momentum, wielding psychic armor of pure laughter to disarm power and usher in new stories." Assuming anyone can figure out what that means. Sonically Solar Express hints at this idea without really giving anything away. 555 represents cycles of daily life but provides an open space for the mind to wander. One can't help having feelings of nostalgia for old new age tapes that used to clutter the organic section of grocery stores. The fact this music now populates your average hipster's backpack causes the realization that in fact it has come around in a new form.

Trading emails with Chris from his current home in Jersey City, Gimme Noise was able to get him to guide us through the 555 philosophy and thinking behind the music on Solar Express.

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Gimme Noise: There's mention of the music of 555 has to do with transition. So where are you living now? What took you out of Minneapolis to where you are at these days? How is it different?

Chris Farstad: I live with family in Jersey City, New Jersey, currently. I'm in transition as well, sharing time between New Orleans and Jersey City. I wouldn't want to function as a spokesperson for the state of things in any particular place. I wouldn't trust myself to know enough to say anything useful to people in general. I left to peruse opportunities and obligations I had, though. These cities are very different for very different reasons.

For Solar Express, It is transition. I made it with looping software in an iPad dock that sequences audio with midi and a separate drum machine that's run through effects. The tracks are modular: if I were to "play" a track from live, I could potentially take all the cycles of patterns from that one track and interpose it on top of a completely different drum sound, or a beat from another wholly separate track.

Each song on Solar Express was more or less executed live in one take and then overdubbed on top of, so it's linear in that way, but this was only for the purpose of creating a record. Each "track" is its own archive, and playing becomes more about investigating that archive, interpreting it, or erasing it entirely, foregrounding a percussive element but doing it in a way that is an open-sourced structure, if that makes sense. Sound, once created, exists as a data cycle forever, fossilized. The execution of audio sequences creates the track. It's kind of like it's re-engineered, dinosaur-DNA-style.

It can be shortened to two minutes or lengthened to fifteen, played with or without percussion, etc. The software I use treats tracks as literal cycles, that are sequenced together, faded in and out. It's all transitions, all the time, and the disposability of each separate sequence of a track gives the ability to stabilize it or reformat part (or all) of it at any time... which effectively makes even the track, its sequences, its own collection of "transitions," themselves in transition, haha! I also try to treat a separate drum machine as if it were on its own, physically, a drum -- effecting it out, delaying it from polyrhythm to disco or whatever, by ear, live.

Listening to Solar Express I get the feeling of a large space. Sorta like falling into an abyss. Kinda like that film actually, The Abyss. Did you ever see that one? 

I have seen it, yeah. When I was a kid. It's pretty cool. I think I remember it having some really awesomely-bad CGI that takes it into next-level territory. Anyway, you probably get that feeling because there's a bunch of reverb and stuff going on creating "artificial sonic space," which is in itself kind of a cool concept... I wasn't really going for any particular zone, though. Or, like, one zone. It's got zones on zones. It's multi-zoned. It's got commercial zones. Like, SimCity 2000 style. Buy my album! Haha.

This music could be kinda like a soundtrack for a film like that, Though probably wouldn't be as suspenseful. Do you ever think of your music as something visual or is it strictly an auditory sensation?

It's all vibrations, maaaan.

What is the significance of the name "555"?

If you look up what a 555-timer is, it's basically like your most basic oscillator component, but it's sort of a shout-out to time with friends spent trying to learn how to build electronic things. I do not remember being successful, but to be fair it can be attributed to total lack of trying. I'm just not really a mechanically-minded person. 555 is more about ideas of intuition, spiritual attainment, the edge of chaos, a kind of new age punk rock or something. But there's also a little bit of the whole "fake movie phone-number," Hollywood Babylon thing going on too? The whole 555 concept tries to function on the level of a metaphor as a resistance, embodying a philosophy of making oneself more powerful in relationship to power, maybe first through awareness, but then maybe through a shield, or a network, or just the right information. I'd like to think that the music could be interpreted as kind of healing ritual/act/impulse against the "modern environmental/terroristic security situation" vibe that exists today. Not quite like Todd Haynes' movie Safe, if you've seen that, but kind of. As a name, 555: it's just easy to remember and translates well.


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