by Gabriel Bugarin
The start of the pandemic upended the day-to-day for nearly everyone I know. At the time, I was working through my master’s degree, had just started working on my thesis, and was teaching English 101—all of which went remote, of course. While it was a sobering time to be sure, I found a particular aspect of it liberating: I had a hell of a lot more free time on my hands. And considering it was summer break, my academic responsibilities dwindled significantly.
I didn’t know what to do with all this free time though. It’d been decades—since being a kid—since I could last remember having such an open-ended schedule. And I was feeling an insatiable need to create something. Although my master’s program offered me some creative space, being that it was a creative writing program, my energies were feeling sapped on that front. I needed something else. My thoughts immediately went to music, given that it was the medium I’d invested the most time in beyond writing. There have been several musicians I’ve worked with over the years, but none compared to the collaborative compatibility and creative chemistry I have with Ross and Alan. As Alan mentioned in our first blog in this series, it started with a text; I poked the bizarre beast that is New Origins to see if it would wake, to see if there was still life left in the thing.
Academia, Anarchy, and an Android Built to Save the World
As I’m sure is already obvious, the band had life in it yet. The process started with us revisiting some old songs from nearly a decade ago and seeing them in a new light. And while bringing our older songs into 2021 was exciting, we were also eager to add some new ones to our repertoire. The three of us have always been open to experimentation, whether that be with the thematic essence of the song or the way we handle composition. It was through experimentation we birthed a new era of the band, one built upon the speculative genres of cyberpunk and solarpunk, imbued with narrative and story, and fleshed out into a much larger project and conceptual universe than any of us had ever anticipated.
While my academic life was put on the backburner, the classes I’d taken and the materials I was exposed to had taken root in my mind. In a film and media course I’d been in, we’d watched The Matrix and explored its themes at length. My class was also fortunate enough to meet with Cáel Keegan, a professor and scholar of women, gender, and sexuality studies. We read his book, Lana and Lilly Wachowski: Sensing Transgender, and I became obsessed with the perspectives Keegan offered; two concepts from his book threshed their hooks around my brain, the idea of multiple registers and sensoria. Keegan explains that Neo is “… simultaneously alive and sensing two different registers … he is both visually reflected … and narratively duplicated across the virtual/actual border between cinematic worlds.” Neo’s “trans sensoria” allows him to observe and respond to each world appropriately, knowing he’s doubled. It sparked something in me, I wanted to put pen to paper and imagine an adjacent narrative to Neo’s, a character that’s living a doubled-existence, yet examined through a new lens.
What’s more, a huge slice of my time then was spent indulging in various sci-fi mediums. Outside of The Matrix trilogy (this was pre-Resurrections), games like Detroit: Become Human and Horizon: Zero Dawn were huge influences, as well as the Bladerunner franchise, and books like the anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation and The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin. There were three motifs I gravitated to across these works: class and social hierarchy, technological advancement, and humanity’s relationship with the environment.
And so, when Ross and Alan wanted me to conceptualize a theme for a new song, my mind went to Keegan’s writings and my sci-fi obsessions. We met up in a park near Portland—having not seen each other in almost a decade—so we could brainstorm at a safe distance. We discussed building a song that felt like it was moving between worlds or between movements, a song with musical and thematic tension. Once the music for this experimental song was laid out, I sought to imbue the three aforementioned motifs into it. I believed there was no better way to do so than to create an android, which we affectionately call an “Imprint,” that became aware of the socioecological damage imparted on him and the world around him by the powers that be (AKA The Demiurge Sodality). Thus, the song “The Multiple Registers and Sensoria of a Wayward Imprint” was brought into creation, along with Yevhen the Imprint and his onboard computer, Mara.
Filling in the Empty Space Between
The follow-up song to that was, “Command Executed: Allocating Resources for Planetary Liberation by Any Means Necessary,” which focused on the next leg of Yevhen’s fatalistic journey. I remember Ross jokingly saying as we composed the song, “We’re dangerously close to becoming a concept band,” an idea which didn’t take much convincing for any of us to commit to. We started by retrofitting the older songs’ lyrics to fit the story we’d begun writing. We even decided that we’d call humans in our universe “Origins,” and that Yevhen sought to take their place—to make Imprints the “New Origins.” It was a joy to see the pieces come together, the unintentional converging with the intentional, the band’s past transitioning into the present and beyond.
We pressed on with the album, ultimately deciding we wanted to fit the songs together like an audio puzzle; we wanted to ensure that the album could be listened to seamlessly from start to finish (like any good story). And the more we spiraled into the narrative space, it became clear Yevhen’s story couldn’t be wrapped up neatly in one album. I don’t know how we settled on three albums, or three arcs, other than the fact that magic happens in threes (there’s three of us, after all). Therefore, ultimately, the three albums/arcs are meant to be experienced in their entirety, each entry bleeding seamlessly into the next. You’ll notice the second album, once it’s released later this year, will start with track number 09, picking up right where arc one left off. We took songs old and new, filled the space between their lyrical content and musical compositions, and made something brilliant, yet unexpected. I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done.
New Origins’ Kismet
Part of the beauty of this project for all of us has been the transfusion of two of our collective passions: music and storytelling. We have spent a tremendous number of hours not only composing and engineering our music but getting together to discuss story elements and narrative directions. So long ago feel the days of practicing in a garage with atrocious acoustics and our sparse live performances in dingy dive bars across Salt Lake City. The New Origins project has quickly evolved into a hybrid creature of multiple artistic registers, including the visual arts as well. But I’ll leave that for Ross to discuss in our next blog, amongst many other topics like our GoFundMe campaign to fund updating our “lite” versions of Ableton (our DAW of choice), and the process of learning to mix and master music as total newbies.
Until then, thanks for dropping in, and consider signing up for our email list to stay up-to-date with New Origins’ happenings. Though I can’t foresee how Arc 3, or Arc 2 for that matter, will unfold, I know there’s a boundless amount of story ricocheting around my brain. Already in Arc 2, Yevhen and Mara continue to struggle with their shared identities, Aphasia’s zeitgeist is changing rapidly, and an unexpected antagonist has entered the battlefield. I hope you’re enjoying Yevhen’s journey thus far, and I look forward to sharing the next Arc of the story with you.