Saturday, May 31, 2014

To Poland With Love

A busy set of hands, an occupied mind, or even a dozen irons in the fire can be reordered at any moment from the introduction of a new influence or a once unknown force. The most interesting of these instances is when such explosive change happens between two creatives, simultaneously shifting both parties’ planned paths in art and life. The interchange is not a one-sided revelation, reacting without affecting the other: It is cyclical, mutually rejuvenating, and challenging. 

A chance meeting between St. Louis' twang-tinged musician Curtis Brewer and Warsaw's (yes, that Warsaw) newest export, printmaker Ewa Bukda, has produced a duo that overtly has experienced such a phenomenon. Brewer and Budka (the “w” in her first name is pronounced as a “v”) met through her 2014 art residency at St. Louis’ Paul Artspace, and that singular introduction has matured into the peanut butter and jelly equivalent of the artist/musician bond found throughout history. Their union has already seen artistic undertakings between the two, with many more creations in the oven. At this moment, in fact, Brewer is in Poland, having played a solo performance in Warsaw earlier in the week and currently visiting the Budka residence in southwestern Silesia.

Ewa Budka is a Rector's honors recipient and 2013 graduate of Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Her medium is primarily printmaking, though she also counts book design and art education among her professional pursuits.  She and her father, J√≥zef Budka, have developed an amalgamated version of the recent Japanese discovery of lithography on wood (replacing the previously essential litho stone) called Mokulito. Ewa has been selected as an official guest lecturer and demonstrator of this technique (amusingly dubbed “Budka-lito") at multiple conferences and residencies around the world, including the International Printmaking Conference in Milwaukee in 2013, London’s Royal Academy of Art, and multiple campuses throughout St. Louis. Budka returns to St. Louis in July to continue Mokulito research and design work.

Brewer is one of St. Louis' most respected guitarists. Possibly best known for his work in Kentucky Knife Fight, Brewer has also been hard at work of late on the new release by Yankee Racers, the malleable musical collaboration with Knife Fight bandmate Nathan Jatcko. Yankee Racers is set to release their newest album, American Music., in early summer 2014. The album will feature original art and design by Budka, with special packaging editions to be released throughout the year. This record is another unusual experiment from the two-man groupthink that forged their debut release Duologue as a collaborative album, featuring 22 assorted St. Louis musicians performing material outside of their respective usual genres. For American Music., Jatcko and Brewer pushed themselves in new directions, writing without drums or electric guitars and stripping the production down to a sharp collection of American folk- and pop-inspired songs. The lyrical subject matter tackles love in America in all its forms: lost, found, and obstinately given. 

Now, Yankee Racers have just finished their first official music video with the multi-talented Brian McClelland (of Middle Class Fashion, Tight Pants Syndrome, Whoa Thunder, and Blip Blap productions). The song chosen for their first video from American Music. is entitled “For Ever.” “The song is about timelessness and committing to your most sincerest beliefs," says Brewer. "It is easy to say that the best-laid plans are timeless when you see the success in hindsight, but the perspective of seeing timelessness born in an endeavor’s beginning can be an overwhelmingly powerful experience. In context, some decisions are self-evident.”

The video and audio production of “For Ever” was “a community effort in lifting my words and feelings toward a very personally significant finale,” says Brewer. “I could not have done this without the support of my vision from my friends and collaborators all through St. Louis. So many people chipped in and did so with complete selflessness. I am incredibly grateful for the support of my dream and their encouragement in my actions.”

This album release, as well as multiple projects for Brewer, is just the beginning of the collaboration together with Ewa Budka. The two are happily working on many new ventures and are returning together to St. Louis in July of 2014. If this is the beginning, what is next? How will it all end? Perhaps the answers are found in this song’s video…

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