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  • TJ Stafford

who are your people?


Someone asked me recenly WHO I made my art for.

I didn't have an answer.

I've been doing this in some context for decades, and I didn't have an answer to what seems like a pretty fundamental question.

The only things I could come up with were so vague as to be nonexistent:

"Me."

"No one."

"The world."

"Whoever wants to listen.”

Then they asked, "Who are your people?"

When someone asks you that, you may not have the words, but you ‘see’ the people in your head. It could be friends or strangers or people you’ve only seen on t.v., but there’s something in them that your heart is drawn to, that relates on an existential level.

I’ve spent a few days thinking about this question to try and put it into words. Below is what I’m slowly realizing and acknowledging. Let me know if you relate. I think you might.

First, a little back story. I grew up in 90’s conservative evangelical christianity.

The good part of that was good: there was a focus that was outside of and higher than myself. The bad part of that was BAD: unwarranted guilt, shame, made-up rules disguised as God’s word, power structures that kept people submissive and completely missed the heart of what we were supposed to be about… I could go on.

It’s taken me years to acknowledge that I’ve spent a good portion of my life breaking out of so much of the bullshit that came along with that system. Not the faith. The SYSTEM.

And here’s what I’ve noticed about my people, the people whose hearts I'm immediately and forever drawn to on a deep, deep level: they seem to be wrestling with the same things. Not necessarily the evangelical christian part, but the ‘breaking down a flawed system’ part. Contstantly breaking down the ‘right’ ways that they were taught to think that turned out to be bullshit. But they still want to be good people. So they’re continually questioning and re-working it all and creating their own path. They’re sitting in gray areas of good & bad, wrong & right, spiritual and physical.

As much as I’ve tried to avoid admitting it, every piece of art i’ve ever made is informed by that battle. Even the pieces of art that seem otherwise. It’s me casting off the chains and baggage of a flawed psychological system and trying to figure out what all of this means. all my bad habits have prepared me for this* was me realizing that I could actually write about ANYTHING & EVERYTHING I experienced without fear of guilt or judgement, and that some of what I was experiencing was really messy. And that was ok.

The Death of Zossima was the rage and anger that comes from a lack of answers.

And this next album? Who knows.

In that spirit, and believing that you’re my people and probably wrestling with some of the same stuff, I’m gonna start sharing some very unfinished music with you and the stories behind them. I’ll start with the scratch tracks (just the rough guitar and vocals that act as a structure for the actual production) so you can hear the evolution from start to finish. Hell, you can even give me suggestions on how the songs should evolve.

Here’s the first one:

THE ASTRONAUT

(You can find the backstory and lyrics in the description.It’s a private Soundcloud link, so feel free to leave comments.)

I would love to hear if & how you relate to the above, so hit me up with your thoughts. I’m shitty at the social media stuff, but I’m pretty decent at responding to emails/texts.

Tj

PS:

RANDOM STUFF I'M WORKING ON

7 Dwarfs v Tarantino?

Early 2020 when the world got locked down, boredom and the onset of a full mental breakdown led a few friends and myself to venture into some unknown territory. Here is one such territory:

RESORVOIR DWARFS

You can see our other ideas here: SAINT ROGUE MEDIA

Cassette Tapes…because…cassette tapes

I recently got really into cassette tapes for no other reason than, within the span of a couple of days, I stumbled upon an old cassette player AND an old mix tape from high-school, apparently from ‘Cindy’ with a heart over the I whom I have no recollection of. One thing led to another, and I decided to print The Death of Zossima to cassette. Obviously a sound business decision. Also, it legit sounds amazing. Exactly how this album should sound. You can get one here. But don’t ask me where to find a cassette player. The Smithsonian isn’t lending out theirs.