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    2017 in Review // FC'S Forthcoming Album with Steve Albini // Thoughts About Service

    As predicted, 2017 was a year of collaboration for me. I tend to get to the week after Christmas and feel like I haven't done much with my year, but I snapped out of it pretty quickly this time. This year has held a lot. A lot of music, a lot of working with others, a lot of life.

    The year started with the Women's March in D.C., an experience I'll remember as long as I live. I marched with some of my oldest and dearest friends; all of us had travelled great distances to be there. We were there in solidarity with one another, and with everyone who believes in a better future—and we were there in direct opposition to the current administration. I continue to stand against. I participated in fifteen protests this year and I'm sure there will be more ahead. There seems to be no end to the bigotry and dishonesty coming out of the White House and also Tennessee's capital. It's hard to know which fire to try to put out first these days. On the positive side of things, I've met some rad fellow activists out there, and have had the chance to work with some forward-moving groups like the Tennessee Equality Project right here in Nashville. I hope to do more with them in the coming year.

    Photo by Iris Robert

    As soon as I got back to Nashville from D.C., Jerry and I were involved in a creative project called the East Fowlkes Sextet. A four song EP was rendered at the Rock House in Franklin TN, aptly titled The Rock House Sessions. The recording documents composition and performances by: Zach Barocas, Kevin McKendree, Jerry Roe, Steve Mackey, Yates McKendree, and myself. It was a delightful and productive time and I'm proud of what we created. Thanks to Zach and Kevin for making it happen.

    Photo by Laura McKendree

    This was a non-album year for Friendship Commanders, but we did release an EP ourselves, a 7" record called JUNEBUG, also in the spirit of collaboration. Each of the four songs has a contribution from (or was inspired by) someone outside of the band. Jesse Michaels (Operation Ivy, Classics of Love) co-wrote a song, N.A. Huebsch Jr. contributed a German translation to another, one song is an Iodine cover, and last, one song was inspired by and is dedicated to BELLS≥. We made one video for that body of work, for "Berlin." Some twenty-three people were involved in that, to whom we're grateful. The record partially benefits the ACLU. 

    As I posted about here, I curated and released a compilation called Resolution of Happiness on my label, Trimming The Shield Records. The comp 100% benefits Lambda Legal. It features work by nineteen bands and artists, cover art by Karen Mooney (a.k.a. Moongerm), and graphic work by Veronica Burgos (a.k.a. Evey in Orbit). My band has a protest song on it called "Scuffle," for which we also made a video. Gratitude and appreciation to all involved, especially Alex McCollough, who donated his mastering services.

    I was honored to have written pieces included in three female-run zine projects this year:

    1. In This Body, Our Bodies Our Voice, 2017, edited by Avery Muether, benefiting Planned Parenthood.
    2. On Haring, Hope, and Shutting My Own Mouth, Esta Tierra, An American Zine Born From the Resistance, 2017, edited by Karen Curtiss and Mari Irizzary, benefiting The International Rescue Committee (IRC)Honor the EarthACLUPlanned Parenthood and The Audre Lorde Project.
    3. CARRIE: They Had It ComingHorror // Ripe with Rage Issue 1, 2017, edited by Veronica Burgos, benefiting Nashville's Sexual Assault Center.

    FC did three tours in 2017; we made it to both coasts and a bunch in the middle. I love to tour and have missed being on the road this season. Alas, we needed to get our second album in fighting shape.

    Photo by Aaron Ehinger

    About that album: we recorded our new album with Steve Albini at his studio, Electrical Audio! We were up there for a week at the end of November and beginning of December. I don't have a ton of details to share about the release yet, but it will come out in 2018. The experience was the most positive I've ever had in the studio. I had a slew of past recording experiences shape some ideas about myself and others, and I have to say, working with Albini undid all of them. Turns out, he knows what he's doing. Albini is the first outside engineer FC have ever worked with in the studio, so it was a big change of pace and scenery for us. We're going to have a hard time ever going back to the way we used to do things. More on that release soon, I promise. For now, here's a photo from the last day of the sessions.

    My year wrapped with some service, some of which went smoothly, and some of which didn't. For the last seven years, I've led a project called Let Me Help (definitely named after the Bad Brains song). Our goal is to outfit the residents of the Safe Haven Family Shelter and Magdalene House (both in Nashville) with handmade warm wares during the holiday season. We started out small, have grown over the years, and have had some truly successful and smooth recent years. This year, participation was low. Communication was poor. I found myself feeling disappointed and resentful toward people who had promised items and then not come through—and not let me know with enough time to cover the losses. They didn't let me know at all, actually. I had to chase people down on the deadline date, only to find that they hadn't finished the items. I had a fifteen item loss on the day of the submission deadline. And I had received apathy in response, to boot. I still don't know what to do with that kind of thing. It's not appropriate to react, but I'm a human being. I have expectations just like everyone else. I do my best to manage them, but sometimes they creep up just the same. I try to operate from a place of hope and PMA, but sometimes shit's a mess. And this season, it was a mess.

    Part of what stunned me, is that people chose this year to bail. This year of garbage leadership and garbage policies. So many peoples' lives and freedoms on the line. My inclination is to go further into service at times like this. Apparently, this is not the case for everyone. Some have retreated. Some have gone inward. I can't claim to understand it, but I know my job is to accept it. I had to accept that we didn't have enough items to serve Magdalene House this year. It was what it was. I'm still incredibly grateful to the thirteen people who knit and crocheted such lovely pieces this year; we did outfit thirty-five adults and children. Maybe that's enough. Maybe it's not for me to know. But, if I could say one thing to whoever is reading this, I'd say: I know it's easy to feel like someone else will take care of it, whatever it is. I'm guilty of this myself. But, there isn't always someone else. Sometimes it falls to us. Sometimes it's our job to take care of our own selves as well as others. To give what we can, even if we feel like we don't have much. I'm eternally broke (such has been the story of my life in the arts), I've been tired for twenty years, I'm not ever sure of what I'm doing, and my faith in human beings has taken some serious hits in recent years. Serious. But I don't know of another way to chip away at the problem. If I'm not part of the solution, I can't be sure that someone else is. 

    I'm going to sit with my thoughts and feelings about service before I decide whether or not to do an eighth year of Let Me Help. It might simply have run its course. It might be time for me not to lead. I don't know. I do know that I'm proud of what we've been able to do in the seven years up to this point. More will be revealed.

    As we face 2018, I am encouraged by the idea of a fresh start. We learn as we go, and go we must. I will leave my exhaustion, resentments, and expectations in 2017 where they belong. I'm grateful for what I was able to be a part of this year, and even more grateful for the education each situation gave to me.

    I wish each of you a healthy and purposeful new year, and I hope our paths cross. Onward.

    Respect, hope, and PMA,


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