Friday Artist Feature 05 + Interview: Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon, Gray Acres, Mordançage)

Places. Times. Resonant Moments.

I’ve always had an interest in the way we remember certain events and places, how that changes over time, and how we associate them with sights, sounds, and specific places and landmarks.

–Andrew Tasselmyer

One of the most recognizable virtuosos in the electronic music scene, Andrew Tasselmyer is a third of the visionary ambient project, Hotel Neon, along with Michael Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner. During the course of 2018, Hotel Neon released “Means Of Knowing” on Agus Mena’s Archives music label, their “Inward” double-sided tape during their Fall Tour with Marcus Fischer and Benoît Pioulard, and “Cold Suns,” their collaboration with Slow Meadow. To end the year with a bang, Hotel Neon collaborated with Endless Melancholy on the Thesis Project for a double track Split.

Andrew has also released quite a few solo works this year:

Besides his beautiful wavy work with Hotel Neon and Self Released albums, Andrew was involved with the creation of new side projects: Mordançage with Tobias Hellkvistwith on Fluid Audio, and Gray Acres with his brother, Michael Tasselmyer on the Sound In Silence music label.

Taking into account all of these quality projects, Andrew had one of the most successful, productive years as we near the end of 2018. Truly an inspiration, Andrew takes sensory snippets from memorable times and turns them into beautiful pieces of high quality art.

Select Andrew Tasselmyer work from 2018:

Interview 05 – Ambiance Glitters & Andrew Tasselmyer

Andrew Tasselmyer’s work with Hotel Neon, Self Releases, and side projects MordançageGray Acres inspired us so much this year that it was only fitting to reach out for an interview. Andrew kindly accepted and provided intricate descriptions and insights to the large amount of works and projects he has completed this year…

AG: Can you talk a little bit about the three-man ambient project that you’re a part of, Hotel Neon, along with Michael Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner? How did it come to be?

Hotel Neon:
Andrew Tasselmyer, Michael Tasselmyer & Steven Kemner.

Andrew: Here we go: Hotel Neon started in late 2012 after my twin brother, Mike, and I graduated from university. We had been going down the path of a more obvious “drone” sound with our post-rock project at the time, and eventually we had enough beat-less material where it made sense to distinguish it from that band and release it under separate cover. We picked the name “Hotel Neon” in reference to a line from Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” that seemed to suit the vision. The debut album “Hotel Neon” was a collection of some of that material, which I had been recording in my apartment in Delaware in 2012. There was no intent whatsoever for anyone beyond our friend group to hear it. Our friend Jon Rodman loved it, though, and generously printed a batch of tapes for us at the Copy Cat Printing facility in Baltimore, MD (an iconic arts space; sadly, it’s now closed). We assembled them by hand and put it on Bandcamp in mid 2013. It sat in relative obscurity for over a year, and then in the fall of 2014, Ian Hawgood emailed us with an offer to remaster and reissue the album on his Home Normal imprint in Japan. The response to the re-release in January 2015 was beyond anything we expected… I’m still indebted to Ian for his blind trust in us, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities that came from that introduction. Steven joined the fold later that year, near Christmas of 2015, after we had met in Philadelphia. By some stroke of luck, it was his Echo Park delay pedal that I purchased on a local Craigslist listing. We met for the sale and we instantly hit it off with a lot of common interests and musical taste. We collaborated on some spare material we each had laying around, which ultimately became “Remnants”, and the rest is history.

AG:Resonant Moments” released on Shimmering Moods in 2017 — associating your unique genius style to connect soundscapes to memorable places, what mainly drove the inspiration for this release?

Selected Track: ‘Princeton’

Andrew: “Resonant Moments” was me trying to process a lot of significant events from 2016. It was a really intense year where a lot of things came to a head, and I realized that I should make a conscious effort to commemorate it in some way by committing it to more than just my mind’s eye. I’ve always had an interest in the way we remember certain events and places, how that changes over time, and how we associate them with sights, sounds, and specific places and landmarks.

AG: Your latest release, “Tines,” on the local Pennsylvania label Flag Day Recordings is obviously very meaningful to us as notated in our review. How did you come across Flag Day and their wonderful experimental sounds?

Selected Track: ‘5’

Andrew: Flag Day Recordings is run by my friend Billy Pizarro, who records really interesting noise and sound art under the name Guillermo Pizarro. He’s been a huge supporter of Hotel Neon for a long time. In fact, one of the first Hotel Neon shows we played as a trio was part of a concert series he organized in central PA. Since meeting we have always shared a really similar creative vision. Add to that the fact that there’s always been a huge gap in the opportunities available for experimental art between York/Lancaster and Philadelphia, and it was a perfect fit to work with him on “Tines.” He’s a great friend to us and I appreciate his work.

AG: How do you feel about streaming services? Obviously Bandcamp has become close to most of our hearts alongside respect our community has for physical media. Are other streaming services such as Spotify something you feel positively about and see in, say five years down the road?

Andrew: This probably won’t surprise anyone, but I really dislike the streaming platforms. It’s not for the financial reasons that everyone brings up, though…yeah, it’s true, the going pay rate for a streamed song is comically bad, but frankly, just because you’re putting your music on a given platform doesn’t mean that it automatically deserves financial success. Anyone can upload garbage to any service. You need to hone your craft, earn a following, and gain enough critical mass to make a living doing this, just like any other time in music history. It’s not any different now. It’s always been a struggle to “make it” as a musician, since the times of medieval court patronage systems, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My issue is more about what streaming does to our perceived value of music, and our ability to listen with purpose. I think it gives us a case of attention deficit disorder on a mass scale. When you give people an infinite amount of music at their disposal and let them click through it indiscriminately, that can be a mind-numbing and overwhelming experience. Perhaps most dangerously, I think it changes the way people value music. It gives them the impression that all this sound is just made without effort, that it’s there to take, and that it will always be there. I guess I just worry that we are beginning to treat music as a mood-setting device, or some kind of accessory, rather than something inherently valuable, human, precious, and powerful. You can still have a life-changing connection with a special album you find on Spotify, but there is a minority of people that will take the next step in engagement by purchasing that album, because there is no immediate incentive or route to do so. We can’t be naive about this, though. Digital streams are here to stay and we need to adapt. It’s not enough to complain without action. We need to focus on how to improve the experience. I don’t know the answers, but there are so many little things that could make a difference and add transparency, like letting artists include website links on their Spotify profile pages, or placing artist-curated playlists on the front page instead of the “mood” playlists made by mysterious tastemakers… Anything to improve the chance that someone acts on the music they hear by making a purchase. It would lend the service a better sense of community and transparency, too, which is what I think most people hate about it – we feel like slaves to the algorithm, adding to the noise. It’s inhuman and anonymous.

AG: When did you start into music production? Was there a defining strong resonant moment where you decided you were passionate about production, so much so that you wanted to evolve it to the next level and work with heavyweight transcendent labels such as Fluid Audio, Archives, Shimmering Moods, Polar Seas, etc…? To that extent — evolution of your productions in multiple projects: Self Releases, Gray Acres & Hotel Neon

Andrew’s shimmering take on Rittenhouse Square.

Andrew: I started playing music in elementary school, and continued playing in middle and high school bands, but it wasn’t until I was about 16 or 17 when I started doing it myself with original ideas. I bought a really awful Tascam USB interface that was incredibly noisy and difficult to work with, and used Cubase to draw up a few sketches for the jam band I was playing in at the time. I didn’t get really serious about it until a couple years later, in college around 2010, when we started writing post-rock music because of how much we loved that particular style. But really, I can’t pinpoint a particular moment for inspiring any of this. It all just snowballed because I’ve always loved doing it. There’s nothing like the connection of writing music and sharing it with someone, and I’ll never get tired of that. Every label we’ve worked with has either been one we personally admired, or one we discovered through mutual friends.

AG: When did Gray Acres step into the picture as another creative outlet for your genius intelligent emotive output?

Gray Acres – Gray Acres [Sound In Silence 049]

Selected Track: ‘A Beauty Not Theirs’

Andrew: Gray Acres came about near the end of last summer. My brother Michael was in town for a weekend, and we each had some random unfinished material with us. We were sitting around listening to it, and we realized it could actually be something interesting with a little bit of touching up. After we fleshed it out a little more, it started to take on this kind of floating, direction-less, cloudy quality that wasn’t really present in Hotel Neon, so we felt like it deserved a different name and a different guise…it just wasn’t the same. The whole thing was basically finished over the course of a week and was just for fun, but I’m really pleased with how it came out and very grateful for how well it’s been received. It was unexpected. It will continue to be an outlet for more experiments in the future.

AG: Are there any particular artists that stand out to you in the community for next level inspiration on your original productions? (to that extent Hotel Neon & Gray Acres as well.)

Andrew: I’ve always been drawn to music that has a clear vision or process. Things that feel coherent, intentional, and purposeful. Cage, Boulez, Schoenberg, Reich, and all the classic names that are associated with process music have always been tremendously inspiring to me. They were visionaries who were explicit about what they wanted to achieve, treated sound as a tangible experience, and pursued certain goals and techniques. I try to do the same when I write. In today’s scene, I gravitate towards the same qualities. There are a couple standout artists for me, including Benoît Pioulard, Taylor Deupree, Marcus Fischer, and Lawrence English. All these folks are very good at working in natural, tangible, and human qualities to their music that feels expansive, and yet, accessible…it doesn’t feel distant or alien. You can hear the natural elements in their sounds, whether it’s a faulty tape reel, static and hiss, field recordings, etc… you can tell where they are coming from, but there is still power, sonic depth, and new details to be heard there every time you listen. I really appreciate that.

AG: Is Andrew a workaholic? In addition to your normal day job, it seems that you spend almost every waking moment on your production skills and large knowledge-base of relating shimmering sounds to specific places.

Andrew: Ha, far from it. I do spend a lot of time making music, though, and that’s only because it is natural to me at this point. Writing music is no different than writing in my journal. I do both as a way to log my ideas every day, or as much as possible. It helps me process things, and it keeps me present and sensitive to my surroundings. That’s what I love about field recording, too. I would go crazy if I didn’t do this stuff regularly, which is why I have so much material out there all the time.

AG: The Thesis Project is building a line-up of releases from world class acts; the latest being Print/Track 05 featuring Hotel Neon & Endless Melancholy. How has the experience been working with Gregory Euclide & Endless Melancholy to create timeless pieces of limited edition art?

Hotel Neon / Endless Melancholy – PRINT/TRACK 05 [Thesis]

Andrew: It was wonderful, plain and simple. We’ve worked with Gregory in the past (he provided artwork for our “Context: Remixed” album) and I’ve always been drawn to his process and artwork. I think Thesis Project is the best thing happening in experimental music right now. The scope and level of effort is remarkable, and in terms of the total package – music, visuals, packaging and ethos – you’d be hard-pressed to find a more interesting label today.

AG: How was your latest Fall Tour with Marcus Fisher and Benoît Pioulard? As east coast residents, it’s clear your dedication to the electronic music community will not be stopped by geographic restrictions near or far…

“Inward” released via Fall 2018 tour and later made available via Bandcamp.

Selected Track: ‘A’

Andrew: It was a dream, and probably the best tour we’ve had the opportunity to be a part of so far. Every night was a unique experience, and we had the support of some really great organizers and varied venues along the way. There are so many stories to tell – museums and pinball in LA, 4 AM fire alarms and Envelop spatial audio in San Fran, a skeptical promoter in Berklee to whom we served an enormous slice of humble pie, experiencing ketchup chips in Vancouver, hopping fences in Portland…I’m getting nostalgic just typing this. But in all sincerity, I’m really appreciative of everyone who came out to see us along the way, especially folks we had only known virtually beforehand and got to meet in person. It was even better than expected. Selfishly speaking, I was just happy watching Marcus and Tom perform every night. They are amazing musicians and even better people, and I’m glad we got to spend 10 days driving in a van with them. There’s no doubt we will reconvene at some point down the line. To your second point – we’re very much committed to performing this music live, and we do that a lot: anywhere and any time we can. Everything we record is done so from the perspective of “how will this sound in a live context,” and it’s always our intent to facilitate a powerful live experience. There’s nothing like it. We have big plans for 2019, and I’m looking forward to sharing this with more people out there.

Thank you, Andrew, for your time and thoughtful explanations of recent work and projects. Excited to see what 2019 has in store from your genius inspirational sonic output…

One reply to “Friday Artist Feature 05 + Interview: Andrew Tasselmyer (Hotel Neon, Gray Acres, Mordançage)

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