Now Here We Are Thirty Years Later: A Memoir in Mountain Goats Songs

By Richard O'Brien

An experimental music memoir inspired by cult band The Mountain Goats.

Monday, 30 May 2022

'And then you're singing in Dutch to me / And I recognize the song'

Hi, Joel.

It's been a busy couple of weeks at NOW HERE WE ARE THIRTY YEARS LATER Towers (I had to spent some of the time negotiating so they'd let me put that much text on the sign. We've got up to 61 backers, 9% of the way to full funding - I've been shouting out each one of them individually on my Twitter account, so do check there to see your name and more project updates/bad puns.

I've also, after weeks of wrestling with university finance systems, managed to book my travel and accommodation in Portland to do some research for the book in August/September (apparently when dealing with external research funding, letting your 'thirst carry you up the coast' isn't considered a viable plan to input into the risk assessment form.) I'll be there from Aug 15th to Sept 12th, and would love to meet any US-based backers in person if you'd be interested in showing me the sights. 

Perhaps most notably, we've had what looks to me like a pretty key endorsement: John Darnielle has retweeted instalments from the newsletter and news about the book before, but it's hard to do better than 'his book is worth supporting imo' - a recommendation to back the project straight from the goat's mouth! 

Clearly this carries a certain amount of weight - within a few hours of JD's post, we had a further five pledges come in, bringing us up to 9% funded - but I'd say we still have a while to go. My experience is that the project has picked up a lot of steam whenever John himself mentions it directly, so sharing that tweet directly is one of the best things you could to help reach other fans of the band who might not yet be aware a) that this book is in preparation or b) that it's supported by the artist himself.

By now, the call for backers has been live for a month - we get a six month window to raise funds, so I'd love to reach that next goal of 10% as soon as possible, and set another goal for 25% by the end of June. To get to 10%, I calculate that we currently need 8 more people to pledge for the hardback at £25, which seems like an achievable aim between the 62 of us.  The way crowdfunding works best is by word of mouth, so if you're passionate about this project - and I really thank, from the bottom of my heart, each of you who sees and is excited about what I'm trying to do here - then posting on social media about it, telling any of the tMG fans in your life, is the biggest thing you could do to help make sure we make it to 100% funded by the end of October. Perhaps we could all have some kind of party at that point - what holiday is more Darniellean than Hallowe'en? (I'm sort of serious about this - one thing I'd love to do somewhere in the process to raise funds would be a kind of Goats karaoke open mic - if you have any thoughts on how we could make this happen, do please get in touch!)

On that note, I've been trying to think of fun ways to drum up some interest, and on Friday I took a little mid-morning break to record the above impromptu cover of 'Minnesota' for YouTube and Twitter. I'm sharing it here as a little backers' bonus: as you can tell, I'm a pretty average musician, and I'm embarrassed about some of the clanging chords and the gurning in the outro, but I'm putting this out in the 'first-thought-best-thought,' DIY spirit of the original recordings. As Darnielle told NPR, home recording uniquely conveys the 'freshness' of a song being a 'new thin[g] in the world': whereas you can always fix uneven takes in the studio, in a live take at home 'a song dips and rises and that can actually be worked to the song's benefit. There's a second verse, where you feel like we sort of checked out, and then everybody steps on the gas in the third verse and the song suddenly is better than it would have been if it had been at a uniform level of quality. This happens if you're recording live at home: You go, "I let myself down there. I really just have to step it up here for the climax."'

I'll leave it to your judgment whether or not that's happening here, but I had fun and I wouldn't mind doing a few more of them. If you've already backed the project and would like to hear a specific song covered, drop me a message here or on Twitter and I'll have a go at it and share it in a tweet thread. And if anyone hasn't pledged yet and would like to, the next few backers are very welcome to request a cover for themselves - most of the earlier work has pretty simple chords, but you can gauge my skill level based on 'Minnesota' and get a feeling for what kinds of songs might be more or less reasonable! 

Thanks for reading, and do tell your few remaining friends.

All best,

Richard

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