The Goddess Project Documentary (Interview with Holli Rae & Sara Landas)

The BUSThe Goddess Bus

 

 

Hope and Crosby never made a road picture like this!

I wholeheartedly salute two extraordinary young women whom I had the honor to encounter nearly two years ago. They are Holli Rae and Sara Landas, and they have been in the midst of filming their documentary The Goddess Project  for some three years now.  Their credo: “To set our fears aside, and film other women who are doing the same.”

The film’s premise is simple, yet their journey to make it was a life-changing one for them.  It is an intimate look, through interviews, into the lives and inspiration of over 100 women across America, each speaking and baring their souls in a very personal way about their struggles, their inspirations, their contributions, on everything from sisterhood, family, and overcoming fears, to spirituality, aging, body image and sexuality, and speaking in such an honest and disclosing way, toward the purpose of demonstrating real and diverse role models for women of all ages to see and to experience, and to bridge the gaps that have sometimes separated us.

 

THE STORY

In 2012 Holli and Sara left all of their comforts behind, acquired a vegetable oil-powered school bus (decking it out as only goddesses can!) and took a leap of faith, embarking on a remarkable journey across the US in search of women from every walk of life – artists, activists, mothers, sisters, academics, businesswomen, scholars – all eager to share their stories.

I came across these two lights, or they came across me, because Sara’s dad is a friend and colleague of mine.  They came to my home bearing a bouquet of beautiful blooms, and carrying on them their cameras and their great big hearts, and we had a ball talking about life as women, and even shedding a few tears. I believe L.A. was the first wing of their journey, so little did they know at that moment what amazing adventures and encounters were awaiting them.

 “Everywhere we stopped, whether it was at a coffee shop or rest stop,
we were amazed by the number of people who wanted us to meet
an inspiring woman in their life . . . This film presents an intimate look at the
universal concerns that we face as women through groundbreaking dialogue . . .”

 – Holli & Sara

Holli & Sara

10,000 miles later, they had amassed hundreds of hours of footage, and had experienced the time of their lives.   After the honor of being one of their interviewees, I caught up with them recently, in the midst of their post-production tasks, and asked if they wouldn’t mind being on the other end for a moment.

 

*          *          *

ACB:
How did you two meet?  And did the idea for this film come out of your blossoming friendship, or did one of you have the idea first, and through or because of the idea met the other?

H&S: 
We met in the summer of 2008 on a mountain top!  Through sharing stories and making art together, our connection quickly developed into the most co-creative friendship we had ever experienced.  As our bond became stronger and our dreams became bolder, we started meeting so many other inspiring women who were also on a path to pursuing their dreams.  Meeting these ladies and hearing about their unique journeys of self-discovery inspired us to create The Goddess Project.  We saw a need for more empowering stories like theirs in the media and instantly started envisioning how we could share them with the world.  We decided to sell everything that we owned, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to fund the production of the project.  We promised each other that even if the campaign wasn’t successful, we would still hit the road and find a way to make it work.  Our minds were blown away by the incredible people who showed up to help make this film possible.  Over 100 people from around the world donated to help us start the project.

Then something even more magical happened!  We met a man named Chirp at a music festival, told him about our project, and he offered to give us his vegetable oil-powered bus!  Neither of us had ever been given a gift like this from a total stranger, so this act of kindness absolutely blew our minds.  This incredibly generous gift was a huge game changer.  Then we serendipitously connected with an incredible artist named Michelle Robinson through Tumblr who donated her time to help us transform a little brown school bus into a beautiful, inspiring art car.  So we packed our lives into The Goddess Bus and hit the road with two suitcases, our camera equipment, and no idea what we would find!

ACB:
Well, we love Chirp!   Our angels do come to us in the most unexpected ways, don’t they?  And Michelle’s bus art is just so breathtaking in that powerful Sacred Feminine tradition.

As an artist, myself, I find that the ideas I come up with for a book, or a song, or a painting, are usually coming from a place in my soul of lack or need, a hole to be filled, in a sense.  Where do you think this idea of interviewing inspiring women came from?

H&S:
We felt frustrated by the constant bombardment of the same stereotypical roles of women in the media.  We wanted to see a broader spectrum of female role models, so we decided to put our heads together and come up with a solution!

Movies play a huge role in shaping culture and we need to see more films that empower women rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes and limiting beliefs.  We don’t need any more distorted versions of reality telling us that we are not good enough.  We are perfect as we are, and more films need to encourage that!  We are creating The Goddess Project to remind women of all ages that they are strong, beautiful, and capable of achieving anything they set their minds to!

ACB: 
What were you hoping to discover in talking to women across the country, and were your hopes and expectations answered?   Or did you find that conversations went in completely different directions than you had planned?

H&S:
We wanted to see what women across America are passionate about, and to discover how similar we all are in our differences.  We wanted to know what it’s like to be who they are, and hear about what they have overcome to get there.  We wanted to know what their fears are, what they love about themselves, and what they hope to see and become in the future.

We hoped that we would be able to find women who were willing to be open, honest, and real . . . and we ended up finding over a hundred of them!  We sat with women from all walks of life; at dinner tables, coffee shops, on horseback, and in parks; to talk about what they felt most called to share.   We interviewed artists, mothers, healers, business women, and scholars about the life-changing experiences that shaped them to become who they are today.  We talked about everything under the sun, and almost every interview ended in tears.

We learned that many of our fears and obstacles are the same.  We learned that women across America want to feel connected and understood.  We learned that every story is profound, and that women are ready for more representation.  We learned that women across the country are dedicated to bettering themselves and the world around them.

ACB:
As young women, yourselves, looking for positive role models from just such women as you describe, how important was the older demographic among the ones you encountered?   And what gold did you get from the younger women?   And what ended up being the age range of everyone you interviewed?

H&S:
Well, so much gold!  We ended up interviewing women from the ages of 18-90!  The older women we spoke with absolutely blew our minds because they have come so far and have so much insightful wisdom to share.  The younger women inspired us as well because they were so dedicated to pursuing the life of the dreams.  Each woman taught us something new about ourselves and the world that we had never seen before.  It was an amazing experience to be able to travel from city to city, hearing the collective voices of women and seeing the amazing things that they are doing in their homes and communities!

ACB:
I’ve been following this journey, and it’s been very exciting!   In seeing the clips, the beautiful teasers, in the trailers that you’ve made over the past year, I’ve been especially moved by how you left no social demographic out of the loop.    As an African-American woman, myself, in this society, it isn’t uncommon for me to feel, at times, a bit left out of the cultural conversation.   And, of course, I had the honor of being one of your interviewees!   And I have to say, I was completely struck, as I followed your journey, by how much you were so all-inclusive of the radiant array of women of every heritage, station, vocation, age, and every other social orientation.   Can you please speak a bit on that?   Was it conscious on your part, or were you just walking this path with hearts so open that . . . well, let me let you finish the thought.

H&S:
We embarked on this journey with open hearts and planned to interview as many of the most diverse women as we could find.  We definitely made a conscious effort to be all-inclusive when it came to our interviewees because we know that all women out there are seeking inspiration and in most of the media, women, especially those of color, are lacking representation.

As we made our way across the country, we ended up finding women in the most serendipitous and magical ways. Initially we reached out to them through the internet and by word of mouth, but as we traveled from city to city our brightly painted bus became a magnet that attracted amazing women everywhere we went!  At each destination we were approached by women from all walks of life who felt called to share their stories.  Having the opportunity to connect with all of these unique women opened our minds to so many different perspectives, and as we got to know each of them we also realized just how similar so many of our fears and obstacles are.  We learned that although each of our individual journeys looks so different from the outside, there are similar threads that connect us all.  We are so excited to weave this beautiful web of women’s stories together, so that we can bridge the gaps that separate us from one another and inspire people everywhere to create positive change in their own lives!

ACB:
Please talk a little, if you don’t mind, about some of the more unexpected things that occurred on your journey.  Any interesting hurdles?   Especially considering that you were living on the most menial of resources.

H&S:
We both love camping and road trips, so going into the journey we weren’t too worried about life on the road!  That said, the reality of living for 6 months in an amenity-free bus (sometimes in 100 degree heat) ended up being a lot more challenging at times than we had anticipated!  Most of our showers consisted of baby wipes and Dr. Bronner’s, and we spent a lot of time peeing in cups if there wasn’t a bathroom nearby.  We quickly learned how to live off just the bare necessities, but also discovered how many amazing people there are out there ready and willing to help you out in a time of need!  One night, we found ourselves trying to get some sleep in our bus in New Orleans when it was still blazing hot outside and we were in a bad part of town, so we had to keep the windows shut.  We lay there pouring water on ourselves, wondering if we could survive the night in that kind of heat.  Suddenly there was a knock at our door.  It was a woman we had met earlier that day who insisted we come stay with her.  We followed her back to her place just down the street and had a beautiful night’s sleep in her air-conditioned den.  Everyday we faced new hurdles as we stepped into the unknown, but we stayed open and our intuitions always led us right where we needed to be!

ACB:
Was there anything that scared you about taking on a vision as monumental as this?    Doubts, at any point, about the leaps of faith you were taking, not only to go on this journey, but the leaps of faith in each other?

H&S:
From the very moment we made the decision that this is what we were going to do, we committed wholeheartedly to it!  We did have our fears about taking on something this big, but we made the choice that no matter how things unfolded, whether we rallied the support or not, we were going to make this film happen!  Three years into the journey and we can definitely say we had no idea how much work was going to go into bringing this film to life, but everyday we work together to keep our vision strong.  When one of us is feeling doubtful or overwhelmed, the other one is always there reminding us of the importance of this project and why we have to keep pushing forward!  Taking on something this big is a lot more manageable when you’re sharing the weight with your best friend!

ACB:
SERIOUSLY amen!   Who have been your personal heroes, who have helped to build you into the strong young women you are today?   Either personal, or in history?    And why?

H&S:
One of our personal heroes is Eve Ensler.  From her playwriting to her global activism, she is a force of nature!  She is a woman who has devoted her life to being a voice of change, and an example of how instrumental just one person can be in changing the lives of so many!  We were lucky enough to have her reach out to us when we were about half way through the journey, and her organization One Billion Rising became a producer of the film!  We are so honored to have her on board, she is such an inspiration to us!

ACB:
Eve Ensler is truly a special being on the planet.   You’re definitely speaking my language.  So, what is ultimately the legacy you’d like to leave?

H&S:
There is this great quote by Albert Pine: ” What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world is immortal.”  We want to use what little time we have in this life to use the talents we have to create art that helps raise the consciousness on the planet and empowers others to overcome their fears and live the lives of their dreams!

ACB:  
You two are an inspiration, and the world needs to know about The Goddess Project.  I have felt incredibly humbled to have had some small part in this, and to have been able to watch it grow beyond all expectation, as your journey unfolded.  I raise my proverbial glass to you two bright beacons for change and liberation, Holli Rae and Sara Landas.  Thank you so much for chatting with me.

*          *          *

THE GOAL

The larger goal, of course, is the film itself, and everything that it stands to shift in our consciousness.  But the immediate goal is one that can use our help.  Holli and Sara have a Kickstarter campaign in the works, to help raise enough money to complete the post-production on a film that is truly important and needs to be out there.   If you’re feeling even the slightest bit philanthropic ($1 even!), I urge you to consider being a part of this game-changing, transformational project.  You honestly couldn’t choose a nobler investment.   The deadline to raise their pledge is Friday, Aug 22, 2014, 3:33 PM PDT.

If NOTHING ELSE, please take 4 minutes to watch this newest trailer, and I defy you to not be inspired.

 

Click here to read and see more from these two trailblazing women
and/or to contribute

Follow them on TumblrInstagramFacebook Twitter

AND PLEASE SHARE THEIR STORY FORWARD

 

 

8/23/2014 Footnote to article:

Congratulations to Sara and Holli for successfully reaching their funding goal!   It was all because of you, the supporters.   That means there will be an extraordinary film coming our way in 2015.   Brava, ladies!    And bravo to all the philanthropists who made it possible.

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

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WARNING: This Book Has No Pictures!

ChampBannerFINAL copy 2

Some wonderful reviews have been posting on Amazon about CHAMPION, and I am humbled and grateful for the response.

*           *            *

“A setting that thrusts the reader into polar ends of society,
and an overall mood that taps into the dark crevices in all of us.”

“An almost voyeuristic peek into the passionate, creative, oft-exhausting and off-balance lives
of those who dare to push the envelope, break the rules, fight for the change and follow their guts.”

“It is not an easy thing to do – for a female author to get inside the head of a male character, and vice versa. But this author is well-versed in what makes individuals tick, and she does a masterful job of assigning the essential qualities, traits, mannerisms – as well as idiosyncrasies and human foibles – that turn her characters into people we have all met and known at some point in our lives.”

“This is one of the most meaningful books I have ever read. I felt compelled to really examine how I think about the many real life issues raised. All in a captivating narrative with suspense and surprises, but never seeming contrived.”

“Compelling, sexy, complex and surprising!”

“I’ve always been interested in the creative process,
and this book lays that process out and dissects it with a razor sharp literary skill.”

*           *            *

I have to say, however, that my favorite so far appeared on Facebook, by my young friend Hans San Juan:
“WARNING:  This book has no pictures!”

http://www.amazon.com/The-Assassination-Gabriel-Champion-ebook/dp/B00CVCPLF4/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

She’s a “Literary” Writer (Noted With a Wink In Her Eye and Quote Signs Made With Her Fingers)

LIteraryWriter

Are our heads up our own asses if we call what we write “literary fiction?”

As writers hoping to sustain a living in the business, the idea of genres, of understanding genres, and knowing how to categorize what we write in terms of genres, we’re all, at some point, faced with the question: “what genre is your work?”

Literary Fiction, I’ve recently come to learn, is one of those categorizations that’s become a bit controversial.  Apparently, claiming such as your genre lends itself to a kind of pompous self-importance.

I’ve always called myself a writer of Literary Fiction, because the genre, as I’ve understood it, was not about the quality of a work, but about very specific components that had to be in place, versus other components that defined Genre or General Fiction.

My understanding of Literary Fiction was that its primary focus was on development of character, and the creation of complex inner stories that fuel the motives and behavior of the characters.  That plot is almost anecdotal (versus being the entire focal engine of Genre Fiction), serving instead merely to uncover and examine larger, more introspective, universal themes.

The film critic Terrence Rafferty recently noted that “literary fiction, by its nature, allows itself to dawdle, to linger on stray beauties even at the risk of losing its way.” [1]

It’s a nice turn of phrase (even being one of those stray beauties I like to linger on).  But I suspect it’s not meant to be a compliment of the term.

What I’m now hearing (in this present universe of hashtags and trends, where the average use-by date is usually about a minute long) is that the “literary” delineation is, or should be, reserved for others to determine and classify about your writing, and is clearly meant to denote a work superior to other genres, or, even more disturbing to me, a work of great acclaim, which assumes that the only great writing out there is the stuff that’s moved significant numbers or that’s made its authors into celebrities.   Because in today’s world, “great acclaim” isn’t a critical theory term; it’s a popularity term.   It’s a definition that precludes that if you’re not well-known you don’t deserve the term.

#literaryfiction #headupyourownass #whodoyouthinkyouare

No matter – as I can go on an editorial tangent like nobody’s business – but this does seem to be the current definition of Literary Fiction.  Little did I know that all this time of writing works that have tried to explore ideas, create characters who aren’t easy to define, to like or hate or peg, to build layers, and assuming that there is a proper term for that brand of writing, that I really just had my head up my own ass (as is how I’ve actually heard it put about authors who have the nerve to claim the Literary genre).

As said before, my understanding of the term has never been about quality, but simply about a different set of criteria.   Genre fiction (as objectively as I understand it) is all about plot, and about the effective ability to keep a reader’s attention glued via certain well-calculated tricks, like a heart-thumping pace; short, taut chapters that offer cliff-hangers, therefore producing the temptation, after saying to oneself “I’ll only read to the end of this chapter, then I really need to get to sleep,” to keep going because that cliff-hanger just won’t leave your brain alone, and, after all, the next chapter is so short, so you’ll just do the one more, and then the next thing you know the sun has risen.  Oooooh, those devilish little tricks!   And if the plot is akin to a roller-coaster ride, or a complicated treasure map, with twists and turns that seem to come from nowhere, and leave a little tickle in your stomach, then you’ve really got yourself a fun read.  And in that environment, who cares about the back story and underbelly of Dick and Jane (it also doesn’t hurt if Dick and Jane are soap-opera hot)?  The conflict in Genre Fiction is always external, never internal.   The blockades and barriers to get past are always out there in the cruel world.   Because rooting around inside heart and mind and dark cave and intention and motive and dysfunction and baggage can never be taken at a roadrunner’s clip, and Genre Fiction cannot afford the luxury of dawdling and lingering.   All right, it wasn’t exactly objective, but I don’t think I’m off the mark.

Truthfully, a lot of fun reading can be had the way of Genre Fiction (I had an absolute ball reading The Da Vinci Code, because I surrendered the idea of rich characters that felt like real people, or turns of phrases that would arrest my heart, and I just strapped my seat belt on).   But what if “fun” isn’t exactly the experience you’re looking for in a book?  What if a deeper experience is what you’re looking for?  What if being split open, being jolted, having your own belief systems challenged and provoked…say…is what you’re looking for in a reading experience?

That’s a very different kind of book.   And as such, it SHOULD have its own category.

So, if Literary Fiction isn’t what that kind of book should be called, then what?

Here’s an even harder question (at least it’s a hard one for me):  Why should we, as writers, shy away from claiming our ability to create characters of depth and richness, to unleash social and moral provocations, to forge atmosphere and mood and memory, to create a relationship between reader and work that is intimate and profound?

Hey, if you’re the only one who thinks your own writing accomplishes that, then the world of opinion will weed you out with its own (usually cruel) efforts.    There is no need for you (me, all of us) to feel unworthy of boldly staking your claim in the world of books, and relegating yourself, instead, to a genre that doesn’t really fit, out of some kind of false modesty.

That’s right.  We are straight up LITERARY gangsta.

 

 

*          *          *

  • Rafferty, Terrence (February 4, 2011). “Reluctant Seer,” New York Times  Sunday Book Review.


 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Satori

Satori

I don’t know why this has struck me on the most lusciously overcast day we’ve seen yet this year, but a remembrance of one of the hottest days that last summer saw suddenly flit past my eyes, and I thought I’d share it here.  It was an especially hard day for me, as I futily tried to rid my brain of obsessive thoughts over a personal issue.  Here’s what happened (not the personal issue, which I’ll just keep personal, but the day in question).  I decided that going to see friends of mine who are in a band perform at a summer solstice fair in Santa Monica would be just the needed anesthetic for my flooded brain.

When I arrived at the beach, it was a gorgeous day in spite of the triple-digit heat, and everyone from every Venice/Santa Monica walk of life was out, and in their inimitably Bohemian form. My kind of folks. I traversed from where I’d parked my car about six blocks inland of Main Street, and found the stage where my friends would be playing.

And as the music began, and I found a nice shade spot on a nearby curb on which to sit, I began to catch myself, here and there, not listening to the music. The blue noise in my head was louder. So, I briefly moved away from the crowd and called a friend who lives in the neighborhood and had him meet me there, just to add to the party.

He showed up, and we sat together and clapped our hands and snapped our fingers, and “whoooo whoooo”d and whistled at the end of solos, and were happy to see each other. But I was still afflicted. What other tricks could I pull? What other pill could I pop?

And that’s when I realized that this music before me was being used by me as a tool for checking out. And it deserved to be heard for its own sake. Not as distraction from problems, where then its only task is to be noisy enough to drown out that other noise. For that matter, I could’ve found a nice landfill where sanitation trucks would loudly dump their refuse. Or just sat by the side of a freeway overpass and let the engines and car horns and screeches easily drown out the clutter in my head. But I chose music instead.

Something that is sacred and transformative. Something that is never noise. I whored it.

And just at the instant that I had this realization, I truly heard the music for the first time that day. And felt lifted. I even, at one point, felt my phone vibrate on my hip and I ignored it (something I simply never do) in favor of a magical moment between two guitar players that I just didn’t want to sacrifice. And then it was gone. Blue noise in the head back again. And as loud as ever.

I started to notice the people around me. A little boy, maybe 4 or 5, danced and twirled euphorically until his father swooped him up onto his shoulders and his mother suddenly slathered his little face with sun block. It took the kid by surprise, who expressed his great irritation in the form of tears, wails, and a furious wiping of his face. Until only seconds later, the annoying sun block was forgotten, and little tyke was euphoric in giggles and twirls once again. It made me smile, which turned into a laugh.

I noticed an older woman, maybe homeless, it was hard to tell, who found herself a chair in the hot sun, and sat for the entire two sets of music, never once moving to find shade, as everyone else was doing, and so completely focused on the music in front of her. And I wondered what key to enlightenment she had that I could not seem to find.

And in those moments of people-watching, I was once again tuned into the music. As if the music was the conduit to a sudden state of presence. To listening, and observing, and taking in every sensation, every smell, every sound, every judgment even. And embracing it all. The crazy man with the playhouse on his head, who played air drums right along with the real drummer on stage, was glorious to me. And I thought of the scene in the movie American Beauty where the video-wielding kid from next door shows his new girlfriend footage he’d taken of a piece of paper floating in the breeze, and how beautiful he found this thing that was really nothing. It is a statement about finding treasure in every cell of every thing.

And as my day progressed, I found myself in and out of this remarkable sense of true presence, of finding that treasure in every cell, interspersed with hits of my blues and my burdens, which are all about being chained to past and future, and recognized what Buddhists call satori, which is defined as a “brief flash of insight.” I was flashing all over the place. But could never seem to find what in aeronautics is called gimbal lock.

Can we really reach a point where we’re always in an uninterrupted state of true presence, never allowing our problems to sit in the brain and furiously try to work themselves out, as brains will do? Or if we can at least count on a few brief flashes here and there to periodically anchor us and remind us that everything has value for its own sake, and not just as tools for medicating our wounds, isn’t that enough?

And sure enough, on the ride home, I felt full. Full with a day of communing with friends, and hearing wonderful music, and eating great food, and laughing. And none of it made my problems go away. It just managed to put those problems in their proper place in my brain, instead of allowing them the indulgent, repressive center stage.

I heard music that day for its own sake, even if only for moments at a stretch. And I found great meaning in the littlest things, if only in brief flashes.

I’ll take it.

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Vermin : CD Review

Vermin-TedBrownArt copy

Vermin is the new album by Hans San Juan  (It’s actually already had its 1-year birthday, but I wasn’t writing a blog back then.)

I am so freakin’ excited by this album!   Still…one year later.  That Hans happens to have one of my kidneys inside his body doesn’t mean that any of my musical acumen has shaped him as a musician.   It really doesn’t.   No, seriously.   And yes, I CAN be completely objective about it.   No, SERIOUSLY!

Upon first listen of Hans’s debut full-length album Vermin, you’ll immediately conjure up inspirations of Pink Floyd. And the influences are most assuredly there.  But after a deeper, repeated listen, you get the clearer understanding of the past life Hans is surely channeling.  I say past life, because at 22 years old he is far too young to be writing music of such depth.

Early productions of Hans’ reveal a music that is wonderfully wild and unharnessed in a way that is as compelling as it is also screaming out for a little balance of some compositional and rhythmic rules (go to Cal Arts, dude!   They would eat you up there!  And you would chew the freakin’ scenery!)   But I have to say, Vermin betrays a giant step out of that wonderfully adolescent energy into a decidedly matured seasoning that has married those two ideals magnificently (and that, without taking my advice and going to Cal Arts).

At once operatic and romping in the playground of electronic innovations, Vermin seems to be telling a singular story. Themes of death abound, and ordinarily such a heaviness of theme coming from a 22-year-old would give me great discomfort, but having been there first-hand for a bit of Hans’ personal history (that his kidneys were failing him before a successful transplant took place), I see an undeniable correlation between his music and what must’ve been years of contemplating his own mortality (a concept hinted at by the front cover art of Ted Brown).  If our pain can’t be funneled and turned into something powerfully creative, then what is our pain for?  And THIS Hans has done, so beautifully that his voice, thickened with a choral effect that gives it an otherworldly edge, breaks my heart in all the best ways.

My personal favorite cuts (though there’s not a weak one in the bunch) are:

  • Inside Out, which, at forty-one seconds and with no lyrics but is the briefest of chants, is probably the most spine-tingling track I’ve heard in a long time. Here, then gone, a grace note, but not without leaving an indelible mark.
    http://hanssanjuan.bandcamp.com/track/inside-out
  • The larger-than-life finale Charlatan, which touches on themes of redemption (you get the feeling that though he’s talking to someone else, he’s really talking to himself, as well).
    http://hanssanjuan.bandcamp.com/track/charlatan
  • And the opening track, Below The Skin, which is as strong as any of the concept album cuts out there by the ones who do it best (U2, The Who, Pink Floyd, etc.), a bold anthem that sets the stage for grand, tormented, cock-strutting theatre.
    http://hanssanjuan.bandcamp.com/track/below-the-skin

It’s clear, though, that Hans is also having a blast, twisting our brains with abstract-expressionist lyrics that take a second, third, and even tenth rendering to decode. And like any one of the most hair-raising canvases of de Kooning or Basquiat, it doesn’t really matter if we ever do.  Hans has plugged us into words that are rich, dark, almost gothic, and more multi-layered than most of the 20-something music that’s presently out there.  His music/poetry is nutritious food for thought.

And this guitarist/vocalist/bass player is not in the studio alone. With Hans on Vermin are Paulina Franco (vocals), Mario Torrico and Craig Pilo (drums), Glen Rewal (saxophone), Tyler Davis and Matt Tye (engineering), and this ultra-talented crew supports Hans well.

Vermin is theatre, opera, poetry, and Jackson-Pollock-esque philosophy all in one little square package. It’s the kind of album you keep forever, the way you’d never pack up The White Album or Electric Lady Land to give to the Goodwill during spring cleaning.

Here’s hoping that more than just family and friends get to experience this beautiful accomplishment, because Hans San Juan’s transcendent Vermin is worth the world’s notice and more.

Visit Hans @ http://www.hanssanjuan.com.  And tell him Aff sent you.

And as always:
Create – even if you’re not an artist
Support artists – especially the independents
Live well – doesn’t take money to do it
And be whole

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.