Chris Carlier

Ignore the System and Make Stuff Up


I’m into a lot of different kinds of music. I’m lucky to have been encouraged to persue music and have spent a pretty crazy amount of time listening to interesting new and old things and creating music that experiments, based on all that. I listen to mostly groovy stuff inspired by jazz and funk roots, but I also get a lot of independent pop, electronic, hip hop, and a smattering of heavy rock, metal, hardcore, etc. That’s not to mention when I’m in the mood for contemporary orchestral music, show tunes, weird, noisy stuff, even some opera or any combination of styles. I love it when I hear music that combines styles in a way I’ve never heard!

Undoubtedly because of my listening habits, I’ve been drawn to make music in a wide variety of styles. Years ago, I found this really hard to reconcile and present as a unified act, fearing that it may be too jarring for most audiences to shift from chiptune to chamber pop to drone metal. My fears were often verified as I would attempt to apply for festival slots, awards, or grants. I began to dread any prompt to input what genre of music I create.

Then I saw this great TED Talk by Shea Hembrey, wherein he talks about how he was kind of in a similar boat with his visual art. He couldn’t break into that scene, so he made up 100 artists and just made his own scene. Incredible! What an awesome idea.

The wheels started turning. If he could do that with visual art, why couldn’t I do it with music? So I did. I made up a record label, and set out to create 50 ficticious artists and bands (later settling on 20). They each had their own online presence (websites, email, twitter, facebook) and the aim was to have at least one track released per artist.

My first album of Short Songs For Patrons was initially released as an Electricloud Recordings compilation of music from different “artists”. I later re-released it under my own name and archived the compilation version as I moved toward the short songs thing.

It was actually pretty fun. Especially the social media aspect. Interacting with people online as a person I made up, always in character, was kind of hilarious and not that far removed from every other online interaction. Everyone’s sort of making up a character when they post online anyway, even if it’s just a version of themselves.

I eventually shelved this project to focus more on building the Short Songs For Patrons thing, but a lot of unfinished work is lingering on a hard drive somewhere. I’m sure this will pop up again in the future.

This all taught me that you don’t have to do what you’re “supposed” to do. Even now, I focus on making music for a modest group of patrons, thinking of public releases as secondary. I don’t tour and I still make music in a variety of styles. I’ve done this without grant money, without playing at festivals, without even playing an in-person gig in the last 5 years!

Ignore the system and make stuff up. It’s a lot more fun.