i had a really hard day. different contributors: losing my cell phone yesterday, counseling session today bringing up issues with deep deep stuff that i don't want to talk about on here, the internet being down at our house so i couldn't do my homework, the art center computer lab having classes in there all day so i couldn't do my computer art work at all today when its due tomorrow, uhg. i'm just overwhelmed. i am not feeling mentally or emotionally sound today.
i presented two pieces of art to my "New Pictures" class today. i have never felt so vulnerable in an art class. this was my most revealing and painful work i've ever done. the pieces are pretty simple appearing, but there is a whole lot behind them...
i was going to write a lot, try to vent it all out today. but then, i was (and still am) listening to The Acorn, and i was listening to "Oh Napoleon" and just FELT the song so deeply in the moment. I felt the weird mingling of deep pain and comfort and just related so heavily.
so i looked up the lyrics.
Talk about your peace of mind.
The one I found so hard to find.
Mosquito stuck in amber mine.
Don't want my body trapped in time.
As I wait for skies to clear,
Don't seem to mind if I shed a tear.
From time to time, I'm swallowed whole,
And in a wink spat on the floor.
Will I follow you home again.
How's it feel to disappear.
Like seriously, just disappear.
And take a stab from papa's spear.
Getting drunk on rotten air.
Bite my tongue, I taste your blood.
Never thought that I could bite hard enough.
Eyes of fire in your skull.
You've got the kind of eyes that burns goose flesh off.
Oh your charm is getting cold.
This kind of love ain't bought or sold.
I know you tried if truth be told,
But I still cast you to a bed of coal.
Will I follow you home again.
Bite my tongue, I taste your blood.
Never thought that I could bite hard enough.
Then i stumbled upon this article about the concept of the album, and i almost started crying.
Its all about the lead singer, Rolf Klausener's, mom's life story. it broke my heart because i related in a lot of the turbulence she has been through.
Almost dying at childbirth, a horrible relationship with a parent as a child, moving around the world, patterns of death around her, and more.
(click for full article)Gloria Esperanza Montoya is a radiant, striking woman — likely never more so than when she speaks with immense pride of her only son, Rolf Klausener. And of course, she’s especially pleased with his latest project: his folkie art-rock band the Acorn have just finished an album — Glory Hope Mountain, the title a loose translation of her name — based primarily on her life story.
Listening to her laugh and fawn over her progeny, you’d never guess that she suffers from chronic pain, watched her first husband die of brain cancer, immigrated to Canada from Honduras without knowing either official language, survived a flood, ran away from an abusive father at the age of 12, and barely survived her own birth.
Not that Klausener himself knew many of these stories growing up. “I knew she had a rough life,” he says on the porch of the Ottawa home he shares with Acorn bassist Jeff Debutte. “I knew she was orphaned until she was seven. I knew that her father was not a good father. I knew that she eventually stumbled into Montreal and met my father. But that’s it.”
“He didn’t know nothing about me,” Montoya concurs, in an interview the next day, where she speaks frankly and without regret — much as she did during the eight hours of interviews she did with her son before he started writing the album. “I was ashamed of my life. It’s not that it was pitiful. I take all the good and bad as a learning experience. Whatever I went through in my life, from the day I was born to the struggle that I had, I will not live in the past. I will live in the present. If I have laughter today, then I enjoy that. I wasn’t even crying when Rolfie was interviewing me. Because I could see myself in the bad times I had gone through, but then there was Rolf.”
Witnessing that bond between this mother and her son is inevitably touching, especially when they talk about how music rescued Klausener from teenage depression after he lost his father at age 14. Yet whether or not Klausener would be able to write about her life with distance and perspective — and then translate that into music — is a whole other matter. In the words of an earlier Acorn song, “Heirlooms,” “Sometimes treasures found are treasures best left hidden.”
When Klausener first proposed the idea to his bandmates, the reaction was predictable. Says Debutte, “My initial reaction was” — he makes an alarmingly loud farting raspberry sound — “‘What the fuck?! This is a really bad idea!’ Not in a callous way, but I thought, ‘Who cares about your mom?’”
Ah yes, but who cares about some poor schlep’s broken heart? And yet pop music of all stripes continues to escalate the end of a relationship into emotional apocalypse. Glory Hope Mountain, on the other hand, tells the story of a woman who escaped death, abuse and poverty to live a reasonably comfortable Canadian life, though even that was marked by hardship. Take that, emo crybabies. Despite the tale’s inherent drama, Klausener is careful not to make the album an explicit narrative. The theme of journeying through struggle is rendered universally, with very few specifics offered. It was this approach that convinced Debutte that maybe the project wasn’t such a bad idea after all. “As the songs started to come about,” he says, “I realised that it’s also about a lot of bigger things than just his mom, and she was a good way to talk about those.”
“I didn’t feel like writing another record that dealt with my inner turmoil, or insecurities, or paranoia,” says Klausener, whose two EPs of inventive melancholia, 2006’s Blankets! and 2007’s Tin Fist, built considerable blogosphere buzz, made them CBC and campus radio darlings and helped them become one of Ottawa’s most visible exports. “I really wanted to get out of my own head and explore a story and do something narrative. I didn’t want to write a record that had to do with broken hearts. Why not write about something really intense and special?”
He cites the work of his friends — and former label-mates on Ottawa’s Kelp Records — Andrew Vincent, Andy Swan and Flecton Big Sky as lyrical inspirations. “Their stories are effortlessly narrative and they’re so good at painting pictures.” But, as Klausener notes on the song “Dents” — a Tin Fist song that serves as a prelude to Glory Hope Mountain — “Time can’t paint the picture for you.” And his mother gave him more than a few vivid pictures to work with.
Two songs, “Oh Napoleon” and “Crooked Legs,” detail a harrowing incident from when Montoya was 12 and living on her father’s farm in Honduras with her 14-year-old adopted brother, Napoleon.
Klausener begins the tale: “Every night her father would get people to go out and tend to the sugar cane, because there was a refinery on the farm. When her brother was of age, her father asked him to go watch over the people working at the sugar refinery. Napoleon was terrified of the dark and refused to do it. He had polio and had a bum leg, and he had to ride a horse to do this. And if he fell off the horse, he would crack his skull open. So he was terrified to do this because he was scared of the dark, and there were no floodlights in rural Honduras in 1953. “The father was insistent. He took off his belt, which was sweaty and hot because it was a sweltering night, and whipped Napoleon, who wasn’t wearing a shirt. The belt wrapped around Napoleon’s waist. When the father ripped off the belt, it tore an entire chunk of skin from around the torso. It was bleeding like crazy. “So my mother, 12 years old, runs to the shed and gets a machete. She runs at her father with a machete and climbs up him as if she’s going to slit his throat. She tells him, ‘If you touch him, I will kill you.’ “Things calmed down after a bit, and Napoleon went to bed with bandages around his stomach. Later that night, my mother broke into the farm’s safe and took all of her father’s money. She packed it all up and got on this dirt road and walked tens of kilometres, until dawn, to Tegucigalpa, which is the capital, to the Catholic boarding school where she was had stayed until her father came to reclaim her when she was about six. She said, ‘Here’s a bunch of money, I’d like to stay here for as long as I can.’ They asked her what happened and she told them the story. “The next day her father came by and said, ‘What the fuck is going on? You broke into my safe.’ They talked to him about the situation and he was like, [makes a hands-off gesture] ‘Cool, fine, fuck you, whatever, stay here.’ He left her there. She was there for two years until the money ran out, and then moved out and started living on her own.” As Klausener recounts the tale, he starts visibly shaking, still a tad incredulous at this recently uncovered family lore. Part of his challenge in setting these stories to music was not dwelling on the drama. “Halfway through writing the record, I realised that a lot of the songs were slow, quiet and kind of sad,” says Klausener. “I wanted there to be some uplifting stuff on this record, because ultimately her story is really uplifting and beautiful. It was trying to find a way to talk about these themes in a positive way, and not focus on how crazy and challenging her life was. Which was hard.” He goes on to recount a rather amusing tale of how her mother decided on a whim to go to Canada after a Miami vacation. She arrived in Montreal with nothing, floating from job to job. One night she woke up to a rather graphic realisation that her boarding house roommate was a prostitute. She packed up immediately and left, wandering the streets of Montreal at three in the morning — which is where she had a chance reconnection with a Catholic nun from Honduras, who helped her get on her feet at a convent. It was there that she was introduced to Bernard Klausener, a Swiss diplomat with the UN. During these tales, Debutte looks on, fascinated, and probably hearing some of these details for the first time. During the conception of Glory Hope Mountain, Klausener parsed out details to his band-mates on a need-to-know basis. “On songs like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Hold Your Breath’ we knew exactly what was going on,” says Debutte. “Some songs he just gave us a précis. A song like ‘Oh, Napoleon,’ he’d just say: ‘You don’t want to know.’”
please God, give me the chance to fall in love again in the future so that i can bring little people into the world who will feel so loved and precious, inspired and motivated to express themselves in music, in art, in whatever they want. i want the opportunity to have, and to love a family centered in love and acceptance by me and whoever i end up with. please God, help me turn my painful story into one of new creation, beauty, and love.