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Picasso, Matisse, Chagall

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chagall romeo and juliet
Jim Richerson Sangre de Cristo Arts Center executive director

The Sangre de Cristo Arts Center’s executive director, Jim Richerson, is largely responsible for bringing this collection of prints to Pueblo.

It’s said that greatness attracts greatness, and Paris in the early 20th century was home to many of the greatest artists of the century—people such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Picasso, arguably the most famous modern artist in the world, even today; Matisse, the only painter Picasso considered a rival and a master of line; and Chagall, a one-of-a-kind artist whose unique style influenced several important art movements. These men not only knew one another, but drew inspiration from each other, an exchange you can witness for yourself at Sangre de Cristo Arts Center’s current exhibit, “Picasso, Matisse, Chagall,” a collection of over 70 prints by all three modern masters.

checking prints for damage is part of the curatorial process

Each piece had to be checked for damage and catalogued before hanging.

Bringing Modern Masters to Pueblo

How did such a major collection come to Pueblo? The credit lies largely with recently appointed executive director Jim Richerson, who was familiar with the anonymous owner of these works. Richerson stated that he was willing to do whatever it took to bring this collection to Pueblo. This first and foremost involved putting the collector at ease by hiring someone the collector knew to perform the initial inventory of pieces, then having the curator, Liz Szabo, personally transport the collection from Illinois back to Pueblo. The 70-plus pieces never left her sight during the approximately 20-hour drive.

On the Sangre’s end, the Arts Center hired more security guards in addition to the number required for American Alliance of Museums certification, installed climate control in the White Gallery, and switched out all the lights in the gallery in favor of bulbs that would not bleach or damage the paper of the prints.

Sangre de Cristo curator Liz Szabo

The Sangre’s curator Liz Szabo hanging prints in the White Gallery

Each piece was inspected before and after shipping for quality. Prints with minor damage were, with the owner’s permission, repaired before being put on display. Unlike with many other shows at the Sangre, the setting up of the gallery was limited to the curator and assistant curator and a few helpers, all of whom wore gloves during the hanging.

fixing damaged prints before showing is part of the curatorial process

Liz Szabo fixes damaged pieces before hanging.

Perhaps more important than how the exhibit came to Pueblo is the why. The collector is not a Rockefeller, trust fund baby, or billionaire industrialist—the type of person one might unthinkingly associate with collecting modern art masters. An optometrist by trade, he comes from a middle-class background and lives in the iconically provincial mid-west city of Peoria. His collection is a reflection of his fascination with the way people see—and indeed, many of the prints in this exhibit play with how people look: at other cultures, other people, and even other artists. As for why he’s willing to share his collection, the collector believes in art’s power to inspire anyone, whether they have an artistic bent themselves or not.

still life with musical instruments picasso

Still Life with Musical Instruments by Pablo Picasso, c. 1920. Pochoir printed in colors.

Picasso

The number and variety of pieces by Picasso in this exhibit is really unprecedented in Colorado. Even the Modern Masters show at the Denver Art Museum only had a single painting representing Picasso, Matisse and Chagall respectively (and not the greatest examples at that); the Sangre currently has nearly 80 pieces, the majority of which are by Picasso and cover most of the major art styles and periods of his long life—including his many affairs and marriages.

Picasso was an odd duck. Short, aggressive, a Spaniard through and through, much of Picasso’s work—and behavior—was a reflection of his machismo. This is why bulls are such a common motif in his work—not only are they a symbol of his native country of Spain and the matador, but of manliness.

the head of a bull by picasso

Tête de taureau, tournée à la droite, Picasso, 1948.
Lithograph print.

The women Picasso loved were also a major theme in his work. His wives, mistresses, girlfriends, and even children were a reflection of his virility and prowess, while at the same time serving as his muses. It’s been said that with every new love affair, he started a new art style. While that’s not exactly true, it is true that Picasso’s paintings, drawings, prints and ceramics served as a diary of sorts, documenting his emotional state and major life events. He rarely painted or drew people from life, particularly as his career advanced—he didn’t need to. Instead, Picasso drew from his extraordinary visual memory and created portraits that reflected how he saw and felt about his subjects, rather than how they actually looked.

dora maar by picasso

Tête de femme no. 4. Portrait de Dora Maar, Picasso, 1939.
Aquatint and scraper.

A perfect example of that is Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar, which twists her face around so that we see her from multiple perspectives. Red-faced, Maar looks almost like a bull herself. Picasso’s portraits of Maar were rarely attractive, although she herself was beautiful. A fellow artist and Spaniard, Maar’s troubled, aggressive, and emotionally unstable personality fascinated Picasso from their very first meeting at Les Deux Magots, where Maar cut her own hand multiple times as part of a “knife game.” Picasso kept the blood-soaked glove she wore that day and displayed it on a shelf in his studio. Meanwhile, Maar’s rival for Picasso’s affections, Marie-Thérèse Walter, looks dreamy and soft, wide-eyed and innocent (as she should be; she was only seventeen when they began their affair), nearly the complete opposite of Maar.

Unlike Maar, Picasso’s portraits of Francoise Gilot usually present her as calm, stable, almost imperturbable. You can picture her as her family’s emotional center, a lodestone or Rock of Gibraltar. Some say Gilot was the only woman who ever broke Picasso’s heart, or perhaps it was just his ego. Either way, Picasso’s portraits of Gilot are some of his most fascinating, particularly the beautiful “Françoise” from 1946 that’s part of this collection.

Picasso’s rebound relationship after Gilot was with Jacqueline Roque, a woman almost 50 years his junior. Unlike Maar, Walter, Gilot, or even his daughter, Picasso almost never depicted Roque facing the viewer. Her eyes are always downcast, as they are in the expertly shaded yet deliciously graphic “Jacqueline Reading.” Roque’s and Picasso’s relationship actually stuck; they remained together until his death.

picasso print of his children paloma and claude

Paloma et Claude, Picasso, 1950.
Lithographic print.

By far the most touching and engaging portrait in this collection, however, is the double portrait of Picasso’s children, Claude and Paloma, which he finger painted—literally, he’s telling us, he made them with his own two hands. The portrait is extraordinarily expressive and shows off the childrens’ differing personalities. Paloma is light, airy, the sweeping of Picasso’s fingertips suggesting constant movement. Claude is dark and solid like his mother, Gilot, the firm press of Picasso’s fingers underscoring the child’s more serious personality. The yin/yang characteristic of “Paloma et Claude” gives the portrait a symbolic sensibility that makes it even more compelling. If you look closely, you can see the prints of all ten of Picasso’s fingers.

Below this portrait is an homage created by 13-year-old Maya Jain of Peoria, Illinois, a piece the collector treasures as a symbol of art’s ability to inspire a new generation of artists.

linocuts of minotaurs by matisse

Plates 15, 20, and 17 (2nd versions), by Henri Matisse, 1937-1944.
Linocut prints.

Matisse

This exhibit isn’t all portraits, however. Like many avant-garde artists, Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall all had a fascination for mythological subjects. The minotaur in particular is a motif one finds circulating in the Parisian art community through much of the early 20th century. The minotaur was a potent symbol of men’s more bestial urges, the id hiding at the center of one’s psychological labyrinth. The twisting lines, aggression, and sexual tension in Picasso’s “Minotaur Embracing a Woman” makes it comparable to any of his great paintings. We both fear for the woman and admire the beauty and strength of the minotaur, a feat of visual mastery. Compare Picasso’s depiction of the minotaur to Matisse’s, which seems light and playful, almost as if it’s dancing. Instead of depicting the beast’s violent nature, Matisse uses the unrelenting black background of his linocut print to suggest the dark nature of the subject.

A generation older than either Picasso or Chagall, Matisse started his avant-garde career as a member of the “fauves,” or wild beasts, so-called because of group’s bold use of color. That understanding of color, elegant silhouettes, and effortless use of line became a hallmark of Matisse’s work long after the fauves disbanded. Most people are probably familiar with his series “The Dance,” or his design of the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, also known as the Matisse Chapel.

portrait of antillean by matisse

Nouvelle terre, Matisse, c. 1948-53.
Lithographic print.

Most of the prints by Matisse at the Arts Center are portraits of people from the Antilles, which Matisse made for a book of poetry by John-Antoine Nau. Unlike Picasso, Matisse did create portraits directly from a model; unlike most other artists, though, he never looked at the page or canvas as he did so. The result is a balance of simple, effortless lines that seems to capture the personality of each individual. Matisse adored the high cheekbones and aquiline noses that characterized the faces of the Antillean people he captured in these portraits.

chagall romeo and juliet

Charles Sorlier, after Marc Chagall.
Romeo and Juliet, 1964.
Poster after Chagall’s painting for the ceiling of the Paris Opera.
Color lithograph.

Chagall

Compared to Picasso and Matisse, the work of Chagall seems soft and romantic. The most famous Jewish painter of the 20th century, Chagall was born in a Russian shtetl and raised a Hasidic Jew (think “Fiddler On the Roof”—in fact, the title of that musical takes its name from one of Chagall’s own paintings, “The Fiddler”). Jews weren’t allowed to practice art in Russia, though Chagall did so openly for several years before moving to Paris in 1910, when cubism was the “it” art movement. Chagall eschewed cubism—and all other movements and schools—and maintained his own personal style, which was colorful, quirky, and dreamlike, almost fantastical.

A perfect example of that style is the lithograph, “Joy,” the largest Chagall ever printed. Ghostly figures circle a happy couple, reading, playing music, perhaps dancing and laughing. Chagall’s delicate use of color is masterful here. As Picasso once said, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.” Color is an emotion, an atmosphere, and a story. But what I really love about this lithograph is the setting: joy isn’t just having someone to love, listening to music, dancing, or a reading good book. Joy is nighttime in Paris.

chagall anointing of saul

Anointing of Saul, Chagall, c. 1956-1958.
Etching with watercolor.

Chagall was also fond of religious subjects. He’d always been interested in the Bible, he said, and even made a trip to Palestine to sketch Old Testament-era sites. But Chagall’s biblical subjects weren’t confined to the Old Testament: he frequently depicted New Testament scenes as well, particularly those of the life of Jesus and the Crucifixion. You can see an example of one of Chagall’s Crucifixion scenes in “Artist on a Black Background.” Although it may seem odd for a Jewish artist to associate himself so strongly with might be called the quintessential Christian scene, Chagall was following in the footsteps of a long line of Jewish artists who reclaimed Jesus as both a historical and religious figure in order to argue against anti-Semitism. Decades earlier, before the outbreak of World War Two, Chagall had painted “Yellow Crucifixion,” where he drew a connection between the prosecution of Jesus and the fate of the Sturma, a ship that carried Jewish refugees who drowned when no country would allow them to disembark. A similar plea for understanding might be found in the Old Testament scenes on view at the Sangre, all of which depict people pleading for help or understanding.

These three men—Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall—shaped and continue to shape our understanding of what art, beauty, and freedom is. They not only shared their own experiences and work, but inspired others to do so. An opportunity to see the works of these masters, especially works as imitate and personal as many of these prints, is precious and not to be missed.

“Picasso, Matisse, Chagall” will be open at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center through January 11, 2015. The first Friday of every month will be free to the public starting in October. For hours and ticketing information, visit http://www.sdc-arts.org.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

Arts & Culture

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.

His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.

Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.

It was the aftermath of a breakup.

“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.

In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, were like that: recorded at home and more stripped down with the production and just making use of what we had. The last three albums were full bands or went to a really professional studio. This is how I made records way back.

Why did you decide to do it this way?

The songs mostly had an acoustic feel, and I sing in my living room a lot. I have this open, high ceiling. So I play my guitar and sing in my living room a lot. I think it sounds cool in there. I thought we could make a cool recording there. I liked the idea of making this intimate album in my home. It was a comfortable, cozy way to make an album.

So everything about this album seems more intimate that what you’ve done in the last few years.
Yeah. Definitely. Everything is. There’s only four musicians on this album, and one of those is my roommate who did knee slaps.

I also noticed on the album credits was an oatmeal container.

So I bought a plastic egg shaker because I thought I maybe wanted to some percussion. But it just didn’t sound that cool. I was like, well we have oatmeal around the house. There wasn’t much left in one container and so we shook it and it was a way better shaker sound, you know?

The inspiration for these songs were the feelings that linger after a break-up. Was there a cut-off point there since emotions always evolve, especially in these instances?

It’s a process. A relationship ends and we all go through the phases. Months go by and you change how you feel. The me that wrote those songs and recorded them months back is a different person. I’ve evolved in the process.

Did you have to simmer to write these songs or was it immediate?

I wrote the first song like a month after. I was trying to write again because I write in cycles. I had just put out an album at the beginning of last summer and when I’m in album release mode I’m not writing as much. But when that’s over I want to write. This time I wanted to write again and I had a fresh reason. I find it a little uncontrollable. I’ve never not written about any breakup I’ve ever had. It’s just part of the territory of being writer. I haven’t written anymore since I wrote those. I’m in album-release mode. I think I decided I’m done with these songs on this album. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to get it out. This part of my life is completed and now I will write a bunch of songs about U.S. presidents or something like that.

I noticed on your social media you like presidential biographies.

Yeah, I do. My friend Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter and he gave me a LBJ biography. I really liked it, so I thought I’d give George Washington a try and I just kept going.

How many are you up to?

I’m almost done with Grant, so 18.

So far do you have a favorite based off of biographies?

Grant has been really interesting. Lincoln was fascinating. Martin Van Buren. Great sideburns.

Back to the album. Do you think the listener can hear an evolution throughout the album?

Yeah, those songs were written at different times, so probably. I’d say it’s a snapshot of what somebody goes through, or at least what I went through. But I think what most of us go through after a breakup.I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

You can purchase Darkness in the San Juans at johnstatz.com. 

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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History

The Last Watchman: The lost story of Colorado’s worst train wreck

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The only reminder of one of the worst train wrecks in Colorado history is a weathered post with a small white sign that stands sentinel at the edge of an unassuming arroyo. It is cracked, and wrapped in barbed wire so you must stand very close to make out the fading words. “This historical marker is a tribute to author-historian Dow Helmers (1906-1976), author of THE TRAGEDY AT EDEN the story of Colorado’s most disastrous train wreck… ’” it begins.

In 1904, dirt roads may have been the main mode of travel, but they made going long distances impractical and often unpleasant, so the idea that a train could smoothly and quickly get you to your destination seemed an attractive choice for the regular traveler to take advantage of the special weekend rates.

The arroyo today. It was near bushes that probably looked a lot like this that Mayfield found the deceased Engineer Hinman after more searching. Many others were not as lucky to have been found. The Gartlands from Denver suffered profound losses. Kate Gartland and 4 of her 5 children were on the train. None survived and 9-year-old Walter was never found. (C.D. Prescott)

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on that Sunday the 7th of August in 1904. A few scattered rain showers and even cloudbursts were often expected that time of year. The passenger train from Denver to Pueblo was running on schedule and ticket holders were gathering on the platform for their return trip home from their weekend jaunts.

The train was the No. 12 that had just made the trip from St. Louis to Pueblo where it picked up the dining car from the last southbound train and headed to Denver where it would be stocked, cleaned and staffed in preparation for the trip to Pueblo. Now that it would be heading south, it was redubbed the No. 11.

The No. 11 had seven cars including the engine. There was also a baggage car, a coach car, a chair car, two Pullman sleepers and the dining car. The well-regarded Henry Hinman would be the Engineer and his fireman would be David Mayfield. Both men were from Denver.

Passengers boarded and the No. 11 left the Denver station for its date with destiny on time at 5pm. It was in Colorado Springs that Hinman was given a bulletin order to use caution and watch for standing water. At least 50 more passengers also boarded. Many were headed for Pueblo but there were others that would be continuing on to further destinations.

Leaving the station about 5 minutes after the scheduled departure, Hinman carefully followed his orders and would eventually be running at least 15 minutes late. They were due in Pueblo at 8:15pm but were crossing Bridge 110-B over Hogan’s Gulch at almost 8:20pm at no more than 20 miles per hour.

The engine swayed to the sound of cracking timbers as Hinman eased the throttle forward hoping to quickly get to solid ground. The front had just reached the bank when it suddenly stopped, lurched backwards and began to slide into the churning waters below.

A panicked Mayfield managed to jump clear of the falling engine but after being struck by a timber from the bridge, he was washed downstream just far enough that when he crawled ashore, he was still able to see the train’s headlight shining into the sky. After searching and yelling for Hinman, to no avail, he made his way to the Eden Station for help.

Passengers that got out to investigate were immediately stunned to find that the engine, baggage, coach (smoker), and chair cars were gone. The bridge wasn’t simply empty as it was immediately apparent that it had also met the same fate. It was only the automatic air brakes that had kept the remaining cars from following suit.

Being the heaviest, the engine sank like a stone but the other three missing cars and their inhabitants tumbled in the rushing waters towards Fountain Creek. The angry waters smashed through glass and took lives quickly as they violently twisted the cars in an ultimate test of their very structure.

It was in this act of destruction that a few lucky survivors managed to find their escape. John Killin had to hold his breath as the car filled with water and it rolled with the current. He had just broken a window when the car collided with something and a large piece of the roof tore away.

Using the new exit, he was able to get out of the car and attempt a swim to shore. He was struck by a railroad tie and grabbed it for use as a floatation device. Falling from it a few times, he managed to find it again until he reached water shallow enough to wade to shore. Later, he would display the tie in his Pueblo store as he credited it to saving his life.

Henry Gilbert and Tony Fisher also managed to navigate their escape and the treacherous waters to find their way to shore where they met and immediately received medical attention. Rescue efforts started immediately as the water had already begun to recede and the first relief train took the survivors and the passengers from the remaining section of the train to Pueblo.

Men with lanterns rushed to try to find any other survivors. They lit fires along the shore for heat and light, but the searchers would have to wait for dawn before any real progress was made. Their rescue mission quickly became one of recovery and while they found most, they didn’t find everyone.

Word spread quickly that there had been an accident and it drew crowds wanting to help in the rescue efforts. It also brought looters that were willing to hunt for any bodies but only to relieve them of anything that they might be carrying of value. The macabre also arrived to spread blankets to picnic nearby as they watched the rescuers like they were attending a theater production.

The engine proved to be harder to recover than had been anticipated. The crane from Pueblo couldn’t handle the weight so a replacement from Salida had to be retrieved and that would take a little time. The bents from the new bridge were put in place while the engine still remained engulfed in the mud below.

The final death count had been 96. It would have been 97 if they had included Tony Fisher who survived the wreck but would die almost a month later from tetanus on September 1st from injuries related to the crash and his time in the water. The bridge was in place in time for the passenger train to run on schedule the next day.

At least 80 square miles of land used to drain through that arroyo but a better understanding of engineering and drainage improvements has changed that. Now water rarely flows through the dry ditch that was Hogan’s Gulch and when the sign was erected it wasn’t even called that anymore. It had been changed to Porter’s Draw as arroyos are usually named for the landowner.

Aside from what is left of the sign, there are no visible remnants of that fateful night. Even the replacement bridge has given way to the newer stronger, sleeker version to the east. The Eden train station has been moved and was used as a personal residence for a bit. Only the sign remains, but local lore claims that on cloudy nights, the lights from long gone lanterns bob in the distance along the banks searching for the lost to at last bring them home.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Arts & Culture

Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.

But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.

PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.

Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.

Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.

IL: Business casual. (laughs)

I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?

IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.

Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?

DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.

IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.

For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.

DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.

IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.

DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)

When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally for a new project?

IL: I think it just presented itself that way; I had been toying around with some chords, and I had been trying to write a song and I didn’t know where to start with melody or lyrics, so I had Desi help me out and it came together really quickly.

In doing so, we realized that we hadn’t collaborated in that way with just the two of us since the beginning of the Haunted Windchimes. At that point, the ‘Chimes had already become four contributing songwriters and had developed a strong formula; in that way it felt like not exactly a departure, but something new that we could try and explore on our own.

DG: It came out really naturally and organically. And it didn’t fit anywhere, either with the ‘Chimes songs or solo songs.

Do you feel like fans of the ‘Chimes and your solo efforts are following you down this path?

IL: I think so. We are all taking a break with the ‘Chimes for now, but we haven’t officially announced that to our fans, so sometimes we’ll get messages asking where we’ve been and why haven’t they heard any news about the band. So maybe some people are a little resistant to it. I don’t know.

DG: It sounds different enough so that some people aren’t going to be into it, which is okay. The other day, someone left a comment on the Windchimes Facebook page asking about us, and another person commented back saying “you should check out in/PLANES and (Haunted Windchimes member Mike Clark’s) the River Arkansas” and the first person commented back “We just like ‘Chimes’ style music,” which is okay! You don’t have to follow us everywhere.

IL: The great thing about being an artist and a musician is the ability to shift gears and follow rabbits down different holes. And with in/PLANES, we’re already trying to get out of our own box and comfort zone. But the common thread that ties it all is that we write all of the songs together, and we wear our influences on our sleeves.

So if you had to explain what you think in/PLANES sounds like, what would you say?

DG: That is my least favorite question, because it’s so hard to explain. The shortcut i usually go for is throwback, vintage pop with some rock tendencies. And if they’re listening after that, then I’ll just keep talking until they walk away, because it’s so difficult to answer.

But like to go with vintage-pop, because if someone says rock & roll, I don’t feel attached to that. We write pop music; all the formulas, the lack of formulas…

IL: It does feel like something you would turn on the radio and hear in the 50’ or 60’s to me, but our modern influences still sneak in; we’re both big fans of hip-hop and country music, and it all gets in one way or another.

DG: Digital drums are where we lose a lot of people. They’re like “WHAT? Is that a digital drum?” And I’m like, “Yup, it is.” (laughs) It’s those 808 beats.

The electronics are really subtle in your songs though.

IL: I think so too. I think we just want to be able to write a song without putting it in a box, you know? But at the same time, making sure to trim all of the fat; which may be contradictory.

We’re not trying to write complex songs. I don’t like to have any rules, but I do like to set limitations on myself; almost like limiting your color pallette if you’re a painter.

DG: Not to be pigeonholed, but also maintain some cohesion. Present yourself in a way people can understand. I don’t like to tell people what genre of music we are, but it is helpful for us; it makes us more focused.

IL: Knowing where the line or limitation is and knowing how far we can push it over causes a tension we like to work under. It’s good tension.

DG: You can’t put me in a box—only I can put me in a box!

“Radio Wave” from in/PLANES is out 5/3 on cassette via GROUPHUG records, with a slew of release shows and a digital release to come soon thereafter. For full dates and info, head to inPlanes.com

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