GARTH KLIPPERT is pushing a stroller up Mount Tabor, talking about the Wikipedia page for "stupidity." There's a quote there from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that's been rattling around in Klippert's brain. It's in the "Persisting in Folly" section. "Stupidity is the mother of the wise," Jung said, "but cleverness never."
The goal, as set out January by Klippert and his bandmates in Old Light, was to record five cassettes this year for Curly Cassettes. Five seemed reasonable (Klippert is pals with the obscenely prolific Ty Segall, after all), and cassettes seemed both affordable and a perfect application of the old Tascam 388 8-track in Klippert's basement.
No, the first of the batch, was released in late January. It was muddy, fuzzy, groovy, and loud. There was a lot of pent-up energy in that one. "Empty Head" featured Klippert hammering out a guitar solo Eddie Van Halen-style and became a highlight of the band's must-see live set. (That was Richard Swift and the Fruit Bats' Eric D. Johnson grinning in the wings as Old Light played the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon.)
Time was released in April and picked up where No left off—literally. Part of the challenge was to rework one song from the previous cassette. But there was a little more light in Time, like someone opened a door on the alley. By the time Yes arrived in May, the band had walked through that door to the dance floor. "Fresh hot summer time dance up in your pants rock and roll," was the way it was described.
Then... they hit a bump. Between them, the members of Old Light—which also includes Scott DeMay (synth, guitar, drums), Todd Roper (drums), and Patrick Finn (bass)—have seven kids. There are full-time jobs. They knocked out a couple of tours. Roper, a key collaborator with Klippert, moved to California.
Standing on the edge of Mount Tabor's playground, folly and persistence poke their heads back into the conversation. "If I don't deliver, I'm going to be humiliated," Klippert says. "Who is this asshole with big statements and goals that can't back it up?"
The three previous cassettes had been snapshots of a process, of what any band does on the way to making a record. Songs come and go, parts change or are moved around. There were a lot of scraps. That, they decided, would be the fifth and final tape: a collage. Voice memos. Versions sped up and slowed down. Alternate takes.
But there was still the fourth tape to make: It's called Space, and while it was still in progress during our park visit, Klippert says it's proving to be a summation of the year, with a healthy dose of exploration thanks to his current fascination with the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which was launched in 1977 and recently left the solar system.
As detailed by the New York Times, Voyager carries computers that have "one-240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone." The project was such an afterthought it was moved out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory building to offices near a McDonald's. Klippert laughs at the idea that somewhere in the universe, another group shunted out to be next to another fast food restaurant is following another determined project that's speeding unknowingly toward our little spaceship that could. Against all odds, an idea once set in motion that continues in motion.
"So," Klippert says, "as it turns out, we are once again utterly engaged in a rich and engaging creative process as a result of the goals we set back in January."