Bolinas’ Chris Thomas dives into his debut album ‘Heavy Easy Listening,’ a sonically and emotionally charged record that stays true to its name with a raw weight and intimate, alluring, shoegazey warmth.
Stream: “Ge” – Bolinas
It’s not often that an artist determines what their music gets called.
It’s even less often that I actually go along with it.
The fact of the matter is, there is no better way to describe Bolinas’ debut album than with its own name. Feverish dream pop? Uptempo shoegaze? Aching indie rock? All these clothes fit – and they fit well – but from the moment that first guitar chord washes over the ears, Heavy Easy Listening stays true to its name as an immersive and intense listening experience: A sonically and emotionally charged record with its own weight and warmth, Bolinas’ first full length album is “heavy easy listening” at its finest.
I’m hoping for a Sunday’s reckoning
Clean for once, and the start of an honest change
Sunday I can change… Someday I will change
I lay on the lawn in geraniums
Thought of home and where you would be now
I am apart from what you need
But I really want you here with me now
I lay on the lawn and come apart
‘Cause you moved on and seem so happy now
I am apart from what you need
But I really want you here with me now
– “Ge,” Bolinas
Released October 7, 2022 via Rose Garden Recordings, Heavy Easy Listening serves as the formal introduction to Bolinas, the musical project of singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Thomas. Hailing from the Midwest, Thomas has long found his artistry at the intersection of the ethereal and the “real”: Bolinas’ earliest releases from 2017 and 2018 heat up with dreamy, effected guitars and equally atmospheric vocals that feel as much a part of the background, as they do a driving force of the artist’s overall palette. 2018’s debut EP World Record Record remains a worthwhile listen, and one that clearly demonstrates Bolinas’ musical path to the present.
“I started writing this record a few months before leaving Los Angeles in 2020,” Bolinas tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s really kind of a chronicle of my time there, so I guess one could say there are several stories behind this record serving a theme. Most of these songs are made up of words and/or feelings I wish I’d conveyed to someone at one time, but either couldn’t find in the moment or ultimately realized the futility of them. Hindsight is a useful tool for self-improvement, but it can also be a real pitfall when you let it lead to an endless loop of ‘what ifs.'”
This record is me coming to terms with mistakes I’ve made, people I’ve hurt, people who’ve hurt me; and really pulling back on the yoke, so to speak, of the self-destructive behavior that was a catalyst to much of that.
“The first songs we put out as a band were recorded in apartments, so they had to be done mostly ‘in the box’,” he continues. “I knew going into this one that I wanted to get back to having live drums and loud guitars. I wanted to mix the pop sensibilities from bands like The Cure & Jimmy Eat World with some of the rawness of bands like Cursive, Failure, and MBV without it being to on the nose of one or the other. The vision stayed the same throughout the recording process, though we did have to get creative in the ways we tracked things. Joey and I recorded the drums for ‘Bloom’ in his band Hunny’s practice space in North Hollywood in-between some death metal band practicing there, I tracked a lot of the guitars in my Dad’s house during quarantine with the two mics I own, and eventually Ian built a recording studio in his basement where we did the remainder of the record.”
“I feel this album really captured the heart of a collective effort, and in a way I feel like a small part of this record. Ian Dobyns’ guitar, drumming & engineering, Joey Anderson’s drumming, Mark Penechar’s guitar, Shaun Penechar’s bass, the way Zack Hames recorded vocals on certain songs; hell on ‘Harbinger,’ my friend/bandmate, engineer/producer Phil McGinn, on the older songs, lended a hand on the arrangement. I feel the real artistry is being able to weave the talent of those people together.”
You gave me such a sweetheart deal
For a simple stray
I don’t just duck for cover here
And when I feel okay
Concessions are a mild bend
Right where they belong
I find the will to open up and finally drop my guard
Bless me with a simple touch
Turn me on a lathe
I’d forgotten what it’s like to somewhat hold a shape
Your canines drag a little line that pulls me from my shell
You’re standing in a coarse blanket
All my doubts are quelled
You’re wearing nothing else
It’s in the small victories
That share, then demean that drags me to your place
I always run for cover
To the candor and the warmth of your delivery
– “Quelled,” Bolinas
Heavy Easy Listening is a labor of love, and that comes through both in the community that brought it to life, and in the stories and emotions at the core of Bolinas’ songwriting.
Whether he’s pleading, “Sunday I can change… Someday I will change,” on album opener “Ge,” or vividly confessing, “I opened my heart and had it fileted for me” on “Harbinger,” Bolinas’ stories ache with inner tension and trauma. Some of his songs’ stories feel unresolved, insofar as their bleed feels fresh and raw; others ring deep with the resolve of closure found in song. Yet whether he’s celebrating the little moments or lamenting love, embracing life itself or counting up his regrets, Bolinas’ honesty and authenticity radiates throughout each of these ten unapologetic songs. Vulnerability is one of the artist’s best friends, and it’s that willingness to spill his soul time and again in song that will keep listeners coming back for more – whether it’s the comfort and charm of “Quelled,” or the searing fire and churn of “Bloom,” Heavy Easy Listening holds nothing back.
Few records capture the music inside quite as accurately as this debut. Speaking about the album title, Bolinas admits that the name, for him, is somewhere in the gray haze between tongue-in-cheek and on-the-nose.
“I knew this record would be too poppy, too wordy, and not heavy enough for some, too heavy for others, too emo, not jangle-y enough to be emo, etc.,” he says. “I guess this was just my way of getting ahead of that. To be quite honest, it’s also a little joke/jab at music journalists, bloggers, playlisters, curators, etc.”
I’ve made this a nightly ritual
Swimming through the social undertow
A casual invite to the bar
Tonight I can live forever
I will take whatever
So ask me if I feel worth this in my street clothes
Just another to waste their best years in a drunken blur
It’s my pride that gets away from me most times
So I took what was left of me
Like I could see this coming
I kiss the pavement once for luck
Shear will ushers me along asphalt
I’m an epic waste of your time
Puking twenty-seven dollar wine
F*ck it, let’s make “Heavy Easy Listening” a genre of its very own.
Sometimes it feels good to soak in the gloom; to dwell in the deep end of human experience; to accept the soul-crushing weight of the world on our shoulders. You linger there awhile, and find a truly cathartic release when you go. Intimate and uncompromising, Heavy Easy Listening is the perfect catalyst and soundtrack to our catharsis.
“I hope people see a little bit of themselves in these songs, for better or worse,” Bolinas shares. “I hope it helps in the hard times, but is a record they can yell sing with the windows down on the highway in the good times. I want it to be whatever they need it to be, in the moment they need it. We learned a lot making this record the way we did. It was grassroots for the most part, and I think that’s what it needed to be. We love making music. We love playing together. So if nothing else, it’s the testament of a few friends’ labor of love.”
Yes, it’s emo. Yes, it’s shoegaze. Yes, it’s indie rock. But none of these labels goes far enough. Heavy Easy Listening says it all, while leaving everything up to interpretation. In point of fact, this title was a small stroke of genius. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Bolinas’ Heavy Easy Listening with Atwood Magazine as Chris Thomas goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his debut album!
Stream: ‘Heavy Easy Listening’ – Bolinas
:: Inside Heavy Easy Listening ::
This song is pretty cut and dry lyrically. It’s about wishing I could have been “the one” for somebody, but my pursuit of music ultimately took me down a different path. While I’m happy they’re happy, it’s still hard to watch someone move on and find that in someone else.
Harbinger is actually about a date turned platonic friendship. Sometimes you meet someone really amazing; There’s a little romantic spark, but not enough of one to enter a relationship. It’s nice to be able to move on as friends without the expectation of something more. Moreover, it was nice to have someone ask me how I was doing and actually really listen and care, and really care about and want to listen to them as well. Sometimes you can learn a lot about what you want out of a romantic relationship by having a really good platonic friend.
Frankly, at one point I was just so tired of chasing after someone, that I resigned to just being around as the back up plan. Not to mention, I was living paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t continue to be with someone that live quite a bit more lavishly than I did.
While I have seen some uncanny coinsidences, I’ve just never understood those who justify certain behaviors based on the traits of their astrological sign or make life decisions based on cards laid out in a certain order. I see it as a guideline rather than a law.
I used to have take the train up to Del Mar station in Pasadena then walk over to my bank to deposit my tips. I did a lot of waiting and thinking at that station. One night I had to take the train up after work to get my tips in before my rent came out of my account, but I ended up missing the last train back by a few min. This was written around the same time as U.L.B. and I kind of had an epiphany that I couldn’t keep going on this way.
Again, this one is rather straight forward. I met someone who I was almost instantly in love with. There’s a real comfort in being able to drop your guard and let someone in, how ever fleeting those times seem to be…
I’m not even gonna try and dance around this one… I was invited to a “party.” I showed up in a ripped shirt & jeans to what only could be described as a black tie affair. I was so anxious that I over indulged in the free wine, had to excuse myself to go throw up outside, and ended up having a long sobering walk home. The next morning I woke up feeling like death, but somehow found the will to go surfing in Ventura. I just remember thinking “I could die right now and be fine with it,” after paddling out. lol.
This one really just chronicles being with someone with an opposite schedule, goals, etc. They were working a corporate job & in bed by 10pm, I was bartending & getting home at 4am. Though for I wanted to try and find something of a more “normal” job, I ended up just letting it fizzle out and continued being a derelict into the wee hours of the morning
This is the oldest song on the record. It was a demo that never got finished until we needed a 10th song. I wrote it after a devastating breakup where I had come home and found everything had been moved out of our apartment. I remember going through my hard drive and seeing a song named Demo 2 or something like that. I listened to it and was immediately transported back to that moment. It was one of the loneliest times in my life.
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? © Amanda Laferriere
:: Stream Bolinas ::