Whetherman,
The TVD First Date

“I can still see the symmetry. Two four-foot mahogany wood encased speakers surrounding the three layer mountain of record player, receiver, and speaker box with lighted buttons, knobs, slides, and gadgets. That chaotic tangle of speaker wire behind, and my eyes fixated on the lights and movement.”

“I wasn’t allowed to touch anything in that vicinity when my parents were around, but I marveled and reaped the benefit of their absence upon occasion, trying my hand at creating sound from it with no avail. Little did I know of the subtle tricks to make it work. The volume slider had to be in a very specific location to play, which coincidentally was the perfect level to listen to most any record. The receiver had to be hit just in the right spot, not too hard and not to softly to get itself in gear. It had all the quirks of a great system from the ’70s, still ambling it’s way while we were listening in the ’80s and early ’90s.

There are two songs that stick out to me when I think of those early days in my life. “Sussudio” by Phil Collins off his No Jacket Required record. I heard his voice more often than any other in my childhood, through his time with Genesis and into his solo project. I know more of his lyrics than I do Michael Jackson’s, and I was a die-hard MJ fan until the late ’90s. That probably has to do with Phil’s songs being engraved in my brain from the records spinning in our house before I turned eight in 1992 when I got the highly coveted CD player. When I was in college, I had the No Jacket Required jacket on my wall, though I was caught up in the digital phase and wasn’t listening to vinyl. I’m not ashamed to admit that I still love Phil Collins, when Genesis or one of his solo tunes pops up, I can’t help but sing along.

The second tune that takes me right back to that first speaker system is “It’s Too Late” by Carole King. The Tapestry record is instant nostalgia for me and I’m sure a lot of other folks. That record was born for the warm crackly sound of vinyl. I think of a few things when I hear her sing, and it’s never something new. Certainly, I sense my early childhood and the memories of being with my large extended family living in Northern California, when things seemed peachier than ever. But even though I first heard it as a child, it also has kind of sappy emotion tied into it for me. There’s probably no better record, other than maybe Joni Mitchell’s Blue, that fits a sad and rainy day better. I suppose that’s just great songwriting, taking even the smallest of minds to a place of raw emotion.

About six years ago, I found my father’s JVC record player and the original receiver as well as a few records left behind like James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water. I played those two consistently until my needle broke, and I reverted back to digital as I had moved into my Honda Element to tour full-time, which I’ve been doing ever since though now in a Sprinter Van called “Black Betty.” There’s nothing better than an old system that has its special quirks to work, and I plan to recoup the setup when I find my roots someday off tour, whenever that will be.

Until then, I get to lug around boxes containing a dream of mine come true—my own music on 2 LPs, and a little 7-inch.”
Nicholas Williams

Whetherman’s ninth full length release, This Land is in stores now.

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PHOTO: JESSE BRANTMAN

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