Contributor’s Note: Out of Los Angeles by way of Charlotte, Andy the Doorbum is one of the more unique artists that we’ve had in mental health conversations for Madness To Creation. Andy the Doorbum mixes folk noir, experimental music, and theatrical performance into his performances. He has been known to blend haunting music with powerfully raw vocals and costumes to engage the audience into his theatrical performance. In this interview, Andy the Doorbum discusses his upcoming release, along with mental health awareness and his live performances. Fans can find Andy the Doorbum at the following locations:
Richard: First of all this album is beautiful, so much depth, lots of layers, did you play all the instruments yourself?
Andy: Thank you for the kind words. I recorded this album completely on my own at home and played all the instruments. There are a few field recordings included at the beginnings of a couple of the songs as well, and I captured those myself. The only guest that appears on the record is my dog Hammy who howls along to my melodica playing on several tracks. I also drew the album artwork.
Richard: What does your recording process look like?
Andy: It’s a messy and chaotic affair. I’m not very organized. I don’t label any of my tracks so it’s easy to get lost when I’m making the songs, and my recording room usually looks more like a nest as the process goes on, picking up one instrument after the next to try new things and leaving the last one I used on the floor. With this record, because I was familiar with the songs, I would just start playing and layer one instrument at a time down on top of the previous one. At some point I would add vocals and then layer in backing vocals of my own voice. There wasn’t a set pattern and I’m not classically trained in any way and honestly don’t even know the names of most notes when I play them. My process is completely guided by feeling because that is the most crucial element of my work. All the rest is just static to me, so I focus on the invisible cord tugging at my chest and let that lead the way.
Richard: This album is a collection of interpreted works of some artist you’re friends with, how does it feel to make art within a community as opposed to alone?
Andy: This is an interesting question because my work is a solo endeavor at its core. So a large part of it is quite lonely and occurs within the ruminations of my own mind. However, I am also very fortunate to be presenting and performing my work within very rich and diverse communities of artists whom I’ve met along the way. These communities provide a huge system of support, encouragement, and inspiration. Without that I’m not sure if I’d find the work to be nearly as fulfilling. But I need both. I need the solitude to reflect upon and confront the inner turmoil that I think most people feel at times, and I need the camaraderie and solidarity of other people who know what that’s like and also feel the need to create and share. Both pieces are equal parts of a greater whole. I’m fortunate to know them both well.
Richard: How did you meet most of these artists?
Andy: I met most of these dear friends either from performing while on tour throughout North America and Europe, or while working at the Milestone Club in Charlotte, North Carolina throughout my twenties. Creativity was the catalyst for all of these friendships.
Richard: When did you think of the concept for this album?
Andy: I’ve never really been one to record cover songs. I’ve always fiercely maintained my focus on original work. The first song I recorded was the David Childers song. I’ve known him for years and that song was always a favorite of mine, but I couldn’t find it anywhere online to listen to it. So about a year or so ago when it was stuck in my head for a few days I decided to just record a version of it for myself with no plans to ever release it. The second song came from a six week US tour I did opening up for Big Business. They played the song of theirs that I cover on the record every night, and I increasingly thought that I would like to make a more somber interpretation of it. As that thought developed I started to think it might be nice to make a record of songs strictly by people whom I admired artistically and knew on a personal level. I recorded the songs here and there over the last year. It was my quarantine time over the last few months that was the catalyst for me finishing it and deciding that it would be a good time to present it as a free offering to the world.
Richard: I can’t help but draw parallels between these themes and what’s happening in the world at large, as our traditional society crumbles. Our creative communities need to support each other in as many ways as possible, how have you felt the support of that community in these strange times?
Andy: It never ceases to amaze me how tightly the creative communities, of which I am fortunate enough to be a part, pull together in times of crisis and hardship. It happens when someone gets sick, when their equipment is stolen, when they are trying to raise funds for a project, when they need advice. Now is no different. Artists are eagerly learning new skills to adjust to the current restrictions. Learning to use the software necessary to properly livestream so that they can still perform, sharing each other’s work, encouraging viewers to donate, and sharing suggestions about financial aid programs. And people who enjoy the work are reaching out to contribute what they can and to offer words of encouragement and support. The value in all of these things cannot be overstated. It really feels like I have an extended family that spans the globe and I am eternally grateful for that.
Richard: You have a quote on your Bandcamp: “Life is a War. Art is the Weapon. Create or Perish.” How did realizing this album keep you from perishing? What place does art have in the mid and post-covid world?
Andy: Creative work in general gave me a focus. It gave me something to wake up for and to strive toward. I was quarantined in self isolation for 35 days without leaving my house or seeing another person in the flesh. Finishing this record and working on other artistic projects got me through that time and made me feel as though the experience had been a productive one. It was fundamental in regards to keeping my thoughts from spiraling into the oblivion of doubt and dread. As far as art’s place in the world ahead, it is my hope that the value of creative work will be taken a bit less for granted. These last few months, while so many were confined to their homes, it seems that a large portion of what people were taking in was creative work. Films, music, podcasts, art. When the world stopped those things were there to give people comfort and to help them process difficult and complex emotional experiences. Art has always been there for that, and it always will be. And hopefully a few more people will now recognize the value and worth of that in our world, and that will lead to a greater system of support for those who make it. Of course it is enjoyable to make art if you love doing it, but that does not make it any less work. It is a valid contribution to culture and society and I hope more people will view it as such because it will become ever more important on the journey ahead, in my opinion. I feel honored to be fortunate enough to participate in it.
Richard: What are your hopes for the release of this album? Any live streams coming up? What’s your future look like?
Andy: The primary goal of this album, aside from expressing my ideas through the work, is to bolster and uplift this community that I hold so dear. I hope that it will point more people toward the artists whose work I’ve covered and that it will further strengthen these bonds. Though I know everyone I’ve covered well, many of them do not know each other, but now they are suddenly all part of a shared experience. I hope that will lead to more friendship, collaboration, and acknowledgement for everyone involved. As far as my future plans go, I plan to continue doing various livestream performances until it is possible to tour again. I have a record of original material that was actually completed before this record was, but the logistics of physically pressing a record and touring to promote it in the midst of a pandemic necessitated its delay. So I plan to focus next on that project and whatever other creative ideas come along, as well as trying to find some other ways to survive the uncertainty ahead because I’m not currently earning any money outside of donations.
Richard: We focus on mental health awareness , how has mental health affected you as a person and artist? What does mental health awareness look like to you?
Andy: I’ve struggled with varying degrees of depression throughout my life, and art and music have always been my vehicle to process those thoughts and feelings in a way that allows me to work through them and climb out of the holes my mind can fall into. Mental illness has been present in some of my family members so I’ve always been aware of the need to be mindful of it and to try to find ways to work within its shadow to find the light. To be honest though, on a personal level I don’t feel like I have enough proper knowledge to speak on what mental health awareness should look like. It’s a different situation for everyone. I hope that people will not be afraid to reach out when they need support and that those around them will allow them to be heard rather than stigmatized for whatever it is they are going through. No one is perfect. No one should be. We should all be allowed to be vulnerable and vocal about what we’re experiencing and how it makes us feel. I do not take for granted how helpful my artistic expression has been for me in the sense that it provides a path for me to get these things out of my head and allows me to connect with others as a result. I hope everyone can find something that does this for them.
Richard: I’ve done some door-bumming myself, it’s not for everyone, do you miss it in some ways? Besides the people you got to meet, what did you learn having that particular occupation?
Andy: I often miss working the door at a venue. It taught me the vast majority of what I know about human behavior. I think it also allowed me to find the beauty in otherwise ugly situations and vice versa. Working at a bar you get a wide variety of interactions. Everything from people having the times of their lives to people hitting the absolute bottom of their barrel. But I always found some opposing perspective that provided a clearer glimpse into the human experience. I saw the hopelessness behind the happiest faces and the determined glimmer in the most desperate eyes. That was one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned and I definitely learned it working the door. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. And thank goodness for that.
Check out Andy The Doorbum’s discography at https://andythedoorbum.bandcamp.com/