"It's been kind of hard to write lately, not gonna lie." Typically this should be a pretty normal thing to hear from a friend, but in this instance it felt a bit jarring. Eric Guzman is many things: Cool, calm, and collected for starters. He's a sweetheart, motivated, fun, and an old friend of ours here at Faded Morgana. Another thing he's been, since the day we met in the 8th grade, is passionate about music. So to hear him reaching out about a writer's block would typically be alarming. It happens to the best of us, but Eric has been in and out of quality bands since we were 13. The amount of music he's been apart of creating is a longer list than we have time for right now, and the amount of those songs that still hold up is pretty impressive. When we were young he was the bassist for a band called Strangest Of Seas, heroes amongst the halls of Charter Oak High School in Covina. Today, he's the lead singer of Southern California Alternative-Rock outfit Calmgrove, who have steadily been building more and more notoriety since their birth in late 2018. But even with the recent success, 2020 has been hard for all of us.
"Music had my attention at a really young age," Eric starts out our conversation reflecting on just how he got on this path, "My parents would play albums from the Eagles, Earth Wind & Fire, Sade, & the classic tunes from the Disney movies, whenever we were driving in the car. During the later elementary school years, my older brother had a really big part in shaping my music taste. I remember when he bought Jimmy Eat World’s “Bleed American” from Circuit City and the first mixtape he made me with songs from Thrice, TBS, Atreyu, The Starting Line, The Used, + more. Then my brother let me go to a Taking Back Sunday show with him and his friends and I was hooked - I KNEW I had to start making music." It all makes a lot of sense. In our 8th grade talent show, I watched him play bass for a Taking Back Sunday cover in our Middle School Gym. Times were simpler, but some things stay the same. "I grew up playing bass and consider that my main instrument. I’ve played bass in every band I’ve been in and was the bassist in Calmgrove up until we couldn’t find a singer to record the first the 3 songs we dropped. I also play guitar and sing. But by far, bass is my favorite to play."
So what inspires Eric all this time later? "I try to find [inspiration] in anything. Seeing new places and trying new things. Listening to new music. Seeing my loved ones grinding on their own crafts really inspires me to keep pushing. I read “This Is Not A T-Shirt” by Bobby Hundreds recently and it was really motivating. I highly suggest that to anybody who is creative! I’m really open to just about anything genre wise. Lately when I’m driving I’ve been listening to more popish music from Troye Sivan, BAZI, & Chelsea Cutler + some country tunes from Morgan Wallen & Luke Combs. My favorite band of all time is Taking Back Sunday (WYWTB changed my life) and a few of my current obsessions are Gleemer (go jam their album “Down Through”) & anything from James Taylor (take a drive with the windows down & jam his greatest hits)."
I got to interview Eric while we did a small photo shoot around my childhood home. It was comfortable and familiar and we laughed about fun times, while also not ignoring the elephant in the room. COVID-19 certainly sent a lot of creatives into a downward spiral, and Calmgrove was definitely affected by the lockdown, which started right when they had planned to kick themselves into high gear for all their summer announcements; like a new label and a re-release of their inaugural EP, "Light On Your End" . Everyone's had to adapt in the past 6 months, and we've all learned to deal with these things in our own ways.
"Not gonna lie, I was chillin' and hustling for the first bit of it. Watched a lot of Netflix and Hulu. Read a few books. Worked on a lot of new Calmgrove demos. Did a grip of new merch designs for us and other bands. Started running every day and working out, then got over that eventually. And then I kinda just hit a wall and had some weird mood swings. Thankfully, I started cycling around May and that has been really fun to do. I try to ride to our new demos and work on melodies while biking- two birds with one stone! I try my best to do something productive every day, but at the peak of the Pandemic/Quarantine it was easier said than done."
"I spend a lot of time writing in my notebook or in the notes app on my phone. Most of the time I write what I’m feeling or what I felt in a certain situation. When the guys show me a new riff or progression, I’ll try to make those lyrics work over the new parts. It’s definitely a challenge and there’s many revisions before it’s ready to be recorded (and then there’s even more changes during that process). I like to write about whatever I’m feeling or going through, while leaving the the lyrical content up for interpretation for the listener. I try to avoid the classic “heart break” lyrics because I feel like it’s been done so many times before and it can be predictable. One of the songs on our EP, “Light on Your End” was written about a time when I didn’t get a job promotion that I felt like I deserve. Most people that I’ve talked to think that song is about a bad break up, and I dig that."
Aside from writing lyrics and working on music with Calmgrove, Guzman has a host of other cool hobbies, and even another band workin' it's way onto the scene. "I love sports, so I’m usually watching baseball or messing with my fantasy team line up. I do merch designs/ graphics and enjoy being active outside. I also play bass in a band called Near Future! We’ll be putting out some new jams soonish - check it out on any steaming platform!" But still, even with all these creative outlets at his disposal, Calmgrove remains his main focus. With the incredible couple of years they've had, it's easy to understand why. "I’d love for Calmgrove to continue to grow and reach as many new fans as possible. I want music to take us all over the world and really look forward to touring once it’s acceptable."
Guzman lets out a few laughs between photos and questions, even some of the tougher ones about the pandemic, which has been the attitude he's carried since we were young. Typically optimistic, hard-working, and contagiously positive, you start to ask yourself where it all comes from. "Shoot, that 100% comes from my mom. She’s the best and always tends to push through the rough times with grace. I’m sure some of that has rubbed off on me. But no doubt about it, my daily stress is managed with the help from my support system that keeps me steady when things hit the fan. I also like to exercise and really zone in on music, whether it’s creating or listening, when my stress levels are high."
"Thank you to everyone who supports us and takes the time to listen to our music. We miss seeing you all at shows and look forward to hanging out again - hopefully sooner than later! If you haven’t yet, check out our new acoustic single “Eye to Eye” on all streaming platforms & you can watch the video on the We Are Triumphant YouTube Channel. We have another new song dropping very soon, so keep an eye out for it. Take care of one another during these times, wear a mask, do something nice for someone and...Go Dodgers!"
"My favorite Calmgrove song is a toss up between Shade & Sound Asleep. My favorite lyrics are from Sound Asleep.
'But who am I to say if I’m just permanently stained or temporarily frayed' Some of our new demos have some tight lyrics. But we’ll save those for later!"
STREAM ON: Netflix
Umbrella Academy had a successful first season, and be grateful it did, because this one show you don’t want Netflix’s trigger-happy cancellation trend to hit. I’m a fan of the comics series first and foremost, but you don’t have to be to appreciate this creative quirky show. While Season 1 was great, Season 2 pushes the narrative forward with a humorous, historically relevant take on time travel, with our heroes being transported to 1960’s America, with all it’s injustice and nostalgia included. A fun ride, the cast shines brighter this season, and the soundtrack pulses with life true to the show’s form. Well filmed, well executed, and leaving off with what is sure to be an interesting 3rd season, I recommend Umbrella Academy to all. The Wes Anderson meets X-Men vibe still persists, quirkiness is key with this show, but it’s the quirkiness of the 60’s itself which escalates this season to stellar heights. A must watch for fans of shows exploring superpowers, family, and history. 5/5 Ewoks!
PLAY ON: SNES/WII U/3DS
The Legend of Zelda is (literally) timeless. Considered one of the greatest game series ever, A Link To The Past was the first to introduce many elements of the gameplay that still live on in the newer releases today. Technically speaking, according to Nintendo, A Link To The Past takes place hundreds of years after Ocarina of Time for N64, which came out almost a decade later, in a timeline where the hero of time actually fails in stopping the evil Ganondorf. That run-on sentence may seem like a mouthful littered with commas, but it's really the only way to try and explain what's going on here. The good news? You don't really need to know any of that. Each Zelda title makes itself possible to play and understand without knowledge of the rest of the series. It's only $7 on the virtual store if you have a Wii U or a 3DS and it'll provide you with hours and hours of magical nostalgic fun during your lockdown.
LISTEN ON: VOX
This is the first episode in a series that Vox’s Ezra Klein starts thinking about our economy after this pandemic and what priorities our economy should have. In this episode Klein talks to Zach Carter, a senior reporter at HuffPost. During their conversation Klein and Carter talk about a lot of interesting things, but what really opened my eyes was their discussion philosophy playing a larger in economics in the early 1900s and they discuss how it should play an bigger part now.
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FADED MORGANA PLAYLIST:
Local underground music we think you should be listening to.
NEW THIS WEEK: Poe The Passenger, Morelia, Calmgrove, Fantom Freq, Burko, Kasto
This Friday, your favorite family is back in a big way with their first official live-stream! Galactic Jackson is hosted by Jackson Collective and EDM Identity and is going to showcase some of our best players: From the low end sounds of stosu. and Solotrip, to those dank dark techno vibes by Fadi, to whatever the hell you wanna label the mad scientist Sang Froyd as--shit's about to get weird. Don't miss out!
Every Thursday Night our boy Morelia and DASH Radio bring ya new mixes curated by the Snake Charmer himself. Don't miss out.
Model: Burko // Canon EOS R 50mm
Photographed by: Chidstagram July 2020