There's a flurry of activity over at the Small Skies (and friends) camp that's leading up to an imminent album release from a collaborator as well as the first-ever Small Skies tour—but much of the bustle was set in motion last year.
It all started with Small Skies' Benjamin Tyler releasing his debut, self-titled record (on NYC's Ephem-Aural) last July under his current synthy moniker. Tyler's process involved "writing a lot of stripped-down and simpler songs," but then there was "In the End," which "became a big sweeping song with a lot going on fairly quickly," he explains. The musicians he was working with, who'd later form Small Skies, added their contributions to the track and "really elevated the song to something I hadn't expected."
But really, it all started with Tyler "thinking about how nature has a way of balancing out, and how I wish we as humans would stop fighting against it." In other words: Go with the flow of life and don't fight against your own nature. "Sometimes I feel like I try too hard to swim upstream in my life and my music, and I try to remind myself that I don't have to fight myself so hard and I need to just let go"—in the end.
Around the same time Small Skies dropped, Tyler caught Copy (aka Marius Libman, also of Sun Angle) opening for the experimental hip-hop group Clipping. at the Doug Fir. At the time, "I had been thinking about what I'd like to do for a video for 'In the End' and when I saw Marius' visuals for his Copy set, I was floored," Tyler recalls.
"That had been my first show in a long while and I decided I wanted to change the way I performed as Copy for that re-entrance into being on stage," Libman says. "I created a bunch of abstract animated loops using a program called After Effects, which is something I use to much more mundane effect as part of my day job, but enjoy pushing to weirder, more psychedelic directions in my own time. I triggered these loops live using an iPad while manipulating the music at the same time, resulting in a kind of synced audio/visual experience."
"The visuals were amazing so I asked him if he would be willing to create the video and luckily he said yes," Tyler says.
Excited to recreate "a similar thing for a Small Skies video," Libman's result might not have an overarching concept, but it's "more just an attempt to create something cohesive and visually interesting that marries well with the music," he explains. "I'm drawn to late '70s and early '80s sci-fi and psychedelia so I think elements of that come through, but it also, hopefully, feels modern."
That retro-electric vibe also comes through in Libman's own music and you can catch him and his visuals on Saturday, May 16 at Mississippi Studios when he celebrates the release of his new record, Chalice Agenda, out on Audio Dregs Recordings on May 15.
As for Small Skies, Tyler will be out on the road during June and July starting with a solo set and tour kickoff show at The Liquor Store on Monday, June 1 and wrapping up at Holocene with a full-band performance alongside stellar electronics and psychedelics from Wishyunu and Talkative on Wednesday, July 15.