Every medium of expression has a way of bleeding in and out of one another in a way that creates an intricate system. Much like the veins which carry blood to the heart, they are all connected, and feed one another in ways which keep the inspiration alive. We hear all the time about how bands and musicians were inspired by other bands before them, but you also hear of bands who were inspired by a certain piece of literature, art, or even a photograph for a particular song or album. In turn, many painters, writers, and photographers are heavily inspired by music. There is a sense of unity to all mediums of art I find both beautiful and fascinating, and I would like to highlight a deeply personal example of that concept.
Music is very often the catalyst of my own inspiration as a writer, and the most intense example of this I have is the creation of my upcoming novel, which took me nearly five years to complete. I can honestly say the book would not exist if it had not been for the bands I listened to while creating it. The most influential band of those being Pelican, the instrumental, post rock band from Chicago. The first song of theirs I heard was the pulsing, crushingly heavy “Mammoth” off their first release, long before I even had the idea for the novel. That song connected with me instantly in a way that no other sound ever had, and somehow, I knew right away it would become the soundtrack to an idea that did not even exist at that time. I knew it was significant, but to what intensity I could not fathom.
In 2011, I began work on the novel, and listened to every album Pelican had released at that time almost exclusively as I wrote it. Their album, What We All Come To Need in particular is so intimately tied in with this novel that I can think of nothing else as I listen to it. When I hear songs like “Strung Up From the Sky”, I am forcefully thrown back into specific scenes I wrote as I listened to it, and the memories are as stark and vivid as if they had actually occurred in my own life. To me, this is not only the power of art and inspiration in general, it is the power different mediums can have over one another. I am convinced that my novel would be a shell of itself had it not been for the potency of Pelican’s music, and the effect it had on me as I listened to it.
In 2013, I had much of the novel completed, but was struggling to delve into the darker aspects of the story. I knew I was going to take it to places I never wanted to delve into, places so deep and dark I shuddered to think of them. I was at a standstill, too afraid of my own creation to press onward, and I did not have the inspiration to do so until Pelican released that year what became my favorite album of all time, Forever Becoming. That album was so intense, so hard-hitting that it became the backbone I myself didn’t have for the novel. It drove me forward, allowing me to step outside of myself just enough to write what needed to be written without faltering, without apology, without fear.
Heavy, driving songs like, “Deny the Absolute” are the most accurate depiction of what this novel feels like to me; the way it would sound if the words were no longer words, but were translated through sound. At the same time, songs like “Threnody” capture the pervasive emptiness and isolation this story highlights as well. The fact that I wrote a novel about a deeply scarred, heavily disturbed metal musician and the lives he destroys is reason enough for why Pelican became the driving force behind this particular project, but buried inside this ugly story is also a sense of hope and triumph. Emotions flawlessly expressed in the song I listened to on repeat as I wrote the final pages. This song was “The Wait”, off of The Cliff EP, released in 2015.
In a way, I feel like every release by Pelican came to me in the exact moment I needed it. Every album they have is woven into a certain era of the story, and the gravity of that is monumental for me, as I consider it my life’s work. As I get closer to the release date, I think more and more about the forces behind it. Pelican’s music is one such force that cannot be overlooked for even a moment. I sobbed as I finished it, and the intensity of my emotions combined with the weight of the ending, was fully encapsulated in “The Wait”. I felt as though Pelican had become a cherished friend. The only friend that had aided me, and had been there from the beginning of such a taxing, monumental feat for me. From the first page to the last they helped me in ways they couldn’t even imagine..
So last December, when I had the chance to finally see them live after all these years, and actually tell Trevor de Brauw in person about this experience and what it meant to me, I was overcome with this feeling of closure I hadn’t previously felt. In some strange way, I felt I could finally let go of the story. I could finally let go of those years I spent drowning in the misery of the protagonist. Most of all, I felt I could finally let go of the fact that this pivotal part of my life was over. As a result of all of this, I will always hold Pelican’s music close to me in order to remember it, and I feel it is a true testament to the power of music as inspiration.