By Kelly Pyzik
Often seen and heard at Bob’s Open Mic nights, studio art major Caleb Neubauer ’13 has been demonstrating his musical talent all across campus in the past few years. A singer, mandolinist and pianist, Neubauer classifies himself within the indie rock and indie electronic genres, utilizing both acoustic instruments and electronic effects in his recordings.
Neubauer began piano lessons at a young age, but only studied for about nine months, continuing to work on his piano abilities by ear.
“I basically played as many Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service covers as I could, and learned every song on piano. They have very simple chord patterns, but also allowed me to sing over them privately,” Neubauer said.
He began learning mandolin during his second year at Grinnell, and has been involved with Freesound from the beginning of his time here.
Neubauer’s more recent acts have included a performance of four Shins covers last spring, one of which was accompanied by a string quartet, as well as a show in Bob’s this past fall covering Icelandic guitarist and vocalist, Jónsi. In December, Neubauer performed in Gardner, covering Sigur Rós, the band of which Jónsi is a member. For the Gardner show, Neubauer worked with 11 other musicians, which was the greatest number of people for which he had ever organized music.
“Every show that I’ve done, whether in Bob’s or elsewhere, I’ve tried to top my previous show, each time adding more people to flesh out and deepen the range of sounds that I’m working with. It’s awesome to play music with other people; I’ve been mostly used to playing by myself,” Neubauer said.
Neubauer has many recordings of his music available online, under his Jack Kerouac-inspired alias, Misty Aeons, at soundcloud.com/mistyaeons, as well as mistyaeons.bandcamp.com.
“I’ve been recording since high school, so I have amassed enough equipment to put out, what I strive to be, pretty professional-sounding recordings,” Neubauer said.
Last spring, Neubauer and Katie In ’13 released an EP together entitled “Home vol. VI,” modeled after a Post-Parlo Records split-EP project for which musicians were asked to write a number of songs focusing on the idea of home. Each of the five EPs were composed of two discs, each disc with about four songs by one artist. One reason Neubauer felt drawn to this home-themed project was participants such as Benjamin Gibbard.
“I’ve always been a fan of Ben Gibbard’s lyrics and all those standard indie rock, indie electronic bands. They’ve always been with me,” Neubauer said. “Ideally the sound I am going for is like ‘The Age of Adz’ by Sufjan Stevens. I’ve found it to be the most stunning album of song arrangement and recording. If I’m one-fifth as good as him when I’m 60, I’ll be happy.”
Neubauer is currently working on two new projects, one to be released online, March 12, the other in physical form, ideally by the end of the semester. The March EP will be a compilation of what Neubauer calls Ooraloos, similarly taken from the Jack Kerouac novel Big Sur. To produce these “ooraloos,” Neubauer sits down for an hour-long improvisation session and takes the best of what comes out, similar to his process for creating other original songs.
“I’ve always appreciated song-writing, but have not been very confident about my own writing. It’s a struggle to say the least, but the pattern that has been evolving is I go and improvise on piano until I find a melody or a chord progression that is memorable. If I don’t remember it, then it’s not worth keeping, which is an easy thing to test,” Neubauer said. “As far as lyrics, I just mull things over. It’s really slow, and difficult and I’m almost never satisfied—but when I do finally like something, it’s the best feeling ever. They’re like little puzzles, and usually I find a theme.”
Neubauer is also working on an album of nine songs, each centered on a different personality type outlined in the enneagram of personality.
“I’ve been writing a song for each type, focusing on the root needs and fears, but through very specific narratives,” Neubauer said. “Having the structure of the enneagram, which definitely is not overpowering in any of the songs, gives a little focus and allows me to have the characters act in certain ways, and it helps everything fit together and keep things relatable.”
Neubauer originally was told about the enneagram by a family friend and, upon looking further into it, “it was one of those cliché moments of awakening. I was essentially reading someone else’s writing that sounded exactly like the internal thoughts I have, which felt very personal and not felt by anyone else. The personality type I am is more inclined to be moved by this sort of structure, but I think it’s worthwhile for people to consider and this album is a door to open for people. I believe there are certainly powerful things that work under the surface.”
The album, partly a project for his art seminar, will hopefully be available by the end of the semester, potentially in physical form with funding from SPARC. At the very least, Neubauer hopes to do an end of the semester performance in the Faulconer Gallery.