June Star


Artist/Band: June Star

Members: Andrew Grimm, Kurt Celtnieks, Andy Bopp, Cody Harrod


Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Latest Album/Release: Sleeping with the Lights On

Influences: Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, Buck Owens, Miracle Legion, The Jam, Cowboy Junkies

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Grimm: It’s rock ‘n’ roll, I suppose. We started off doing a fairly straight alt country type of thing, but over the past eight years we’ve been drifting away from that sound. There’s still a country aspect to it, but I think I’ve been writing more rock songs. Then again, some of the songs on the new record sound like country. Maybe I should say that the music is authentic.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, the Americana scene has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Have you seen the same thing having been a part of the scene itself since first forming in 1998?
Grimm: Yeah, it’s funny to see that word “perspective.” In many, many, many ways the Americana scene or artists have really maintained their dignity or truth in purpose… some of it can get kind of hokey… but people like Steve Earle have really kept the quality up. Jason Isbell as well. And that’s where a bigger shift is about to happen in the mainstream with folks like Isbell and Sturgill Simpson cracking through all of the commercial junk.

As far as June Star… we’ve made some progress over the years, but it’s hard to get attention from folks. It’s harder and harder to get people out to shows. When I started writing the new bio for the SWTLO one-sheet, I started with the line, “June Star is a band that just keeps showing up.” So, from the perspective of attrition, we’re doing great!

TrunkSpace: As already stated, June Star has been writing and performing for nearly two decades. How has the band changed most in that time?
Grimm: Oh, the lineups change a lot. When the original members came and went I was kind of forced to figure out what I needed and what I wanted… since then it’s been a rotating cast. If a song is well written, it doesn’t matter if it’s two guitars, bass, and drums or one guy playing spoons.

TrunkSpace: Two decades of life is a lot of experience to play out in song. Has the subject matter of June Star songs changed since you wrote your first song to where you are now given that you yourselves have no doubt changed over time?
Grimm: As Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion said about songwriting, and I’m paraphrasing, “When I started writing songs I wanted to save the world. I found out pretty quickly that I couldn’t, so I decided to save myself and prove to others that it can be done.”

A lot of the early material from “Songs from an Engineer’s Daughter” (2000) and “Telegraph” (2001) was really playing off of Americana aesthetics… trains, swamps, weddings. They’re great songs, but they also tend to function as fiction and they are really disconnected from me. They weren’t my voice or a voice that sounded real, to me. That’s why, for the most part, we revisited some of those songs from previous records on our new one.

The goal in songwriting is to shape a voice to communicate an idea or an emotion, and the music is the delivery device. The music, of course, can be more than that… it adds colors, shadows, saturation…

My songwriting has really shifted to a kind of observational, everyman type of thing… or every human. Love and loss. Each song certainly has a piece of my experience.

Also, I’ve ruined a lot relationships, so I tend to write about that a lot.

TrunkSpace: What is the most universal theme that resonates most with listeners? Is it love? Is it loss? Is it something else entirely?
Grimm: Many times on stage I introduce every song, “This is a song about love.” Usually loss… weird, huh? I don’t think we all just commiserate over the loss, but it’s kind of nice to know that someone else has been there too.

TrunkSpace: You sell June Star sunglasses. Who is the mastermind behind that genius merch concept and have you booked more outdoor shows to inspire sales?
Grimm: The sunglasses are my idea. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get people to listen to the records… more and more I hear, “CDs? I don’t even have a CD player anymore!” And I thought, “What would be a dual purpose item, cheaper than a t-shirt, that we can stick a download card on and people might buy?”

Cheap. Sunglasses.

We’re still paying those off.

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the merch idea, what is the best (and most outside-the-box) way to get your name and music out there in a day and age that is dominated by social media?
Grimm: You know, I have no idea.

The more I work on this stuff the more it seems that social media is one large swirling whirlpool of digital voices that are yelling at the same time. So, I’ve been reaching out to people in a more analog manner through a letter writing campaign. I have become so fatigued with social media that I tune out. The online world was a great place when we all got connected, but now with that “On Demand” ideology commanding everything, we’ve sort of morphed into a place where we say, “Yeah, I’ll listen or watch it later because I don’t have to right now.” And with live streaming and concert windows and all that stuff, it’s becoming easier to never go out or never look away from a screen. That concept or execution of experiencing music is unsatisfying and loses the point.

I’ve been working on a subscription service through Bandcamp. will get you there. The deal is that someone subscribes and they get my entire back catalog… 14 – 15 records… and I write, record, and publish an exclusive song just for subscribers. I haven’t had huge success so far, but with anything, it will be a slow build.

TrunkSpace: Having been performing for nearly two decades, you must have quite a few stories to tell about your time in clubs and on stages. That being said, what is the craziest experience that comes to mind?
Grimm: One of the funnier things that happened was on a tour in 2004. We were playing a show at Nancy Raygun with Mike Roy and J Roddy Walston and Business (a few years before they got big), and J Roddy and Mike Roy accidentally locked their keys in their van. After some intense negotiations, we agreed that June Star should open the show and hopefully the Pop-n-Lock guys would get there soon.

Attendance was pretty sparse, it was a Tuesday I think, and to make things a little more hopeless it was raining torrentially.

About five songs in, this older woman, maybe borderline elderly, maybe elderly before her time… okay, let’s say that she had done a lot of living… she comes swaying up to the front, dragging so hard on a cigarette that the lit end seemed to burn more yellow than orange. She swirls around, making no eye contact and throws all this money at us and then lurches away.

We all look at each other and laugh, just having a good time. During the rest of the set, while playing, I started looking at the money on the stage, and I start counting it up in my head, and I start to get a little excited. I know the door is not going to make much money, and if we’re lucky, we’ll sell a CD; eventually, the set winds down, we pack up the gear, I gather the cash and count it. $100.

That pays for our gas to Alabama! Awesome. Jay Filippone, a guitarist with us at the time, and Tom Scanlan, who played mandolin with us up until the end of that year, they corner me and say, “Hey man, that woman doesn’t know what she’s doing… we should give the money back to her, it’s the right thing to do.”

I disagreed.

Both of them felt bad for her and said that they were at least going to thank her for the tip and offer her a CD. I shrugged, “Sure!”

So, they approach her at the bar and Tom says, “Excuse me, thank you so much for the tip. We really appreciate it.”

She turns to him, squints and yells with a burst of cigarette smoke and a voice that makes you clear your own throat, “FUCK YOUR ASS!”

There was this other time we were opening for John Doe of X and he forgot something on stage. We were sound checking and he came up to me and introduced himself. As I turned to say hello I couldn’t help but be completely stunned by his absolute luminous cerulean ice gray blue eyes. I think I introduced myself as Blue Eyes.

TrunkSpace: Looking beyond your accomplishments, what do you hope to still accomplish? What’s on your creative bucket list?
Grimm: Make another record, book another show.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who needs music in your life? Is it an extension of who you are, and if it was taken away, would you be able to find happiness?
Grimm: I do need music. It’s a great connector between ourselves and our world. We work out most of our problems or emotional needs through a song or a record. To be without it would be devastation.

I guess I would try my hand at writing fiction… or poetry. Maybe film. That might be fun. Or landscaping.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from June Star for the rest of 2017?
Grimm: Oh… we’re going to be touring… solo, duo, trio, quartet. October will find us back in the studio to record the next record, which will come out in the Spring of 2018. There may be some podcasting stuff too…

All I know is that June Star will be showing up, somewhere.

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White Reaper


You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Tony Esposito, guitarist and vocalist for the band White Reaper. Their latest album, “The World’s Best American Band,” is a raucous rock throwback, and if the Kentucky-natives have their way, a prophetic calling card to their future legendary status.


We recently sat down with Esposito to discuss White Reaper’s rising popularity, their persona, and breaking out of the boxes that other people put them in.

TrunkSpace: Other than being from America, what characteristics does a band need in order to be the world’s best American band?
Esposito: Well, you’ve got to have chops. And you’ve got to be confident. That’s pretty much it.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular approach that White Reaper takes when it comes to the business side of the band and moving it further and forward?
Esposito: We work with a great team of people that support us and help us get to where we want to be. We talk to each other on a nice group chat every day. Send a lot of emojis to each other. Just try to keep everybody happy and be nice to each other. You know, teamwork.

TrunkSpace: As the band’s profile continues to grow and you gain more fans, have you had to change the way you do things at all?
Esposito: Yeah. We’ve got to be a little more serious with the merch. We used to just kind of hand it out, but now we’ve got to be a little strict about how much we have of each item. I guess things are getting a bit more legit, so we’ve got to try a little harder to not totally fuck around on tour.

TrunkSpace: Was there a moment where that all came into focus… where you realized that you couldn’t totally fuck around anymore? What changed?
Esposito: Probably our release show last Saturday because we sold so much fucking merch. I was like, “Oh wow, that’s something we need to stay on top of!” Which we will do going forward. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the idea of change, how much has the band’s songwriting changed from when you first got together to where you are now as the self-proclaimed world’s best American band? Has the process changed at all?
Esposito: Yeah. It’s totally different. With the last two records, I kind of demo’d them out by myself and showed the guys. But this time we wrote it together in the studio.

TrunkSpace: Did that allow for a sort of instantaneous springboard of ideas?
Esposito: Yeah. On some days it worked really well. Some days we were able to hash out some songs… some songs that we liked and some songs that we thought were cool and sounded good. And then there were other days where we’d be in the studio all day and there were definitely times when we left with nothing. It’s a cool thing to collaborate with everybody because, I think the songs get bigger and more interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to agree with everybody, which can slow you down a little bit. But, I think we did the right thing.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the collaborative approach is one you’ll continue to take moving forward?
Esposito: I’m sure.

TrunkSpace: So will these songs that you wrote together continue to be tweaked and adjusted in a live setting as you guys set out on the road?
Esposito: They’ll definitely be different. No matter what you do, it’s never going to sound exactly like the record live. That’s just kind of impossible, but we’ve got it pretty close. It’s just a little more… it’s a little faster from adrenaline. Maybe a little louder. It’s rowdier to see it at a show than to just kind of listen to it on your own. The songs are so much fun to play.

TrunkSpace: Was your release show the first place you showed off some of these songs live?
Esposito: We actually played most of these songs for the first time at SXSW this year, which was nice because it gave us a chance to get pretty good at them before we started playing our own club shows that people actually come to see us at, as opposed to people just kind of stumbling upon us in Austin.

TrunkSpace: The album is filled with this great, full rock sound that seems really absent from the mainstream these days, which is mostly dominated by pop and country. Do you think rock as a genre will ever see its day in the sun again?
Esposito: I can’t say for sure, but I do hope that it does.

TrunkSpace: Have you guys seen any change from a touring rock band’s perspective that suggests it’s finding its footing again as a genre?
Esposito: People are starting to pay a little more attention to us and we’re a rock band.

TrunkSpace: And selling more merch!
Esposito: (Laughter) Yeah.

TrunkSpace: We all have influences and those artists/bands that made us fall in love with music in the first place. Is it cool to think that there are kids out there right now who may be falling in love with music because of White Reaper?
Esposito: Yeah, that’s super, super exciting for us, especially because we started going to shows when we were real young and I think it’s really important that young kids go out to shows and get to talk to us and ask us about how we started. We got a lot of young friends in Louisville. A lot of young friends in Columbus. A lot of young friends in Nashville. And that’s one of our favorite things, is to just talk to some of the kids who think what we’re doing is cool and see what they’re up to and try to, you know, listen to those guys as much as we can.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, because there might be a kid out there right now who’s picking up a guitar for the first time and the first thing he might learn how to play is a White Reaper song.
Esposito: That’s possible. That’s definitely really cool to think about.

TrunkSpace: And a lot of times music affects people in ways that the artists don’t necessarily intend when they set out to write a song. Has the band been approached by fans with stories about how a particular song got them through a difficult life moment?
Esposito: I think for us, people just tell us that they like our music because they can dance to it and know that there are people out there who also like it. It’s kind of like a community for them. But that’s not just specific to us. That’s any band. Every band is a safe place for your head because when you put on headphones, you really don’t have to pay attention to anything else. Unless of course you’re riding a bike or driving a car, then you should probably be careful and pay attention, but otherwise, I think that’s another really cool thing… people can just plop on some headphones and maybe doze off to sleep or draw a picture or whatever the fuck they want to do. It’s just a cool place for them to be alone with themselves or to sing along with other friends, maybe in the car on the way to the movie theater or something like that. It’s a cool thing.

TrunkSpace: We read in a couple of interviews where you’ve referenced artists like Ozzy Osbourne and KISS, and both of those are artists who were just as much about persona as they were the music itself. What is the White Reaper persona and is it something that you guys ever think about or is it just what it is?
Esposito: It’s a little bit of both. I think when you try to think too much about it, then it can get a little cheap and meaningless. I think part of our persona is the new album title. It’s just kind of like that cocky, over the top attitude that was present in rock ‘n’ roll back in the 70s and kind of went missing today. But, for the most part, we don’t try to put on an act or anything or be anything that we’re not. We just want to be a rock ‘n’ roll band and it’s pretty easy to do that when you go on tour with your friends and meet a bunch of new people who are into it. Yeah, we try not to think too hard about it just to make sure that it stays real.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that cocky attitude of rock bands from back in the day, but one of the things that seems to be missing these days in the genre as well is that sort of iconic frontman aspect. There hasn’t been an Axl Rose or a Steven Tyler for ages. Is that something you aspire to be… that sort of iconic rock frontman?
Esposito: I think what I want to become is a band that people love. I don’t want it to become less about the band and more about the individual members or anything like that. Maybe sometimes I might say some things that could be a little outlandish or cocky or things like that, but I think deep down we’re a band and it’s about the music really. All that other stuff is just to get people to hear the music.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that’s so great about White Reaper is that, much like those iconic bands of the 70s that you referenced, as soon as you hear one of your songs you go, “That’s a White Reaper song!” Your music has a specific identity. Is that something that you guys strive for?
Esposito: Not necessarily, but it’s very comforting to hear you say that. It’s nice to know that we have a distinct sound, but I don’t think that we try to come up with something that’s like, “This is what White Reaper sounds like.” We don’t want to make the same music over and over again. We don’t want people to think of us as a certain kind of band. A lot of people will use a lot of sub-genre identifiers like garage punk or power pop and they try to throw as many words like that in as they can. When you keep doing stuff like that, it ends up kind of confusing people. All those words are so vague.

TrunkSpace: We get pitched on bands and artists all the time and honestly, all of those sub-genres are confusing even to us. What one person may call garage punk is not necessarily what someone else may consider it to be.
Esposito: Exactly. You get it. We don’t want people to think that White Reaper makes fast, garage punk songs with a keyboard over the top of it. Because then how much more can you become if that’s what people think that you are?

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You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Charles Moothart, a shredding multi-instrumentalist who has performed alongside Ty Segall for years, including in the hard rock band Fuzz, which formed in 2011. Most recently Moothart has returned his focus to his own side project, CFM, to release his second studio album, “Dichotomy Desaturated.”

We recently sat down with Moothart to discuss juggling his various projects, feeling vulnerable with his solo work, and how he tends to come up with new riffs or chord progressions.

TrunkSpace: You create and perform in a number of different bands/projects. Do you view them all as separate islands or do they connect for you creatively in some way?
Moothart: Generally I try to view everything I do as separate. There are certainly moments where you’re working on a song or an idea is kind of floating around and I might not necessarily know where it will end up or where it will land or what the end idea will be. It’s not like I try to be super militant about keeping things separately, but when it comes down to it, yeah… I try to keep everything separated and let everything kind of exist in its own realm, at least mentally.

TrunkSpace: What about on stage? Do you ever blend those different realms together?
Moothart: Yeah, that’s definitely one side of it. Everybody I’m involved with, we try to keep it all separate. There are definitely times where people will ask, if I’m playing with Ty or something, people will be like, “Are you going to play a Fuzz song?” You definitely try to keep things separated that way.

TrunkSpace: What were your goals with “Dichotomy Desaturated” and as you listen back now, do you feel like you achieved those goals?
Moothart: Yeah. Definitely. The last record kind of came about somewhat indirectly, so once I kind of took that stuff out and started playing live, I wanted to go in to making a record that would kind of have the lessons I had learned from playing songs live and include those in the songwriting process and just go into it with a more direct idea of actually trying to write a fully cohesive record. So yeah, in that way, definitely. I’m proud of the record. There’s a lot of things on it that are scary to me. The whole thing generally feels very vulnerable, so in another way, I can listen to it and hear things that I would do differently, but not necessarily in a bad way. In that way I’m also happy with it because I feel like it points out things to me… some things that I could work on. It kind of allows me to go out of body and kind of become critical of certain ideas, which to me is also a bonus. I don’t look at that as a negative.

TrunkSpace: Does that mean that you then take those things that you would have wanted to do differently and apply those changes to the way you’re playing the songs live?
Moothart: Yeah. A lot of these songs from this record… we haven’t really gotten to play live. We’ve started playing a couple of them and right now we’re working on learning the rest of them. But yeah, I definitely hope to tweak some things live just to keep it… even just beyond what I would want to change, just to make it more interesting because there are certain things that I think translate on the record that maybe wouldn’t translate as well live. So, I definitely want to be able to switch it up, but it’s also just more of a future reference kind of thing with certain ideas or certain kind of song characteristics just for writing in the future. It’s just kind of more like a mental note. Like, “You were trying to do this and this is kind of the way that it would maybe translate better to a listener.”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned you feel vulnerable with this record. Was there anything musically that you tried differently in the songwriting or recording that sort of emphasizes that feeling?
Moothart: Yeah. For sure. The biggest one is… really, most of it just kind of comes down to songwriting because that’s kind of something that’s always been elusive to me. I like writing riffs and I like writing chord progressions, but vocal melodies are something that I’m still trying to wrap my head around because I’m still trying to figure out… singing. (Laughter) So yeah, a lot it is just kind of trying to find more of a groove with songs or let songs kind of sit in their own space because my brain tends to want complicate things or make things more intricate. I guess that’s kind of just where I immediately go. I think about how I can switch everything up to keep it, just like, constantly changing. To me that’s what makes something interesting, but in reality sometimes it’s more interesting to just be able to have someone who is listening to just be kind of captivated by just the idea of what’s happening or the groove that the song sits in. More stuff like that. On the record there’s more acoustic moments or mellower moments where the idea would be, hopefully, that people can actually just listen to it and be kind of sucked in. And then that allows for the louder moments of the record to actually kick instead of it being, like, all right in the front. So that’s a big thing for me.

TrunkSpace: Is one of the benefits of playing live being able to extend those groove moments you were just referencing? If you can tell that an audience is enjoying the ride, you can just kind of prolong the ride for as long as you like, right?
Moothart: For sure. Both sides have that effect in a different way. The interesting thing too with what you’re saying with live is sometimes there’s a song that you’re not sure what it’s all about or maybe you don’t think it’s a really strong idea, and then sometimes those are the songs that people react to the most and you’re like, “Whoa… what about that is what people like?” That’s where I mentioned going out of body… it’s always hard to be self-critical and understand what someone else is going to hear it as because when you have your own idea, you kind have already decided what the song sounds like but you don’t know what it sounds like to someone who isn’t in your head. I think that’s the overall long term goal. I think that’s what, I don’t know, for lack of a better word… what great musicians or great performers or great songwriters… whatever that means in whatever genre, they’re able to do is kind of like tweak things as they go and be able to read a certain situation. You should be able to be open to what the people who are listening want. Not that that should always be your first priority, but if people are there to enjoy your music then you should hopefully be able to go with that and read what that means.

TrunkSpace: How does a guitarist transcend from playing guitar really well and playing whatever they want to sort of having that signature sound where as soon as you hear the riff you know it’s that particular guitarist? What is that thing that clicks and then all of a sudden somebody just has their own sound?
Moothart: Man, I have no idea. I really don’t know. That’s something I’m trying to wrap my head around. To me, a huge one for that is the Velvet Underground. As soon as the Velvet Underground or any Lou Reed song starts playing, you’re like, “Oh… that’s Lou Reed.” And to me, that goes to what I was talking about… find the groove. That dude knows how to sit in the fucking groove forever. (Laughter) And it’s like endlessly captivating. I have no idea. That’s like the fucking holy grail… a coveted secret. But, I feel like a lot of it comes down to people kind of just trying to remove themselves from any kind of outside expectation or just kind of letting things come to them exactly as they want and not being scared of something either sounding similar to what they have done before or similar to something else. Kind of just having that faith that their ideas is their idea and that’s what they want to do, so fuck it and go for it. To me, that’s kind of the main idea. It’s the same with The Stooges. All of The Stooges music is on a base level, basic, but no one else could do it. To me that’s it. It’s not really caring about anything, I guess.

TrunkSpace: Would a part of that also be not relying too heavily on influences because, once you put too much of them into yourself, then all of those elements become a part of your work as opposed to your work being wholly original?
Moothart: Exactly. And then it’s just going to sound regurgitated. Yeah. And it’s funny you say that because there’s been a couple of times when… it’s interesting when people ask, and I totally understand the question, but, “What are your influences?” I appreciate and understand that question, but it’s also a hard question to answer because the idea at the end of the day is to not necessarily have your influences be… you should wear your influences on your sleeve and never hide from them, but you also don’t want to just sound like them. It shouldn’t be immediately accessible, unless that’s what you’re going for, which is cool too.

TrunkSpace: So then maybe the influence question would be better served as, “What artists made you love music?”
Moothart: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Totally. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: That’s a good segue into our next question. We read that you picked up your first guitar at 12. Was music a big part of your life even before that?
Moothart: It was, I think, more than I realized. My parents were both really into music. Neither of them are musicians or anything, but my mom definitely, around the house and in the car, she was always playing music. And my sister and my mom would always be singing along to songs and they were really good with lyrics or picking up people’s lyrics, which is something I’ve never been good at. In retrospect, yeah, my mom was definitely always playing music. When I started playing instruments, they were stoked. They wanted me to be exploring that, so in that way, for sure. I feel lucky to have had that influence, but it wasn’t something that at the time… like, I wouldn’t have looked back and thought that music was a huge part of my life as a kid, but then I talk about it with other people and some people didn’t have that experience. I definitely feel lucky for that.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to writing riffs or chord progressions… do you need to have a guitar in your hand to come up with a concept for a song, or can it start out in your head or as a hum?
Moothart: Most of the time it’s through playing an instrument. I’m pretty much constantly playing guitar throughout the day. I’ll do it even if it’s for like five minutes or whatever. I’m kind of always picking it up and putting it down, so a lot of things will just kind of come from there. There are rare moments where I’ll be walking around or driving around and a riff will kind of pop into my head. I’m trying to get better at dissecting that because usually I just forget it. That does happen sometimes, but it’s always interesting when that happens for me because when I try to translate it to guitar, I’m not connecting. It’s almost like two separate parts of my brain, but I’m trying to bring them together. “I hear this, but how do I play it?” And then I’m playing it and it’s like… sometimes I can’t figure out what the fuck was in my head and then I forget it most of the time. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: That is something that is really impressive about musicians, especially prolific ones… the ability to remember all of the songs that they have written and not confuse them with other songs that they have written. Are there moments where you’re writing and you come up with an amazing idea and all of a sudden it’s gone?
Moothart: Oh yeah! All the time. It’s really frustrating. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Will you record ideas even in their early stages?
Moothart: Yeah. That’s probably my favorite part of my iPhone. Not to be hawking iPhones. But yeah, the voice memo on the iPhone… that’s my saving grace a lot of times. If I have an idea, I’ll record it and then kind of just keep playing. There’s a time where I forget a riff within literally like, two minutes. I’ll be playing it and then I’ll play a different chord progression and then I’ll try and go back to that riff and it’s gone. It’s all about the smaller parts… the rhythm of something… that is always hard to return to. You can remember what notes you played, but it’s the rhythm.

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