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It Takes a Village to Raise a Solo Project

There are legions behind the Singleman Affair's ambitious psych folk.


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Schneider cites UK folk groups like Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band as inspiration, and their influence is audible on Silhouettes, after a fashion—I can sort of hear Donovan and Cat Stevens too. Gibson compares Schneider's relationship to his influences to Spacemen 3's relationship to the Staple Singers: both tried to imitate a particular vintage sound and failed in a spectacular and fascinating way. Tense, minor-key strings from the Lee Hazlewood playbook hover ominously over "Asleep on the Ground." A reverb-soaked pedal steel slides around the melody to "Wings." And "Don't Forget to Wind Your Watch" is like a soul ballad wasting away on its sickbed.

Schneider's music may not belong squarely to any one genre, but one term that everyone who's ever reviewed the Singleman Affair seems comfortable using is psychedelic. "I just don't get what that means," says Gibson. "I mean, it's like, what makes a sandwich gourmet? I still don't know what that means either." Schneider doesn't object, though. When he first started writing songs, another of his touchstones was D.A. Pennebaker's documentary Monterey Pop, whose visuals he thought created a hallucinatory effect. "I like the idea of this expansive journey," he says, "that your mind gets into the record."

Silhouettes may be psychedelic insofar as the word is just shorthand for "this would sound good if you were on drugs," but it's not necessarily a sunshiny trip. "The album is 100 percent from beginning to end an album of escaping," Schneider says. "A lot of that has to do with this very deep, broken love. A feeling of rejection, a feeling of being lost. It's from personal experience, or lack of personal experience. I wish I knew what it really felt like to be in love, because I don't." To deal with this sense of disconnection—the feeling that there's a common social reality he doesn't have access to—he displaces it into fictional stories. One of those stories, in "If I Only Fell in Love When I Was Young," is about a Civil War soldier dying from a gunshot wound and regretting that he didn't stay home with a woman he could have pretended to love.

These days Schneider is less concerned with big psychological questions and more with finding a home for Silhouettes. Thursday's Hideout show—where he'll be backed by Gibson, Barton, Smith, and Wagster—isn't a release party. The new record won't be available, just a couple of tour EPs, one of live material and the other of outtakes from both albums. Schneider says he'll release Silhouettes this summer on Cardboard Sangria if he has to—but he's still hoping another label will step up.

Though a few have shown interest, none since Poptones has made an offer. "People respond," Gibson says. "I've sent out copies of unreleased records plenty of times and usually people don't respond. This time people were like, 'This is really great! Good luck!' Everyone likes it, but nobody wants to do anything for it."    v

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