My parents got me playing the violin when I was about ten. I took lessons for nine years, and although I don’t really play it much anymore it made me familiar with all the tools I would need to teach myself guitar and bass and to start writing music. The first time I remember being excited about music was in middle school. I went to a Beck concert in sixth grade. Odelay had just come out, and I really couldn’t believe what was going on: it was just a circus with DJs and disco balls, guys in capes, even the Cardigans were there, and Beck just shrugging it all off. I just thought: this is so cool. That was my first encounter with what a live performance could be and I’m a strong believer now that when you step on stage you are giving a performance, you are entertainment, and it’s better to run with that theatricality than to try to deny it.
With The Blanks, Long has been able to channel Beck’s performance magic into his life at Harvard. But the final product is a reflection of the group’s personal dynamic.
I feel privileged to be in a group where we’re just all on the same wavelength, where if we’re in a room together with some instruments for a couple of hours, great things happen. My most memorable experience with The Blanks has been the yearly trip we make to a cabin in Vermont during intercession. It’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s unbelievably quiet, and there’s virtually nothing to do but play music or sled, so it’s an amazing place to focus on writing music together. Needless to say, you have to be pretty tight to survive a week in a cabin together.
Long also composes music for CityStep, working with grade-school kids ready to experience their own musical epiphanies.
CityStep is a chance to work with kids on something they are really into, dancing and hip-hop. So as a composer, I’ve just had a blast making beats that get the kids excited and that’s something because middle-schoolers are the most discriminating critics. Right now I’m finishing up my music for this year’s CityStep show. The theme is centered on paintings from which we make a song and dance. My team got Henri Rousseau’s Fauvist painting “The Sleeping Gypsy” so it’s been fun making music that “moves like a lion” or “sounds like the desert.”
Though Long is dubious about turning music into a full-blown career, he’s ready to see where it takes him.
Plans are vague right now, but I’ve been thinking about taking a year off to just see where this will go. I mean if there’s any point in life when it makes sense to play rock n’ roll, it’s now, right? At this point, though, I’m hesitant about turning music into a career just because that might make it a chore rather than a joy, and also it’s not easy being a musician these days, so support your bands.