Celeste: Project Breakdown
So the idea behind these kind of blog posts is to explain projects when their first songs come out. Given this is the first week of Celeste coming out, and the first week of the Year Of Everything, may as well get the ball rolling! I have already considered that given this is kind of a concept thing, blog posts on the weeks that coincide with new projects starting should drop on the same day as the song. I’m unsure currently, so I’ll decide in February. But for now, a bit about this project!
It was New Year’s Eve. I think it was the last few hours of 2013. I was with Will (who sang backing vocals on most of these tracks) were having one of our many discussions about sci fi, music, all that geekery. These conversations are the ones where you throw ideas for projects around with the full knowledge that you’ll never have the time to actually get them done. This was one of the dozens we threw around that night.
I mentioned that I’d been reading up a bit on the story of the Mary Celeste, a merchant ship in the 1800s that was found abandoned in the middle of the sea, but for no real reason. Part of this interest stemmed from a book called Do Not Open, a book I was given for a long-gone birthday, which spurred on all sorts of strange fascinations I had as a teenager. I even learned to read bar code at one point because of the book. But regardless, this story stuck in my mind as something I wanted to revisit. It was factual, but it was open-ended enough for people to project their fantasies onto, and this is kind of what led me down the idea of blending it with sci-fi. What about having the same principle of the ghost ship, but in space? The basic skeleton of the plot that stayed in the back of my mind for a while was the idea of a space ship losing contact with Earth for 10 days, and when it gets found, everyone is missing, the only solid clue being the missing escape pod.
This still remained a project that was in the “freezer”. Not quite on the back burner, but I really didn’t want to completely dismiss it. The opportunity finally came about when our final assessments for university came around, and we were just given a half hour slot to perform in and a totally blank slate to do whatever we wanted. This project finally had a place in the world! This led to what was probably the most constructive part of the writing process, which was actual discussion with other people. At the very start of the project, I wanted to decide on the different “theories” I was going put into songs. I wanted them to be similar enough to the prevailing theories about the real event but with this new kind of twist on it. And it was super useful to get other people’s opinions. Someone even suggested watching Event Horizon, which resulted in an evening of my life I’ll never be getting back. Regardless, after a bunch of talking and writing, I came up with the final songs for the project:
Intro // Open Up
The “Intro” of this was essentially designed just to be pure exposition. In the live show, I wanted this to be a sung press conference, essentially telling the public that they had found the ship and were undergoing an investigation. That didn’t quite succeed in the way that I wanted, but I’m still happy how it functions as a segue into the first proper track.
As for Open Up, there is a plot in basically any sci fi that revolves around the reception of a distress signal. The list is endless, I’m sure, but the two I was interested in are the ones that happen in Rick and Morty and Firefly. In Firefly, the team discovers a ship that’s been attacked by Reavers. But being hustlers, they go in anyway, hoping to steal as much of the left-overs as possible. The Rick and Morty example is probably more apt, because the distress signal that they receive is a trap set by the alien that’s taken over the ship to lure them in.
This is essentially the idea behind this track. The crew receive a distress call from a pirate ship pretending to be out of fuel and stranded floating through space. They ask for the crew to leave their ship, come over to there and help give them a head start, and failing that just some basic supplies to help them weather the storm. Once the crew get over, they get ambushed. From that point on, they are kept captive on the ship, but kept in good health in exchange for information about the trade route that they were running, and how they can repeat this kind of operation on a bigger scale.
In this track, the ship gets hit by an asteroid in the Oort cloud, knocking out most of the functionalities of the ship. At first, they think it’s only the lights and engine have gone, but what they’ve not noticed, until it’s too late, is that the air supply has been knocked out. The final leg of this song is supposed to represent the last moments they have to scramble to the escape pod.
Deep Space Calls
This track came from a discussion with a friend of mine, who suggested the idea of them joining a cult of some description. I kind of ran with this idea because it seemed like one that would actually work. The idea was that during the time they lost communication with Earth, the crew decided that instead of this just being the technical fault it was, that Earth had deliberately cut them off. They took this as a sign of being abandoned, in the literal middle of nowhere. Towards the end of the ten days in isolation, the crew had decided that they didn’t want to continue slaving away for people that couldn’t care less about them, and decided that they’d journey onwards to find Heaven, leaving only the empty shell of their old lives, the abandoned ship.
This was the first track of the bunch, and as recordings go, the one I’m fondest of. There’s no big underlying context for this, it’s pretty much about fire. One of the original theories for the Mary Celeste was that a fire broke out. The thing about that theory is it didn’t hold much physical evidence. A wooden ship would burn far more than it had, on water or not. Much the same with this, it’s just a theory for the sake of a theory. The song comes from the perspective of the ship’s captain, the first person to detect the fire. He goes through the ship waking up the crew and saving the crew, sacrificing himself in the process.
The idea for this track came from reading Moby Dick. I loved the idea of this obsessed captain, ready to throw everything and everyone under the bus for the sake of getting what they want. In this song, the captain gets existentially scared of the area of space they’re travelling through, given the high concentration of asteroids and the adverse weather conditions. Out of fear, he starts to make the crew work longer, more strenuous hours than reason, obsessed with the idea that if they’re not giving navigation their utmost attention, they’re going to end up as debris. The crew end up tired, overworked and decide to make a break for it one night when the captain is asleep.
Now that you have the explanations, I hope you enjoy the songs each week!