Record Store Day is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role they play in their communities. To mark this year’s Record Store Day, we spoke to Yamaha artists Steady Holiday, Jamie Lenman, and Chris Buck about their latest releases, to learn about the music, as well as the process of recording and releasing on vinyl.
Steady Holiday – Newfound Oxygen
Hi Dre, your new album Newfound Oxygen was released in February, what’s the story behind it?
Newfound Oxygen is an album about balance. About scrambling to find it, realizing it changes, then scrambling to find it again. That whole process is pretty messy for me. It’s constantly changing. So, this is a collection of songs about the ups and downs of monitoring and maintaining balance, but also about sometimes failing to find it altogether.
Can you walk us through the journey of creating the album from inspiration to release?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, but this album is my least conceptual so far. I think it reflects the stage of life I’m in, where I value clarity and straightforwardness more than ever. Both in my relationships, and (it seems) in my music and lyrics too. Removing extra steps and facades to get to the heart of the matter. This is also true of how I decided to put out the album, self-releasing so I could maintain flexibility and control over the entirety of the process.
Tell us about recording the album, where did you record? Who did you work with?
I recorded Newfound Oxygen with my friend Ari Balouzian, mostly in his garage in Burbank, CA. Ari is my friend now, but we barely knew each other when we decided to make this record together. I’m a fan of his film scores and other projects (Gabriels, Midnight Sister), so I reached out to him cold on Instagram. We hung out and listened to music and eventually to my demos, and decided to go for it. We put together some of his friends and some of mine, and recorded live over the course of five days. From there, we finished overdubs at my friend Gus Seyffert’s studio, where I also recorded vocals with Azniv Korkejian, and the rest of the vocals with Alana Da Fonseca at her home studio. It was a very comfortable and disarming experience – for the most part recording in homes, with friends.
How did you decide on the order of the tracks?
Being that this album is a pretty honest take on the messiness of finding balance in life, I kinda let the tracklisting reflect that. I knew I wanted to start on shaky ground and end with a little more clarity, but what happens in between reflects the bumpiness of this process.
Do you have a favorite song? Can you explain why this is your favorite?
I always come back to “What A Wonderful World.” I think it’s a perfect song. So elegant and full of emotion, with the simplest imagery that just takes my breath away. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it doesn’t leave me wanting more. All in just over two minutes?! A total magic trick.
How important is vinyl to you as an artist?
In all honesty, I don’t listen to vinyl too often. Streaming is undeniably convenient. These days, however, vinyl has taken on an entirely new role beyond the listening experience for me. It has become a symbol of supporting artists. Purchasing vinyl telegraphs a willingness to pay for music. Period. That speaks volumes, both as an artist and as a music fan who wants to show their support. Buy vinyl and keep streaming!
What goes into releasing an album on vinyl? Can you tell us about the process?
It was 10 months from the first email I wrote to the record press until the day my order landed on my doorstep. It’s an incredibly long process these days, but mostly because of the queue I had to wait patiently in (google: supply x demand x record pressing x 2023). So, in the meantime, I had a bit of breathing room to develop and execute artwork for the physical album, which informed many of the larger visual ideas surrounding the campaign. I self-release my records, so I’m able to personalize orders as they go out, which brings me a lot of joy.
What was the inspiration behind the artwork and overall design?
I’m a big fan of the visual artist Mike Dempsey, who I got to work with on the album artwork. His photographs are beautifully playful and surreal in a way that really resonates with me. It felt like a great pairing. A big theme of the album is seeing things from a higher perspective, so we came up with the idea of being suspended somewhere (on the way up or down?) on that journey.
Moving onto you as a music fan, what’s your favorite record store and why?
I really love Record Safari in Atwater Village, Los Angeles. Alex Rodriguez is a master curator. His love of music and sharing it is on full display here. The place has a lot of soul.
Purchase Newfound Oxygen on vinyl: https://www.vinylmeplease.com/products/steady-holiday-newfound-oxygen?variant=40209726210138
Watch the video for Newfound Oxygen: