dark period yields new album, book for local artist
When you meet Mark McElwain for the first time, you get the idea that something interesting is about to happen. About as enthusiastic a conversationalist as you can imagine, it soon becomes apparent that McElwain has the capacity to enlighten and entertain at the same time. His latest album, The Astounding Feat, exemplifies this aspect of the experienced musician, mixing densely packed, oftentimes dark lyrics with upbeat and mysteriously fitting rock music.
A veteran of the music scene, over the years McElwain has played in The Sky is Falling, Boink, and Scar Tissue Heart. He’s lived the rockstar lifestyle, spent a stint in jail, and been an avid promoter of love in all its forms, both positive and negative. He speaks in a way that lets you know his brain is moving faster than his speech can follow; he’s been described by friends as a “thought salad,” and it’s easy to see why.
McElwain covers the Jim Carroll song, People Who Died. He tells me that he sent it to Carroll a day before he died. He jokes that he feels somewhat responsible, convinced that his cover of the song affected the author enough to kill him. Like its creator, Astounding Feat is not afraid to have a sense of humor about itself. Indeed, McElwain is convinced that, “Intolerance would cease to exist if we could all just laugh at our differences.” He feels that overzealous political correctness is ruining communication, and that everyone needs to be a little more open minded and the world could be a better place.
Alongside the album, McElwain is in the process of publishing a book chronicling his time in jail, tentatively called Boogers & Blood. He describes it as a handbook to the experience, and reading through it you’re taken not only by its frankness, but also the way that it humanizes the existence of those who find themselves behind bars. There is a chapter about what God means in prison and a chapter about farts. It touches on any subject you can imagine, and jumps from experience to person to category in a way that only adds to the feeling that you’re getting a direct and honest relation from someone who has been there.