My friend and bandmate Paul Harper passed away 4 years ago today. He was just 27.
It used to feel excruciatingly sad to think about him, but now thinking of him brings me a strange comfort. I remember his face when he'd show up to band practice, half asleep and insulted by the raging LA sun. I remember his voice. His bizarre way of smoking cigarettes, double jointed fingers akimbo. His soft laugh. His eye sparkle. His combination of world-weariness and child-like joy. The way he could make instruments sing. He was like a lot of people I've known in the creative world: hungry, lusting for something unseen, a bit lost. His share of the darkness was no less or more than many of ours. He was a victim of poor choices and even poorer luck.
His death occurred at the peak of the darkest period of my life, much of which is chronicled on Summer Darling's final record Abandoner. The record is a bitter monument to my struggle with hopelessness, an attempt to cope with losing so much. It's hard to listen to that record now. I much prefer to listen to Paul's.
He made some incredible music, much of which has never seen the light of day, sadly. You can find his old band History (Invades) on the Internet, but my favorite is his last project Soft Crest. He recorded an album called Pacific Electric, mostly at his home in Lincoln Heights and our rehearsal space downtown. S Foye mastered the thing. He died before the record could find a home to release it. Pacific Electric is a beautiful piece of music, with oceans of feedback and reverb, packed with longing and awe. We hope to someday share it with you via Chain Letter, but for now my words will have to do.
I remember very distinctly the last time I saw Paul, in January of 2012. I was on tour at the time and we played a show with his new band, Fake Problems, in the town of Chico where he'd recently moved. After the show, he invited us to his home where we had a couple of beers and passed a joint around. The time came for us to hit the van and tackle an all night drive. Hugs were had, high fives leaving palms smarting in the winter chill. After our farewells, we all hopped in the van, ready to move on. When I turned on the headlamps, there was Paul, standing right in front of us, in the street, wearing his goofy smile. He gave me a simple wave, then headed off to wherever he was going next. It took a moment or two for the rest of the band to settle in, and as they did so, I watched from the driver's seat as he reached the end of the light and disappeared into the dark.
Goodbye, Paul. I miss you, still.