Clarkie of the Week: 03/19


Photo provided by Celine Manneville

Jon Brien is a junior English and Screen Studies double major at Clark. He plans on going into education at some point. He plays music, does improv, and is a member of the Peapod Squad.

Photo provided by Celine Manneville
Photo provided by Celine Manneville

Scarlet: Where are you from?

Jon: Originally I’m from Upton, Massachusetts, which is about a half hour south of Worcester, but I went to high school in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, which is like fifteen, ten minutes away from Worcester, so I have a ton of friends in the Worcester area, and I’ve always kind of been familiar with Worcester.

Scarlet: So tell me a little bit about your music.

Jon: So I am involved in a couple of musical projects. One of them is a folk project called Jon, the Archivist which is kind of like indie folk rock acoustic stuff that I do. That’s probably what I tour and promote most heavily. We just put out an album about a month ago called A Flash of Dark//A Wash of Light that I just actually got back from a tour yesterday in support of, so that was really cool. And then I’m also in like a rock band kind of a thing that’s like instrumental like movie score kind of rock music.

Scarlet: Oh that’s really cool. So do you tour often?

Jon: This was my third tour and I usually do like week to two week long tours. I only started playing music about two years ago, so I’m starting to tour more frequently as I’ve been starting to get more people listening to the music and you know, wanting to hear me in places. I think I’m going on my biggest tour yet this upcoming summer. I’m going to be going on a two week tour of the Midwest with my friend Dakota who plays music as Unraveller, which is this really rad emo folk project from Pittsburg.

Scarlet: So what’s touring like?

Jon: Touring is fun if you like being really smelly for a long period of time. But it’s also just a really great opportunity to meet new people, to meet tons of musicians across the country that you might not have met otherwise and to get to play to [new] crowds. Usually the way that DIY touring works is you get a car or a van, depending if you’re going with a band, and you just put up a list of what tour dates you’re trying to book. And then if you’ve booked shows for people or helped other musicians out with shows in your area, usually they’ll be super willing to help you out, get a show in their city, or give you a place to stay. And so usually you end up playing either basements or living rooms or coffee shops and places like that. I think I only played one venue the last tour, which was this place called Modern Gypsy in Manchester. But it’s just a great way to get out there and you know, see the sights, and meet people, and play with tons of musicians, and build up a base of people who know what your music is and have heard of you, you know. So it’s just like a really fun experience, really tiring emotionally and physically, but worth it, super worth it. It’s such a great time.

Scarlet: And the shows are small and intimate?

Jon: Sometimes. Sometimes they’re bigger, sometimes they’re smaller. I think the biggest show we had on the last tour that I went on ranged from between like forty to fifty people attending. The smaller shows ranged from like twenty to thirty people, so it really depends on how well the show is promoted, how big your fan base is [in] the city that you’re going to, how many people are going to come out, who you’re touring with, who you’re playing with, all those kind of things. But you know even if the smaller, intimate kind of shows, like the best show that we had on the last tour was, we played at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont and we played in a dorm room. Well not a person’s living space, but it was like a lounge that used to be a dorm room that they converted into a hangout area for the people on this activist floor, which was like a really cool thing. In Poultney at Green Mountain College there’s a whole floor of one of the dorm that’s “the activist floor” and like everyone on that floor is an anarchist. It’s super super rad. They had tons of like “Fuck Cops” posters and tons of anarchist literature and social awareness stuff, so it was super super great. So yeah, even sometimes the smallest shows can be the most rewarding, the most engaging, the best crowds, you know it really depends.

Scarlet: So speaking of the activism, you’re sort of known for your outspokenness about activism and feminism and anti-capitalism.

Jon: Oh. Thank you, wow

Scarlet: In general, what are your thoughts?

Jon: So, I think I had an evolution into anarchism in a similar way that a lot of people do, which is that at first you think it’s this very kind of, taboo thing, you know it’s like “oh anarchy, that’s like violence and like people throwing Molotov cocktails into storefronts and stuff,” and it’s totally totally the opposite of that. As soon as I got involved in the music scene in Worcester and started to meet other activists and started to meet other people who are involved with that kind of stuff, my own views started to change and you start to read more literature about anti-capitalism and anti-oppression and, you know, why the police state is a damaging thing. I think the most important thing for me about anarchy is, it’s about a couple of things. One of them is it’s about self-policing and self-responsibility, sort of like recognizing when you do something wrong that it’s your responsibility to make sure that you change that behavior and recognize that about yourself. The other thing is it’s sort of recognizing that while a lot of anarchist’s jargon and lingo is talking about some revolution or some thing that’s going to happen where the governments are going to fall down, that that’s probably not going to happen in our lifetimes or in the next fifty, sixty, hundred years. So, I think for a lot of anarchists, it’s way more about sort of educating people and telling people about a lot of the things that we believe in, like feminism, and not oppression, and racial equality and, for the most part, nonviolence and peaceful protesting, like a lot of those kind of things. And it’s just about doing your best to make sure that you aren’t making anyone else’s lives worse and trying to live in that and then teach other people how that’s important.

Scarlet: So what is “Sublevel 58?”

Jon: So Sublevel 58 is my house; it’s where I live. I can’t say the address because I don’t want people finding out about it and you know, we obviously don’t want shows getting shut down or anything. But it’s an apartment near Clark and I put on shows there. I’ve been putting on shows there for about a year now. Unfortunately in June it’s actually going to be getting shut down because I’m going to be moving to a new apartment. Unfortunately the landlord wasn’t super happy with the fact that shows were happening in the basement. But we have a ton of them coming up for the next few months, so we’re certainly going out with a bang. We’re putting on tons of shows over the next few months, lots of really really cool people coming through, but yeah, it’s like a house venue, so people can come and touring bands come through and they play either in the living room, which is where we’re doing most of our shows at the moment because the basement stuff is getting a little too loud and people are starting to complain about it. So we’re doing mostly acoustic shows but it’s like a fun environment where anyone can come, you throw a couple bucks towards the touring bands and you get to see some cool music and buy some merchandise and hang out with other like minded people and hopefully you know it’s a safe and welcoming space that anyone can feel comfortable in. So that’s Sublevel 58. But we will still be doing living room stuff at my new place, so I’m not done booking. I’ll probably never stop setting up shows. As much as I tell myself I should when it gets too overwhelming sometimes, but I love it too much to up and leave it, but yeah, the new place is gonna be pretty cool. We have some cool ideas in mind for how we want to change things up and do a sort of different type of show, which we’re really excited about.

Scarlet: So If you were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you be and why?

Jon: Oh goodness. Um. I would be a Reuben, because I really like sauerkraut and I kind of look like a farmer, and cabbages are vegetables. That’s my answer.

Scarlet: [laughs] That, I mean, that’s a good answer.

Jon: Thank you, I put a lot of thought into it.

Scarlet: [laughs] What is your favorite place on campus?

Jon: Oh. That’s a really tough question because Clark’s campus has some really really cool spaces, and I’m a big person in terms of like I love weird spaces that you don’t really get to go to a lot. One of my favorite ones is there’s this bench right next to the Little Center. A lot of people smoke cigarettes on it sometimes, but I really just like to sit there sometimes. It was a very personal place for me my freshman year and so it still holds a lot of nostalgic purpose for me. I also really ,really like the benches next to the library, the stone circle of benches over there. And then there’s like one more place, which is probably my favorite actually. If you go down the stairwell inside the library, if you go down to the very bottom of it, underneath the stairs, well, first of all the stairwell has all these cool little drawings, like chalk drawings all over the bricks and stuff, which is really really like kind of creepy and like awesome, but at the bottom there’s this reel of paper that if you roll it around enough tons of people have just written all over it. Like poems and weird sayings and all different handwritings from like years and years and years of just people writing stuff down on this thing. My friends have all come by and I’ve shown them this like ancient scroll machine thing and have written stuff on it ourselves, so it’s like a really cool document of all the people who’ve been into that secret little like alcove space over tons and tons of years.

Scarlet: Is there anything you would like to add?

Jon: Definitely if you want to go to shows or are trying to get involved with activism and the scene, message me, get in contact with me, I always love to talk to people about that kind of stuff. Thank you. Thank you to the Scarlet for being the best and for wanting to interview me, I’m super super honored, and very thankful that this is an opportunity I get to have.

Thanks for the interview, Jon!!