I am an advocate for Alie and Jake.
I can't wait for the day to see Albuquerque.
I want to see it because I've heard stories of it from a brilliant and commanding voice. It is one thing to discover a city from tourist recommendation lists and top rated spots. It is another to discover a city from the voice of one of its people.
BYLAND is, by their own description and hundreds of confirmations, an authentic modern folk-rock band. Influences of Brandi Carlile, Manchester Orchestra, and Bob Dylan are rich but stand as influences; BYLAND is unique all its own. Alie is the front woman. She writes, performs vocals, piano, guitar, and digital percussion and her husband, Jake, writes and engineers their songs from a small self-made studio. They decided to form the band in 2013 around the same time they married. They had written lyrics prior to that, starting their musical journey together without any end goal in mind, except to create. But it continued to grow, pivot, and metamorphosed into something powerfully commanding.
It would be a good month or so before I would hear Alie sing and I remember the night clearly. It was a house concert in North Seattle, the backyard of the hosts had the perfect setup for live music; soft grass, fire pits, and those ever lovely Edison string lights defining the stage; highlighting instruments, movements, stories. I was overwhelmed when I first heard her, it was something like a resounding rip to my core, her power very raw and unassuming and beautiful. It was made all the more powerful as I heard Jake, sing along beside me in the crowd in equal earnest, the words as strong in his memory as they are in hers. So, that night on July 28th 2017, I fell in love with the music of BYLAND.
They recently released their first studio album and music video, both of which invoke genuine love for people and place. There are songs about conflict and internal struggle, the honesty very poignant and continuously relatable. There are others that bring the sweetest nostalgia, the imagery formed clearly from Alie's words that soon inspires you to walk the streets of your own nostalgia. The same intimacy exists in their music video, Albuquerque, which gives so much of it's heart to that love of people and place. With the camera's stationary lens, beautifully simplistic shots of the city's character and it's people are shown. Scenes of family, sites of memories and community, grandeur, love, grief. It makes you love home, even just the idea of it, and appreciate the power of such a love that the BYLAND's have shown their city.
I am incredibly fortunate to know them, and not just as admirable artists, but as sincere friends. They have both shown me incredible support and love. I have also grieved with Alie, we both have lost a parent, and as clear as that house concert was in my memory, so is our very first conversation. I never intend to share death right away with strangers, it's an intimate thing to divulge, but I remember feeling compelled to tell her. It fell from my lips so naturally and as soon as I shared, she understood with a deep sensitivity, one that told me I was safe. That is an amazing trait to possess. She knows loss and has done something so beautiful with her grief, honoring the amazing life and influence of her Dad, Gerald, through her music.
these memories are real
they never fade away
they come back to steal all my pain away
and the years will be long
the grief will be strong
one day I know
that I'll see you again
I highlight What a Man because it reminds me of the power of healing through creative expression. I have cried from this song and been embraced by it like a familiar touch. It has inspired me to honor my Mom by exploring expressions that feel honest and reflective of her vast influence. There are complexities to death and loss and grief that don't have clear explanations and it remains so hard to find appropriate language for it's depth. It seems though, that sharing stories, voicing the questions, allows space for that language to develop.
Jake shared with me insights on grief that I identify with deeply. He said “it’s one thing to miss someone for who they were and it’s another thing to miss someone for who they could have been to you”. That loss has not kept him from expressing gratitude for the time he did get with Gerald and for the ways he can know him more and more through the stories from Alie and her family. He also talked about the old adage; time heals all wounds. “There is some truth to that, but what’s more accurate is that mourning is mending. There is no substitute for just mourning, for just missing someone and feeling every emotion. Grief isn’t a trajectory towards something but there is healing in going through it.” Mourning is mending. Those words are from their song Desert Days and where “time heals” feels like an impossibility, “mourning is mending” feels like an act of self care that I can take at my own pace. It made me smile too, to hear him say how inspired he is by the way Alie has used the album to process her grief. She is not afraid to feel it and for that I am inspired too.
What Jake and Alie have created with this song is language of the dichotomous pain and comfort, and an assurance that it is possible to continue living. This song, and truly the whole album, is a clear message of the reality of grieving. There is no right way and no end to grief, it exists in your life as new part of yourself, but there are ways to create catharsis and healing. I believe they have done that with this album.
If I said nothing else about them, that would be enough.
But I'd be cheating myself and the world if I stopped there. There is just so much more. I must share. I must advocate.
They can best put into words what their journey has been and in the comfort of their kitchen at the end of a long Monday they shared pieces of their story with me. It was a gift to hear their perspectives on their walk, on the roots of their music and the many fruitful insights that have come as a result of their deep investment.
what impact do you hope to have through BYLAND?
Did the process of making this album help you with your grief?
How was it working alongside members of your community to make Albuquerque happen?
Next to music do you have other favorite art forms to express your creativity?
Where do you gain inspiration for your lyrics/melodies?
I could truly write post after post on BYLAND. And I just might. That word investment I mentioned? That is exactly the kind of people Jake and Alie are. Gracious and giving, they want to create for the purpose of others vitality. You will always be asked how you are, how they can help, and always told that you are loved. And not just gracious, but also humble in welcoming the help and talents of their community, believing that it’s not just their touch alone that makes up BYLAND, but a collective of hands most happily willing to support them.
They are a wonderful example of intentional living, finding purpose through pain, appreciating home, and giving your creative gifts a means to serve. So, take a look and see my words in action. An amazing band indeed.
Thank you Alie. Thank you Jake.
| C |
You can hear BYLAND this Saturday at the High Dive in Fremont! You’ll get a taste of hometown love, nostalgic memory, and healing. And some absolutely beautiful rings that will be for sale at their merch table.
And and, a portion of the ticket sales will go to support the amazing Healing Center Seattle.
Come see them. Come hear them. Come advocate.
$10 on the web, $15 at the door. Find tickets...