January 11, 2019
There are scant few bits of non-musical media that fans of shoegaze music would consider essential canon. There’s the 33⅓ book about My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. There’s a 2014 documentary no one really watched called Beautiful Noise. I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower references a song by Ride maybe. And most famously, there’s Lost in Translation, the 2003 film featuring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray looking sad to a hazy soundtrack of My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and the Mary Chain, and Kevin Shields solo tracks.
But that was about it, right up until this March, when Wichita’s Troy James Weaver put out the delightfully bleak and brutal Temporal (Disorder Press, 2018). “Set to a shoegaze soundtrack,” goes the synopsis, “Temporal is the story of one tumultuous summer in the lives of three teenagers in Wichita, KS.” As a lover of both shoegaze and indie lit, this seemed like an obvious new favorite. And you know what? It was. I loved this book.
I spoke with Weaver a little bit about the writing of Temporal and the role that the different kinds of music referenced therein play in the larger narrative.
Zac Smith: Temporal prominently features cool music, with scenes set during “shoegaze night” at the local bar and a sad dad recording a noise album. Were these ideas something you wanted to emphasize when you originally conceived the book, or did they fit in later?
Troy James Weaver: The idea was there from the beginning. I think what I really wanted to ask was, where do we draw the line/should there be a line drawn as to what or who we involve in our art? There is a reference to Big Black and a more obscure reference to Peter Sotos’ album Buyer’s Market. Big Black utilizes horrible things that happened in the news, like in “Jordan, Minnesota”, whereas Peter Sotos’ album feels more like mere exploitation. And yet, they’re neither and both. In my book, Larry is talking specifically about assaulting Sam in his music, but obscures the lyrics with layers of noise. There it is, just subliminally. I also wanted to use this idea of hard to understand lyrics by leaving out parts that seemed motivational, if that makes sense, and also to obscure any relation to realities I may or may not have been drawing from.
ZS: Was the question about who/what to involve in art something you grappled with in the actual writing of Temporal, and not just its contents? In either case, do you think you found an answer?
TJW: There are no answers. My hope was that readers would pick up on those things so they could reflect on them, however I’m not really holding my breath one way or the other, it doesn’t really hurt the book if they don’t see that element.
ZS: I saw in your interview with Benjamin Drevlow (http://bullmensfiction.com/the-bull-interview/troy-james-weaver/) that the kids in Temporal were more reflective of your nephew and present-day younger folks. Is the shoegaze part of that? Or was that you?
TJW: I have a friend who is 23 and that is all he listens to, so both, I guess. Loveless is my favorite album. There is a lot of me in there, too.
ZS: I figured, but wasn’t sure. It’s off the radar for so many people that I get excited when I see Loveless come up as important or influential for other people.
TJW: Big influence. My stories are just as much about what is said than what’s not said, I think, in a similar way to maybe the lyrics on that album being secondary to the sound.
ZS: What is your best memory associated with Loveless?
TJW: I bought Loveless on CD for 6.99 in a remainder bin at Barnes and Noble when I was 16. I listened to it in my bedroom and thought there was something wrong with the mix. It wasn’t until the midway point of the album that I realized it was mixed like that on purpose and I thought it was genius and really moving, the way the layers moved into me.
ZS: On this idea of obscured lyrics as a sort of structural element in the book, leaving a lot unsaid between scenes, are there elements from post-punk acts like Joy Division–also referenced in the book–that influenced the narrative?
TJW: For sure, though in a different way. I’ve always said, “When I hear Kurt Cobain sing, I hear a man who wants to die, but when I hear Ian Curtis, I hear a man who is already dead.” I think I wanted that haunted aspect for at least one of the characters in the book. Other than that, the references act as a reminder that we’re dealing with a certain set of people.
ZS: That comparison really captures their differences, I like that. And I think that the haunted feeling really simmers throughout the book, there’s this slow dread that just accumulates in the spaces between scenes. Did you initially write more and then cut away, or did you go right in planning on the sparse, short chapters?
TJW: No. I don’t plan anything. I have ideas that come to me as I’m writing. I guess, to be honest, I wrote it from five perspectives to begin with, then I cut it to three and rewrote a bunch to give the other two POVs I cut some room within the other three POVs. That was an important move, I think. I always cut while I’m writing so it’s hard to gauge. I cut a third out of Visions and rewrote it in a different direction, for instance. It’s all intuition.
ZS: Do you listen to music while writing? Was there a specific soundtrack that fueled the creation of Temporal?
TJW: I mostly listen to Tim Hecker or John Fahey when I write. Unless I’m just writing short stories. I don’t listen to music when writing short stories.
ZS: You tweeted about Lil Wayne recently. Was Tha Carter V as good as you hoped?
TJW: Tha Carter V is great. I love Weezy. Lyrically, I think he’s a genius.
ZS: You put out some droney, really beautiful fuzzy music as part of Ponyboy for a release on This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern (https://thisaintheavenrc.bandcamp.com/album/split-cs-tahrc-000-13). Can you talk a little bit about what that was like? What was the process like?
TJW: Yeah, that was an awesome and fun experience. My homeboy Sam and I made those two songs with a chord organ and a piano that were mic’d and recorded and then highly processed through, I can’t even remember what computer program, and we thought it sounded pretty good. So I sent it to a great friend that runs a tape label here in Wichita named Dan Davis, not really expecting him to put it out. And he really liked it, so he invited us to do a split with one of his many projects, Saura Mandala.
ZS: What are you working on now? What’s next for you?
TJW: Working on short stories mostly, while ideas for a big novel gestate. I would like to secure an agent and actually sell my next book. We’ll see.
Troy James Weaver lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he works in the floral industry. He is the author of Witchita Stories, Visions, Marigold, and Temporal. His work has been published at New York Tyrant Magazine, Hobart, Lit Hub, Fanzine, and many other journals online and in print.
Zac Smith lives in Boston, MA. His writing has appeared in Hobart, X-R-A-Y Lit, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and other cool-ass online journals.