Where there's smoke...

I don't know what it is with us and fire lately. One week Cynda sets her hair on fire and the next a wildfire breaks out in the hills near my house.

The day started out quite nice. I had been enjoying a nice lunch out with friends when I get a text from my cousin asking me if I had to evacuate. Heck of a way to start a conversation isn't it? Long story short, a wildfire had broken out in the hills behind where I live in Orange County. As I rushed home, I could see a plume of smoke in the distance but the presence of two fire-fighting choppers and a lack of worry from my neighbors put me at ease. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to grab my most valued and loved guitar, my laptop, recording studio computer, hard drives with our master recordings, and a change of clothes just in case. Thanks to the work of the fine OC Fire Fighters no homes were lost and the fire was extinguished quickly. So naturally I had to see what it looked like...

It was a wasteland: burnt plants covered the ground in a thick, black ash. Tree trunks that still stood were charred and void of any leaf and only a few patches of yellow grass still stood. Immediately I thought "this would be a great place to shoot a music video!".

So early one fine morning a week later Cynda, Nick, Zach and I found ourselves hauling our cameras, instruments, and a few chairs down into that wasteland to shoot a live acoustic version of "Half Life". The setting was perfect, a "place of waste and pain". But the beauty of the wasteland and hard times is that life will return one day and that place of pain will become beautiful once more. We hope you enjoy the video and we'll see you all real soon!

- Sean

Through the fire and the flames, we carry on

It began like any other night…a band, their instruments, and a few iPhones in Video mode. The goal? Film and record a live acoustic version of their song “Black Hole”. What followed is a prime example of a night where you SHOULD just stop and give up. But this is not one of those stories…

We are Cockeyed Optimist. That means we do things a bit differently. No matter how many things may go awry, we press on towards our goal.

Everything had been going well: we set up the microphones and cameras, ran a quick soundcheck, and all was on track to run as smoothly as possible. But when you’re a four piece band trying to record audio and video of yourselves there are plenty of things that can go wrong. 

Take 1: After listening back, we realized we couldn’t hear Cynda…at all. So we decide to add in a handheld microphone

Take 2: We had way too many candles on the table in front of us, making it difficult for Cynda to sing and light them all before the song could end. Okay, fine. Take away a few candles.

Take 3: All seemed well…famous last words. Intro, Verse 1, Chorus 1…awesome! This take is going great so far. Verse 2, we almost get through it. As we launch ourselves into Chorus 2, out of the corner of my eye I see Nick. He has this extreme look on his face. My first thought, in all honesty was: “Nick, you’re messing up a good take!”. Then the words leave his lips: “FIRE! FIRE! YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!!!”

Turning to my right I see Cynda. But there’s something different: her hair is ablaze! Without even thinking all I could do was swat her hair to put out the flame. A few swats later the fire is out…thankfully. Cynda’s okay, my hand isn’t burnt, Nick is sitting down again, and Zach is finally able to pick his jaw up off the floor. It’s hard to really process all of this with the lingering scent of burnt hair in the room and the idea of giving up has begun to sink in.

But we decide to go on. We’re all hear for a reason and we might as well finish.

Take 4: Cynda pulls her back and we dive in. We think we’ve got it! But then, we go to check the cameras and realize one of them stopped mid-take. UGH! Great. Wonderful. We decide to go for it one more time.

Take 5: THIS IS THE TAKE! All goes well. The candles get lit in time, the band sounds good, and all cameras got every minute of it! As we celebrate a good take, Cynda looks to her wireless microphone to turn it off and makes a startling discovery: the microphone was muted during the entire take! I think Charlie Brown says it best: “oh good grief”

It’s late. Like, really late. We’re tired. Do we really want to do another take? Are we going to perform well or was that the straw that broke the camel’s back? Then Cynda gets an idea: “What if I just record a vocal overdub?” Not a bad idea at all.

And that’s how life is: not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you get a 75% Live take. You don’t always get 100% the first try…or the fifth. But that’s okay. In the end, being a Cockeyed Optimist is about seeing the good that comes out of every situation. The good out of this? What you’re about to watch: a (mostly) Live version of “Black Hole”.

We hope you enjoy and can see the candle in the Black Hole that you might be in.

Just like going home...

...or so I was told. When the idea of playing a few songs for the students at my old school was presented to me, I have to admit that I was slightly resistant. 

Campbell Hall will always hold a special place in my heart. It was at that school that I discovered my love of Music and performing. I performed in front of a live audience for the first time when I was 14 and it was on that campus. But like many of us, high school holds some not so sweet memories. As a teen I was constantly picked on and bullied. It probably would come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I was once picked on because I wore a Gibson guitars jacket regularly my sophomore year. (You can't make this up.)

As the students filed into the gym I felt a bit of the nerves creep up. These kids only had vague ideas of who I was and who we as a band were and what we did. But I decided to do what we do best: dive in head first and give them the best of us. The response was thunderous! I could not have fathomed the reaction. I am truly humbled to have been given the reaction we got. I am thankful for the opportunity to show them what we do. And I am excited to go onwards and upwards!

- Sean


Have you ever felt completely lost? Or have you felt like you've lost everything and don't know where or how to start again

Last month I lost my dad. My dad whose love and kindness was so much a part of his character that you could feel it from thousands of miles away. My dad who 3 years after having a stroke, still would try his hardest to give you advice that was well thought out. My dad who would always sing and write songs and inspired in me the desire to do the same. That's the dad I lost. 

Being flooded out of my house on Halloween and still not being able to go home as of yet, has made me feel like I lost my home as well. Add that to some of the opportunities that seemed so sure and last minute they were lost with losing a member of the band and there you have it.... I feel lost. 

No one likes to feel lost. Period. Sure in retrospect someone might say that they were glad they were lost at a point in their life, but they never realize that until they find themselves again. Maybe that's why those lyrics have been able to stand the test of time, "I once was lost, but now am found." Because nothing feels better than to feel like you have a place. 

Even though I feel lost, the Cockeyed Optimist within refuses to give up hope. It doesn't make sense to be optimistic right now, but I figure I don't have much else to lose and that is surprisingly comforting. I will not give up faith. I will be found again. 


Tears #1

This month, I've cried a lot. Doors that have been open have slammed shut in my face. Relationships that I used to be so sure of have left me feeling empty inside. I look around and wonder why is it Christmastime because it doesn't feel like that to me. 

During this time I've had to learn how to adapt to the circumstances around me and be okay in them. There were two days this month in which I cried so much that I didn't want to eat or see any one. I got to that point where I actually cried so much that I feel asleep. But when I woke up the next day, even though no circumstances had changed overnight, somehow I felt better. It didn't make sense why I should feel better, but I did. 

That's exactly what being a Cockeyed Optimist is all about. Even when nothing makes sense, somehow you know that everything will be fine. So in this season of perpetual hope, I can pick myself up off the literal and figurative floor, wipe my eyes and blow my nose, stand up and take a step forward.