Like the beginning lines of his album's new signature song, with a cup of fresh brewed coffee in hand, Randy Bergida sits on a bench outside Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint, Brooklyn taking in the street scene. It was on a day, very much like this Thursday a year or so ago, when his journey towards the formation of The Letter Yellow began.
In 2011, a year after taking a sabbatical from writing and performing music, Randy began to get the familiar feeling he gets when music is about to be created. Where some call it getting in a 'creative mood," this musician/composer describes it as "kind of an itch." In other words, it is less of a mood than a compelling reason to write. It's the type of wisdom he has since acquired after many years, and many versions of writing temperament.
Randy Bergida began writing early. He had acquired his love of music and the guitar from his sister's boyfriends at the age of ten. Passionate and driven, though not fully adept yet, he spent hours developing his skill, learning theory and technique. At 18 he moved to Arizona to study music at the University of Tucson. Then fresh out of university he moved to the Colestein Valley of Mt. Ashland in Oregon. As we get to know him more we realize Bergida is, if nothing else, poetic in his view of life.
His purpose in Mt. Ashland was to find his voice, his personhood in his music. He surmised--perhaps too innocently--that living in solace, surrounded by the beauty of nature would precipitate an epiphany and he would come down the mountain with clarity and the definitive perspective of music and life. So like John the Baptist in the Wilderness, Buddha on the countryside and Moses on a mountain, he patiently reflected. Music was his mantra.
To pay his rent, he hitchhiked into town and played his original music in cafes. Still he spent most of his time in solitude. This self imposed exile surrounded by overwhelming beauty was an experience that illuminated profound thoughts and emotions. Looking back at this period in his music composition, it's little wonder the music that he derived from them betrayed highs as steep as a mountain and lows as deep as the valley.
Armed with inspiration and a new insight, Randy took his music first to Tucson, Arizona, and later to Portland, Oregon. In 2000 he joined a group that will later be known as Skidmore Fountain, a band he would belong to for ten years until it officially disbanded in 2010.
There were many transformations since the group came together. Along with changing aliases were many other changes: changes in sound and a pivotal move
THE LETTER YELLOW
to New York City in 2004. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn they found home and a following that would keep them playing.
But as is with any long-term relationship, Randy explained, sometimes those in it just come to realize one day that they have reached the end of their journey together. This was the case with Skidmore Fountain, which decided as a band to play one last time in January of 2010. Resolved to remain friends, they went to tread their own paths, leaving Bergida to set sail on his own.
From the very beginning, he was uncomfortable about going solo. Now used to being regarded as part of a whole, he was uneasy referring to and promoting himself, which is key in a solo act. Plus, performing alone wasn't as fun. With no band mates with whom to interact on stage, the introvert soloist missed the exchange of energy and the feeling of community.
So he did what he had done previously. He took some time off to reflect, this time walking the many streets of New York endlessly.
To his surprise, or perhaps not exactly a surprise, the concrete jungle revealed its own set of truths. The bustle of the streets during rush hour and the cool silent reprieve of the late hours somehow lit inspiration during otherwise gloomy times.
Still adamantly committed to completing the process though, he would wait almost a full year before he began to write again.
By 2011, the cycle was complete and it was time to scratch the itch to create. He would make many essential decisions at this turning point, the first of which was to change his method of composing, among other more personal matters. This was a necessary step he was very much reluctant to do but would lead to the writing of the first song in the album, "Change."
Photos courtesy of The Letter Yellow
Tomonori Tsujita and Yuri Miyamoto, Photographers
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